interview with gothic fashion blogger, La Carmina

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

La Carmina is an alternative Asia fashion, alt culture and travel TV host and fixer ("Taboo", "Bizarre Foods", "World's Weirdest Restaurants","Oddities"), author of 3 books (Penguin USA and Random House), journalist, and prolific blogger at lacarmina.comHer "La Carmina blog" about underground culture/music/fashion has a passionate following, and has been  featured in major publications (The New Yorker, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, LA Times). She contributes articles on art, travel, culture and fashion to CNN and AOL / Huffington Post. La Carmina is the author of three books, including Cute Yummy Time (Penguin Books USA: about character bentos and food decoration) and Crazy, Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo (Random House: stories of Japanese theme cafes, like maids, vampires, cats and ninjas). 

Speeches and appearances include: New York Fashion Week, Hong Kong Social Media Week, Luisaviaroma Italy. La Carmina has appeared on CBS The Doctors and The Today Show, and co-hosted the Japan episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern for Travel Channel, which airs in 75 countries. NHK Japan filmed two documentaries about her work, including “Kawaii TV.” Recent TV hosting and fixing credits include Food Network, National Geographic, Pro Sieben, Fuel, Discovery Channel, Dutch Pepsi, Sony Australia, Canal. Plus France, Norway TV (NRK), Mexico Tourism Board, and CNN. 

La Carmina hosts, writes, arranges and field produces her own travel TV show for Huffington Post / AOL. She runs a TV arranging/consulting company, La Carmina & The Pirates (http://www.lacarmina.com/pirates) that specializes in shows about travel, subcultures and Asia. The Pirates also provides cool-hunting and consulting on Japanese street style, underground culture, and more.

La Carmina, lacarmina, Tokyo fashion blogger, Harajuku street styleLa Carmina, lacarmina, Tokyo fashion blogger, Harajuku street styleLa Carmina, lacarmina, Tokyo fashion blogger, Harajuku street style

1. First and foremost, tell us all a bit about you and your blog!
I grew up as a Goth outsider from Vancouver, Canada, and went to school at Columbia in NYC. Today, I live the "pirate" life: I’m a travel TV host, journalist, and underground fashion/culture blogger specializing in Japan. I started La Carmina blog (http://www.lacarmina.com/blog) in September 2007, when blogging was relatively new. At the time, my blog was a much-needed creative break from law school. I loved chronicling my adventures in alternative travel, dark fashion, theme restaurants, Goth clubs -- and my cute Scottish Fold cat, Basil Farrow.

La Carmina, lacarmina, Tokyo fashion blogger, Harajuku street style

I never expected I would do TV, or even travel widely. However, my “La Carmina blog” grew an audience that led to two book contracts (for Cute Yummy Time and Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants). When these came out, I did some television appearances. Producers found my clips, and began inviting me to be on shows, including NHK Japan “Kawaii TV” and Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods.” Since we kept getting offers, my “First Mate” Naomi Rubin and I started a TV production and fixing company called “La Carmina & The Pirates” (http://www.lacarmina.com/pirates). As youth culture insiders, we help our clients get access to underground culture, and film episodes in Japan and worldwide. I also began writing for CNN and Huffington Post, and my focus gravitated to travel journalism. Right now, I host a video series published in AOL / Huff Post; I’ve showcased Day of the Dead in Mexico, Prague absinthe, Art Deco Weekend Miami and more. (http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/category/huffington-post/). Today, I travel constantly for my work in travel TV and video presenting.  You can see my film clips at http://www.lacarmina.com/bio.php; they include The Doctors, The Today Show, Food Network and more.

2. Japan is definitely one of the places I've been meaning to go to, so for someone like me, what should we expect to see there?
Japan's cities are distinct, and there is something here for everyone to love -- whether you're into nature, family vacations, or hardcore partying. I recommend that first-time visitors begin in Tokyo, and take the bullet train to Kyoto and Osaka. In each place, you can experience both traditional culture (temples, gardens) and modern Jpop madness (tech centers, Harajuku fashion).  

3. I've seen how incredibly adventurous and creative Japanese fashion can get, especially through your blog, so what are your thoughts on it?
Japan's culture is highly visual, which you can glimpse in the traditional festivals and geisha makeup. The society is a fascinating study in contrasts; there are tendencies towards conformity (salarymen, housewives), but also exhilarating spaces for self-expression -- such as all-night fetish parties, drag queens, and body modifications. To quote Queen, "You can be anything you want to be." 

