Sunday, April 24, 2022

The Swan Collection by Summer Tales Boutique (and open day in their store)


The Summer Tales Boutique Team

Hey there, stranger.

It's been a bumpy ride over the last year and I hadn't felt the need to write here until today (but that's a story for another time).

Yesterday, after a not so good week, I can say that I had a wonderful day surrounded by some of the amazing members of the Dutch Lolita community. We all had an appointment at one o'clock in the afternoon at the Summer Tales Boutique in Houten, a wonderful town near Utrecht. The reason for this meeting was the presentation of the new collection that Katie and her team have been preparing with care over the last few weeks: The Swan Collection.

The Threatened Swan (by Jan Asselijn c.1650, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam) is the painting that this time has been chosen for this new chapter of the Dutch Masters, a theme that STB takes up almost every year. You can't imagine how I felt when Katie revealed her painting of choice, as The Threatened Swan is one of the most impressive paintings you can see in the Rijksmuseum, maybe because it doesn't portray any human beings in it, but you can feel the emotions that he is having the swan at that moment when he feels attacked. The majesty with which it opens its wings to defend its nest showing all its strength and splendour leaves no one indifferent, in addition to the realism that Asselijn manages to print on the painting.

In the STB's own words, "This collection is all about empowerment and standing up for yourself. And at the same time embracing your dark side. It emphasizes the feeling of having to conform to certain (societal) expectations and breaking free from them".

The fabric chosen for this collection is a mix between hemp and organic cotton, but also they're working with new materials in the studio: vinyl. We can find details and amazing accessories made of this material, from a corset choker to arm warmers and a beautiful bustier that will not leave anybody indifferent (believe me, I've seen it live and everything looks better in real life than in photos).

Plus, we'll be able to purchase a wooden pin designed by the talented Lattegalaxy made especially for this release!


Best girls <3 Kim, Zoe, Josine & I

I love how the polaroids came out, they always have that nostalgic and a bit cursed feeling?

Anyway, in case you're wondering what she was wearing, I'll show you below! If you follow me on Instagram you will already know that I started learning to sew by myself. Here is the first piece I made about a month ago, this beautiful skirt with painted flowers. I must say that I find quite a bit of pleasure in sewing and learning from my own mistakes (but that too is a story for another time).

Shirt - HellBunny (old)

Skirt - Handmade by me

Tights - TejaJamilla

Bonnet - Hats by Issis Starlust

Shoes - Naf Naf

Accesories - Tierranegra, My Inspiration

Hope you enjoyed this post, see you next time!

PS: Don't miss the online release of the collection today at 20'00h!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Summer Tales Boutique: The Dutch Masters' Pride

 Models from left to right: @LivLotte, @Sixfeetof_frills, @Josinemaaike, @Anna.violet_


Continuing with the series of interviews that I started conducting last years with different indie designers, it is time to introduce everyone to Katie, the creator of the wonderful Dutch brand Summer Tales Boutique, one of my favourites since they launched their first design in 2015. from the Dutch Masters collection, with a spectacular dress in which 'De Nachtwacht' was displayed, one of my most admire paintings by the master Rembrandt.

Summer Tales Boutique shop and studio are located in Houten, a charming little town in the Netherlands where Katie was born and raised. Although she lives nowadays in Zeist with her fiancé and their adorable dog Odie, she goes there frequently to work and design fabulous ideas for her next collections, which normally are heavily influenced by art and history, creating limited releases of their collections and also a vast assortment of matching accessories and garments that are available year-round. As Katie likes to say, they create for elegant and outspoken souls!

We talked with Katie about her daily routines within Summer Tales Boutique, how she came with the idea of the brand and even about sustainability and consumption habits. Let the rays of sunshine warm your heart and join us in the Summer Tales... 

  Katie, the mastermind behind Summer Tales Boutique


You're a well experienced Lolita, but how and when did the interest in Lolita fashion arise in you? Which previous references did ou had before?

Alternative fashion is something that has been part of me for a long time now. I was always dabbling in different (clothing) substyles in my teen years, but nothing felt truly me. Regular fashion was boring, goth was too dark for my taste, and so on.
It was during high school that I was knee-deep into manga and anime and it didn’t take long before I came across Lolita fashion. It really sparked my interest, a clothing style that I felt really resonated with me. A lot of initial inspiration came from the Japanese brands and what they were bringing out as well as the styling in the GLB’s for reference. At that time it was super difficult to obtain items, but at age 17 I travelled to Japan with my mum as a graduation gift. That’s where I really fell in love with the style, seeing the shops, the brands, people on the streets wearing it.

