Kei Club Review: Bringing The Community Together

Kei Club Review: Bringing The Community Together

Hello, Unicorns!

When creating my Leaving Lakeview Favorites post I reflected a lot on community. In this last chapter of my life, I was the pink-haired barista who worked at the Starbucks on the Southport Corridor. Lakeview’s continuous change, growth, and gentrification kept me on top of the trends. I felt involved and in-the-know within my neighborhood. But I no longer live on Southport. When writing this, my crown of pink had faded to blonde in the bright summer sun. I struggled with a summertime sadness, missing my early-morning regulars and routines.  

I had to accept my new reality: the Southport chapter of my life was over. While this new chapter continued to cook in the oven of the universe, I had started to search for socialization in new spaces and places. But when I picked up the last of my Southport mail, I realized my short search was over. I opened up the metallic pink packaging to find my Hanging Heart Accessories Organizer DIY on the cover of Kei Club and I knew I had a home with the Club.

Kei (pronounced “kay” not “key”) Club is a seasonal, self-published Japanese fashion and Kawaii lifestyle magazine created by Callie of Ota-Q Apparel + Kit of OtomeNeko. Founded on February 8th, 2019, Kei Club aims to spread a love for all things cute, loving oneself and engaging in an inclusive community. It is the perfect purchase for Harajuku fashion aficionados who need more kawaii in their lives. 

I’ve been interested in Japanese alternative fashion since middle school. Back then one could buy the English translations of Gothic Lolita Bible from the local bookstore and Fruits was still in publication. I myself was quite the baby bat goth! I would wear my all-black Bodyline OP with combat boots, striped stockings, and lace fingerless gloves and I poured over street snaps and AP ads for my daily dose of inspiration.

However, a lot has changed since that time. I left jfashion halfway through high school and the media declared death for Harajuku in 2014 when GLB and Fruits discontinued printing their magazines. I came back to jfashion in 2017 and despite the lack of printed jfashion media, I have built my wardrobe up with cute kawaii garments that make me feel like my most magical self. But I missed the magazines. They were collectible, fun, made from fancy paper and kept up with the hottest trends and topics.

But now Kei Club exists! This spring and summer brought the first two issues to life, with the sheer amount of content doubling in the second installment. It can be digitally downloaded or delivered to one’s doorstep. And there’s an option to get gifts with every issue! I want to share Kei Club with everyone I know to show that Harajuku isn’t dead. Clearly, it’s alive; not only surviving but thriving!

This is my review of Kei Club’s combined content currently released. I will be detailing my haul of gifts from my VIP subscription (#notsponsored) and finally, I will be reflecting on my process for pitching, submitting and eventually getting published in Kei Club. I am grateful for Kei Club bringing the community together, one word, picture, printed page and issue at a time.


Artwork

Over two dozen different artists have contributed and included their artwork to Kei Club within the first two issues. Every single piece is so beautiful and well-rendered, but I’m specifically wanted to share the ones from my local Chicago Community first!

Fattysama, the Youtuber behind Fattychan, and the designer behind the brand LocalFattyChan had a piece featured in the first issue. I love them, they are a part of my kawaud and a close friend in my community. I specifically love the illustration they contributed; it’s of a plus-size person wearing lolita with a happy wide-eyed expression. The words included in the illustration say ‘Fat is Cute!’ which is true as fuck.

In the second issue, Hard Decora, known for their Aggressively Cute apparel, events and blog, shared a preview from their upcoming comic of the same name. I’m quite excited for this comic’s first issue to be fully released later this summer. I love the two main characters that the reader gets introduced to in this preview: Michelle and Sour Note and the dynamic they build within these preliminary panels. I’m so excited to enter the world of the mischevious loving girl gang out in Grove City. I’m so grateful we got a preview of the Hard Decora comic within Kei Club!

