Very Subjective March Madness of Select Indie Brands


When Bibliotheca announced the March theme to be March Madness, I immediately got very excited. This seems like a pretty silly topic, which means I don’t have to take myself too seriously and can just write something for the shits and giggles. And my shits and giggles will be a very subjective and heavily biased March Madness ranking of indie brands.

By means of a foreword, I am using Raine Dragon’s Informal Survey of Brand Reach post to extrapolate my initial list of brands to look at. For the purposes of this post I am defining indie by location and I am excluding any that are based in Japan and/or China. Whilst this is way too restrictive for the purposes of establishing what is an indie brand and what isn’t, this is all that I have the energy for, as even including the Chinese brands would take my list of candidates from 11 to 26 and that is genuinely too much for me right now.

Having said this, to make the matches even, I made the executive decision to add 5 more to the list to get it to even 16 and to have 4 on each side before we start pitting them against each other. Those are: Baroque, The Black Ribbon, Miss Danger, R.R. Memorandum, and Eat Me Ink Me. I wanted to keep these additions to clothing brands rather than accessory ones and picked those that seemed to me to have a decent amount of international reach already, as well as represented a variety of locations.

With all that done, I used a Random Pair Generator to do the matching up for me, so let’s get into the madness part, shall we?

Round 1: Left Hand Side

In order to say a bit more about each match and keep the post to a reasonable length, I’m starting off doing each side separately.

Miss Danger vs Eat Me Ink Me

Tough, since I don’t own anything from either. I was tempted by a few of Miss Danger’s designs, but they’re always so OTT that they require commitment. On the other hand, Eat Me Ink Me has a nice range of things and they take orders for fully custom pieces. Plus I got to model for them in Dublin, so Eat Me Ink Me takes the win.

Peacockalorum vs Me Likes Tea

I almost started overthinking this before I stopped myself. I don’t own anything from Me Likes Tea (though almost ordered from them several times), so whilst I like their Instagram feed, Peacockalorum is a reliable staple for me. Not for everything, but they are much more accessible price-wise and with the range of products on offer. Peacockalorum goes forward.

Lady Sloth vs Violet Fane

Ooof, that one was a painful match because I love both of them. They are both indie brands who are killing it at their game. Recently it’s been hard to say no to Violet Fane’s designs, particularly from the Sumire line. At the same time, I can’t not rep my fellow Polish frillies. Truth is, this would’ve been a tough decision at any stage, so might as well get it out of the way. I’m giving the win to Lady Sloth on the basis of more flattering JSK cuts, their amazing blouses, and simply having more on offer.

The Black Ribbon vs BB&B Deco

An interesting one. Whilst I’ve been lusting after BB&B Deco’s stuff for years and could still be a total magpie over every piece, with my current style I’m much happier turning them down. Meanwhile, The Black Ribbon has been doing some very interesting stuff - and they previewed a fabric that really caught my eye not too long ago which they may end up getting my money for. The Black Ribbon goes forward.

Round 1: Right Hand Side

Haenuli vs Sweet Mildred

Super easy on this one, Haenuli is incredible and has to win. Whilst I’m sure that Sweet Mildred is equally great, as I’ve never even seen any of their work in person, Haenuli takes the crown from me.

Lief vs Baroque

Damn, another tough one. I may go a little bit controversial here and actually give the win to Lief. Controversial because I own and love a Baroque piece, yet am still to add Lief to my collection. However, looking at the whole body of work, Baroque sometimes releases designs that I simply don’t like so much. Meanwhile, although the price and simplicity of their designs stops me from getting one, I do adore practically everything that Lief does. Adding them to my collection is merely a matter of time.

Cotton Candy Feet vs Puvithel

Another simple one - Puvithel’s jewellery is out of this world good while I’ve heard a few too many bad reviews and opinions about CCF. (Again, to the point where, despite almost placing an order with them, I never did.) Puvithel for the win.

Peppermint Fox vs R. R. Memorandum

I love me some Peppermint Fox. Their aesthetic is very much up my alley and it’s mostly postage costs that stop me from eating up every release that they have. Having said this, I am actually going to put RRM as my winner in this round

The Quarterfinals

This is how we are entering the quarterfinals. Some unexpected winners, some very predictable ones - and a few tough matches still ahead.

Eat Me Ink Me vs Peacockalorum

As much as I enjoy the Peacockalorum pieces that I own, my winner will be Eat Me Ink Me. For the same reasons they trumped Miss Danger, but also because if I were to ask either of these creators to make me something (and they both take commissions when they can), I would much rather have it done by Eat Me Ink Me.

