Category Archive for Fashion

To Africa and Asia! Traveling to Seoul, Taipei, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Cape Town in South Africa.

jpop weird japan, shibuya colorful fashion

There’s no other way to put it: the next month will be cray-cray. Here’s the huge travel news… I’m off to five countries in two continents, including Africa for the first time!

My filmmakers and I are thrilled to be shooting a travel episode in Cape Town, South Africa. And as the ambassador of a trip-planning startup, Odigo, I’ll be going all over Asia: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei and Seoul.

Want to know more, and meet me in Japan on June 25? Read on for the exciting details. (Above image by Jesse Winter Heading for our Vanity Magazine cover shoot.)

baby liger, lion cub

As you know, my filmmakers and I travel around the world, making shows for my series published in Business Insider. (Previous episodes are on my YouTube.) We’ve shot in the Maldives, Dubai, Budapest, Jordan and more.

This time, we’ve teamed up with Cape Town Tourism. They’re bringing us to South Africa to explore the local design, fashion, nightlife, restaurants…

south africa safari lions

… and animal safari, my very first one! Can’t wait to hang out with Basil Farrow’s lion cousins, in their natural environment. If you have any requests for Cape Town coverage, please let us know in the comments. (Pic by Meraj Chhaya)

tokyo pecha kucha, super deluxe pechakucha

But first, I’ll be in Tokyo, as the ambassador of Odigo! This new site introduces travelers to little-known local hotspots in Tokyo and other cities. In a nutshell, you can plan a Japan trip tailored to your interests (such as Goth culture, otaku, or temples), and Odigo will link everything up in the best possible schedule.

Exciting news: I’ll be speaking at Pecha Kucha Tokyo on the evening of Weds, June 25! I’m making a 7 min presentation (20 slides, for 20 seconds each) about my passion for Tokyo underground travel: how I got started, adventures in TV hosting, and funny stories involving mistresses and whips. It’s an honor and challenge to present at this worldwide speakers’ event. I hope you’ll stop by to watch me, it’s free.

WHAT: PechaKucha 20×20 Tokyo (La Carmina is speaking)
WHERE: SuperDeluxe 西麻布3-1-25 2F, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan 106-0031
WHEN: Wednesday June 25, 8:20 to 11pm
RSVP: Facebook e-vite

jpop weird japan, strange fashion

And on Sun, June 22nd, I’ll be partying with the Harajuku kids at Heavy Pop. Join the party for visual fashion, alternative music, cake, and a drag queen performance by Yukiro’s dark persona, Die Schwarze Frau.

WHAT: Heavy Pop, Tokyo club night
WHERE: Hell’s Bar, 2-12-1 Dime Tower 2F, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
WHEN: Sunday June 22, 5pm to 10:30pm
RSVP: on their Facebook page

tokyo blue hair girl, street snaps

The event is run by Ray Ochiai, who took street-style photos of me during my last visit to Tokyo. (Here are more of our Tokyo street snaps). We hope to see you there!

kpop singers, seoul cute girls

Then, I’ll be traveling around Asia with my photographers, capturing local spots and meeting with influencers. We’ll be in Seoul, Korea — I haven’t been here for over 10 years! Can’t wait to experience K-pop madness in the flesh.

hello kitty lattes, cafe taipei

And I’m excited to be in Taipei, Taiwan – home to some of the most bizarre theme restaurants, including cafes dedicated to Hello Kitty, Barbie and more. (Above two images via Wikicommons.)

hong kong street fashion, hair

I’ll also be hitting Hong Kong with Yukiro and John Skeleton. There are photoshoots in the works… and a lot of shopping and eating during our down-time!

(Image by Ken Yuen and Jacqueline Kwok, for Dark Beauty Magazine cover and spread).

japanese girl tokyo fashion snaps

I’m passionate about my Odigo partnership, and believe in their mission to encourage meaningful travel in Asia. I hope you’ll enjoy my upcoming adventures — to stay in the loop, you can sign up for updates on their site.

(Above and below pics by Said Karlsson from our Adone Magazine cover and shoot.)

tokyo video arcade game center

La Carmina is at your service! Do you have suggestions for places to visit in Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Africa? Any must-see locations or topics to cover? Please leave a comment on my blog or Facebook letting me know, and I’ll do my best to fulfill your wishes.

I’ll do my best to update this blog during this crazy time, but for the most current coverage — including outfits and travel previews — please add my social networks below. Hugs and kisses!