At what point does the idea of creating your own brand come up?

It was a bit before my trip to Japan when I was 17. At that time I already wanted to wear Lolita fashion, so I was looking up different places on where to buy it. It was super difficult to get anything and expensive as well, certainly at that age. It was then that I tried making a few accessories. My mum is very experienced at the sewing machine, she used to make porcelain dolls by hand and matching outfits, so we had the tools at home. When I finished a bunch of accessories it was my mum, who is also a businesswoman at heart, asked me why I didn’t try and sell them? And soon I participated as a vendor at a local event.

After my trip to Japan and getting my very first Lolita items, I also stumbled upon a bit of a problem. Me being quite a tall Dutch woman, which we are by average, didn’t quite fit all the dresses that well. It was then that I also wanted to create garments that are also accessible by people of different sizes.

In the following years, I combined studying (in a totally different direction than fashion, Animal Husbandry, to be honest, I wanted to start my own stable with breeding and selling sport horses) and running this small shop/hobby on the side. After graduation I made the choice to really step up my game with the shop, I rebranded to Summer Tales Boutique, got registered as a business and continued my journey.


 Your designs are made with great delicacy and skill, in a very professional way ... Where did you learn to pattern and design? Did you receive any kind of training for it?

Most of my initial knowledge of sewing is taught by my mum, I could borrow her sewing machine at first and try out different things. Initially, I only made hair accessories and wrist cuffs (although, totally different than how I make them now) and gradually tried my hand at skirts, capes and aprons until trying to make dresses. To tell you a little secret, I still have my first handmade skirt in my closet, too wonky to ever see the light of day, but I can’t let go of it either.

Improving my sewing and patterns skills was a matter of doing it a lot, making mistakes and hours and hours of puzzling and trying and puzzling and trying. What has helped me a lot was when I started collecting more and more Lolita dresses in my own wardrobe, I could examine them and see how they are made. It was my goal to have the same quality garments of Japanese brands, so  I started investing in a proper sewing machine and overlock machine.

Often people ask me if I have studied fashion design. Looking back in time I sometimes wish I could take a different path and enrol in a fashion design school. But, didn’t this particular path take me here?


I totally agree and, to be honest, your designs don't have anything to envy Japanese brands, since the finish is exquisite and the ideas that you use are always very interesting. Where does the inspiration to create your pieces come from? Is there an influence that is present in all your designs and is it the base of your creative pyramid?

Yes totally! The biggest influence on my designs come from art, history and historical garments. That is a bit of the basis of where I create, especially when it comes down to our Dutch Masters Collection. When I see a painting that hits a certain snare with me, the cogs inside my head start turning on how to translate this piece to a garment. I just really like the idea of taking a piece, that is often only on display in a museum, and translate it into a garment so it can enter the wide world. It’s like taking the art outside of their four walls and into the open.

What is also a big influence is seeing my friends, our local community and the online community being creative with their coordinates. I also niched down on the style I like to create, down to classic, gothic and a hint of old-school Lolita.

Not too sound selfish, but when I make a design I will always ask myself: ‘Is this something I would personally like to wear?’. In the past, I would sometimes answer ‘No’ to this question because it belonged to a substyle I didn’t enjoy wearing as much. But in the end, I didn’t enjoy making those items as much as those who I did want to wear. That way I can pour more love and passion into the project and stay motivated along the way.

                                         @Anna.violet_ for Summer Tales Boutique

When it comes to daily work in Summer Tales Boutique, what's your routine?

Well, any day should start with a nice cup of black filter coffee in my opinion!

I have a trusty bullet journal that comes with me to the studio and that holds my tasks and to-dos. At the beginning of the week, I always like to sit down, do a braindump and then filter out my priorities. What are the tasks I really need to accomplish at the end of the week? If I’m unsure about my priorities I like to look back at the goals I’ve set to help me decide.

Then I make a rough schedule for each day in a way that I can tick those boxes off if the task is done! This may sound really structured, but it gives me a lot of rest in my head if I don’t constantly have to think about all the tasks that need to be done. And to be honest, it’s a process of making mistakes and learning from them. I have a tendency to plan my days a bit too tight and not always being honest to myself in how much time certain tasks take. This results in overworking and setting promises I can’t stick too. It’s a work in progress!  

