Like any subculture-inspired clothing, Gothic Lolita falls along a spectrum. On the low end, we have cheesy, badly-stitched polyester foof. On the opposite side, we’ve got cutting-edge couture. Who would stand at the top of the ladder? My vote’s for h.NAOTO.

Designer Naoto Hirooka was born in 1978 and graduated from Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo. Naoto joined Japan’s S-inc. fashion group in 1999, debuting his own line h.NAOTO in the spring/summer of 2000. His deconstructed designs, aimed at young men and women, gained immense popularity with Japan’s underground; you’ll see teens wearing his clothes in the Fruits and Gothic & Lolita lookbooks by Phaidon. In 2004, Naoto created a Grammy dress for Amy Lee of the band Evanescence.

The brand has branched off into subcategories that focus on specific visions (Gothic Lolita, punk, casual, accessories, home items, etc.) Naoto is assisted by designers Mika Takeuchi (h.jelly&Honey/HN+nois), Daisuke Ichikawai (HN+DIE), and Nami Kitsukawa (h.NAOTO Blood, hB.roots). Almost everything is hand-made and produced in limited quantities; happily, most items are under $250 US.

h.NAOTO’s FRILL collection celebrates Miss Gothic Lolita. He has an eye for proportion, and I love his use of translucent layers with subtle pattern peek-a-boos. Click here to see my favorite new FRILL designs; you can visit the h.NAOTO online store here.

Also check out this YouTube of h.NAOTO’s Spring/Summer 2008 runway show. If only there were spectacles like this during NY Fashion Week! Warning: the “music” may induce a migraine.


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