Thursday, June 20, 2013

Otakon 2013: Support the Indie Lolita Fashion Show!

Hello my lovely wonderful followers,

I am sure a lot of you have seen this already if you are a fan of the Pop Princess Facebook page, but I wanted to reiterate it here on the blog just to get the word out there to as many darling lolita darlings, fashion lovers, and Pop Princess' fans as possible.

As I'm sure you already know, by looking at the Otakon 2013 schedule the indie lolita fashion show, along with other lolita fashion related panels, have been axed from this year's convention. There are a lot of rumors going around right now about why that is, and we don't have all the information. We think it is unjust, however, that the lolita community is being excluded especially if this decision was based upon the actions of one person, which ends up judging all of us to be the same. Many of us have decided if this is the case, that we will not travel to support Otakon this year.

A frilly (and may I add quite magical and mighty!) group of us lolitas from all over are banding together to write letters to Otakon petitioning them to reinstate the indie lolita fashion show---to name a few: myself, the awesome Melissa Lipscomb, Victoria Suzanne Stella Alice, Kelsey from I Do Declare! So if you have a favorite indie brand out there that you were headed to Baltimore to see, then it's time for you to write a letter too, and share this with as many friends as possible.

All we can hope for is change, and show our support for our community and each other! So pop open those word documents, pull up the Otakon contact page and click the option for "con chair person" and send out those emails!

If you need an example to follow, here is the one I wrote! Good luck, my loves! xo Annika

To Whom It May Concern:

As both a member of the lolita community, an indie designer, and a regular Otakon attendee, I was very disappointed to see the lack of fashion and lolita panels on this year’s proposed schedule. In particular, I was very much looking forward to flying out to participate again as a designer in the indie lolita fashion show that Otakon has had on schedule for approximately the last five years. Many of us a part of the lolita community drive or fly out from all over the country to show our support for the indie brands, network among the community, and showing appreciation for our fans, followers, and friends who also come out to see us.

As a designer who participated in the fashion show under the close watch of Kelsey Hine and Melissa Lipscomb last year, I was very much looking forward to working closely with them again for another successful fashion show with what would hopefully be another full house of eager fans. Under Kelsey and Melissa’s watch, they were able to draw designers both nationally and internationally to the indie fashion show, featuring designers from all across the globe. They were both extremely fastidious in their ability to organize, maintain, and produce the fashion show in a way that was professional and courteous to all its participants. I applaud their efforts in maintaining a well balanced, and kind hearted manner under what was certainly a stressful and pressuring time, and I believe Melissa would have furthered the success of the indie fashion show this year.

I am sure you recognize there is a great deal of chatter across many social networking sites expressing disappointment in the fashion show being excluded from the schedule, and whispers about why, what, or whom may have caused the panel to be axed. Without the incentive to participate in lolita fashion panels, and especially the absence of the fashion show itself, a great deal of lolita are already talking about not attending the 2013 Otakon convention. Due to lack of fashion panels, as well as a general frustration of having no real interest in financially supporting an institution that has, as it appears, excluded them from the attendee fan base, a good deal of the community has chosen not to attend.

There has been no official commentary from Otakon as to why the fashion show and other lolita panels were excluded from this year’s schedule, which only creates further speculation to populate across the community and the web. We recognize that perhaps the convention had used up all its budgeted funding on other special guests or panels, but considering that the fashion show is run for and by fans, we would be more than happy to have a less elaborate fashion show than the years before. The show is not about the stage, music, or the lights but about being able to share and be a part of exhibiting moving works of arts from talented indie brands from every walk of life.

Otakon brings in the biggest revenue out of any event for the city of Baltimore year round, and it would be a shame to further disappoint the lolita community across the country, especially if a majority choose not to financially support the convention by not attending.

It would make a great deal of us happy if the indie fashion show was reinstated, or if at the very least, Otakon would make an official statement on why it was excluded.

Annika Simmons

Monday, June 17, 2013

Frill 2013: An Honest Review

I would like to preface this review by stating that it is not intended to defame anyone's character, reputation, or particular person. This is not intended to be slanderous (though in this format, I believe it would be considered libel) against Frill or its associates, but merely give an open and honest opinion, a review of my experience as seen from someone attending and participating for their first time. Names, as well as things pertaining to specific people have been removed or omitted completely to maintain anonymity. Sections denoted by [ ] have been added in after this letter was formed and written to send as feedback as requested by Frill directors, as details have resurfaced in my mind.