When I’m in the sewing studio I like to batch work my sewing as much as possible. This saves time when working on multiple items and gives me the opportunity to really focus on one task. One of my favourite tasks when making items is the gathering of fabric or lace. I love pinning down the material and gathering it.

The mornings are usually where I plan the more difficult tasks and I like to do more mundane tasks in the afternoon.


Ok, let's get a little bit technical... How is the process of creating an STB piece, from the initial sketch to the final result?

When we create a new collection the thought process starts early on. This is already happening when we’re still working on a previous collection. When we want to add a new chapter to our Dutch Masters Collection I like to visit museums and research with books.

When we’ve decided on a new piece I start designing the fabric on my laptop. Translating a painting to a dress is just as much a mathematical thing as a designing process since you need to have the dimensions right and imagine how the end result will look.

Once I've done this, I take my sketchbook and a regular mechanical pencil and start sketching out the different cuts for the collection. I usually design two dress cuts and one skirt cut for a collection. We’re a small sewing studio so we have to take into account that for every design cut we also need to make initial samples. ‘Killing your darlings’ also happens in this stage, since you usually end up with more design ideas then you can execute. We choose which ones we like best in regards to the print. Then we can calculate our fabric usage and send the order to our printing company, which is also located in The Netherlands.

Usually, printing takes between 4-6 weeks, which gives us a bit of time to already draft the patterns and do a few smaller projects in between. After the fabric arrives we make it into sample pieces we can use to make the product photography. Normally, these pieces will also come along to us to events to showcase in fashion shows.

Then it’s time to open up the pre-order! After collecting the orders, that’s where the real grinding begins. For our last collection ‘De Nachtwacht’ we sold out our spots really quickly and then we knew how much pieces we needed to produce. We can order the right amount of fabric and get to work. Production usually takes between 2-4 months and after that, we send out these babies to their new homes! 

  That is an interesting process when it comes to the Dutch Master's collection, but have you considered to draw by yourself for a print? What about a collaboration with an artist, would you like to do that?

To be honest this is an idea I've been playing with for a bit! For most of my high school days, you could find me drawing, secretly in the back of the class or more upfront with art projects. For the last couple of years, I haven't drawn as much anymore, since sewing is a creative outlet for me as well. However, I really enjoy it to wind down when I’m at home.

When it comes down to designing for Summer Tales I really enjoy drawing designs for new accessories and garments. I also have collected quite a few print ideas in these sketchbooks but I often feel insecure about making them a reality. I’m mostly impulsive from nature, so when I have a design I want to execute it and won’t think too long about all the obstacles. Unless it comes down to designing a print, then I’m an unrealistic perfectionist. So that is holding me back a bit, but it is a goal of mine to also add my own hand-drawn prints to our collection. For instance, a few years back we had the ‘Summer Tales Library’ collection, made with a printed fabric with books we could buy from our wholesaler. I would love, with my background as a librarian, to make design a book print featuring interesting book spines and covers.

I would also love a collaboration with an artist, that’s a great way to support the strong points of each other! And for the final thoughts on this subject, there are such amazing (indie) brands out there making their own iconic prints so they are very inspiring to me. They really motivate me to pursue more with my own artwork. So thank you Lady Sloth, Violet Fane and Peppermint Fox (to name a few).

When it comes to the materials that you use, how do you make the selection? Is there any kind of material that is a big “NO” for you?

So in our studio, we have two main sections of materials, fabric and lace. For fabrics, I really, really prefer if I can touch it before buying. The material used for making a piece of fabric and also the way it has been woven/processed can say a lot about the fabric, but not all.

When we started out we usually needed 1 or 2 meters of a fabric which I got at a local market or shop. In the meantime, we’ve grown to use rolls of fabric instead of loose meters. We source our fabrics at different wholesale suppliers situated in the Netherlands and my first rules are about the quality, durability and the feel of the fabric, so I ask myself the questions: is the quality good? Is it nice to the touch? Does it feel like a durable fabric? Is it suited for the garment I have in mind? For example, for a pair of bloomers, you ideally want a breathable and soft fabric, where for a jumper skirt you might need something that is a bit stiffer so you can tailor it neatly for the bodice and it keeps the shape of the skirt well. This is also a process of testing and learning about different fabrics and your personal preference comes to it as well.

