Category Archive for Fashion
Shopping for alternative fashion in Toronto takes a bit of know-how. If you follow the tourists to Eaton Center or Yonge-Dundas Square, you’ll be disappointed (unless you enjoy Adidas and GAP).
Courage, my loves! In this article, we’ll explore the coolest vintage, indie and underground boutiques, mainly found in two areas: Kensington Market and Queen Street West.
After our Gloomth fashion shoot, my local comrades Linda Tea, Mao and Ashavari took me to their favorite shops on Queen St W. This is the area that houses the OCAD art school (which looks like a brick held up by chopsticks) and MuchMusic studio.
First, we followed the arrow down the narrow stairs of Black Market Vintage (256-A Queen St W).
If you see fellow shoppers like this girl, you’re probably in the right place.
Black Market has an immense selection of secondhand clothes. Some are on the “80s soccer mom” side, such as sweatshirts with cheesy prints of dogs in baskets. However, there’s also a rocking selection of band tees and this “Pentagram pizza slices” wonder.
This See / Hear / Speak No Evil shirt put the middle cat in headphones.
Instead, I think they should have printed a Scottish Fold cat, like my earless fuzz-face! (Tons of Basil Farrow photos on his cat blog.)
Two of hearts. Black Market has a wall of novelty sunglasses, studded belts and bracelets, fishnet tights, and other alt accouterments.
Together, we ducked into Borderline (425 Queen W #217). As you can see from the display, Borderline sells brands like Lip Service and Hellbunny.
Onward to a Canadian institution, John Fluevog Shoes (242 Queen St West). I’ve collected several pairs of Fluevogs over the years. They stand out for their workmanship and alt styling. Many have Victorian elements, such as these claw foot high heels.
Fluevog carries both men’s and women’s styles. I’m particularly fond of his boots like the Swordfish Edwardian.
Across the street, it looks like the live music venue, Cameron House, is having an insect infestation.
Lots of old-style buildings and cool stores (Moog Audio) on this street.
Pastel stars and poofy gowns? Original Toronto (515 Queen St W) looks like my kind of party.
We goofed off at the entrance before heading in. Taeden Hall and I are wearing Lolita ruffle dresses by her clothing label, Gloomth and the Cult of Melancholy. How sweet of her to give me this Chrysanthemum dress, made of cotton and with tiers of ruffles.
Original is possibly my favorite boutique in the city. The name speaks the truth: you’ll find one-of-kind garments, like hedgehog-spiked shoes and sequined tulle corsets.
Linda found these Irregular Choice polka dot shoes, with bow-tied bunnies for heels! This brand makes an amazing Tic Tac Toe platform as well.
At the entrance, I fell for this pastel rainbow crochet sweater. On the upper floor, there is a dizzying selection of prom dresses and bridal wear.
We saw girls trying on glamorous dresses and accessories that would make the Queen Mother proud.
Like Patricia Field in NYC, owner Donna Saslove is the life of the store. Go visit Original and give her a hug for us.
A few blocks away lies Kensington Market, known as the most diverse, funky and historic part of town. The Victorian-style houses are painted with bright shades. Many have a hippie vibe, with Buddha statues and Tibetan flags.
While officially a “National Historic Site of Canada,” Kensington’s real protector appears to be Mr Rogers and his trusty cardigan.
Anthony Bourdain would love the cluster of cafes, which include artisan cheese shops and gourmet coffeehouses. But we were here to shop — so we followed the row of cowboy boots that lead to Courage My Love (14 Kensington Ave, Toronto).
Taeden told me that she and her brother used to spend hours in this store, marveling at the 1970s lace dresses, yin yang buttons, Mexican mirrors, and other vintage oddities.
We all stopped to take photos of the Day of the Dead skeletons. Haven’t seen so many sugar skulls since my adventures in Mazatlan.
I recommend wandering through Kensington Market, sampling food and poking your head into the many little eclectic stores. Look for the mural influenced by my favorite painter, Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha.