Another art piece I really appreciated from the first issue was made by Diccha99. Their nostalgia-inspired illustration filled with pastel colors, vintage toy motifs, and super cute cats just made my heart so happy. I also really loved seeing a piece from Ocean in Space! I really loved how the kawaii girl was wearing a Yoshi hat, playing her portable console and was surrounded by all my favorite childhood characters like the PPGs and Mario’s Friends!

Finally, I fell in love with the world Nina Merry made for her piece in Geek Chic. It features these absolutely adorable animals frilled up in lolita, with a stylized Animal Crossing text reading “It’s Fun to Dress Up and Look So Cute on Occasion”. Again, absolutely adorable! Which artists do you want to see contribute artwork to upcoming issues of Kei Club?

Matcha: What’s The Tea?

One aspect of Kei Club that I really love is called Matcha; a recurring segment that focuses on hot topics and controversies within the jfashion community. I love that instead of dishing out the news and starting drama, Kei Club is focused on creating a safe space for people to discuss and develop their own opinions. ((If you want the news, I reccomend checking out Tyler Willis’ Youtube at Scarfing Scarves for Last Week Lolita News. Your tea will be served with a large side of salt, whether you ordered it or not!)) Each issue, Kei Club sits down with a voice of authority within the community and asks “what’s the tea?” for the topic at hand.

In the first issue, Kei Club talked with my very good friends Hayden Lee and Kamilah Jones (aka Hard Decora) of O-Kei!! Podcast. O-Kei!! Podcast is dedicated to bringing their listeners’ j-fashion news and covers important issues in the j-fashion community. The podcast is available via iTunes, Soundcloud, and Spotify! Hayden and Kamilah discussed cultural appropriation with Callie and Kit, and the amount of insight garnered from their discussions was eye-opening. I reccomend y’all getting a copy of Issue 1: Welcome to Kei Club particularly for this segment with O-Kei!! because it’s served hot and fresh!

Geek Chic brought a whole new batch of Matcha to sip on. The second segment was written by another very good friend of mine; Cora Maria. Cora is a kawaii fashion enthusiast from Brisbane, Australia who is currently studying fashion communications and professional writing. She runs the Facebook group Alternative Fashion Lovers for Sustainability and blogs about how the community can engage with alternative fashion in more sustainable ways! Cora sat down with Writer for JadedIsland, Jade and ‘Kei Club’ founders Callie and Kit to discuss the prevailing issue of enforced positivity in the kawaii community. The tea is truthful, and I really reccomend picking up your copy of Issue 2: Geek Chic to read all about it.

Interviews, Listicles, Articles, and Editorials

Between the tea, the OOTDs, the astrology, and all artwork contributed to KC- the content that I’ve found most valuable out of Kei Club are its featured articles, listicles, interviews, and editorials. I consider these to be the meat of the zine, and I love chewing through the thoughts and ideas presented between these pages.

The first issue of Kei Club presented an interview with Vocaloid producer Daniel (aka Creep-P). KC sat down with Daniel to talk about his style, as he is an avid fan of Japanese Street Fashion. This was my favorite interview from the first issue; as Daniel’s aesthetic is my opposite- I am certainly not a chaotic colorful monster but a pastel princess! I loved learning more about his fashion, his music and how they influence each other.

My other favorite interview thus far from Kei Club was conducted with Sean Chong Umeda (Seannyboy808) for Issue 2: Geek Chic. Sean is a published model and kawaii influencer from LA who has worked with character brands like Pusheen, Tokidoki, and Sanrio. I really loved Sean’s thoughts on the difficulties he’s faced as a kawaii boy, and I’d love to share them for you here:

“How do I take criticism? I don’t give a shit about what people think about me. I am very lucky to have very thick skin. I am very confident in myself and my abilities, maybe a little too confident sometimes. Because of that, I’m able to take a lot of negativity that not a lot of people are able to take. I’d rather take all of this hate and just run with it and create a path for others so that they can see that I made it out okay and that there is a way for them to go through life happy… I can’t save the world, but if I can make people’s day and help people and teach people that it’s okay to be who they are, and I’m happy with that.” 

