Category Archive for Fashion
2015 is drawing to a close… Time for my annual blog ritual of looking back at the highlights of the year!
In my 2014 recap (see part 1 and part 2), I was determined to dedicate more of this site to travel and subculture stories. I feel like this goal came into fruition: my work took me to 14 different countries in 2015, where I covered alternative topics ranging from British Goth festivals to Moroccan beauty workshops.
In this post, I’ll share how these projects came together, and reminisce on my favorite memories of the first six months (above is my Giuseppina Magazine cover – here is the whole shoot). I’ve also embedded my travel videos from each destination, in case you missed them when they first came out.
And the year’s not quite done yet… Two more destinations ahead. Find out what they are at the end of this post, and on my social networks (@lacarmina, linked below). Thanks for being part of my journey, and here’s to a meaningful 2016!
My travel filmmakers and I started the year in Hong Kong, where we were working with the new Hotel Sav. I always love coming back to this city, where I have many friends and relatives.
It was an incredible honor to have my own hotel room at Sav, which I decorated with artist Naomiyaki! This “Floor of Love” project appealed to us because it had the goal of elevating a traveller’s stay through art, and giving back to charity.
Check out all my Hong Kong articles here for the behind-the-scenes story of how we made a “La Carmina” room, and what these paintings represent.
We also celebrated Chinese New Year for the first time, in Hong Kong.
Dragon dances, fireworks and food… take a moment to watch the travel video above, to see it all in action.
Next, my film team and I flew to Tokyo, Japan. We were working once again with trip-planning startup Odigo. I had the time of my life at the Odigo launch party with my friends.
We also did stories and videos about the bizarre, kawaii attractions found only in Japan. From the Pompompurin puppy cafe (above) to the mecha Gundam robot, you can see the latest pop culture oddities in all my Tokyo posts.
And above is the Tokyo travel video — Pokemon cafe, Suspiria horror pubs, game centers and more madness.
In the spring, I finally visited one of my top dream destinations: Iceland. The country is like nowhere else, with science fiction buildings and an otherworldly landscape.
My Reykjavik memories include exploring the street art and prismatic architecture, eating insanely fresh seafood, and meeting the RuPaul drag queens (they were randomly performing while we were there).
You absolutely must take a nature tour in Iceland. Our wonderful guides Salty Tours took us to secret spots including black sand beaches, waterfalls and elf caves, instead of the usual Golden Circle. (Here are all my Iceland photos and posts, to help you plan a trip here.)
Enjoy the ethereal video of my Iceland adventures above and on YouTube @lacarmina. There’s footage of me dipping into the Blue Lagoon and taking selfies with plump Icelandic horses!
My white rabbit (Miffy) and I went onward to Manchester UK, where we were working on stories with support from the tourism board. These British adventures included Alice in Wonderland high tea…
… and a pilgrimmage to Manchester music landmarks, including Salford and Sons. (Enjoy the full story about my The Smiths and Joy Division music tour.)
After a train ride through the Yorkshire countryside, I arrived at the seaside town of Whitby. We did a magazine cover shoot at the Dracula abbey that inspired the Bram Stoker novel.
Such fun to finally experience Whitby Goth Weekend, where Andi Sex Gang and other Gothic greats performed. For more photos of the event, take a gander at all my England posts.
I then went back to Tokyo, Japan for a Travel Channel TV shoot. I can’t reveal anything about this TV hosting gig yet, but when it airs next year, I’ll be sure to let you know.
I also got to see the Japanese cat temples, Gotokuji and Imado shrines (featuring thousand of lucky cat statues). I haven’t had a chance to blog about this yet… still so many posts from 2015 that need to go up…
In May, I traveled to Singapore for the first time (it was a year of many firsts). We got insider access at Marina Bay Sands, and ate our way around the city — from high end molecular gastronomy, to hawker center street food.
I still have a Little India and Chinatown post to share with you, but until I get around to it, you can see all my Singapore travel tips so far.
And then, there was Bali — land of temples and spirituality. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here with my friends Cohica Travel, and think back fondly at our temple tour around Ubud.