Chat with the store owners, and shake a paw or two along the way. Not bad for a walking tour, right?
I leave you with a few bonus photos. I ran into this clubwear / lingerie boutique while walking aimlessly around downtown Toronto.
Not sure what the mannequin boy did to deserve this punishment.
What’s your impression of the fashion scene in Toronto? Are there any places you’d like to add to my list? Leave a comment and let me know.
For more alternative attractions, check out the rest of my posts about the city.
I’m currently in NYC – join my TV shoot and party with me on Friday the 13th! Full info here. Thanks for being part of my blogging journey!
Let’s do the “San Francisco Disco”! I have many colorful posts to share with you, from my recent trip.
But first, let me announce my next destination… New York, NY. I’m here for a secret TV shoot, and want to celebrate Friday the 13th (of June) with you.
On 6/13, hang out with me at Maid Cafe NY, for their very first cosplay event — Chara-Con! I’ll be the special judge of the “character contest,” with awards for Craftsmanship, Styling, and Crowd’s Choice. Winners will get tickets for New York Comic Con 2014, and giftcards from Cosplay Shopper. Applications can be found here, and will be accepted until June 12th.
Even if you don’t want to dress up, I hope you’ll come experience this unique maid cafe, and cheer on the cosplayers. No cover. See you there!
WHEN: Friday, June 13 from 6-8pm
WHERE: Maid Cafe NY, 150 Centre St, NYC
RSVP: Via their Facebook invite
Later that evening, I’ll be hosting an underground party with nightlife royalty, King Vulcanus Levi. Join us at Friday Factory, a Vaudeville experience for the 21st Century. See avantgarde artists (including my friend Lauren from Tokyo!), musicians, dancers, tarot readers and more. Come have a drink with us, and enjoy Mediterranean snacks from much-loved Chef Fred Mero.
WHEN: Friday, June 13 from 10pm-2am
WHERE: La Rosetta, 243 W 14th St, NYC
ENTRY: A discounted $10 if you say “La Carmina” at the door, with a free drink and snacks
Back to the Frisco-Disco. I’ve been to San Francisco about five times (it’s one of my favorite US cities), but this was Yukiro’s first visit. On Day One, we decided to take in SF’s most famous sights.
This blog is 99% about the alternative, bizarre, underground side of travel (like the drag queen mega-show) — but why not also see what cities are famous for? It would be rather obnoxious to go to Paris and avoid the Eiffel Tower, or visit Cairo and shun the Pyramids.
In any case, no matter what we do, we tackle it with our signature style.
San Francisco Tourism gave us Muni (metro) passes that let us hop around easily. We rode to Embarcadero Station, and walked to Pier 39 (to save time, change to the light rail). This is a favorite waterfront attraction, filled with shops, seafood restaurants and a cute carousel.
Yes, we rode the merry-go-round. I conquered a zebra, and Yukiro straddled a seal.
I first traveled to San Francisco when I was six years old. It’s a wonderful destination for everyone, from children to alternative club kids.
Many tourists take a ferry to the famous island prison, Alcatraz. We decided to only walk around the pier, and dine on the fresh seafood…
… but not on shark fin soup, of course! Such a cruel and wasteful practice.
Since we had passes, we ducked into the Aquarium of the Bay to admire leopard sharks and other “under the sea” creatures. The sea otters were sleeping, but outside, we saw dozens of sea lions flopped on the marina dock.
Yukiro was a bit creeped out by the jelly-fish. (We’ve been watching an anime about a rich cross-dressing boy and a dorm of otaku girls, called Princess Jellyfish – have you seen it?)
What happens when an evil queen kisses a frog?
Onward to Ghirardelli Square at Fisherman’s Wharf. We ducked into the Boudin bakery, known for its turtle and bear-shaped breads. However, we did most of our shopping at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods (in Japan, it’s difficult and expensive to get dark grain, gluten free and other healthy specialty foods).