A big no for me is when a fabric will easily wear out or get damaged easily so the durability of the garment will be really short. I don’t have a strong preference for either natural or synthetic fibres, since they both have their pro’s and con’s, especially when looking at ethical and environmental business practises.

When it comes to the lace we use in our items, we source these from a local wholesaler and directly from Japan and China. Unfortunately, the type of high-quality lace we use cannot always be sourced locally, but we have a hard 'no' when it comes to very synthetic and/or elastic lace, we prefer working with viscose, cotton and tulle embroidered lace. I always order a few meters to test a new type of lace first, before ordering a whole batch.

                                         @Sixfeetof_frills & @Josinemaaike

One of the things I like the most about supporting indie brands like yours is the care and care that you can put into choosing materials, always looking for more generous options with the environment. I believe STB is a sustainable brand, but could you talk about it a little bit more? What would you like to be able to do to make it even more sustainable?

A year or two ago I was really split in the way I wanted Summer Tales Boutique to continue. I was getting more and more aware of all the atrocities in the fashion industry and got myself more educated about fast fashion. At the same time, our own collection was getting more traction and I stood before a choice: Will I keep making the items in the house or look for production outside our studio? The more I found out about fashion factories, child labour, environmental hazards, the less I was keen on the second option. It just didn’t feel right. From that moment on I decided to keep production in our own studio, that was the first step to a more sustainable brand. 


We have always made collections in small amounts with very little waste of materials. Just the thought of throwing away garments like fast fashion companies do when they can’t sell it just breaks my heart! 


At this point, I’m focusing more on getting our materials from more sustainable sources. We have a local printing company that prints with the most environmentally friendly inks that are available at the moment. Now it’s time to look into replacing our ‘standard’ fabrics with organic (cotton/bamboo/linen) or recycled fabric (poly/chiffon/crepe). 

I do consider Summer Tales a brand that is conscious about the choices we make and I do my best to take another step towards a more sustainable brand with each release!

And as a designer and a consumer, what do you think the fashion industry and consumers should do for a more sustainable future?

Oh gosh, I have so many thoughts about the current fashion industry. It’s like an iceberg, we can only see the tip of it and there is so much hidden underneath the surface.

Firstly, let me say that any effort that you can make is a big win! Never feel like you need to do it perfectly before starting out because there simply is no perfect way. If you're interested in this subject, take some time to watch documentaries and read into this subject. ‘The True Cost’ was a real eye-opener for me. It was then that I stopped shopping at fast-fashion chains and switched to second hand and vintage clothing for my everyday wardrobe.

With Lolita fashion, I find it so great that it’s already very common to sell secondhand items and that people take such great care of their items. When I want to add something to my own wardrobe I see if I can wear items in different ways and with different outfits. I have always liked it to style a certain dress in different ways, but being more into sustainability makes it a huge benefit if an item can be used in various outfits.

But….let I also say that this can’t only be shoved down to consumers. Companies really need to change their game too. It does require pressure from the masses, but we need to keep asking difficult questions. For example, just before international women’s day, the storefront of the H&M is filled with shirts with text like ‘you go girl’, ‘girls support girls’ and more. Often the people working in your local H&M just get minimum wage and often the women (and underage girls)  producing your power women shirts on the other side of the world hardly get paid at all. Can you see where I’m going?

That is why I love small businesses since they usually are a lot more sustainable by nature. Often it’s already made in house or locally since big factories are not the best fit. They are capable of shifting fast with their business practises and are independent of stakeholders.

A gentle reminder, take the step that is suited for your lifestyle and have fun along the way too! 

                                         @Anna.violet_ for Summer Tales Boutique

When it comes to your own designs, can you tell us which one has been your favourite creation or project so far? And the most complicated? 

At this point I’m super proud of The Anatomy Lesson, it’s a collection where a lot of things came together. It was the first time doing a custom print but also premiering it at a fashion show in Tokyo made it extra special! Then we had a really successful pre-order, which made my goals even bigger for the shop. Really this collection has a very special place in my heart already.

After getting more confidence in custom prints I really went all out with ‘De Nachwacht’ collection. This was initially our first instalment to the Dutch Master collection around 5 years ago. It’s so awesome to see the progress we’ve made in the meantime, that makes me really proud. With this collection, we’ve also experimented with different fabric options, both I’ve never used before, Bamboo and U-Circular (a fabric made from recycled PET bottles).

