Category Archive for New York
It’s almost the end of 2014! So much has happened this year, especially behind-the-scenes. New friends, wild times, and a renewed focus on the type of work that (I feel) truly matters.
In 2015, I’m committed to keep focusing on this bigger picture. So you’ll keep on seeing first-hand stories about alternative beauty, innovators pushing boundaries, underground travel and subcultures all around the globe. I think my work makes the biggest difference when it encourages people to challenge preconceptions (about topics like body modifications or drag queens), and express themselves as they wish to be — without fear.
In terms of meeting these goals, 2014 was a Very Metal Year indeed. Let’s get retrospective, and highlight some of my favorite destinations and stories from the first six months. I also have some bonus material from Jordan, which I never got around to posting until now. (Above, I’m with Tel Aviv fashion blogger Korin Avraham.)
At the start of the year, my travel filmmakers and I went to Israel, by invitation of the tourism board. We’ve been eager to come here for a long time. I’m fascinated by ancient destinations that have a surprisingly modern and creative culture.
Talk about reversing expectations: I imagined a Moses-like landscape of sand dunes. But from my hotel room at the Dan Tel Aviv, I had a perfect view of the beach. I sat by the window and watched the waves glowing at sunset.
One of the highlights was going on a Tel Aviv style tour (see all the photos in part 1 and part 2). Galit (right) took us to meet designers whose work perfectly matched my interests, such as upcycled vintage and unicorn wedding dresses. It felt like going shopping with a friend, and I still stay in touch with all the designers she introduced.
Since some of you requested a summary of outfits from 2014, here are a few more photos of what I wore in Israel. (Details of what I’m wearing here).
One of my favorite days of all of 2014 was exploring Jerusalem. I did a very special photo diary about our day in the Holy City, and why I feel travel is so important.
Perhaps you’re wondering… whatever happened to our Israel video? Around the time we completed it, the country was unfortunately experiencing conflict. My editors felt it would be most respectful to wait until later to run this upbeat travel episode. Hopefully, we can share it with you soon — stay tuned.
I take thousands of photos in each trip, and not all the stories make it onto this site. It seems wrong to deprive you of Miffy-ness, so here’s an outfit photo from our Jordan journey with Ya’lla Tours.
Our private driver took us to Pella, one of the country’s most impressive archaeological sites. These ancient ruins date back 8000 years, and were part of the Decapolis (the 10 centers of Greco-Roman civilization in this region).
One of the benefits of traveling with Ya’lla: we had our own driver and guide, who told us about the history as we journeyed. In Jordan, there wouldn’t have been any easy way to get around on our own, especially with the ruin sites located far apart.
On this 3-day road trip, we crossed through Amman. Through the window, I saw Roman columns, sunsets, children running towards us from Bedouin villages… and a whole lot of rocks.
The tour included unique experiences, like a cooking class at Petra Kitchen in Wadi Musa. The friendly chefs came by each table, shook their heads in mock-frustration, and demonstrated how the vegetables were supposed to be cut (ours were too big, or misshaped)…
We learned how to prepare a number of Jordanian dishes, including baba ghanoush and fattoush. At the end, all the Petra Kitchen students sat together and shared the meal. I love activities like this, which let you put your hands into the local food culture, and would come back again.
The next day was a dream come true: visiting the lost city of Petra. << All the photos here.
Here’s the Treasury of Petra, which you may recognize as the site of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I never expected I’d be able to visit places like this.
The next months were also spent traveling, but on more familiar terrain. I stopped by LA to attend Oscars parties. My Mickey Mouse two-buns hairstyle got quite a bit of attention.
Then I went to Toronto for meetings, and caught up with friends in the Goth alternative scene. I finally got to see Amy’s Arms perform at Lee’s Palace, where Scott Pilgrim had an epic battle or two.
The girls and I did a photoshoot wearing Gloomth, the Gothic Lolita Victorian label by my friend Taeden. (All photos from this shoot here).
Growing up, I was fascinated with 1960s hippie culture and took university classes about Buddhism. It was a joy to stay at the San Francisco Zen Center, especially after hearing so much about it. I particularly loved the courtyard with a fountain and hidden Buddha statues.
My friends and I had a reunion in San Francisco, and held a performance event at Wicked Grounds. Thanks to everyone who came out to meet us! If you’re visiting the city soon, you might enjoy my San Francisco Goth clubbing and bar guide.
Off to another much-loved US destination: New York City. Even though I lived here for years (while in school), I discover new places each time. This time, I did a shoot at the Paper Factory Hotel. I couldn’t help but smile as I gazed at the Manhattan skyline, from the graffiti-marked rooftop.
I was in NYC for a secret filming project, which will all make sense soon (fingers crossed that I can spill the beans in early 2015!)
For one lively scene, I judged a cosplay competition at Maid Cafe NY << Check out the impressive handmade costumes, and see who won the contest.
I also hosted an alternative club night with King Vulcanus Levi and NYC friends. He crowned me with one of his feathered creations. << Peek into the madness.