We met a street performer, carrying a real bunny in a basket on his head. The Musée Mécanique at Pier 45 is always a hoot. It contains creepy, antique penny-arcade machines, like peep shows and fortune tellers.
You can’t miss two of the most colorful districts, Chinatown and North Beach (aka Little Italy, and home to the Beats’ City Lights Bookstore).
We found fans, lucky cats and other Chinese kitsch.
Coming up, I’ll show you Japantown, Haight Ashbury and San Francisco’s best alternative-spooky stores.
Also on the “SF Must Do” list: riding a cable car. It stops by a fantastic anime and manga store, Powell Gifts.
I first did this when I was a kid (that’s me in the pink).
Stroll around and admire the Painted Ladies, or colorful Victorian-Edwardian houses that are signature San Fran.
How gorgeous is this steampunk-ish church cross?
Tip: wear good shoes, since you’ll be walking up and down steep hills. We passed by Lombard Street, the zig-zag road in Russian Hill.
Finally, an obligatory shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. This view is from Baker Beach in Presidio.
And let’s not forget Steiner Street, the residence of Full House! I half expected Uncle Jesse to sing us a song.
Did you enjoy our touristy-tour of San Francisco? Don’t worry, the next posts are about the alt stuff: skeleton shops, BDSM cafes and play parties.
Sending you a kiss (notice my shorter hair cut)? See you in New York City — please tell your friends about my Friday, June 13th events at Maid Cafe NY and La Rosetta (info at the top of this post). See you all soon!
What’s your “happy place”? For me, it’s a combination of gentle sun, friends, travel, exploring cultures, the ocean, and my Scottish Fold cat. I got all of the above (minus the kitty, and with a salt lake instead) on one of my most memorable days in Israel.
Read on for my floaty, muddy adventure in the Dead Sea… (And apologies for the lack of posts over Memorial Day weekend – I’ve been in San Francisco with my friends. Tons of new material coming up; you can see previews of Bianca Del Rio at Trannyshack, oddities at Loved to Death and more on my @lacarmina Instagram.)
My film team and I woke up early at the Mamilla Hotel, a 5-star modern hotel on King Solomon Street. It’s the work of Israeli-born architect Moshe Safdie (who did the Vancouver Downtown Library) and designer Piero Lissoni.
Mamilla is a perfect blend of new and old: witness Jerusalem stone walls next to a sculpted metal staircase. I wish we had time to experience their Akasha Wellbeing Center, celebrated for its organic bar and holistic classes.
I personally love stark, modern hotels. They tend to be ultra-clean with inspiring design, and have fast and free Wi-Fi. (Ideal for germophobic, design-freak, plugged-in millennial travelers like me.)
Photography by Eric Bergemann, Melissa Rundle and La Carmina.
The Mamilla hotel’s facade was built from historic Jerusalem stone (similar to sandstone). Each one was numbered, to mark its proper place in the arch.
The rooftop gave us a magnificent view of Jerusalem’s Old City walls, the Tower of David and Jaffa Gate.
Perfect for a panorama shot. (My two filmmakers travel with me, and shoot the videos and photos. So far, we’ve been sent to the Maldives, Abu Dhabi, Mazatlan, Maui, Dubai, Portland, around Eastern Europe, and more!)
Time to hit the road. Our trusty driver and Israel guide, Uri Golani, took us for an hour and a half ride to Masada. Along the way, the sand scenery was straight out of Frank Herbert’s Dune (a must-read sci fi novel).
We took a short cable car ride up to Masada, the isolated mountain fortress built by Herod the Great around 37-31 BC. This is the site of the famous siege, where Jewish rebels fought back the attacking Romans after Jerusalem fell. Finally overtaken, the 960 Masada Jews supposedly committed mass suicide.
The rock plateau overlooks the Dead Sea, which we’ll visit after. Up the cliffs, ingenious water cisterns divert water from nearby wadis (ravines), which allowed the rebels to store as much as 10 million gallons of water.