I apologize for any offense that is taken by anyone after reading this, but I feel it is only fair to share a review that is not sugar coated, but an accurate account of my experiences, as I feel perhaps there are other girls out there that also did not have a pleasant experience but are too shy to step forward.

In most cases up until this point in my life, I have felt it is other people's god given right to walk all over me and that it is something I must simply deal with in silence because I believe it is "impolite" to voice my opinions otherwise, as this might upset them when I do so and according to my strange etiquette of never standing up for myself or saying how I truly feel, is "rude" and should simply be avoided. To the frustration of many I know, this is how I deal with most things when it comes to me. Though it is funny or rather strange, because when it comes to the people I care about, I will tear someone apart for hurting or disrespecting them before I will stand by to watch it happen regardless of the consequences to my person.

So against my usual norm of keeping quiet, playing nice, and letting the opportunity to speak up pass me by, here is how I truly experienced Frill.

"Dear _____,

Thank you so much for being patient with me in getting this email to you! I never thought work would pile up so much just being away for a couple of days, so thank you for waiting!

I appreciate that you are open to feedback from the community that attended Frill, as both constructive positive and negative criticism is useful in building a solid foundation in order to make something excel from good to great. Over the last couple of weeks since the convention I have been trying to organize my thoughts of my personal Frill experience into feedback that would be constructive and beneficial, but also as honest as possible, which I hope will hold some value. If anything I write comes off as too negative or impolite, please realize that is not my intent, but only to be open with you.

When I first heard about Frill’s first convention last year, I told myself then that it was something with certainty that I wanted to be a part of and waited for the months to roll around until I saved up, and was able to apply for registration. The idea of an all lolita run and attended convention is a novel one that enhances basic meet ups by creating a different status all together, one that is professional, a convention where lolitas go to discuss their passions, skills, ideas, and trades. It’s not just a place to network, and make new friends, but a get together of girls from all over the country.

I was grateful to hear back from the directors accepting me as one of the designers to appear in the Frill fashion show, as well as giving me a chance to participate in the boutique. I was looking forward to the chance to set my brand on a platform that it had never had before, at least not this level, of all lolita audience gathered in one place. I set to work in January on the runway pieces, anxious to make a good impression, and by April had found most of the models I needed except for the two Frill had said it would be happy to provide.

Almost all of the Frill staff, with the exception of a few, seemed very warm hearted and genuine. They were very personable, respectful, and caring. I think most were a bit frazzled from stress but I appreciated the effort and hard work, time, sweat, and tears that every single person put into making this convention happen.

Before I go much further, I suppose I should say that counting Frill, this will have been my seventh fashion show in the past 6 years, and have worked anywhere from fan run, semi-professional, and professional platforms, ranging from lolita, couture, and so on. I want you to know this is not a statement of conceit, but rather just an example of accumulated experiences with fashions shows over the years as a point of reference, one that I hope will add insight and perhaps helpful suggestions.

I begin to have some anxiety about the fashion show as May crept closer and there was no word on when the show would be, what time/place, or even if a model call had been cast. And as the deadline approached, I began posting model calls on the blog or EGL, where girls literally had no idea if there had been a call for models and if there was how to find it, or how they could apply. The lack of advertisement for this I think may have resulted in what one of the directors said was a “low volume” of responses to get models. I searched the Affriliation website, the Facebook pages, general Google search and was unable to find any information on it, except for the model call for Innocent World, but not the Frill Fashion Show. I believe if the information had been more readily available, more girls would have applied, and it may be something to ensure for next year’s greater success.

I had hoped like in previous fashion shows, that whoever was considered the fashion show coordinator/director would have assembled all the models who did apply into a Google document with names, contact info, measurements, photos etc which would then be shared via the Google Drive to the designers. This allows for designers to go in, edit the doc and select the models they would like to receive based on a first come, first serve basis.

This is not only useful because it’s an aggregate of models all in one place who are looking to model, but it allows the freedom of a designer to follow their vision. It is important for a designer to select a model that is perfect for that garment that enhances the aesthetic of their design, and not the other way around. It’s like going on a blind date, you are never really sure if who you are receiving is going to be a good fit, not in the sense of physical appearance, but in your life and as who you are as a person. It’s not a matter of vanity, but sometimes when you create something and you suddenly see that model, it’s like breathing life into art and you can envision them walking down that runway.