At this point, I’m also getting so creative and energized from our Nostalgia collection. Sketching up all sorts of dresses, skirts and accessories I wish I could have access too when I just started out with Lolita fashion. But honestly, working with Royal Stewart tartan for weeks on end may sound like a nightmare, but I get so happy just working with this fabric. 

And I really enjoy making accessories as well, working with all kinds of different lace on our headdresses and arranging the flowers and ribbons too. Even to the very precise work of making resin jewellery. As long as I can work with my hands I’m happy.

Where is Summer Tales Boutique going now? What's the future of the brand?

To be honest, Corona did shake things up a bit this year but has also opened doors in new directions. We’ve had to postpone our big yearly event but were looking into hosting more small meets in our shop and even doing a virtual tea party.

In March we have a re-release planned for our Nostalgia collection since they are very popular and we want to make as many people happy as we possibly can. Since we’re a small sewing studio, amping up our production is a challenge, but a fun one!

At the same time, we’re sketching out the design ideas for the rest of this year and looking into which fabrics and lace we’re going to combine together. Expect linen pieces for the summer and velvet for next winter. During the year we’ll also have a few limited-edition releases, our recent Heart Headdresses in tartan being one of those.

And gosh, how I hope we’ll be able to meet up again and come together on events in the future!


Last but not least, I always like to ask this question for the baby entrepreneurs out there: what advice could you give to any designer who wants to start their own brand?

 Without sounding too cliche, just start doing it! ;) 

Of course it’s good to do some research and see where you want to start out with your brand. Do you want to aim at a certain style? Or do you want to focus on a certain item? Start making a few sample pieces and ask your Lolita wearing friends to test them out and have feedback for you. Once you feel more confident about your product try selling it online. You can easily open your own Etsy shop for example and nowadays you can even shop through Instagram!

Having your own business is in no way ‘easy’, so brace yourself a bit for that. It’s hard work, that’s not always getting paid in the beginning. The myth of ‘I wants to make my own schedule as an entrepreneur’ is a catchy phrase but doesn’t really work that way. When you have your own company you can essentially always work, since there is always something to do or improve. So let the reasons for starting your own brand be the right one and not about a 4-hour workweek or making a ton of money. 

Try and figure out where your own strengths are and what lifts you up. For your weak spots try and hire someone or collaborate together. This will make it easier to struggle through the harder times when you have setbacks or a difficult period.   


                                                        @LivLotte for Summer Tales Boutique

Thank you so much, Katie, for this magnificent lesson about your amazing brand. From the bottom of my heart, I can say that it's been a pleasure doing this interview and I cannot wait to see you again really soon (if Miss Rona let us finally out!). 


Photocredits to @LivLotte & Summer Tales Boutique

All photos where used under the permission of Summer Tales Boutique

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Hats by Issis Starlust: Mourning Among Antique Souls

Hats by Issis Starlust may be one of the more recent independent brands to be born into Lolita and Goth fashion, but its designer and creator, Issis Starlust, is a wise, powerful and restless woman who has proven her worth as a human being in numerous occasions and who's been around the alternative cultures for quite a while now.

For all the years that I have known the fabulous Issis Starlust, she has been the type of person who has never stopped to amaze me. Always a kind and emphatic soul, we have known each other for almost 20 years and even in the distance of space and time, our friendship has always remained.

We met in the roots of Lolita Fashion in Spain among other fantastic creatures that you are going to read about in this interview, all of them considered part of our sisterhood by both of us.

Issis Starlust, the mastermind behind the brand

Born in blazing Jaén, Issis has always been a lively person, full of curiosity and a desire to learn. A great lover and expert in art, her creations are full of this mystical, dark and artistic style full of passion for the dark side.

                I invite you to immerse yourselves with us in the dark world of Issis Starlust.



  Could you describe for us in your own wrords what is Hats by Issis Starlust about?

I like to think of Hats by Issis Sarlust as a project in which I turn the inspiration I gather from my work as an art historian, researching, cataloguing and analyzing images every day. Photographs, books and illustrated magazines (my speciality), cinema, paintings ... All of this brings me great intellectual satisfaction, but inevitably has a great influence on my personal style and the pieces I make. It is the way to channel all that information and feelings caused by my object of study, in a different way than my work requires me through articles, university classes or conferences. I needed to do something again that did not involve spending hours and hours in front of a computer writing, and this project turned out to be very therapeutic in that sense. 

