Category Archive for Art + Design

Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson: Lobby Girl movie costume! Odigo Japan startup launch party.

grand budapest hotel costume, lobby girl

I’ve taken on a new job in the travel industry… located in the imagination of filmmaker Wes Anderson. Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve become a Lobby Girl!

grand budapest hotel logo

My costume is inspired by the “Lobby Boy” character in The Grand Budapest Hotel,  which recently won four Oscar awards. Can you believe I’ve watched this movie about 10 times? It’s witty, charming, funny and stylish — Wes Anderson at his best.

moov magazine cover, wes anderson

I couldn’t resist doing a “Lobby Girl” cosplay, in tribute to the Grand Budapest Hotel. Shutterbug James photographed me in character… and it made the cover of Moov Magazine‘s “Best Of” issue!

Later in this post, I’ll share more photos from our shoot. But first, the Lobby Girl had a gala to host… in Tokyo, Japan. 

tokyo tech travel startup

Last month, I flew to Tokyo for the launch of travel start-up, Odigo. We threw a phenomenal party — thanks to my friends who celebrated with me!

japanese demon masks

What went down? Demon masks, an open bar, Italo Disco music, and a photobooth by ROMP.

jrock style fashion

Are we doing the “X Japan” Jrock sign, or “dame-ee” (which means forbidden, in Japanese)? Probably a bit of both.

tokyo party photobooth

I’m happy to officially unveil Odigo to you. The English-language site is for you guys: people who want to travel to Japan, and see all things offbeat and authentic. 

Readers tell me it’s hard to figure out Japanese addresses, and how to get around. With Odigo, you can easily plan a trip that’s tailored to your interests -- where it’s sushi or Sailor Moon.

keroppy maeda, bagelheads japan

Perhaps you’re intrigued by body modifications, such as bagelheads in Japan? Odigo can show you where to find them. (Hint: look for the man behind the bagel, Keroppy Maeda, above.)

japanese punks goths designers

Odigo also helps you discover underground designers like Ako of Blablahospital (far right). Remember I wore her punk fashions in New Orleans?

tokyo club party photos

It was wonderful to reunite with old friends, and meet new ones. We grooved to DJ Swiftt Edits’ Italo Disco playlist…

colorful hor d'oeuvres

… and nibbled on colorful hor d’oeuvres. Despite the rainy day, our party was packed!

odigo travel startup japan

Several attendees got prizes through the lucky draw. (My lace cape is from Black Milk Clothing.)

Streamer Coffee Company meguro

The event was at Streamers Meguro, a coffee house that brewed probably the best latte I’ve ever had in Japan.

Kilo Shop Tokyo meguro

Upstairs is Kilo Shop Tokyo, which has a large selection of vintage designs.

tokyo vintage dresses shop

Payment is by the kilo, rather than per item.

blue purple hair color

The whole team has been working day and night on the launch, and it’s paid off.

takamasa kawasaki, red horse, embracing diversity

How does my Lobby Girl outfit fit with the site’s mission? In my speech, I explained it represents Odigo’s personalized approach to helping travelers plan “an extraordinary journey” to Japan.

(Above, I’m with founder Takamasa Kawasaki, who wrote a book called “The Power of Embracing Diversity.”)

japan cross dress

Like the concierges of the Grand Budapest Hotel, we’re passionate about sharing the best spots and creating a seamless itinerary, which you can download to a mobile phone and simply follow along.

la carmina and friends

Anyone can contribute travel tips to the site, and build upon previous journeys. I encourage you to check out Odigo and add their Facebook to find out more.

lobby boy costume halloween

Now, let me share the photoshoot we did for Moov Magazine’s cover and spread! Funny enough, I actually stayed in a grand hotel in Budapest, in 2013. This setting, however, is the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Vancouver.

wes anderson oscars best costumes

This movie truly is a must see (here’s a link to the digital download). The cinematography, set design and costumes are outstanding: look at the colors! Those military buttons!