We also had far too much fun taking a Bali cooking class at the Ritz-Carlton Nusa Dua, with these jolly chefs!
I invite you to check out my Indonesia posts here, for a visual diary of my time on the island.
That takes us up to June! Next up, I’ll look back at memories from the second half of the year.
And what’s next? Off to New York City and Mexico — with partner in crime Yukiro! We’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve, and kicking back at the new Karisma El Dorado resort in Riviera Maya / Tulum.
How about you — what were your favorite moments of 2015? Did you achieve any goals that you set, or experience something extraordinary?
Happy holidays! Tis the season to see friends and family, but don’t forget to take a moment to treat yourself too.
I got an early “me to me” gift… these show-stopping MySwear shoes, which I designed myself!
Farfetch has a neat new service that lets you customize your own sneakers online, using 3D modeling. I’ll show you how I did it, in this outfit post…
… and take you inside the dog cafe in Seoul, Korea: where you can pet puppies of all breeds. Be sure to read until the end, for some Kpop shopping tips too.
I’m thrilled with how my metallic bespoke shoes turned out. I got to choose from 16 unisex silhouettes, and then customize every single aspect: color, materials, laces, and more.
There’s even the option to add a personal monogram. I think these shiny, retro, red-purple Wizard of Oz shoes can only belong to “L.C.” (La Carmina)!
I picked the metallic fuchsia color because it matches my hair color.
These designer shoes are a way to add color and fun to a black-and-white outfit. (I’m wearing a combination of old favorites: a leather jacket from Canada, top from Japan, and leggings from Hong Kong.)
I love how these MySwear shoes are “100% me”, thanks to the complete customization.
My mouse-friend and I had a lot of fun designing my shoes. We went to the MySwear site, and selected a footwear style.
(I went with the minimalist, pointed-toe Hoxton — but you can select platform sneakers, creepers and more).
Right on the screen, you can play around with different materials (python, suede, ostrich), color combinations (side, front, panel), soles, and decorations (a metal toe cap, velvet stripe, monogram).
When you make a choice, the 3D image updates so you’ll know what the finished result will look like.
After you send in your design, the shoes are handmade in Portugal with the finest craftsmanship. The turnaround takes about 4-6 weeks, since every order is an original.
I’m so happy with how the MySwear Hoxton sneakers turned out! They’re one of a kind, and really make an outfit stand out.
The shoes are beautifully made, with artisan techniques and luxury finishes.
I enjoyed seeing how other creators let their personalities show, through their bespoke designs. You can see more examples on social media under the hashtags #farfetch and #farfetchfind.
I’m curious to know — how would you customize your own MySwear shoes?
Since we’re wrapping up 2015, I figured it was time to publish my last photos from Seoul, Korea (I went there last year, but never got around to sharing these).
I spent an afternoon in the Myeongdong shopping district, which is packed with Kpop shops. I also went to the dog themed cafe, where you can drink coffee and pet dozens of puppies!
Seoul has a few “dog cafes” where you can enjoy the company of canines, of all breeds and sizes. How many can you count in this photo?
I planned on visiting the original dog cafe, Bau House, in Hongdae. However, it moved locations (Bau House is now found near Hapjeong Station — the address is Jeil Bldg. 1F, 394-44 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul).
Instead, I wound up at Gaene, a dog-petting cafe in the busy district of Myeongdong. (Address: 22-2, Chungmuro 1-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul. Nearest station: Myeongdong or Euljiro)
I found myself in a room filled with dozens of adorable dogs! I went straight to the big white Great Pyrenees and gave him a hug.
Entrance at Gaene costs about 8000 won ($8 per person) and includes a drink, plus unlimited time to pet the pups. Before the staff sets you loose, you must sanitize your hands, and turn over any chocolate that you might be carrying (as it’s poison to both cats and dogs).
There’s a breed for everyone: terrier, bulldog, collie, Afghan hound. Non-flash photography and video are allowed, and many Korean girls took selfies with the animals.