Hats by Issis Starlust is a modest and full of illusion project, made with love to offer a piece of this humble dreamer to those who want it. I'm really influenced by Nineteenth-century literature, brave and atypical women in history, vampires, adventurers, romantic anachronism, surprising curiosities, mystery stories, abandoned places, enchanted forests, unusual or sinister details in the apparent normality, sweetness and darkness ... 

Your creations, while not directly associated with Lolita fashion, do have a romantic and dark atmosphere to complement it. At what point were you interested in Lolita fashion? How does it arise?  

My first contact with Lolita culture was through Minami magazine, which was a Spanish manga and anime magazine that included articles about movies, Japanese culture and music. It was in 1999, I was 12 years old and I remember that the price was still in pesetas/euros. That number featured CLAMP's Cardcaptor Sakura and the presentation of Kodomo no Omocha, which was to be released in Spain that same year. My knowledge of Japanese culture was minimum at that time, except for certain movies and mangas, since I was always passionate about comics. In that issue, there was an article about Malice Mizer. This magazine always came with a CD that contained a lot of extra material: videos, music, images, mini-games, etc. It was when I accessed the content of the CD that my brain exploded while watching the videos of Au revoir, Madrigal and Gekka no yasoukyoku. What was that? On a musical level they didn't tell me that much, but the aesthetics! In the music section of the CD, I found the jewel within the crown, Illuminati, the song that has always been my favourite from Malice Mizer. Perhaps without that song, I would not have had such an interest in investigating what it was all about. 

I started to gather photos from Malice Mizer, especially from Mana, and at the same time, I came across other references that are fundamental to me, like Siouxsie and other gothic bands who created amazing music and look fabulous with their magnificent looks. In addition to this, I discovered the Kisekae games, a digital version of the paper cut-out dolls. Surprisingly, many gothic and gothic lolita aesthetics appeared in here, making me fantasize about having something so pretty in my closet. Since I was penniless, I customized a lot of clothes and even sewed some garments.

Later on, I made contact through goth music forums with people from Spain who were also interested in Gothic Lolita Fashion, until the creation of one of the first Lolita forums in Spain, Oscura Inocencia, where we finally had a place of our own. In September 2005 they organized the first Gothic Lolita meeting in Madrid, in which I met in person some of the most important friends in my life, who are still essential. For me, that date is the starting point, despite knowing of Lolita from an earlier time. It was the first time that I wore such an elaborate and conscientiously coordinated, we started something together that we didn't even imagine how big it would be!

With such a long time into the Lolita fashion, at what point did the idea of ​​creating your own brand arise?  

I've been an active consumer and a tireless promoter of indie lolita brands for a while now since it's the type of designs and commerce that I have felt most comfortable with and related to. Both as a consumer and organizing events with Amor Baroco, I've always looked towards the independent sector. Maybe the big brands are no longer so attractive to me or I have simply been educating my way of consuming, but the fact is that my wardrobe is quite full of indie, vintage and second-hand garments.

That said, the project started quite unconsciously. On the one hand, I am allergic to the sun and on the other, I have a large collection of hats, but the truth is that I did not have an appropriate hat for the terrible sunny days in Spain. No matter how hard I was looking, I could not find one that fitted 100% to my wishes. I love black, but the black hats I owned were winter hats and therefore, not useful for what I wanted, so it was then that I decided to do it myself.

When photographing myself with the hat, several people through Instagram asked me about it and there was even somebody who wanted to purchase it, so I considered launching a small commission on hats. Little by little the small project grew moderately, I work slowly and I do it by hand, but I decided to open my own profile for it in social media and an online store so that everything was more convenient, thanks to the advice of my dear friend Merkades, who's been a great supporter and my first client.

Issis and Merkades, founders of Amor Barroco

The type of craft that you do is quite specialized... Where and how did you learn to weave straw and create hats? Did you receive any kind of training for it?  

Back home, textiles have always had great value and importance: my father has always been a representative of textile manufacturers' houses, and my grandmother, my mother or my brother have been great teachers. When I studied Fine Arts my goal was to direct my career to textile design, so I tried to guider almost all the proposals they made us and the assignments of the subjects to this, especially in the subjects of volume and design, where I worked with different supports and fabrics, doing everything from installations to puppets. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about materials, but then I was a very scattered person who just wanted to travel and daydream.