grand budapest hotel, hair makeup

We wanted to re-create this feeling, in our images. Huge kudos to my photographer Shutterbug James, assisted by Amy Kay. My crimped hair is the magnificent work of Stephanie Hoy, of Stratosphere Salon in Vancouver, Canada.

concierge, lobby boy outfit

The Lobby Boy’s hat is integral to his look. I DIY-ed a “Lobby Girl” version of the cap — using felt, fabric and letters, which I painted with gold sparkly nail polish.

lobby boy hat, clothing design

My dress is by Spider, the Hong Kong Gothic Lolita / alternative / cosplay fashion brand by Natalie Lam.
These gold-flecked tights are by Gal Stern.

crimped hairstyle

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver was the ideal setting, with its gilded interiors that date back to the early 20th century.

lobby boy hat, jacket

The interior is full of symmetry and decadent shapes, which would please Mr Anderson. I’ll gladly help guests plan a fun trip…

grand budapest hotel exterior car

… but I’ll let the lobby boys do the heavy lifting. (Above is the hotel exterior, in The Republic of Zubrowka.)

wes anderson halloween costumes

If you haven’t already, you must see the Grand Budapest Hotel (available online!). It’s become my favorite Wes Anderson movie.

lobby boy character costume

The soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat is also wonderfully evocative. The CD is available here; it won the 2015 Oscar for best original score.

goth doll modeling shoot

Cheers to Shutterbug James for the fun photoshoot.

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver lobby

Do you think we capture the feeling and aesthetics of the movie?

mendl's bakery box

I even made a Mendl’s Bakery box, and we shot this at a nearby patisserie!

wes anderson fans costumes

Thanks to Moov Magazine for putting this Lobby Girl on the cover.

odigo travel launch event

And gratitude to my friends who came to the Odigo launch event.

streamers coffee shop japan

Fashion One wrote an article about my “Tokyo takeover” — soon, you can watch my “day in the life” TV segment with this style network.

tokyo photo booth photographer

And there’s a lot more Japan coverage coming up, including an DecabarZ 80s club night, and a peek inside the Pokemon theme cafe.

trip planning japan tours

If you’re interested in traveling to Japan, check out Odigo. You can plan trips, submit your own spots, and be part of the fun.

What do you think of my Grand Budapest Hotel costume? Are you a Wes Anderson fan like I am?

PMQ Hong Kong: art studios, food & fashion. The Refinery, Aberdeen St Social.

hong kong design panda

Poor panda. Looks like he’s crying because I’m hugging him too hard!

Hong Kong’s contemporary design scene used to be scattered around the city. But now, there’s a massive glass building – PMQ in Central – that puts over 100 artists, fashion designers and chefs under one roof.

d*face pmq mural

PMQ’s industrial architecture and pop art mural (by artist D*face) are easy to find. The address: No.35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong Island

PMQ 元創方

PMQ’s aim is to nurture young designers. Rent is high in Hong Kong, but this building gives them an affordable space to showcase their works. In return, the artists have an “open-door” policy to the public, meaning anyone is welcome to come in and even take photos.

duck print socks

PMQ opened in spring 2014, and already, most of the studios are occupied. My team and I love this creative hub so much that we visited three times.

elizabeth lau the refinery

Set aside at least a few hours to explore all the little shops and studios. If you’re short on time, I recommend heading straight to one of my favorites: The Refinery HK, a colorful and poppy fashion boutique. 

pancake fish shaped purse

Here, you’ll find unique quality accessories like pancake and taiyaki (fish waffle) bags. The Refinery HK carries various select brands, from both Hong Kong and worldwide designers.

pmq refinery fashion boutique

The boutique is curated by London designer Elizabeth Lau, who also has her own witty and playful fashion line.

hipster earrings

She had just gotten back from a buying trip to Paris Fashion Week. Every season, she hunts for creative pieces like the earrings above.

the refinery hong kong fashion

Elizabeth styled me in this outfit. Can’t get enough of the “Where’s Waldo” hat with a veil.