That issue aside, there is also a matter of fit. If you make a garment that is a 36/27/36 then it has to fit a model with those exact, if not extremely close, measurements. Again, not an issue of vanity, but certain silhouettes do not suit everyone’s shape and if you put the wrong garment on a girl with incorrect measurements she could be the most stunning creature, but looks frumpy because the garment does not fit her properly, because she is either too big or too small. It takes away not only from the beauty of the garment itself, but the beauty of the girl that is wearing it. She should shine in whatever garment she’s in because it fits her properly, like a glove, giving her confidence. Taking away that option of letting designers select those models, even if it was just two, can have the unintended effect of having an ill fitting garment go out on that runway that misrepresents the brand, no matter how small or large.

The date of the convention got closer and closer, and suddenly we are less than a week out from the show, and one of the most nerve wracking things for a designer to have to deal with is not knowing if they’ve invested hundreds of dollars in a design that they will not have a model for. Once you have your models, yes, you are 100% in charge of getting them where they need to be when for fittings, for photo shoots, for hair and make up, etc, and that’s on you but up until that point it causes a lot of stress not knowing. It got to the point where I literally did not know who either of my models were until the day before and then at some point at 2 am in the morning the day of the show.

This causes extreme anxiety. It does not allow for the designer to prep with the models at all, in regards to hair, make up, accessories, shoes, etc. You cannot have a “finished” or polished look on the runway if you don’t have time to plan and execute these specific details. Because it was last minute, it looks last minute, which reflects poorly on the brand and its designer because we should be in charge of getting our looks down that runway properly. That is impossible to do, however, if it’s down to the wire because of poor preparation or planning. Basically it forces the designer to compromise their vision and simply go with whatever it is the model has on hand, and hope that it looks like it is supposed to be that way.

If you (and I’m not saying you, as in you, ____! Just speaking generally here) are in charge of having to plan and execute a fashion show, and you have known since January that it needs to be done then you have to be extremely meticulous and shrewd with your time. We all have busy lives: work, family, education, and other obligations but if that time is not carved out properly, then it ends up being thrown together at the last minute, which is never a good thing when you have all those people counting on you.

I recognize it’s the second year, but if the third year is going to be a success then someone has to be specifically dedicated to the fashion show, and that alone. You really need someone who can take charge and be on top of dates. Someone that is great at organizing and multitasking, and planning for such a key event. That is why in most fashion shows there is a key fashion coordinator who is only in charge of the details for the runway show, and they are strict about deadlines and getting things pushed out on time. They are critical players in getting models, designers, hair and make up teams, all meshing seamlessly.

As a participating designer, I must say that I honestly felt slighted, not in the sense of being angry, but that I felt unappreciated. If designers are going to work long and hard hours to produce a collection to be shown, regardless of the venue, do we not at least deserve to skip over the harrowing anxiety of last minute details? Don’t we deserve to have the same time devoted to preparation, where it seems like things aren’t hurriedly thrown at us? I felt like a last minute detail, which had been pushed aside and then handed whomever could be found. Preparation and planning is key to the success of Frill, the designers, and its participants if it’s going to be a semi-professional platform.

I apologize again the length of the message I am sharing with you, ____. I simply want to be thorough and I hope the depth that I’m going into is not too troublesome. And again, when I say you or your, I am speaking broadly.

The day of the fashion show, I know that a lot of models wondered why it was that we needed to be there five hours before the show in order to prep. With the volume of models that participated, I feel it may be advantageous to add to that time slot for next year in order to ensure that all models receive hair and make up. I was again concerned when I arrived, having little communication from the models who I had gotten last minute, and also upon seeing how few were available to do hair and make up for the amount of team to model ratio.

I became more disenchanted with the situation when the directors didn’t actually know who any of the other designers were, except for themselves and their friends, and started calling out, “Who are the designers again? If you’re a designer just come over here, we don’t know who you are. So if you are here, come over…” let alone being able to differentiate between names and faces of those participating. I understand and don’t expect to be known on a first name basis, but I again felt like other designers were last minute details if its impossible to know what other brands than one’s self are participating.