Soon after I left everything aside to live independently and I moved from Jaén to Granada. There I had to find my life in the midpoint of a crisis, so among other things, I began to design and make many things by hand: bags, home-made silk-screen patches, brooches, shirts, skirts, etc. Many of these pieces were sold at a joint stand that Armand Entreri put up in the many comic conventions that took place in the city. They were mostly punk lolita, gothic lolita or classic lolita style pieces; sometimes I was encouraged to make pieces with straw, some bags, although we carried a very varied material. Also, near my house at that time, there was a group of seamstresses who met to give each other advice and sew together, so I learned a lot from them

Basically, everything has been adding up, plus I also believe that curiosity and personal initiative are essential to discover new ways of creating, experimenting and improving.

♥  Where do you find the inspiration to create your pieces?  

Mainly from my work as an Art Historian, although I must also confess that since I was little I have a great collection of period and fantasy films and series. From all the adaptations of Jane Austen to The Tales of Shelley Duvall. Classic cinema has also been a great influence. 

I work mainly with images of any kind and I like to absorb what I find interesting and play with it. It doesn't necessarily have to be "vintage." In fact, I've work on a collaboration with a designer that has nothing to do with this type of aesthetic or with the lolita, but tends more towards a fetish aesthetic. I like to experiment and learn something new with each project.

Photo by Abel Silva

Could you describe for us how is the process of creating your pieces? From the initial sketch to the final result, how do you design your hats and headdresses?

Sometimes I first compare materials, I put them in common and I let myself be carried away by the feelings that colours and textures spark in me. I fall in love with lace or flowers and find out how they could best fit into a design. Other times I have very specific ideas of how I want a piece to be and I draw it, I write down a possible list of materials with which the design could look good, etc. For example, there are a couple of very gothic and mourning new models that I have come up with but that for now are only in my head and on paper.

Normally there is a test of materials, the preparation of them (some are hand-dyed, aged, restored or modified in some way, depending on what it is) and previous assembly of the piece to check that everything goes well. I like to verify that it is a well-built, comfortable and safe piece. I like to sew the pieces calmly and sometimes it comes up to make some final additions with some pretty rhinestones or a lace that I had not planned to be in the final piece. I usually do it with documentaries or films in the background, as my grandmother used to do while she knitted scarves and booties for us in winter.

Talking about materials, most of the times they're pretty special... How do you select your supplies?

I usually choose to go to haberdashery near my home/workshop. I believe that the small business is essential and those classic old haberdasheries are a huge source of knowledge and inspiration. The one closest to me is run by a couple of elderly ladies who not only take care of each product they sell but have also created a sewing collective and carry out all kinds of activities. It is not only a place to acquire materials but also for learning. When I travel to Jaén, my hometown, I like to visit La Verdadera, a haberdashery dating from 1934 that I went to when I was little with my mother. It is always a pleasure to continue buying stocks on such sites. Also sometimes I include a piece of vintage jewellery or ornament, which you usually find in street markets. The idea is that each piece has something special, details and its own character.

For the straw, I work with a reliable supplier. Throughout this project, I have tried different suppliers in this sense since it is a delicate material and communication with them is essential to work the moulds well and that the final product fits the design. Sometimes I have had to learn from mistakes or be disappointed, but I imagine that something similar happens to many designers with companies that manufacture prints or provide them with fabrics. I wanted the straw to come from the south of Spain, from Andalusia, whose small industry often suffers many hardships and is scarce compared to the rest of Spain. There it's very common to use this type of hats and materials (also esparto, which my grandfather worked a lot) since it is extremely hot and the sun is an enemy for the skin. Finally, I got in touch with a small family factory and I understand very well with them, we called each other and sent each other emails to comment on any details and explain what my needs are. The treatment is familiar and gives me a lot of security.

Regarding natural flowers, this is my favourite part. I like to go on day trips to the countryside or to secluded places with gardens and to collect. I carry the appropriate scissors in my bag and I select and collect twigs. Once at home I clean them, classify them and prepare them to hang and dry them properly. It is important to control humidity and light for this, something I have learned through trial and error. Other times, if I'm looking for a very specific flower or plant that I don't have access to, I go to a nearby florist.

So far I have been asking all my interviewees about sustainable practices, as it is something that I find quite important nowadays. In what way do you consider Hats by Issis Starlust a sustainable brand?