Although there have been a few listicles printed within Kei Club’s pages- so far my favorite has been Cora’s contribution about refreshing one’s wardrobe for free from the first issue. DIY, decluttering, outfit challenges and repeat looks are all great ideas to consider when you’re struggling with stagnation in your style!

I also appreciated JadedIsland‘s love note to my favorite media from Issue 2 titled ‘Anime: The Gateway to jFashion’, where she elaborates on how all anime paths lead to j-fashion. It was nicely nostalgic and allowed me to reminisce on my childhood memories of Sailor Moon. I certainly wouldn’t have my style today without having watched all the anime I could growing up.

In ‘Colorfully Committed: Body Modification in the Kawaii Sphere’, Pixielocks shares her words of wisdom around tattoos, piercings, and kawaii OTT makeup as positive ways to decorate and adorn the body. I love watching Pixie’s tattoo vlogs, and I identify with how she feels full of strong emotion towards the things she loves. I love that her tattoos serve so many purposes in her life; reminding Jillian of her values and cover-up less unfortunate memories and I myself feel inspired to start planning that first tattoo I’ve been dreaming about since middle school.

My final piece of written content from Kei Club so far also come from Geek Chic. In Callie’s Precure Editorial, she talks about living on a Marine base in Japan and buying a pack of mints for 200 yen and discovering PreCure. Pretty Cure (Precure) is a Japanese magical girl anime that’s been around for the past 15 years and comes out with a set of Cures and characters and merch every year. The Cures fight evil and look good doing it, surrounded by sweet sentiments and cute colors. Callie goes onto share how PreCure has become her healthy coping mechanism, helping though her hardest moments and giving her a sliver of serotonin. There’s something special about magical girl anime and its lessons on friendships, dreams, and ass-kicking kindness that can heal the soul. I started watching PreCure this last year, and Go! Princess PreCure is that series I can always go to, cry through and feel better afterward. Even on days when I don’t think I’ll ever feel ok again.

I’m looking forward to more written words in the future issues of Kei Club!

VIP Subscription Gifts Collective Haul

There are wide variety and levels to receive Kei Club. While individual issues can be purchased as digital downloads or post-publication as reprints, I recommend subscribing and becoming an Official or VIP Member of Kei Club. With both these levels, you receive a collectible membership card and iron-on patch along with your first issue with the zine. However, the Kei Club VIP Member Subscription goes above and beyond these perks and includes 2-3 VIP exclusive gifts made by co-creators Kit and Callie.

I decided to jump straight into Kei Club with a VIP Member Subscription for one specific reason. Both Kit and Callie run their own fashion-based businesses individually. Working together on Kei Club, they do an outstanding job bringing their creativity and craftsmanship to the VIP gifts.

With Issue 1: Welcome to Kei Club, I received my VIP Member Embroidery Patch as well as my Kei Club collectible membership card. Currently, my membership card is packed away with my whole fashion-sewing studio setup but I put my patch in a place where I see it every day. I have a Vans canvas bag that I dip-dyed pink many years ago and within the last year, I decided to embellish it with my personality by hand-sewing patches from my favorite creators. My Kei Club VIP patch fits perfectly on the side panel below to candy heart patches from Sugarbones. The Vans logo is now covered by another Sugarbones patch that features the saying ‘Do Not Underestimate What Girls Can Do’. I believe this saying exemplifies the power of pink femme energy that Kei Club cultivates! I bring this bag with me everywhere as it carries my laptop, agenda and my Starbucks uniform. On days when I don’t feel cute, I feel lucky to represent the Club and bring the cute with me wherever I go.

The two VIP gifts that came with Issue 1 were the Kei Club Acryllic Pin, which is adhered to my pastel pink magical girl faux leather jacket and the Kei Club Pastel Rainbow Iridescent Charm Bracelet. I’m head over heels for my charm bracelet. It’s perfectly pastel and I feel especially princess-like whenever I wear it.