When we, designers, were told that there was no extra space for our garments that I can only imagine all of us spent hours ironing and steaming except for the one rack brought in, it ended up being a bit of a disaster. Throughout the night, I was going over and picking up not only my garments, but other designer’s, off from the floor as they were being tripped over or worse, sometimes stepped on. These small amenities have to be thought of, if you have x number of designers with max amount of looks, they should have a proper space to be stored until the show.

On the train of thought of amenities, having a group of models and designers stuck in a hallway where hotel staff (male) are frequenting and setting up a photo studio in that small area (also male, they were very nice guys but again, guys) made almost all of the models present extremely uncomfortable. The models have absolutely no privacy for dressing, and no room to do so. The directors kept telling girls to “change behind the photo backdrop” but not a single girl did because that’s extremely insensitive if you are shy to begin with, and even worse because I know a lot of the girls were underage. Many ended up going to the restrooms to change.

I understand if you are dealing with professional models. I’ve had girls strip down to their thongs and nothing else in the middle of backstage with VIP guests floating around, cameramen, waiters, and everyone in between without shame because that is their job. But to ask girls who have volunteered their time to do that, just get naked and move on, is wrong. They need a private area---even like the sheeting that was set up in the boutique to get dressed and feel safe and secure, not self conscious and embarrassed. It is these little things that will determine whether a model’s experience was a good one or not.

I realize that the venue was more or less out of your control, but I cannot imagine a worse place to house over, what I’m guessing, was at least 40 people if not more than a hotel hallway behind the stage, with less than three yards between us from all the tables/furniture to wall. When you house that many people, already strung out on not enough sleep and stress, in an area that small it tends to elevate the tension of every single person in the room. This tension rose throughout the night, increasingly so as designers were snapping and yelling at models, at other designers, at volunteers trying to help. More than once, I heard in the case of volunteers and was told under muttered breath by other designers (directors, I might add) that I was “in the way,” among other choice words, along with a good deal of cursing, as if the volunteers trying so hard to be helpful were nothing and as if fellow designers were simply beneath them. I do not expect much from other human beings in general, but if directors that are also designers are going to act rude and unprofessional to others that are participating, it will alienate designers and models from returning. 

[I cannot express how long I was blatantly ignored by those in charge of the show backstage, especially when I would just go to check in and see if anyone was available to assist my models with their hair and make up.]

On the note of people, i.e. directors being in charge of the show, also being designers I felt that this might have been a mistake. Putting designers in charge of a show almost always leads to an amount of bias, where they are allowed first pick at everything and given a sense of entitlement, hence the disrespect towards other designers present. This was further proven when designers/directors made certain that their models were taken care of first during hair and make up, without a care for how other designers/models would get taken care of. I personally waited three hours and was not once asked if my group was taken care of, though I was patient and did not want to push the hair/make up team. They were working as hard and fast as they could given the allotted time, but what bothered me is the self centered air which director/designers had taken on in only looking out for themselves. This is not conducive of promoting teamwork, and caring about each other’s looks.

I have been to several shows where the deadline is closing in and designers are helping each others models finish their looks, and drop garments over their head without messing up hair and make up, or when its twenty minutes to opening and some girl pops out of her dress and a swoop of designers dives in and starts stitching her back up. That is the sense of spirit that Frill’s backstage was completely devoid of.

In the future, might I suggest what others have done in the past for hair and make up. If you intend to use the same area as “back stage” then it would be ideal to have hair and make up set up in a different area---i.e. transforming the VIP room into that area for a few hours, or simply a hotel room. It would be even better if you do what a lot of professional shows do and instead of having every single model/designer show up at once in the same place, it is scheduled. Say something like, “Designer A/Models ABC, Hair and Make Up: 2:00 pm-3:00 pm. Designer B/Models ABC, Hair and Make Up: 3:00 pm-4:00 pm.” This relieves congestion, tension, and allows for the hair/make up team to work without feeling overwhelmed.

In the end, I and another model ended up doing all but one of my model’s hair and make up because it was an hour till the start of the runway show. Not only were we still doing hair and make up in that hour, none of my girls were dressed or had gotten photographed. As the time drew closer, a few of them had been dressed and the designer/directors kept pressuring me and causing further stress telling us to hurry, and trying to “help” my models get dressed, and I know the model’s were anxious to get into their garments as the hour drew nearer. I appreciate this notion, I do, but my garments are like children, if anything happens to them it needs to be on me. So I respectfully declined, and let them know I would really rather do it myself. 