yellow ribbons hong kong protesters

In a city dominated by big brands, it’s a relief to see this spotlight on indie design. We saw yellow ribbons tied to the front of this jewelry shop, in support of the Occupy Hong Kong movement.

occupy hk yellow ribbon

John Skeleton wears one of these ribbons to support the student protesters. (Photos by me, Eric Bergemann and Melissa Rundle).

pmq building, architecture

You might have noticed that I wear this Shakuhachi dress a lot. The comfort and unique design make it an easy favorite. It’s from West LA Boutique; you can purchase this dress here

pmq green public space

PMQ stands for Police Married Quarters, since this was the previous incarnation of this site. Remnants of the historic building remain, such as an underground tunnel that show the old foundations.

shakuhachi future minimal dress

In urban Central, this courtyard is a welcome green space. The design is modern, while the Chinese bamboo adds a relaxing atmosphere.

chocolate rain pmq

I squished another panda at the Chocolate Rain studio and store in PMQ.

kawaii stores hong kong

As you’ve seen in my other travel guides to Hong Kong, “kawaii” cute design is big here. Chocolate Rain’s original mascots are on every imaginable piece of merchandise: toys, stationery, clothing, home goods.

cute toy store

The gallery space is all about interaction. Customers can take lessons on sewing, painting, doll-making, and more. The restaurant Eat & Play encourages fun with food, through cooking classes.

pmq artist design studios

How cool to see founder and designer, Prudence, painting designs right at the table.

sleepy bear statue

Chocolate Rain and I are currently taking part in a hotel decoration project in Hong Kong. Keep your eyes peeled for announcements, and maybe you can join us for the opening next year.

lotus necklace

PMQ’s artists work in different mediums, from bamboo to glass. Melissa got this unique lotus necklace in a Japanese ceramic studio.

rubber cat purses

If only I could show you photos from inside each store! I hope these visuals give you a sense of the fun, high-quality designs that you can find at PMQ.

aberdeen street social restaurant

The art hub is also home to several creative new restaurants. My friends and I were invited to brunch at Aberdeen Street Social. In the words of John Skeleton, “It’s the perfect place to have a relaxed meal, and take a break from the fast pace of Hong Kong city life.”

Jason Atherton restaurant hong kong

This is the latest venture of Michelin-starred British chef Jason Atherton, a protege of Gordon Ramsay. The restaurant concept encourages socialization, hence the name.

pmq restaurants, aberdeen st social

Two huge floors with outdoor terraces, set in a green garden — unheard of, in Hong Kong!

fresh pressed juices hong kong

We started with a trifecta of fresh fruit and vegetable juices.

lobster egg benedict

Atherton’s modern British cuisine takes the stuffiness out of fine dining. His brunch menu is a home-run of favorites, including the lobster benedict above.

avocado toast trend

John praises the “simple fare like the avocado on toast with poached eggs, to the amazing flatbreads featuring ingredients such as London cured smoked salmon, Iberico ham, and king oyster mushrooms.”

papadum unique cocktails

Save room for the house-made pastries, like the Sweet Social Cheesecake and Matcha Mascarpone (my personal favorite). And you can’t leave without trying at least one creative cocktail. I enjoyed the Indian-flavored cocktail with a papadum (above), and “What The Doctor Ordered,” served with a pill jar and prescription. 

hong kong brunch restaurants

I also ate at PMQ’s Chinese restaurant, Sohofama – here’s my review.

It’s obvious why PMQ is one of my favorite places to visit in Hong Kong. I’ll be back in HK soon for a new project and video… stay tuned for more!

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Taichung Rainbow Village: crazy, colorful painted houses in Taiwan!

taichung rainbow village art

As a travel writer, I do my best to seek out obscure and offbeat places. For this reason, I went out of my way to visit Taichung’s Rainbow Village with my friend Boris Tsai. The photos say it all: this attraction is a total LSD trip!

taiwan painted house

The “Rainbow Family Village” consists of several old buildings and paths, with every surface coated in vivid, primitive strokes.

