Category Archive for Fashion
San Francisco has some of the best vintage, avantgarde and Japanese streetwear boutiques in the USA. Are you keen on Lolita dresses? 1940s veiled hats? Cyber tribal bodysuits?
Then this San Fran shopping guide is for you — including photos from Japantown, and the Jpop department store New People World.
PS: I’m currently having a lovely time in paradise, aka Cebu in the Philippines. You can see outfit previews and more on my Instagram.
That day, I wore an off-shoulder dress, sent to me by Alice’s Pig — a London based label inspired by urban vintage. The morning light shows off the silhouette and 90s-style dark floral print.
It was an appropriate outfit for visiting Torso Vintages, purveyors of the finest and most flamboyant fashions from past decades. (Address: 290 Sutter Street, in the SF Financial District)
Trevor showed Yukiro and me around Torso’s lower floor racks. Everything here is a decadent work of art, made with the finest materials and lovingly displayed. Price tags are on the high side, but that’s to be expected of dressing gowns that seem to come from the court of St Petersburg.
I was speechless at the curiosities everywhere. On the staircase, I came across this white bird mask. In the back room, we got to peek at the most treasured designs, including a futuristic hat worn by Michael Jackson.
Torso is an institution in San Francisco — they’re simply the best at finding designs with old-time magic. Co-owner John (far left) has dressed quite a few celebrities in this store.
I couldn’t resist getting dolled up too. I fancied myself as an old heiress, draping myself in shawls and hats before a tea party.
Imaginative pieces from the days of Art Deco, brought back to life on the mannequins.
The clothes aren’t just for human peacocks. John can help you find something to match any personality or occasion. At Torso, you invest in something special that you will keep and re-wear for years, if not decades.
The pins, the colors, the scarves… this is a wearable museum. Torso is one of the most outstanding vintage stores I’ve seen in all of America — so get over here!
Another must-visit district is Haight Ashbury. Haight is pronounced “hate” but this street is all about peace, love… and funka-delic clothing.
Haight-Ashbury was the hippie hangout in the 1960s, and it still has that tie-dye trippy vibe. There were quite a few Tibetan boutiques with Buddhist altars. (It reminded me of the garden at the San Francisco Zen Center,) where we stayed.
Most of the stores on Haight Street are too hippie-dippie for my taste, but I adored Ceiba SF. The window had this tribal-fusion mannequin in white, and a tribute to the late HR Giger.
Inside, Ceiba is a wonderland of dark futuristic fashion, by labels like Gelareh and Mother of London. Leather, harnesses, alien forms, draped dystopic designs. Be still, my beating heart.
I’d recommend spending half a day shopping along Haight Street, starting at Whole Foods and Golden Gate park, and making your way down towards Bound Together, the anarchist collective bookstore. That’s San Fran in a nutshell! (Later, I’ll take you inside the Oddities SF store Loved to Death — it deserves its own post.)
The city has a large Japanese population, making it a center for Jpop culture and events, such as J-summit. Most of the action happens in — obviously — Japantown. Start at the Peace Plaza, crowed by this Peace Pagoda. There’s a Daiso next to it (the dollar store filled with kawaii goods).
The most popular shopping destination is New People World, an entertainment complex dedicated to Tokyo street fashion and culture. (Address: 1746 Post Street). You can find both modern and traditional garments here.
There are only a few boutiques in total, so don’t get your expectations up too high — this isn’t like shopping at Marui Shinjuku. Still, stores like MaruQ have a sweet selection of cute, gyaru and Lolita clothing.
Is that a red-haired Archie comics character in the back?
Not quite. This is Aymmy in the batty girls, a new brand starring model Ayumi Seto. It imagines her as a Jpop girl working in a 1950s Americana diner.
The shop has a mix of cute, colorful fashions. Some are Tokyo brands, some are local.
There are a lot of cute characters lying about, such as Rilakkuma the bear.
Perhaps I’m spoiled from shopping in Asia all the time… Nothing really caught my eye, especially upstairs. The prices were quite steep compared to Hong Kong and Japan, and I was able to browse through the entire building in 30 minutes.
However, if you live in North America, I know it can be hard to get your hands on kawaii clothing and toys unless you order online.
For this reason, I’m glad there is a department store like New People World, which makes Japanese items more readily available.
Don’t forget to stop by the little cafe at the front for tea. The sign says “Nothing replaces a mother’s love except perhaps a fine cup of tea.”
Finally, let’s mosey over to the Mission, around 16th and Valencia St. This is an artsy yet still grungy district, which was a punk haven in the 1970s.