With Issue 2: Geek Chic, I received the Kei Club’s Convention Survival Kit. I wish I had already had this kit in my possession for Anime Central 2019, it would’ve really come in handy! All the items in the kit came in an iridescent pouch with a pastel pink faux leather zipper edge. The kit included a travel sewing kit branded as a ‘cosplay health kit’, a retractable badge reel with the Kei Club logo, kawaii bandages, and two buttons that emphasize the most important part of attending conventions: personal hygiene! I would’ve paid good money for this kit had it not been included in my VIP subscription and I do so look forward to bringing it to future cons.

Each physical issue of Kei Club also comes with a sticker and print created by the community, and they’re a nice addition to the experience of receiving this zine. The first sticker was designed by Mahou Pop and the second by Sugary Symbiote, with both prints by Ota-Q Apparel. I can’t wait to see what sort of gifts will be included in Issue 3!

My (first) Kei Club Article: Jessi Moonheart’s Hanging Heart Accessory Organizer

Finally, I’m able to share my retrospective perspective on pitching, my writing process and overall submission for my first Jessi Moonheart published piece- the DIY featured in Issue 2 of Kei Club: Geek Chic. Due to timing with my academic schedule during the spring, I shied away from the opportunity to submit content for Welcome to Kei Club. I also felt unsure of what sort of content I could contribute to the Club. During the semester, I feel as though I put on blinders to everything except the execution of my academic work, and my creative projects are de-prioritized.

However, when my copy of Welcome to Kei Club arrived, I felt jealous that my name wasn’t amongst the pages with that of my friends and chosen kawaii family. Also, I got asked separately by both Cora and Jade about my plans to submit for the magazine. My community expressed a need for me! I submitted a contributor application and pitched my idea to the editors via Instagram DM. They were excited by my pitch, gave me a final deadline and set me off to start my work. I also kept in email contact throughout the submission process; any questions I had were answered within 48 hours at most.

What was my writing process like? Well, I started with setting up a Google Doc and used the DIY from Issue 1 as my inspiration for formatting. Then I gathered my materials and started DIY-ing. Previously in the past, I had made the Hanging Heart Accessory Organizer out of the desire for a more organized kawaii life but did not write or photograph my process. Making it for the second time allowed me the opportunity to dive deep and communicate articulately and accurately.  I believe this DIY project is one that almost anyone can do with some time, patience and access to the right tools.

Since I already created my own Hanging Heart Accessory Organizer, I reached out to the kawaud to see who would be interested in having their own. Sharing is caring and Kamilah claimed the finished prize. I painted the heart frame with bright colors and urban style elements that reminded me of the Hard Decora brand. When the kawaud meet up for Anime Central in the spring, I brought the finished organizer along with a command hook and strip to hang it on our hotel wall. Seeing Kamilah’s decora on the organizer sparked my joy- a visual that ended up on the cover for the zine!

Finally, when all was written and perfectly photographed, I sent my draft over to The Cora Maria for copyediting then let Kit and Callie know it was done! I’m proud of the fact that I finalized my submission nine days before the deadline, and was delighted to find out that I could recieve a free copy of the zine since I submitted as a contributor! Pitching, writing and submitting a contribution to Kei Club re-affirmed my passion for kawaii interior design and writing. I believe manifesting this opportunity to grow my kawaii resume is just the first of many for the future!


My personal quest for identifying my community is over. I am a fashion blogger with a passion for kawaii interior design. I am a member of the Midwest Jfashion Community and I am a Chicago Unicorn. Kei Club has brought me into the folds of the community I admire just with a quick flip through the pages. With in-depth interviews from our favorite influencers to emotionally-charged PreCure editorials, Kei Club delivers a seasonal jfashion magazine that I look forward to each season.

Have you subscribed to Kei Club yet? What did you enjoy best from the first two issues? Are you planning on doing any DIYs or submitting content in upcoming issues? Let’s chat in the comments below!

Until next time on jessimoonheart.com, I wish you all the best!
With Love & Sparkles,

☆☆Jessi Moonheart☆☆

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