I walk away for a few minutes to check on my last model’s make up, and a few models had been dressed. This would have been well and good, except I realize that those three pieces are damaged---lace has been pulled out of seams, lace has been ripped completely, and snags in fabric from jewelry earrings etc. I cannot hold fault the models and others trying to "help" I know the intentions were good, and everyone was extremely anxious to to be dressed and get out the door, but that really hit me quite deeply. [Models do not feel this on you if something happened to your garment, really it was I who should have been more firm.]

This was the paramount moment of feeling unappreciated and disrespected by the Frill directors for me. I realize that those garments have no value to anyone else, but they are my livelihood, with hours of labor, expense, and work. To have them damaged, after kindly asking for them not to be touched, was too much for me. Respect has to be given to each other especially so in stressful situations, and not just blindly ignored or misunderstood because one is in a hurry. I could have handled the rest of it, but this was something that genuinely upset me. 

[I am not ashamed to admit that I was absolutely so disturbed, frustrated, and upset by the end of the fashion show that I went back to my room and cried myself to sleep, as I felt all of it was a failure on my part.]

[It has taken nearly three weeks to repair these garments, taking them apart, re-dying the lace and fixing them.]

That combined experience alone of all those culminating events up until the actual show would probably dissuade me from participating at Frill again.

I did want to touch on a couple points of the boutique and then I promise you, ____, this novel shall reach its conclusion.

On a personal note, as well as speaking with other designers, the boutique’s signage was extremely unclear, in the sense that there was nothing, not even little handmade paper signs to say what was on the racks of the boutique. Unless you actually looked through every garment there you had no idea where the consignment began, the boutique started, and no idea what designer/brand was where or sometimes even who the designer was at all. There were a lot of dresses that had absolutely no tag identifying the brand, not on the outside or the inside which I found confusing especially if one wanted to buy it or get a custom piece made in one’s size. Even if there was just a printed sign above the rack that said the brand’s names I think this would help increase sales and traffic in the boutique.

While we’re talking about hang tags and brand identification, I was extremely disappointed to find that I had spent the money to have hang tags professionally printed, and took the time to label them, and make little plastic bags filled with matching thread, beading, buttons, for Pop Princess only to find that they hadn’t even been placed on the boutique pieces I submitted. This is an important aspect of branding, and if we, designers, are told personal brand hang tags are welcome then I would hope it would be important enough to take the time to do so. Again, it’s just a matter of really being conscious about those small details, and keeping those you are trying to accommodate and bring back as repeat customers feeling valued. 

[On a final note about the boutique, during the initial set up I cannot imagine it is appropriate for the directors and those in charge of the show to be idly gossiping and disrespecting the other designers that were participating in either the boutique or the fashion show. If you are there to set up shop, talk shop. It is beyond rude and unthinkable for you to being saying what a "b" or other rude things you thought about a participant who has paid good money to be able to participate in your event. Can you imagine walking into that room and hearing directors speak about you, a designer, in this fashion? Can you imagine how unprofessional that is, or at the very least how hurt your feelings would be?

And if you do care about the other designers submitting their works for sale in the boutique, why would some of them end up on the floor, crumpled, and disregarded? I know I went through and hung things back up properly, which should have been a non issue.]

On that note, again I apologize for the length and I hope it did not take up too much of your time, as I know it is precious, and hope this is at least helpful in a small way in regards to feedback. I believe you, and all of your staff did work very hard and I do appreciate the efforts that were made to make Frill happen, and your efforts to try to make it an even better one for the following year. I believe with your openness to the frilly patrons’ ideas and feedback, and leadership, it will blossom into something quite lovely.

Thank you again for your time, I really appreciate you hearing us out, myself included.