I saw children sitting on the floor, with blankets provided by Cafe Gaene. They combed the lapdogs and arranged ribbons in their fur.
The cafe is extremely well maintained, with no lingering “dog smell.”
As you know, I’m a cat-mom but I love dogs too. It was fantastic to be able to play with so many breeds, in a single space.
All of the dogs were well-behaved, and seem healthy and happy. A few got into “barking matches” and scuffled on the floor, but for the most part, everyone seems to live together in harmony.
Seoul’s Cafe Gaene is a unique “only in Asia” experience, and good times for dog lovers of all ages.
(Note: Tokyo has a Deco dog cafe, but it’s a hangout for owners and their pets. You can’t just go and play with dogs, like at Gaene.)
Let’s end with a look at fashion in Seoul. All over the city, you can find stores selling hanbok: traditional silk and satin dresses, with tiers of rainbow colors.
These doll-like hanbok are still striking, centuries after they were first designed. But if you’re looking for modern garments…
Myeongdong is the neighborhood for you. The streets are filled with bright Kpop and streetwear boutiques, in addition to big-name international brands.
I said hello to a Batman-dog, outside the KM Play / K.Design+ mart.
These cheeky statues hint at the eccentric clothing and accessories inside.
K-pop style has become popular worldwide now. One of the hottest places to get dressed is at KM Play. I saw Simpsons-print tops, studded ankle boots, oversized sporty shirts, glitter skirts and other K-idol favorites.
Both prices and quality are mid-range (about 30,000 won or $30 US for a top), and items are mostly unique to the store. Give yourself at least an hour to browse, since the racks seem to go on forever.
Myeongdong is also filled with Korean makeup and cosmetics shops, including the girly favorite Etude House. I saw big posters of Dara and Sohee, showing the Kpop beauty standard (white skin, flat eyebrows, slim face with a V-shaped jaw).
Speaking of plastic surgery — yes, it’s prevalent in Seoul, especially in districts like Myeongdong, Gangnam and Apgujeong (which has a whole street of clinics). Advertisements are everywhere, sometimes showing “before” and “after” faces.
Hongdae remains the indie, artsy center — and my favorite district of Seoul.
However, I came across some quirky places in Myeongdong, like this Teteru Teddy Bear Museum.
Anyone can go into the cafe and gift shop for free, and pose with the giant, laughing teddy bears. There’s a small charge if you want to see the full displays of Teteru bears in the museum.
Another must-do: eat Jeonju bibimbap at Gogung. (Address: 37, Myeongdong 8ga-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul). This restaurant has been around since the early 1970s, doling out this delicious spicy dish — a big bowl of spices, veggies, egg and rice that you mix together. Gogung also has glass noodles, seafood pancakes and other Korean dishes. Now I’m craving it again…
On the streets, you’ll find strange street food. Unlike in places like Thailand and China, I’m not talking about organ meats and bugs on a stick. Seoul will serve you deep-friend potato chips on a stick, and ice cream in a vaguely phallic cone with a double-opening.
I leave you with a snap from a public fashion show at Cheonggyecheon. This is a 7-mile long open stream and urban space, where people stroll and hang out. Quite funny to see children playing in the waters, while models strut on the catwalk.
I hope these photos convey the pop culture energy of Seoul. Would you visit a dog cafe, or Korean makeup shops?
I think my MySwear derby shoes would fit right in with the Kpop fashion here!
PS: here are all my Seoul alternative travel tips, to help you plan a trip to Korea.
I finally visited Lisbon, Portugal… and kicked myself for not doing so sooner! I loved the city so much that it’s now one of my top three favorites in all of Western Europe.
Portugal tends to be overlooked when people travel to Europe. (I’ve been guilty of skipping it over, in favor of places like Italy and Croatia).
Little did I know that Lisbon is exactly my type of travel experience: not expensive or touristy, lots of cool neighborhoods and street art, and top-notch food — including the best sardines I’ve eaten.
As always, I like to highlight the young, hip, alternative attractions in any city. Visit Lisbon helped us put together the perfectly-tailored itinerary, and supported us as we explored Lisboa for the first time.
