Customize It: Car Clubs, Lolitas and Extreme Fashionistas Have More in Common than You Think

View more photos in the "D1 Grand Prix: Exotic Cars, Lolitas and Drifting" slideshow.

Hector Esquivel, president of Nokturnal Car Club Los Angeles
Hector Esquivel, president of Nokturnal Car Club Los Angeles
Shannon Cottrell

Hector Esquivel has spent the better part of the last two years transforming his 2005 Chevy Avalanche into a work of art. The truck has been lowered, its exterior coated in candy paint, highlighted by silver and candy leafing and customized airbrush art that extends inside the vehicle. The interior is covered in exotic leathers-- ostrich, alligator and even stingray on the steering wheel and glove compartment. There are multiple TV screens, customized sound and Lamborghini front doors. Esquivel, who is president of the Los Angeles chapter of Nokturnal Car Club, was one of many custom car fans who arrived at Angel Stadium with unique wheels for Extreme Autofest, a car show correlating with last weekend's D1 Grand Prix.

Across the parking lot from the custom car crowd, fashion-forward youth had gathered in the Harajuku Alley. Maganda Pacheco, a 20-year-old graphic designer and illustrator, extended a hand while explaining what goes into creating Japanese-style deco nails, which have been popularized in recent years by music stars like Mana of Malice Mizer and Kumi Koda and are starting to make waves in the U.S.

Maganda Pacheco's nails
Maganda Pacheco's nails
Shannon Cottrell

"It took five hours to get all of the jewels on with nail glue," says Pacheco of the acrylic paint and rhinestone creations that complemented a cherry print Lolita skirt.

On the surface, it may not seem like the custom car crowd and extreme fashionistas have much in common, but they do. Just as you may not want to use your airbrushed, alligator upholstered car to move furniture, so do deco nails make it near-impossible to do ordinary tasks like text messaging. Out in the Angel Stadium parking lot, there was a sense of impracticality. It didn't matter if the car or outfit should be put through the messy rituals of everyday life, what mattered was how far the creators could push the limits of their imaginations.

For car club members, this means meeting regularly to discuss their projects. Since the show season typically lasts from spring through summer, they tend to spend the bulk of fall and winter working on new ideas for their rides, like Tian Raines' use of TV screens on his car's exterior. Club members and local shops often pitch in to turn these automobiles into show pieces.

"We always try to bring something new the following year," says Esquivel. "I know there are TVs everywhere, but you can have one in a certain area that no one else has, that's what sets you apart."

Charleett Romero sporting a fairy kei look
Charleett Romero sporting a fairy kei look
Shannon Cottrell

For the Harajuku fashion lovers, competitive events like this one are relatively uncommon, but while there is no six-month build-up to the main event, it maintained the same spirit of friendly competition. Charleett Romero, a regular at LA's Jpop parties, spraypainted her pajama top and boots and borrowed a tutu and bow from friends to create her interpretation of the latest in Tokyo street styles, fairy kei. San Diego-based designers Shin Project and Just Under Royalty, won second prize for their collaborative ensemble, which featured deconstructed Dickies, socks used as arm bands and a platinum blonde wig accessorized with dreadlock extensions, hair rollers and plastic tube pipes.

Whether it's cars or fashion, Saturday's crowd showed just what a kind of art a little remixing, and a lot of collaboration, can make.


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