Annika Simmons"

[7.17.2013 As of today, I received my garments back from the boutique after a slow start. I was extremely disappointed to say the least to find that the hang tags, the ones that were especially printed along with corresponding garment bags containing their matching buttons, thread, beading, etc for sale in the boutique, to be missing. Which means, they were not on the garments at the Frill boutique because they had been lost or misplaced before that, even though they had been carefully sealed in a quart sized plastic ziplock bag along with written garment care instructions. I was told that the person in charge "checked all the boxes ahead of time and there was nothing like that included in yours." It was also, let's say, insinuated to me that perhaps this was my fault as "in the future" I should "gun tag" the hang tags to my garments. I am also missing a few items that go with the garments, and some of the laces were also torn. Now, not only do a I feel unappreciated, undervalued, and upset, I also feel completely disrespected as someone who entrusted my work into what I thought were capable hands, to someone who would value the garments as if they were their own.  How is this considered okay? Did you value other designer's work so little as well?]

I can only hope by posting this that it will be at least a cathartic release for me, as well as in hopes that perhaps Frill will be able to overcome these obstacles, learn from their mistakes, and consider treating their participants with a bit more respect and appreciation.

I can genuinely understand now why there are so many girls out there leaving lolita, and I know that by the end of this experience I too have given it great consideration.

I hope your experiences at Frill, my dear readers, were much better and happier.
As always yours,

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

FRILL 2013: The Picture Book Version (?), featuring cute friends and runway pieces!

It has been almost a week now since I attended the all lolita convention down in Atlanta, Georgia! I had hoped by now to have scoured the internet and found many pretty photos and videos of the fashion show. Alas! The professional photos will not be ready for some time now, and it seems like everyone must be very busy as I haven't seen many photos/videos! When they do come in, I promise to post them though, as I did not want to keep you waiting much longer.

This will have been my 7th fashion show thus far for the Pop Princess brand! And I have made very wonderful new friends, and was absolutely astonished and so very happy for all of you that came up, recognized who I was, the brand, and shared your admiration! It was very touching! Thank you so much for being wonderful. : 3

I will share the details of the madness perhaps in a second posting, a verbal version, or rather... written? Ha ha.

Before heading out, I got to help set up "shop" for I Do Declare and Perianth, or rather stood around and took cute photos of them C :

Designs from Perianth!
Designs from I Do Declare
I Do Declare and Perianth Displays
The weekend started out with sharing a wonderful meal with the most amazing girls: Kelsey from I Do Declare, Millie from Sweet Mildred, Koda from Perianth, and Martha from Moss Marchen. We ate delicious indian food and chattered about the ridiculously cute accents (and overall handsome-ness) of the southern gentleman!

The rest of the night was spent ironing/steaming garments in preparation for the next day! Look at all those garments I had to do! : o

I did get dressed up for the Saturday events before the fashion show, but for the life of me was unable to get a decent photo of myself. xD So I gave up. I decided to wear the new Starry Garden JSK prototype!

Though I did not get good photos, I was able to photograph my beautiful and talented model, Erin. : 3
She is wearing the Stuffed Animals Polka Dot JSK! I was only sad I had been unable to bring my DSLR for professional photos!

Now, I know what you all really want to see.... *o* The runway garments, which include three of the Starry Garden prototypes. <3 Right? Are you sure you don't want to wait longer? No, you want to see them now? Well... Okay. : ) I will share a couple!

I can't wait for the professional photos!!! From L to Right: Hailey, Ashley, Me, Erin, Kelsey

Starry Garden OP in Lavender:

Starry Garden JSK in Slate Blue:

Starry Garden Skirt in Cobalt Blue and Silky Bow Tie Blouse:

(Our first plus size design, 18-20! And Ashley looked fabulous in it!)

Stuffed Animals Polka Dot JSK, with Chiffon Peplum:

Alice in Wonderland Under Bust Corset Skirt and Silky Chiffon Ribbon Blouse:

These prototype/runway pieces are going to be available to purchase in the Pop Princess Shop! And the pre-order release of Starry Garden should be no later than the end of this month if all goes smoothly. : )

And last but not least, the first video I've found of the FRILL fashion show. Pop Princess starts at 5:00 minutes:

Again, I really want to thank you for all your support and admiration! Without that, Pop Princess would not even exist. <3

And I just want to say, for all of you that came up to introduce yourself and chat even if you were feeling shy I really loved it! Also, thanks for knowing who Flor is, our super talented illustrator, because she deserves so much admiration!

Do tell us which was your favorite runway piece! Or really just anything on your mind. : )  And give a big round of applause to all the designers and the members of Frill that worked hard to make it all happen!

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