We asked them, “Why do travellers go to other countries ahead of Portugal, or treat it as an add-on leg?”
There’s no simple answer. Perhaps Lisbon lacks a world-famous landmark like the Eiffel Tower or Colosseum that tends to draw in tourists. Many are also unfamiliar with Portuguese culture, history, food and attractions.
All this is an advantage for travelers like us, who seek out alternative experiences. It was also a breeze to get to Portugal from Spain: we rode over on our Eurail train passes (which let us ride the rails in 28 European countries).
First impression: it’s so beautiful here. No filter needed, for these clear blue skies and fluffy white clouds.
We couldn’t stop taking photos of the classic architecture. Municipio Square is one of the many pristine public courtyards we passed.
(I’m wearing a white tote purse by Strathberry of Scotland. The modern minimal style and luxury leather got a lot of compliments. My bag’s magnet closure, with an additional bar that goes over the handle, also keeps possessions safe while I’m traveling.)
Everyone we met was so kind. Our driver and guide, Mario, acted as our bodyguard while we filmed on top of the Rua Augusta Arch (Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta).
Located on the main Commerce Square, the triumphal arch commemorates the rebuilding of Lisbon after a devastating earthquake in 1755. At the top, a female statue of Glory spreads her arms, and a lion rests by her side.
(In a later post, I’ll show you how the Rua Augusta got lit up in a digital light projection!)
From up here, we could see the classic red rooftops and ocean under dramatic skies. Behind me is Lisbon Cathedral, the oldest church in the city.
We ran into another lion at the Palácio de São Bento (St Benedict’s Palace), home of the Portuguese parliament.
We were intrigued by the vivacious street art and murals, peeking out from behind 18th century buildings. There’s a sense of energy in Lisbon, and we were determined to see more of it.
In the hip Bairro Alto district, we attempted to find Park restaurant — a secret hangout located in an unassuming car park! There are no signs advertising it, and the lot looks like a regular parkade. However if you ride the elevator up, and walk up another floor surrounded by graffiti, you’ll wind up in a hidden bar / cafe with outstanding views of Lisbon.
Park address: Calçada do Combro, 58 1200-115 Lisbon
You can sit on the terrace with the hipster crowd, and take in this 180 degree scene of Lisbon from up high.
Tip: When traveling in Europe, eat your fill of soft cheese, local wines, and breads — since these are usually not imported out of the country. European bread also tends to be made with high quality grains that don’t cause trouble for people who regularly must eat gluten-free.
At Park, all of the above were extraordinary, and at lower prices than in neighboring countries. (Above — I’m still dreaming of this cheese plate with pumpkin jam…)
Lisbon felt a lot like San Francisco, with streetcars over rolling hills, brightly painted houses, and even a Golden Gate bridge!
This is actually the “25 de Abril Bridge” spanning the Tagus river. It’s named in honor of the Carnation Revolution, the 1974 peaceful civil resistance that overthrew the Estado Novo regime.
Lisbon’s artistic vibe followed us everywhere we went — even to our rooms at LX Boutique Hotel in Bairro Alto. The wall above my bed had a mural of Portuguese guitars, which are twelve-strings with a round body. These accompany the singers of Fado, the melancholic musical genre.
We were big fans of LX, a luxury boutique hotel with a lot of personal touches: including funky art displays, free egg tarts and Ginjinha cherry liqueur in the lobby, and a fusion sushi restaurant. (Book a room at LX, found at R. Alecrim 12, 1200-017 Lisboa, Portugal)
The same type of spirit is omnipresent at LX Factory, a former industrial corner that is now home to design shops, cute eateries, and creative studios.
(Address: Rua Rodrigues de Faria, 103, Alcântara, Lisbon)
In 1845, a fabric and thread factory opened up in this area on the outskirts of Lisbon (Alcantara). It became a manufacturing hub that was later abandoned.
Now, the space has been transformed into a playground for Portuguese artists. Many of the walls are covered in eye-catching modern works.