What’s the story behind these colorful paintings? Who made them, and what drugs was this person on? Let’s find out.

rainbow village, taichung taiwan

I was staying in Taipei, at the Humble House hotel (remember my photoshoot here?). Taichung is another major city, located about two hours south.

rainbow painting wall mural

To get here, I recommend either driving (as we did), or taking a train and then a taxi. Taichung is rather spread out, and public transportation isn’t conveniently located near the Rainbow Village.

boris tsai, 蔡伯璽

The directions are a little tricky. If you’re in a taxi, show your driver the address in Chinese (written below), and have him plug it into the GPS.

Rainbow Family Village: Lane 56, Chun’an Road, Taichung, Taiwan
台中彩虹眷村: 台中市南屯區春安里

taichung tourist attraction

This tourist attraction is small, and it won’t take you more than 15-30 minutes to explore it. I wouldn’t go out of my way to come here, but if you’re already in Taichung, it’s an opportunity to see weird and wonderful local art.

rainbow village murals

Boris and I were perplexed by these figures — human, animal and supernatural — surrounded by swirls of color. What a distinct style: modern meets primitive, with a touch of Taiwanese tradition.

weird travel attractions

This scary strawberry-person holds pamphlets by the door. On the floor, the Chinese characters say “peace and good luck.”

蔡伯璽, boris tsai

The walls are a superb backdrop for modeling. We were here to shoot images for Hong Kong Express Airways magazine, where I have a regular column.

Boris wears Rick Owens wool pants with drawstring, a Rick Owens tank top, and Rick Owens high top shoes.

台中彩虹眷村

I’m wearing Camper sandals, and a sheer white flowing top from Show Me Your MuMu. They also make a blue-white tunic and watercolor flowers cover-up.

colorful chinese cat painting

The characters ranged from old people to panda bears. Doesn’t this little guy look like my Scottish Fold cat?

scottish fold cat small ears

They have the same short legs, tiny ears and round body.

rainbow colorful painted houses

You’ll never guess who is responsible for this bizarre art… a 91 year old grandfather! Grandpa Huang was born in Hong Kong, and lived in these dilapidated buildings that were initially built for WWII veterans. He had time to kill, so he bought paint with his pension, and started to transform the old walls into rainbow murals.

taiwanese art, taichung

Grandpa Huang is a self-taught artist who painted out of passion — he wanted to inject color into this worn-down neighborhood. Before long, students at a nearby university discovered the ever-expanding Rainbow Village. They took pictures of his works, posted them online, and they went viral.

experimental chinese art

Today, this little settlement is one of Taichung’s most popular tourist attractions. People come here to read the positive messages on the walls, and pose with the spirited paintings.

crazy art murals

The Taiwanese government had originally planned to demolish the Rainbow Village. However, locals started a petition, and the area is now preserved (hopefully for the long run).

taiwan tourism, taichung

We saw a small souvenir stand where you can buy drinks and Popsicles, and small souvenirs. It’s an easy way to support the Rainbow Village and its aged caretaker.

bizarre creepy art

Sweet and slightly demented: that’s my kind of place!

彩虹眷村

The “acid trip” feeling of the Rainbow Village inspired us to get a little crazy with our poses.

taiwan good luck souvenirs

Visitors write wishes on these notes, and hang them along with seashells on the windows.

taiwanese male model

My wish to visit Taiwan and reunite with my friend certainly came true!

rainbow family village taichung

Pretending to be the Chiefs of the Rainbow Village.

weird crazy strange asia attractions landmarks

All photography by Jacqueline Kwok of noircorner, and Ken Yuen.

crazy tourist attractions

We didn’t see Grandpa Huang that day, but he still touches up the paintings daily. Children love to see his works in progress.

asia weird art travel

Come make a wish at the Taichung Rainbow Family Village. The nearby Dawncake (a gifts and snacks building, featuring Miyahara tea-flavored ice cream) and Taichung Night Market are also fun to include in a day-trip.

taichung attractions

And you can’t leave without taking a funny photo with the cut-outs!