4. Your 'Alice in Wonderland' inspired outfit is one of the many outfits I really love, so where else in particular do you get inspiration from?

Thank you. I'm inspired by the various alternative Japan style tribes: decora accessories, fairy kei and Cult Party Kei pastels, gyaru girliness, Gothic aristocrat gowns. In Tokyo, these different styles are fluid, and many youths mix them up in their coordinates. 

5. I may not wear much Gothic Lolita inspired clothes but it's definitely always going to be one of my favourite looks - so what advise would you give to someone who really wanted to experiment with this style? 

I don't think people should worry about doing a style in a "correct" way. Be bold and play around with the different garments; find out what looks good and works for you. I personally draw inspiration from all different styles -- Goth, cyber, Victorian, fetish, steampunk -- and incorporate them into my looks. 

6. Your red hair, to me, is extremely iconic of your wonderful Hope fashion collection to benefit Japan - can you tell us about your involvement and how it all went?

Over the past few years, I partnered with different clothing brands on design collaborations. Since I have many friends in Japan and consider this my second home, the March 2011 earthquake was devastating to me. Sebastiano and I co-founded Project HOPE, a tshirt line with Japanese design company Like Atmosphere. Our design is an anime version of us, with the Hope logo. You can see photos at http://www.lacarmina.com/main.php

7. Watching and reading your travel guides is something I truly love to read, so as for your countless trips all over the world, which would be the first place you'd love to re-visit?
Last summer, I only spent two or three days in Prague, so I hope I can go back to drink more absinthe and bask in the Art Nouveau architecture. 

8. On a more blogger-esque note, what's been the most valuable thing you've learn since blogging from 2007?
I'll quote my BFF Yukiro on that: "Always go forward, but never straight." Since technology changes all the time (new apps, mobile, social networks), bloggers have to always experiment and grow to stay in the loop. However, as pioneers, there will never be a clear-cut path ahead. I've learned that one shouldn't feel daunted by this: keep upping your game and putting out the best content possible, and you'll never be stagnant. For example, I've grown my casual YouTube videos into a worldwide, professional travel series. 

9. I always look forward to keeping up with you and your blog, so can you give us a sneak-peak of what lies in the future?
I love focusing on travel, and showcasing alternative / underground culture around the world. To me, this has the most meaning, and has the potential to change people's perceptions on something they may not understand (such as transhumanism or extreme body mods). I am determined to keep growing and doing projects in TV, writing, and new media. I also hope to visit some of my "bucket list" travel destinations this year. You’ll have to stay tuned to my La Carmina social networks (@lacarmina) and blog to see where I end up next! http://www.lacarmina.com/blog

10. I quite like doodling anime/manga in my spare time and it's something you've also mentioned quite a few times - so are there any particular books/shows you like?
Many people are surprised to learn that I don't really read manga or watch anime... I do love kawaii characters, however, such as Doraemon and Miffy (even though the bunny is from the Netherlands). 

11. Oh just out of genuine curiosity, what would you say is best Japanese food out there?
I adore Japanese cuisine: sushi, curry, izakaya (homestyle), okonomiyaki. But if you love Halloween as much as I do, then the answer is pumpkin pizza! In October, you can find it for about $2-3 in the Sunpierrot bakery chain. Japan also has pumpkin pasta, ice cream... here are more photos of the seasonal dishes: http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/2010/11/cute-halloween-pumpkin-food-tokyo-kawaii-recipes-kabocha-pizza-ice-cream-cake-seasonal-holiday-meals-in-japan/

12. And without further ado, please please can I have your Scottish cat? 
I already stole Basil from Mia and Ronan Farrow, so I'm not going to let him get "cat-napped" again!

La Carmina, lacarmina, Tokyo fashion blogger, Harajuku street style
Skirt - Heels - Headband - Boots - Dress - Top - Bag
Find La Carmina on: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Tumblr

It's not everyday when an opportunity arises from a great blogger and person so thank you, La Carmina! It's one of the first blogs I've been reading for years now - since 2009-10 possibly? I've always a soft spot for Japan, perhaps 'cause of its diversity and I've picked up on so much more than just country/culture, but on Gothic fashion which was, back then, something waaay different! 

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  1. Wow I'm so glad you got to interview her, I would've never found her blog otherwise! And I love what she said about blogging and moving forward - so inspired to blog now!


  2. Her style is amazing!

  3. Beautiful photos and great post! :D I love that style!


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