Next to a secondhand store, we saw these rainbows and kissing unicorn-ladies.
This is Clarion Alley, an alleyway covered in murals (between Mission and Valencia / 17th and 18th Streets). The works are mostly trippy, and constantly changing. We passed by an artist who was painting dogs on a door.
Walk along Valencia and you’ll see lots of hipster interior design and clothing boutiques, as well as secondhand clothing at low prices.
I was enthralled by Paxton Gate, two shops filled with curiosities for both kids and adults. (Address: 766 and 824 Valencia St, SF).
Here, “buying a stuffed cat” has a whole different meaning…
Taxidermy piranhas, anyone? A nice house-warming gift for the Addams Family, perhaps.
Steampunk white mice, stuffed and standing! Now I’ve seen everything.
Skulls and bones and spooky objects — Paxton Gate rocks.
And don’t miss the Pirate Supply Store at 826 Valencia! It’s a treasure chest of pirate-y slogans and must-haves like… a jar of gangrene. The shop is actually the “business” front for the writing non-profit started by Dave Eggers.
I leave you with a snap of my Alice’s Pig skirt and crop top. For more of this outfit, check out my San Francisco travel posts. They include guides to alternative Goth nightlife, restaurants, and other sights.
Have you shopped in San Francisco? What other boutiques would you recommend, in Japan-Town or elsewhere?
Life has not been crawling at a snail’s pace lately: I’ve been overwhelmed with dream jobs and trips this year. Bear with me, as I put together coverage from my trips to Africa and Asia. In this post, I’ll give you a tour of Cape Town’s colorful art in the Woodstock district.
But first, announcing my next destinations. I’m going back to Hong Kong, and for the first time, I’ll be in Cebu and Shanghai! I’m working on a number of travel projects, including a partnership with a new hotel group. I’m also doing a major network TV shoot in Hong Kong, appearing on-camera as host and also arranging the production.
Finally, whenever my filmmakers and I have a moment to breathe, we’ll capture stories about Asia subcultures for you. If you have tips for places to visit, especially in Shanghai and Cebu, please leave me a comment. (Above, I’m in front of the Cat’s Living cat cafe in Hongdae, Seoul.)
Now, let’s flash-back to my first time in Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu described post-apartheid South Africa as a “Rainbow Nation.” His words describe Cape Town’s Woodstock district particularly well. This neighborhood has developed from an inner-city slum into a colorful art haven. Locals live next to design studios, and in homes decorated by international artists.
Juma Mkwela took my team and me on a Woodstock art walking tour. He came to South Africa from Zimbabwe, and was a victim of the 2008 xenophobic attacks. Juma turned this tragedy into an impetus for change: he now uses art to educate children, and inspire social development in disadvantaged areas.
Not long ago, Woodstock was run-down with crime and drugs. In 2011, a local artist called Freddy Sam launched a revival project, aiming to bring pride and color back into the community. Today, Woodstock is a trendy hub with homes painted by dozens of international artists, mainly with messages of peace and love.
Using giant walls and buildings as canvases, these artists — coming from countries like Canada, UK, and China — created art in a mix of creative styles. We spotted what looks like an evil Bart Simpson. (Photography by Melissa Rundle, Eric Bergemann and La Carmina.)
Many paid tribute to Africa, by depicting animals such as the ones we saw at Aquila Safari. An elephant eye stares out from this wall.
Pets are a popular motif. This dog painting integrates with the existing materials of exposed brick and cracked walls.
Some of the works are provocative. Argentinian artist JAZ made this “Not Eating” urban mural, showing a big cat devouring a man’s head.
Here’s another version by JAZ, with colors that match the rust of the pole in front. Juma told us that these murals revitalized the area, and created a sense of pride in the community.
The artists get permission to paint the walls, and work with residents to create a design. Many incorporate portraits of the homeowners, or elements that reflect their personalities. I suppose I’d live in this Victorian home with cute pastel elephants on the front.
Apartheid only ended in 1994, and locals still remember how it loomed over their lives. In the spirit of Nelson Mandela, many chose to paint messages of tolerance. One of my favorites is this “One Heart, One Love” mural by Boamistura, a group of five Madrid artists.
I’m dressed rather internationally: a rainbow lion t-shirt from Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, leggings from Hong Kong’s Izzue, a fuzzy jacket from Peace Now Japan, and a scarf from San Francisco’s Chinatown.
