My high school teacher would squeal “Quel horreur!” at the libertine use of French by Japanese Goth Loli clothing labels. Moi-Même-Moitié and Manifesteange Metamorphose Temps de Fille are two of the biggest culprits. What do these names mean, and what’s getting lost in translation?

Mana’s brand is a portmanteau of the French words “moi-même” (myself) and “moitié” (half). The expression “moi-même-moitié” does not exist in French – and yet, this gibberish makes perfect sense to me. The fashion line is split into two distinct yet related collections: Elegant Gothic Lolita (cuteness, innocence) and Elegant Gothic Aristocrat (darkness, androgyny). Many Goth Lolis relate to both elements and express each according to their current states of mind.

The photo of Mana reveals his fascination with blurring the lines between male and female. The musician/designer believes in pursuing an all-encompassing aesthetic unaffected by conventions of gender. He is a study in dichotomies: Mana is so shy that he hardly speaks, yet he performs to stadium audiences. Music is simultaneously his greatest happiness and misery. All this couldn’t be better captured than in the name Moi-Même-Moitié.

What about the long-winded brand pictured above? The fictitious term “manifesteange” is a combination of “manifestation” and “ange” (angel); the company defines it as “the advent of an angel.” The second part is a grammatically incorrect translation of “the time of transformation into a little girl” (it literally reads as “transforms time of the little girl”).

Metamorphose explains the faux pas on their website: “We used French as a base to coin this phrase. Because we invented the name ourselves, we feel there are so many different nuances and connotations that can be read into it, and we invite you to create your own.” And why not? To me, the name reflects the desire to transform oneself into something beautiful and outer-worldly, like an angel. It is a sigh for the innocent days of girlhood. It implies that fashion has near-magical properties, making possible a complete self-morphosis (hey, I just invented a word too! )

Although Lolita labels would score a D- on a French exam, their names are in fact loaded with meaning. The aurally-pleasing foreign words appeal to our preconceived notions of the French Romantic, and help us understand the philosophy of the brands. So let’s not send Metamorphose and Moi-Même-Moitié to the guillotine just yet…


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