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We stayed at San Francisco Zen Center! Buddhist temple guest rooms, garden, meditation classes.

san francisco zen center interior

Yukiro and I wanted our San Francisco journey to be rejuvenating. A time to regroup with friends and chill out. With these goals in mind, we did something I’ve dreamed about for a long time… and went on a mini-retreat at the San Francisco Zen Center.

Read on for the story of our Buddhist temple stay, and how these guest rooms are a hidden travel gem.

Shunryu Suzuki, soto zen buddhist priest

In 1959, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi arrived from Japan to be the head of the Soto Zen temple in San Francisco. He spoke English, and encouraged people from all walks of life to sit zazen with him. As a result, the Zen Center became a gathering spot for creatives in the Beat and hippie movements.

buddha statue, hand positions

Suzuki-san established the Beginner’s Mind Temple (Hosshin-ji) in 1969. We stayed at the current location of this “City Center” (308 Page St at Laguna). The SFZC also has locations in Tassajara and Green Gulch, for more isolated retreats and intensive practice.

buddhist colorful statue, rainbow buddha

The historic building carries a genuine, natural sense of calmness. The front hall is decorated with sparse but graceful elements, like this meditating Buddha.

sf zen center meditation room

A shadow of a monk on a scroll: so simple and beautiful. The door leads to the meditation hall, where all are welcome to take off their shoes and enter.

san francisco zen guest rooms, hotel

You can imagine what a joy it was, to make this our home! The Zen Center offers lovely guest rooms for $105-$162 a night, which includes a healthy breakfast with the residents, and lunch and dinner by donation. These accommodations aren’t listed in any hotel sites, and are an incredible value considering the location and experiences offered.

queer dharma, lgbt zen buddhism

As you can see from these posters, the SF Zen Center welcomes diversity. There is a regular “Queer Dharma” for LGBT practitioners, and their website states, “People of every race, nationality, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, and physical ability — all are welcome.”

We felt perfectly comfortable staying here: there are no curfews or restrictions. Our rooms had Wi-Fi Internet, along with Buddha statues, Yogi tea and lavender soap.

city center, zen meditation retreat

Plus, we felt great about supporting the Zen Center, and taking part in the Buddhist practice. All guests are welcome to attend classes, dharma talks, and ceremonies. You can see upcoming listings in their events calendar.

zen buddhist garden, fountain

Our favorite part of the San Francisco Zen Center was the courtyard garden.

I’m wearing a vintage Japanese robe (it’s been in my family for years), Liz Lisa dress, and white sandals c/o Y-R-U.

red kimono, buddhist gardening

Such relief to slow down, breathe and appreciate nature.

buddhist altar, flowers statue

The garden is filled with hidden Buddhas. Look closely, and altars will appear.

blue kimono girl, japanese buddhist

If you want to stay longer, SFZC offers a two-year Work Practice Apprenticeship program for Zen students, “to express, make accessible, and embody the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha.”

san francisco zen center garden trees

One of the foundations of Zen Buddhism is to live in the moment — something that people often forget, leading to stress and unhappiness. As Shunryu Suzuki Roshi wrote, “Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.”

close up fountain, water motion

He taught, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.”

wood buddha altar, SFZC

“What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.” Now that is food for thought…

praying buddha, zen bookstore

The City Center has a bookstore, where you find Buddhist works including Suzuki Roshi’s well-loved book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

san francisco zen city center building

The SFZC Zen Center is a very special place, and part of San Francisco history. I’m grateful we spent time here, as I’ve always wanted to do a temple stay. I hope you’ll also get the chance to visit, take a class, or rent a guestroom in this Buddhist monastery.

buddhist temple stay, retreat

Sending you loving-kindness. I’ll soon be exploring more Buddhist environments… stay tuned for the announcement of a major Asia trip.

japanese buddhist zen art

Are you familiar with Buddhist teachings? If you’re curious, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is a wonderful book for getting acquainted. After all, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…”

scottish fold cat x-ing sign

Or as my Scottish Fold Zen Master would say, “Mmm mmm mmm!” (I found him this cat crossing sign at a Pier 39 pet gifts store.)