The “most fabulous” award goes to New York’s Cern, who made this purple marvel starring the homeowner’s deceased white cat. I like how he used the curve of the gate to make an elephant’s forehead and trunk.
Juma walked with us all around Woodstock, pointing out hidden works and talking about their inspiration. Colors and cute faces peeked out from alleyways.
Andy Warhol would give a thumb’s up to this wall of product labels.
The Woodstock art initiative has truly uplifted the district. Children help out with the painting, and locals say they’re proud of their decorated homes.
What a coincidence: this segmented rainbow lion statue perfectly matches my Thailand t-shirt! Just by walking around and interacting with the designs, I felt uplifted. I’m a big supporter of using art as a means for positive change.
I could sense that the murals were made with passion. Some had important messages of anti-poaching; this one reminds us that hundreds of rhinos are still killed each year for their horns.
Some works were black and white, and abstract. This intricate design is by Yumanizumu of Japan.
Others encourage you to pose and have fun. Help, I’m being attacked by giant bees!
Quite a few hint at the tumultuous history of Cape Town. Woodstock is next to District 6, where 60,000 people of all ethnicities lived together until they were relocated by force in the 1970s. Today, District Six is razed and empty.
I thought the most successful works were the ones that were vivid, had a connection to Africa, and made you think. Interesni Kazki’s “Zebra Suit” is a great example, and leaves the meaning open to your interpretation.
When Juma told us to look up, we all grinned and did the “Carleton dance.” It’s Will Smith, as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air!
Time to explore Woodstock Exchange or WEX, a modern building that incubates young artists and creative shops. The open space is very Portlandia-hipster, isn’t it?
Woodstock Exchange features public installations, like this swing. I’ll later take you inside the creative studios, where artists work and play.
I’m a fan of this sleeping dog statue by Frank van Reenen. Next door, there are multiple design and fashion boutiques, and art galleries.
We had a healthy lunch at Superette. I could eat their veggie sandwiches and protein-salad plates every day; everything is prepared with locally-source seasonal ingredients. For a drink, it’s hard to decide between the fresh lemonade, ginger kombucha, local roast coffee, and craft beers.
On a different day, we ate fresh seafood at Ocean Jewels in WEX. $4 US for a plate of grilled angelfish and sweet potatoes. Once again, I could have this daily!
Leave room for a drink at Lady Bonin’s Tea Parlour, described as a “Purveyor of Magical Infusions and Tasty Curiosi-Teas.” I tried brewed buchu, a South African woody plant that has traditional medicinal properties, and is drunk to help digestion.
Lady Bonin also serves gluten-free and sugar-free snacks. We tried the matcha, and rooibos with mocha.
Isn’t the street art in Woodstock incredible? Gotta love this blue fellow with Bam Bam hair. Thanks Cape Town Tourism and Juma for the inspiring tour.
I leave you with multicolored works by two Spanish artists. Okuda…
… and Remed. Without doubt, South Africa is a Rainbow Nation.
PS: Don’t forget, I will be in the Philippines (Cebu), China (Shanghai) and Hong Kong soon! Let me know your travel suggestions, and follow along my trips in real-time on my social networks (@lacarmina, linked in the right sidebar).
Did you know Cape Town is so colorful? My face says it all: I loved it here. On Day 1, I experienced the city’s kind people, diverse neighborhoods, soulful cooking, and intriguing history.
Follow my rainbow shoes, as I explore the South African city by land, air and water.
Cape Town’s colorful architecture inspired me to dress accordingly. I’m wearing a Goth/rainbow tie-dyed tank top by Gladnews (the Japanese brand in Shibuya 109). My bunny ears hoodie jacket is by Peace Now. The cute Batman leggings are from Hyoma in Izzue, Hong Kong.
We started the day bright and early, with a private helicopter ride. There’s no better way to see the scenic city and its beaches on the Atlantic Ocean coastline.
I was here with my two filmmakers, thanks to Cape Town Tourism. Photography in this post by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann. They captured a cinematic shot of helicopters landing with lens flare.
Up in the air — what fun! We felt safe during the helicopter ride, which was smooth and not too noisy. We could even communicate through microphones.
Out the window, we saw this mountain range with a Mohawk of African trees on top.
Cape Town began as a Dutch trading settlement, founded in 1652. As you’re probably aware, the city has a tumultuous history from the days of slavery and apartheid, to independence under Nelson Mandela. Today, Cape Town has a new and developed vibe, and is a safe destination for anyone to visit.
From any point in the city, you can see the famous flat Table Mountain, covered with a “tablecloth” of clouds. Next to it lies the Devil’s Peak, domed Lion’s Head, and Signal Hill.