We ducked into the various art studios and interior design shops, including one that sold handmade furniture for kids. LX Factory also has restaurants with outdoor seating areas — our guide Mario recommend the sushi parlor.
I enjoyed seeing how “ugly” old industrial structures were transformed into bright, edgy works of art.
At Ler Devagar bookstore, I found novels and treatises in all languages. The big warehouse-like interior is my idea of book heaven.
Can you spot the skull? LX Factory is packed with creativity, and I hope you’ll make the trip to see it.
What are some other hipster areas to explore? Bairro Alto, and Cais do Sodre. My team and I could have spent days browsing the artisan stores, such as a wax candle shop that looked like a cathedral. (Photos by Borderless Media)
Everyone knows about the joys of Italian and Spanish food… and we discovered that Portuguese cuisine is right up there. We loved the fresh seafood — there’s outstanding sushi here — and tasted a variety of local dishes at the Mercado da Ribeira market (I’ll show you in an upcoming post).
Some must-eats: the famous egg custard tarts, sushi / seafood, black rice…
… and above all, sardines! These are essentially a food group for me — I eat these little fishies all the time at home, and they’re full of healthy oils and minerals.
You can imagine my excitement at visiting Lisbon sardine shops, and seeing rows of tins with cat-faces. One of the historic ones is Conserveira De Lisboa (Rua dos Bacalhoeiros 34).
I bought so many sardines, in various rainbow packaging. The shops also sell other canned fish, such as mackerel.
Sardines are so famous in Portugal that they’re considered a national icon. Many souvenir shops had sardine products for sale.
Finally, fashion. At Embaixada LX, we found boutiques by indie Portuguese designers inside a centuries-old building. It’s wonderful how Europe can preserve and transform architecture in this way.
(Address: Praça do Príncipe Real 26, 1250-184 Lisboa, Portugal)
These concept stores sit inside a Moorish-style building built in 1857.
There’s a dramatic double staircase, an Arabic courtyard and stained glass windows.
The stores flowed into each other: toys, swimwear, home goods. All of the works are by local designers, and ranged from silky caftans to quirky lamps.
Embaixada shopping center is yet another example of Lisbon’s cool, quirky charm. Visiting the city was a breath of fresh air, and I wish I had come sooner to experience it.
Obrigado to Eurail and Visit Lisbon for making our Portugal adventures possible. (We learned that the Japanese word for thank you, “arigato,” is derived from the Portuguese one!) For more architectural inspiration, check out these modern Japanese houses.
We stayed at LX Boutique Hotel and fully recommend it for its value, hip atmosphere and location.
I hope this post opens your eyes to Lisbon, and that you’ll include the city in your itinerary when you come to Europe.
What do you think of the contemporary art, food and fashion found in Lisboa?
Lavender hair at Le Meridien Angkor Wat, Siem Reap! Luxury hotel & restaurants closest to Cambodian temples.
Cambodia has fascinated me for ages. I dreamed of exploring the mysterious temple of Angkor Wat, and experiencing the warm culture I’d heard so much about.
Finally, I got to travel here thanks to the new HK Express flight route! This airline has low-cost fares from Hong Kong directly to Siem Reap, where the temples are found.
At Le Méridien Angkor hotel, I got a grand introduction to Cambodian hospitality. Passionfruit, smiling elephant statues, bodhi trees… Let’s start the journey right here.
The label name stands for “Pursue Your Life’s Obsessions” — a message I can get behind, as it sums ups my travel approach. Pylo has a fantastic selection of Gothic-Gypsy fashion, including this crescent moon necklace and black lace bell-bottoms.
I’m wearing this exact crop top by Michi, a designer activewear company. Michi makes all types of dark sports fashion such as this top with sheer panels, and colorblocked sports bra (currently on major sale — more below).
We loved the artistic feeling of Le Meridien Angkor, a Starwood property. The hotel is modern design meets classic Khmer, especially the lush gardens dotted with Hindu statues.