I think so, although all brands can improve in every way and of course mine as well. Hats by Issis Starlust is a small project with no claim of becoming a big company and hoarding huge amounts of money. I neither want nor can I afford it for reasons of time and the demands of my profession. It is a project made with the heart, a continuous learning process and a place to develop part of my creativity. This is why I try to use nearby suppliers, not overwhelm myself in rushing to make the pieces, invest in beautiful and quality materials, collaborate with colleagues from whom I learn a lot, work on mutual support among small creators, listen to clients and take their needs into account. , try to have good communication...

I also make sure that the pieces are comfortable, timeless and wearable. These are hats that you could wear at any time, giving an elegant touch to a casual outfit or dramatizing a good party outfit. I've always had a very theatrical character, and I like to think of these pieces as that special touch that makes everything not "so simple" and bland. I also like to imagine that there is a certain drama or romanticism in each crown and hat, I think it is necessary to include some fantasy in our daily lives. This can be a nice blouse, a special jewel, perfume and why not? A hat. With a view to that, I try to make them easy to put on and comfortable to wear.    

And finally, as I explained in the previous question, I work with small suppliers and do most of the things by hand, so the work labour is mostly me and I keep everything within the local business

You've created a variety of hats and crowns that always look amazing, even bonnets... What has been your favourite creation or project so far?

It's hard to choose a favourite piece since all of them are special to me... I think the Vampire Summer Grand Pamela is the one I use the most (and it saves my life from the sun and allergies). I also have a special affection for the Dramatic Widow Grand Pamela, I love making black on black details and making it so festive and at the same time so easy to wear.

I also have a weakness for hats with preserved flowers, such as the Wilde Hat or the special hat that Kelsey (dear friend and designer of I do declare) commissioned me, made with natural flowers and velvet. These pieces really smell great, it's an indefinable nature scent. I love everything related to folk and witch aesthetics, and these pieces have certain reminiscences of it.

Finally, I think the Liberty Bonnet has been one of the great challenges of this season. By making this piece I have learned a lot and it will be available again in the future. I really wanted to make bonnets different from those usually seen in lolita, something different and simpler in terms of size and shape.

On the other hand, collaborations and photo shoots have been a wonderful thing. For me, they are a creation in itself that is also part of the brand, a way of staging some of the images that come to mind when I create the pieces. Indrolita has been and is a great battle companion as well as a good friend, she has a noble and generous heart and I learn a lot when we work together. The sessions we did, together with Andrea, Merkades and Ana, were a dream come true. I'm really looking forward to planning another one, I love this “little community” that we have created around these sessions.

I also love to see how Abel Silva, a great friend and photographer, contextualized in a different way my pieces with nudes that border on the fantastic and the nymphomaniac or give a twist to more classic ideas so that they turn to a more sinister place. Our collaborations go back many years and it is always a pleasure to have his eye and his great cultural background. When we put our ideas on the table we connect right away and that is very stimulating.

Albert Victoria

Finally, after a hard 2020 that has brought lots of disruptures to all of us, what do you see in the future of the brand?

There are some new pieces that I am still designing that have to go through several testing processes, but I really want to see the light. Both very mourning and very gothic. It really is the type of pieces that I like to make the most, more akin to my favourite style.

Albert Victoria, the wonderful illustrator, recently commissioned me for a boater hat that I am considering making in a similar way in the near future. They are mourning hats, very simple and elegant. An easy garment to combine with any outfit on any occasion.

Sadly 2020 hasn't been gentle enough to let us do as many photoshoots and collaborations as I would like to do, but of course, I'm looking forward to keeping working on this once the situation is safer. Exploring the image of the femme fatale, with fetish and very dark tints, is one of my favourite themes, and I'm sure the result can be fantastic. On the other hand, I am already taking notes and ideas for an upcoming photoshoot, in which I want male models and some diversity. I think it is important to highlight that these pieces are genderless and anyone may want to wear a nice hat or a flower crown. Everyone is welcome.

Regarding some events, most of them that were happening last year has been postponed (Lolita at the Green Gabbles and KeraFashion Show in Barcelona, ​​Gothic and Lolita Festival in Moscow, etc), but I really hope we can make them happened in the future and visit them!


Thank you so much for answering all my question with such wonderful stories and details, my beloved Issis! I hope everyone finds this interview as fascinating as it was for me redacting all the answers and putting them together for you to enjoy them.

All photos are used with the permission of Hats by Issis Starlust.