We flew over Robben Island, in Table Bay. Since the late 17th century, the Dutch have used this as a jail primarily for political prisoners, and as a leper colony. The first post-apartheid President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was famously imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 years.
Today, Robben Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and museum. Many visitors take the ferry here, and go on tours led by guides who were formerly prisoners on the island.
Next, our driver took us to the Victoria & Albert Waterfront, a favorite destination among both locals and tourists. We sampled artisan bread, and browsed African goods in the gift stores. I posed beneath the Ferris wheel with my lion backpack from A Bros Products, Hong Kong.
Lots of quaint buildings dot the V & A. There are many attractions for families including the Two Oceans Aquarium, and four museums.
We went on a short boat ride around the harbor. A seal leaped out from the water!
A bunny popped out too. The kids on the boat were rather amused.
Onward to the Bo-Kaap district, distinguished by this row of rainbow-colored houses. This was the traditional neighborhood for the Cape Malay, an ethnic group descended from the Indian and Malaysian slaves brought over by the Dutch East India Company.
One of the oldest houses is now the Bo Kaap Museum, filled with photos and objects that chronicle the district’s history over the years. Our guide told us about the insane Dutch system of racial classification: Cape Town was divided into black, white, colored, and Indian (each with sub-sections). Many of residents were mixed, and rules were applied indiscriminately.
People of “lower” classifications were forced to relocate, often to segregated townships. They received worse treatment in prisons, and limited opportunities for jobs and businesses. I can’t believe that the apartheid system lasted in South Africa until 1994 — only 20 years ago.
Today, Cape Town feels peaceful, and the city is a mix of cultures. Wale Street, found under Signal Hill, is full of character. In this mostly Muslim community, these houses are painted every year before Eid.
The colors match my sandals with a rainbow platform heel, from Shinjuku Studio Alta. I felt like wearing bright clothing the entire time I was here.
Faldela Tolker lives in the purple house. She offers a unique cooking tour: visitors come into her house to learn how to make Cape Malay specialties, and eat lunch at her table.
Faldela is one warm, sassy lady! We loved her stories and sayings, like “salt is love.” From the staircase, I glimpsed her grandchild peeking at our table.
She served us samosas, with spicy sauces on the side. Next came a hearty tomato bredie (a distinctive stew with Indian flavors) and rice. We finished with sweet koesisters, a traditional syrup-coated doughnut, washed down with cardamom tea. It ended up being one of the most memorable meals I had in South Africa, and certainly the warmest.
Faldela then showed us how to fold and stuff samosas. She laughed at my bunny hoodie and insisted on trying it on! There’s so much heart in this home, and I’m so grateful I got to join her Cape Malay cooking “safari”.
Across the street lies Atlas Trading, a 70 year old spice shop with bins of exotic flavors. I’m not sure what “ass seeds” are. In the back, we even found cannabis and opium scented incense.
My crew and I ended the afternoon by taking the cable car up Table Mountain. Can you believe we did all of this in a day? Everything is close together in Cape Town, so you never have to travel far to reach attractions.
Before boarding the “aerial cableway,” each group takes a photo in front of a green screen.
When we left, we saw that this image was superimposed on various backdrops, and packaged as a souvenir! So touristy and cheesy that we had to get them. I can’t stop laughing at how ridiculous we look.
From the top of Table Mountain, we looked down at the rocky coastline and city. I admit we were a bit spoiled by the views we had already seen from the helicopter ride.
On the way back, we ran into a dassie, a squirrel-like rodent found only in southwestern Africa.
The dassie lives on rocky outcroppings, and since there are tourists carrying food on Table Mountain, they’ve become rather bold.
Melissa is doing a big no-no… One shouldn’t touch these wild animals! At least she didn’t get bitten, unlike the peacock that pierced her skin during our safari.
Back to my room at the Taj Hotel. I lay on the bed and stared out at this view of the mountain ranges.
A million thank yous to Cape Town Tourism, for bringing us to this fascinating and beautiful city! Coming up, I’ll take you on a tour of the street art, fashion designers, and African cuisine.
Did you expect South Africa to look like this? Don’t miss out on the bonus photos of my trip, on my @lacarmina Instagram.
Every time I go back to New York, it feels like a homecoming. I lived in NYC for years, and the city kindled my passion for nightlife, alt cultures and fashion.
One New Yorker who inspired me over the years is King Vulcanus Levi, club promoter and nightlife royalty. It was an honor to be his Queen for the night, and host an underground party together.