It was remarkably easy to get to Siem Reap from Hong Kong. We flew direct on HK Express and the trip only took 2.5 hours. Le Meridien sent a van to the airport to pick us up, and the drive to the hotel was a short 15 minutes.
From the minute we walked into the spacious lobby, we knew that this would be a peaceful stay. I liked the dramatic Cambodian lanterns, and stuffed bears for charity.
After a flight, it’s a relief to munch on fresh fruit. I discovered a new “passion for passionfruit,” and also couldn’t stop eating their fresh baked eclairs and croissants.
The staff of Le Meridien Angkor comes from international backgrounds, and they went above and beyond to make us feel at home. Director of marketing Dennis arranged a private temple tour for us, and helped us find out more about Buddhist yantra tattooing (where a monk performs a blessing).
We enjoyed strolling in the hotel’s beautiful tropical gardens. At night, the rows of trees light up.
My witchy-wizard outfit — rings, moon necklace, long boho robe — are all from Pylo.
Water flows from the trunks of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god, in this courtyard fountain.
Cambodia is humid year round, and there can be mosquitoes — so I wore this Michi crop top, and loose layers over it.
We all had spacious bedrooms, with a deep bathtub and classic wood shutters. I got to catch up on work using their fast WiFi, while taking in a view of the pool and gardens.
My friend John Skeleton and I appreciated the location of Le Meridien — it’s as close as you can stay to the temples. The famous Angkor Wat is less than a 10 minute drive away.
(Address: Vithei Khum Svay Dang Kum, Charles De Gaulle, Krong Siem Reap 17259, Cambodia)
We loved how we could go to see the sunrise, and then easily come back for coffee and breakfast. Le Meridien Angkor was also located naer the historic Siem Reap district, night market, Pub Street and other attractions (I’ll show you in an upcoming post.)
Trekking around Angkor Wat was a bit draining, especially with the humidity. We were glad we could always pop back into to the hotel to pick up equipment, shower and change our clothes.
Le Meridien felt like a temple itself, with blossoming lotuses and Khmer-style pools.
(Wearing Pylo stacked silver rings, which come in mystical shapes).
I’ve wanted to dye my hair lavender for a while, and did it before this trip. My new haircolor happened to match these floating lotuses!
My stylist, Stephanie Hoy of Stratosphere Hair, did a purple light-to-dark ombre fade with Bettie Page short curved bangs. She twisted front sections into pin curls, for a retro explorer feel.
John went for a dip in the stunning outdoor swimming pool. It has a Tomb Raider feeling (appropriate, since the movie was shot at Ta Prohm temple).
I have so many photos from our Angkor Wat excursion to share with you next.
(Photography by Sniper Chau and Ken Yuen — and video coming soon too.)
Thanks to Pylo for the bohemian-wizard fashion, which made me feel a bit like a Goth Sailor Moon.
I wore metallic, shiny creepers from Hong Kong — they are similar to these Acne sneakers.
I leave you with a glimpse of the outstanding meals we had at Le Meridien Angkor! I’m still thinking about the Khmer pumpkin curry and spiced salads we had at their Cambodian Angkor Royal Café, and my daily breakfasts of passionfruit and yogurt.
However, our most memorable dinner was at l’Angelo Italian restaurant, headed by French chef Nicolas Rouleau. He served us the best pastas and Italian dishes I’ve had all year, along with an impressive selection of wines and cocktails.
At l’Angelo, traditional Italian recipes get modern, French touches. I ate up every last bite of this balsamic risotto with duck breast and parmesan.
The osso bucco, eggplant parmigiana, and spiced penne were also masterfully prepared.
We enjoyed the relaxed, contemporary look of the dining space. And how was dessert? The photos speak for themselves — fresh, tangy, inventive.
If you have limited time in Siem Reap, it’s especially worth staying at Le Méridien Angkor. This oasis is conveniently located by the temples, and you can enjoy local food, spa and culture right inside.
A curtsy to Ganesha, and to the hotel staff for making our stay an absolute pleasure. Coming up next — my travel diary of Angkor Wat!
What do you think of Cambodia so far? Did you enjoy my Outfit of the Day?