See this black line? It shows the height of the walls before they were reconstructed, since much of Masada was in ruins when it was re-discovered in 1828.
We ducked into the bath houses, which still had remnants of mosaics and painted wall plasters.
Imagining the homes, synagogue and store rooms that stood here ages ago.
We saw a number of these noisy birds. I found out they are Tristram’s Starling, a bird native to this region. The males have orange marks on their wings.
I remember reading about Masada years ago, but history lessons often don’t sink in until you’re actually on the ground where they took place. I think it’s important to see both the old and new sides of a destination, to better understand it.
Alas, the wind is beckoning us to the water. We took a short drive to the Dead Sea, one of the world’s saltiest lakes. No living creatures can thrive in the waters, hence the very Gothic name.
Bathers can grab handfuls of mud from a bucket, to cover their faces and bodies. Dead Sea mud is full of minerals and known for its therapeutic properties.
Why not engage in some Gothic body-painting at the same time? I drew monster scars, crosses, and a Star of David on myself. Tip: wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty, as they’ll inevitably pick up some sand and mud.
The Ein Gedi public beach also has change rooms, and a sulphur-water pool.
I saw some people doing standing-board paddling. Make sure you don’t put your head under water or try to swim, unless you want your eyes to burn!
Slowly sit back, and you’ll float. Such a strange feeling. Watch out for the sharp salt formations on the floor, though… they cut my butt!
What a blessing, to be able to experience the Dead Sea. Thank you to Israel Tourism for the experience.
I leave you with my protein-and-veg packed breakfast at the Mamilla Hotel (including shakshuka, eggs poached with tomatoes). What is your happy place?
San Francisco: Party with us at Wicked Grounds BDSM cafe! Die Schwarze Frau, Japanese drag queen show.
Here’s the fabulous travel news… I’m off to San Francisco with some of my best friends! Including the sakura-queen Yukiro (above), First Mate Naomi, travel film team extraordinaire Melissa and Eric… And we want you to join our adventure.
Come to our event, “Pussycat Night: Chained but not Tamed,” at the San Fran BDSM cafe Wicked Grounds! Hang out with us and watch us perform, on Fri May 23rd from 7-9pm.
I’m hosting the festivities, and Naomi will draw a “thing”… you’ll have to show up to see what it is. (The above flyer is her fabulous handiwork; more art is on her Naomiyaki site.)
But the star of the show is Yukiro’s Gothic drag queen persona, Die Schwarze Frau. The bloody lady just performed to a crowd of 20,000 at Tokyo Pride, and this will be her international debut. For a preview of the evil, check out the DSF Ameblo.
WHEN: Friday May 23, 2014
WHERE: Wicked Grounds (BDSM cafe), 289 8th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
All ages! No cover, just order a drink or snacks.
I’ve visited San Francisco at least four times, but haven’t been here in recent years. Can’t wait to re-discover the alternative scene, including Goth-fetish club nights, Trannyshack, Japantown, vintage fashion, and more. If you have travel tips for us, please let us know in the comments.
Fortunately, Die Schwarze Frau will only be causing mischief at the show. The rest of the time, I’ll be with Yukiro, who you’ll remember from my Wave Gotik Treffen, Berlin, Japan, LA and NY Fashion Week travels.
She was a cosplay model for many years, and became close to people in the Tokyo LGBT scene. Naoko specializes in cross-dressing images like these; her works have been published in two books, and she had a solo exhibition in Taipei, along with features in galleries internationally.
I’m in awe at the mood and light that she captures. If you want to work with Naoko in Tokyo, or simply see more of her images, contact her photo studio.
I leave you with some snaps of another top model: my Scottish Fold, Basil Farrow.
For many more round-faced images, peek at his cat blog.
Can’t wait to explore the subcultures of San Fran! Do you have any suggestions for places to visit? Let me know in the comments, or Tweet me @lacarmina.
And please let your SF friends know about our Pussycat Night at Wicked Grounds (May 23, 7-9pm, full details above). Hope to see you there!