Toronto Vintage Hipster shopping guide! Queen Street West, Kensington Market stores.

courage my love, toronto vintage

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.

black market, secondhand clothes

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).

korean street style girl

If you see fellow shoppers like this girl, you’re probably in the right place.

pentagram pizza shirt

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.

see no evil cats

This See / Hear / Speak No Evil shirt put the middle cat in headphones.

cat without ears on head

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.)

heart shaped hippie sunglasses

Two of hearts. Black Market has a wall of novelty sunglasses, studded belts and bracelets, fishnet tights, and other alt accouterments.

queen victoria dress

We were joined by Karen O’Keefe (singer of Amy’s Arms — remember my concert review?) How sweet, the pigtails and flowers in her hair.

borderline toronto goth punk clothes

Together, we ducked into Borderline (425 Queen W #217). As you can see from the display, Borderline sells brands like Lip Service and Hellbunny.

However, for a local designer who makes cyber-techno-Industrial fashion, I recommend Plastik Wrap. Designer Adriana is based in Toronto and sells futuristic gear for men and women through her site.

john fluevog shoes heel

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 banker shoes, Kitschy Boom

Fluevog carries both men’s and women’s styles. I’m particularly fond of his boots like the Swordfish Edwardian.

cameron house, insects on building toronto

Across the street, it looks like the live music venue, Cameron House, is having an insect infestation.

queen street west shops, moog audio

Lots of old-style buildings and cool stores (Moog Audio) on this street.

original toronto prom dress shop

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.

spiked high heel shoes, rainbow corset

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.

irregular choice bunny rabbit heel shoes

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.

rainbow wildfox sweater, puff dress

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.

queen street west prom dresses boutique

We saw girls trying on glamorous dresses and accessories that would make the Queen Mother proud.

original Donna Saslove owner, patricia fields bag

Like Patricia Field in NYC, owner Donna Saslove is the life of the store. Go visit Original and give her a hug for us.

kensington market hippie houses

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.

mr rogers community protection sign

While officially a “National Historic Site of Canada,” Kensington’s real protector appears to be Mr Rogers and his trusty cardigan.

day of the dead skull ceramics

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).

dia de los muertos skull figurines

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.

sugar skulls day of dead collection

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.

kensington mural, alphonse mucha art nouveau

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.

shaking dog's paw

Chat with the store owners, and shake a paw or two along the way. Not bad for a walking tour, right?

toronto clubwear lingerie

I leave you with a few bonus photos. I ran into this clubwear / lingerie boutique while walking aimlessly around downtown Toronto.

gothic mannequins

Not sure what the mannequin boy did to deserve this punishment.

goth bra, lace bodysuit

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.

toronto vintage stores, used clothing shops

Don’t forget to follow my daily updates (such as the snaps above) on my @lacarmina Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr.

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!


San Fran: cable cars & Chinatown! Meet me in NY, June 13: Chara-con cosplay, avantgarde party.

rainbow wall, colorful mural

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.

alice's pig, rose skirt crop top

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

king vulcanus levi, ny club kid personality

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

San Francisco castro, lgbt rainbow

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.

San Francisco fashion blogger outfit post

In any case, no matter what we do, we tackle it with our signature style.

I’m wearing a rose-print “Reality Trip” crop top and skirt, c/o Alice’s Pig — I adore their vintage, romantic designs. My white platform shoes are c/o YRU. Can’t get enough of their funky designs.

pier 39 carousel, kids riding

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.

merry go round, San Francisco wharf

Yes, we rode the merry-go-round. I conquered a zebra, and Yukiro straddled a seal.

asian kids on horses carousel ride

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.

view of alcatraz, San Francisco pier 39

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…

poster against shark's fin soup

… but not on shark fin soup, of course! Such a cruel and wasteful practice.

San Francisco aquarium of the bay

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.

blue jellyfish in tank

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?)

kissing a frog

What happens when an evil queen kisses a frog?

bourdin bear shaped bread

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).

San Francisco fisherman's wharf, Musée Mécanique

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.

San Francisco Chinatown streets, lanterns

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).

chinese lucky cats

We found fans, lucky cats and other Chinese kitsch.

san fran chinatown stores

Coming up, I’ll show you Japantown, Haight Ashbury and San Francisco’s best alternative-spooky stores.

cable car, san francisco tram

Also on the “SF Must Do” list: riding a cable car. It stops by a fantastic anime and manga store, Powell Gifts.

kids riding powell street cable car

I first did this when I was a kid (that’s me in the pink).

painted ladies, san francisco houses

Stroll around and admire the Painted Ladies, or colorful Victorian-Edwardian houses that are signature San Fran.

old first church, steampunk cross

How gorgeous is this steampunk-ish church cross?

san francisco architecture homes

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.

baker beach golden gate bridge view

Finally, an obligatory shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. This view is from Baker Beach in Presidio.

steiner street full house

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!