I was here for a TV shoot, and we wanted to celebrate the city’s flamboyant underground nightlife. Reserved Consulting was launching a new club event, called Friday Factory, and it fit the bill perfectly. Their parties shine the spotlight on NYC’s underground through performances and personalities.
Vulcanus and I held court at this giant gold table, which was reserved for us and friends. Thanks to everyone who joined the fun, and to Reserved for the generous bottles of spiced rum!
The scene at Friday Factory was like a “21st century vaudeville.” Most of the guests dressed up to the nines, in styles as diverse as Gothic, retro, leather, lace. Lots of dancing and shenanigans — that’s the New York club kid spirit.
I particularly enjoyed the performance art: burlesque, whips, urban singers. The highlight was my friend Lauren. She covered her body in liquid glue, stood in a corner to let it dry, and then peeled it off and gave bits of the dried “skin” the crowd. Their reactions were priceless.
I’m wearing a Moi-meme-Moitie dress and lace top (the brand is by Mana sama, of Malice Mizer and Moi dix Mois). The blue feathered crown was bestowed upon me, by King Vulcanus Levi, who designed it himself! I urge you to add his Facebook page, to see more designs and inspiration.
(All above photos by Alex E. Houston)
Before Friday Factory, Vulcanus had a pre-party at his Lower East Side apartment. He showed me his collection of handmade crowns and accessories, a pleasure-palace of peacock feathers, playing cards, Gothic crosses, jewels, and other luxuries.
He showed me some of signature looks from over the years. A majestic combination of bird on head, feathered collar, cinched corset (standing next to his friend, latex designer The Baroness).
Vulcanus showed me how he put on his distinctive makeup, with a pure white face, and black V-shaped lips. When I first saw him at NY clubs ages ago, I was blown away by this vision — he seemed like a royal from another planet!
He puts thought into every aesthetic detail, down to the gloves and rings. I’m in awe at his creativity.
All around the room, our friends were doing makeup touchups, pouring cocktails and dancing.
I’ll never get tired of the NY’s nightlife energy. So many friendly and welcoming creatures here.
Living here sparked my love of subcultures and alternative beauty, which continues strong to this day. In New York, you can express who you want to be, and find other like-minded creatives.
And the nightlife can’t be beat! If you want to join the fun, you can check Reserved Consulting’s site for announcements about their next Friday Factory events. And add King Vulcanus Levi on Facebook to see where he’s appearing next.
At dawn, I was happy to lay my weary head at The Library Hotel. In my hazy state, I couldn’t remember my room number: but thankfully, each door has a unique plate that follows the Dewey Decimal System. I was on the Languages floor, so the rooms were called Romance, Asian, Germanic…
It’s the perfect place for me to stay: a hotel dedicated to book-lovers! I love to read at night to wind down, so this put me in instant relaxation mode. Unlike some theme hotels, there is no cheesiness here: it’s 5 star luxury, with seamless service and cozy design.
Here’s a close-up of my white platform sandals, sent by YRU — here’s the link to purchase them. So cool, the clear heel with a cloud print.
The Library Hotel has an ideal location, near Central Park in midtown Manhattan. They have a unique “Writer in Residence” program that aims to give authors inspiration and sanctuary. If you qualify, you get a complimentary stay at their properties, and enjoy perks like the lounge and free Wifi.
My friend, author Elizabeth Wurtzel, joined me for tea. The lounge serves tea, coffee, sweets and fruit all day long “to keep the creative juices flowing.”
My sleeveless jacket with a hood is a gift from Teale Coco. She makes devilish harnesses too, including a full body Lucifer harness.
The lobby has a Great Gatsby feel. (Are you currently reading any good books? I’d love to hear your reading recommendations; leave me a note in the comments!)
Take the elevator to the top floor, and you’ll walk into Bookmarks Bar and Lounge. My friends and I drank literary-inspired cocktails — like a Hemingway made with rum, mint and champagne — on the rooftop terrace, which has a lovely view of the Empire State Building.
Can’t go wrong with a free breakfast that includes berries, lattes and grapefruit juice. Thanks to the Library Hotel for treating us writers like VIPs!
Finally, a closeup of my mint-colored Totoro nail art by Glam Nail Studio. More of their kawaii Japanese nails on their Twitter.
Here are some Instagram snaps from the Dances of Vice burlesque cruise, which sailed from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty. New York, I’ll never grow tired of you.
Do you you prefer dancing at clubs and holing up with a good book? Or are you fond of both, as I am?