Are you intrigued by the Rainbow Village? Do you seek out local oddities when you travel, like I do?

hong kong magazine model, modeling

I wrote about this funny Asian attraction, and many more, in my travel column “Go Go Goth.” It’s published in Chinese, in every issue of UO (the in-flight magazine of Hong Kong Express Airways). Above are scans…

fashion blogger photography locations

… and you can always see on-the-go snaps from my travels on my @lacarmina InstagramI’ll be back in Asia soon, and you’ll be able to see what mischief I’m making!

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Modern, hidden cat litterbox: Poopoopeedo by SinDesign! Japan cat cafes interior design, pet furniture.

designer cat litter box

We’re going back to my usual travel videos & stories after this post — but first, I wanted to share with you Part II of the Maohaus Project!

My Scottish Fold cat wonders… “What is this green eggy-thing?” Could it be an avantgarde sculpture? An alien pod?

cat play pod litter

Surprise: it’s a Poopoopeedo by SinDesign! Believe it or not, this beautiful design object doubles as a cat litterbox. 

Poopoopeedo by sindesign

Perhaps you recall my first post about the Maohaus, where I described our goal of decorating an apartment beautifully, while accommodating the needs of my cat. One of the biggest challenges: what do do about Basil’s litter box? Regular ones are an eyesore, and hard to hide.

modern cat litterbox

French company SinDesign solved this problem with the Poo Poo Pee Do. I’m impressed by how they combined beauty and functionality — such as a decorative paw-print hole, which doubles as a grip / handle. As you can see, the hole is big enough for “plus sized” kitties!

maison de toilette pour chats

Basil Farrow feels right at home in this well-constructed pod. No sharp edges, and there are seven grip points that hold the top and bottom together securely.

cat interior design furniture

If it weren’t for the tiger-tail, a visitor would think that this is a mod sculpture! The enclosed pod lets Basil Farrow do his business in private, and also keeps the cat litter from coming out.

hidden cat litter box

Surprise, a cat is hatched! The Poopoopeedoo comes in seven different colors, so you can match it to your interior design. (We have the green one; SinDesign also makes red, black, white, orange, pink, blue.)

airport tag travel pillows

Isn’t this a perfect match for our lime-green color scheme? (See more photos of our Maohaus bedroom).

Poo poo pee do sin design

These two pieces come apart. The litterbox size is perfectly tailored to cats, and the round shape is a nice change from the usual square.

hiding cat litterbox

Functional, practical and durable — yet it integrates right into our apartment. The material is 3mm thick ABS, which is far more solid than a regular plastic litterbox.

cat in litterbox

The cover also helps to keep smells at bay. I have to say, this is the coolest litterbox I’ve ever seen.

scottish fold cat jumping in air

Hop! We love that the luxury litter-box is eco-friendly too. The interior is smooth, easy to wash, and resistant to cat urine.

designer cat litter scoop

Each Poopoopeedo comes with a matching scoop, which attaches under the lid for easy storage. It also comes with two anti-smell tablets that you can clip in.

luxury cat playground box

What more is there to say? This designer litterbox is “Maohaus” cat-interior design at its finest.

I know you want one too… SinDesign’s PooPooPeeDo is available for order online.

big cat yawning gate japan

As I mentioned in the first post about my apartment, my Maohaus concept is inspired by the creative interior decorations of Japanese cat cafes. To show you what I mean, let me share some never-seen photos from my Tokyo archives.

This giant, yawning gate welcomed me to the big cat “petting zoo” in Odaiba. 

キャッツリビン cat cafe

Located in Odaiba, “Cats Livin” later became “Nyanda Cat Cafe,” and then closed. (But don’t worry about missing out — there are still tons of cat cafes all over Japan, and now in USA).

japan cat cafe rule

Cat’s Livin designed the space with both the cat and visitor’s enjoyment in mind. At the entrance, an American Curl sits by the rule sheet. (“Please spray it on the hand several times before it feels after cat.”)

Keep reading for more photos from this Tokyo cat cafe, including a life-size cat-person… 
More here!