Lady Sloth vs The Black Ribbon

This, on the other hand, is very straightforward, Lady Sloth trumps The Black Ribbon. Not just because I own their stuff, but because they do have way more designs that I enjoy and admire, whereas The Black Ribbon, as great as they are with simpler pieces, just doesn’t always cut it for me.

Haenuli vs Lief

The battle of the Korean indie brands! Can I be controversial once more? Don’t get me wrong, I love Haenuli with all my heart, everything I own is superb and there are still some pieces that I wish I had. But there were also some designs that I just couldn’t get behind. In keeping things simpler, Lief is sort of more timeless and wearable. Ok, fine, I just really want to own something from them, that’s the real reason.

Puvithel vs R. R. Memorandum

Not the fairest of matches. Whilst Puvithel does create clothing as well, they are much better known for their jewellery. And again, their crystal heart pieces are absolutely unparalleled, you can try to pry mine out of my cold, dead hands. But despite being a completely different aesthetic to what I like on myself, I love R. R. Memorandum’s attention to detail and how each item literally looks as if it’s been pulled out of the early 2000s. That tartan skirt and jacket set is just iconic. They are killing it and capitalising on the momentum, so I do feel like they are a very deserving winner here.

The Semifinals

Things are getting pretty tight now, so let’s give each match a little bit more thought and attention.

Eat Me Ink Me vs Lady Sloth

I love both of these brands. I also had the opportunity to model for both of them, so even though I don’t own anything from Eat Me Ink Me, I know what they feel like to wear. Without a doubt one day something from them will land in my wardrobe. However, once again Lady Sloth’s designs appeal to me a lot more. It’s not even about the fact that Eat Me Ink Me leans a bit darker and more gothic compared to Lady Sloth. It’s more so that their style often relies on reprinting paintings, which is simply not a style of printed releases that I enjoy. Lady Sloth might not always hit the spot for me, but I appreciate how every print is done in collaboration with a resident artist. And let’s not forget the unique takes on colourways they had like day vs night for their sky prints or the cute vs creepy for the Dollhouse print. That was very clever and the first time we’d seen something like this done. Lady Sloth wins this round for me and I am sending a metaphorical bouquet to Eat Me Ink Me for their valiant fight here.

Lief vs R. R. Memorandum

I’m afraid that this is where R. R. Memorandum’s streak ends for me. Whilst I am happy to admire their creations on others, I sincerely doubt that they will ever make anything that I would want to own, simply because their focus is on oldschool lolita and that’s not my cup of tea. I love their brand message and the ideals that they uphold, of keeping the fashion not only true to its aesthetic roots, but also to the values of slow fashion, of keeping quality over quantity, of being a responsible creator who values sustainability and accessibility. All of those are wonderful messages that already resonate with so many. But this is a subjective March Madness post and my taste prefers Lief’s designs. Simple as that.

The Grand Final

And this is it. The final pair, the strongest of the strong, the clash of titans: Lady Sloth vs Lief. It actually does feel a bit like two giants facing each other, although they are different kind of giants. Whilst Lief seems to have more staff to help them with the manufacturing process, according to Raine Dragon’s list Lady Sloth is the most recognisable non-East Asian brand on that list. In fact, whilst Lady Sloth’s reach within Rufflechat’s community placed them in the top 10 (at number 7 to be exact), Lief were firmly in the bottom 10 (at number 44). Whilst I don’t own a Lief piece to compare the quality directly, I have seen several of their designs in person and can attest to their beauty.

In the end to make my decision a bit easier to make, I have gone to Lolibrary to look at the designs for both of these brands. My goal was to merely look and as I did so, I observed how many times something caught my eye and how many pieces I felt that pang of ‘ah, I wish that I owned that’. And one side had more of those items than the other, which by default will have to be the winner. So the grand champion of Cupcake Kamisama’s very subjective March Madness of (select) indie brands is…

Congratulations to Lief, you have won The Golden Pan for frying those sweet compliments I have showered you with. And well done to all the other indie brands listed here. They all do incredible things, each has something special to offer and helps enrich our fashion community with wonderful things to adorn our bodies with. There are also plenty of indie brands that didn’t get to be featured here, starting from the indie creators from Japan and China all the way to everyone else all over the world. Keep doing the good work and I hope to one day be able to enlarge my own clothing collection with your designs.

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