That’s already a lot for one post, so I’ll end this here. Next, I’ll summarize the second half of the year, where I went all around Asia and to Africa for the first time…
How do you feel when you look back upon 2014? What are you aiming to achieve in 2015?
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?
New York, I love you! Thanks to everyone who came to see me at the Japanese maid cafe, and for participating in the cosplay contest. I was mega-impressed by the intricate costumes, which you can see in the photos below…
But first, here are some snaps from my home at the Paper Factory Hotel. This is, without doubt, the coolest place to stay in NY.
The hotel is located in Long Island City, right across the water from Manhattan (it only takes 15 min by subway to reach Times Square). The Paper Factory’s design pays tribute to its industrial past, and the vintage child cars in the lobby encourage guests to play.
It’s obvious I loved staying at the Paper Factory Hotel — their creative, design-oriented approach is just my speed. I encourage you to check them out, especially when the restaurant Mundo opens up later this summer.
In June, my team and I filmed at Maid Cafe NY, located in New York’s Chinatown (150 Centre Street, NYC, 10013). It’s modeled after the Japanese maid cafes you’ll find in Tokyo, especially the Akihabara district.
The girls dressed me up in one of their pink French maid outfits. For the show, I learned how to greet customers (by yelling “Welcome home, master!”) and how to be as anime-like as possible.
At Maid Cafe NY, it’s all innocent fun: the staff interacts with the customers in cute ways, and makes them smile by drawing on their drink cups.
The cafe serves Japanese food and sweets, like omelet rice with ketchup drawings. I helped the maids prepare sweets with cute faces on them. Cris digs into a matcha cheesecake, decorated with my Scottish Fold cat’s face in chocolate sauce.
Customers can pose with the maids for cheki, or souvenir Polaroid photos that we decorate (in kawaii ways, of course).
Maid Cafe NY was packed with customers. They’re doing an incredible job at bringing Jpop fans together. Many of them are young and dress up in Japanese street fashion.
My friend Jenny (a talented illustrator) dons a long turquoise wig, in a tip of the hat to Hatsune Miku.
Inside the cafe is Cosplay Shopper, a store that sells anime/manga costumes and accessories like cat ear headbands, or Sailor Moon outfits. These goods are also available through their online site.
Camila invited me to be a judge in their cosplay contest. I know New York has a big community of cosplayers, and that the turnout would be impressive.
Even so, the event was beyond expectations! Over a hundred contestants and spectators lined up in front of the cafe, dressed to the nines. We barely managed to pack everyone in, and it was standing room only.
How cool are these handmade cosplay designs? Can you recognize the characters they are representing?
We assigned the contestants a number, and they went inside to put on the finishing touches. Wigs teased up, and circle contacts in.
Some of these intricate costumes took months to complete, all by hand.
Everyone gathered in front of the stage, packed like sardines. Jenny and Hiten cooled off with bubble tea.
The winners would get passes to New York Comic Con and gift certificates for Cosplay Shopper. One by one, they went on stage and showed off their outfits with flair. We asked them questions, such as why they chose to be this character, or how they made the various pieces.
Camila announces the next contestant. What a parade of creativity: we saw armor constructed from cardboard, weapons from duct tape…
Many of the cosplayers were still in high school, and made these colorful DIY costumes in their spare time.
The contest brought together J-culture lovers, and celebrated their creativity — I say that’s a success! Thanks to everyone who showed up despite the rain; I always love meeting readers in person.
Have you ever tried cosplaying? Which character would you dress as?
Also check out my photoshoot at the Paper Factory, to see more of this art-hotel. One more NYC post to come… and with luck, I’ll be back here soon.
While in New York for my recent TV shoot, I stayed at the newly-opened The Paper Factory Hotel. It’s a 100-year-old industrial space that has been transformed into an artsy hotel, with a magnificent view from the rooftop.
Come, and let’s explore a Factory that would delight Andy Warhol…
How amazing is the NYC skyline from the hotel’s rooftop? (All images by Ryan Edwardson Photography)
The purple knit top is Candy Stripper, found at Closet Child. My blue animal print dress is from Siam Discovery Center in Bangkok.
What a joy to explore this rooftop area, covered in intriguing graffiti like the words “Memento Mori.” This building has so much history: a century ago, it was a paper factory.
Today, it’s a 122-room hotel that is uber-modern and comfy, while preserving the historic manufacturing vibe. Old machine parts have become works of art, placed all around.
The Paper Factory Hotel is located in an unexpected place: Long Island City / Astoria in Queens. (Address: 37-06 36th Street, Long Island City, New York).
Sounds far? Not at all: the location is just across the East River from Manhattan, and meters from two subway stops. Ride the metro for 15 minutes, and you’re in midtown.
“Moshi moshi?” I loved playing around with the eclectic objects around the hotel. These included a British telephone booth, Thai rickshaw, Vespa, and vintage kid-sized automobiles.
These days, the main function of phones is for selfie-taking, rather than making calls…
The Paper Factory Hotel cleverly pays tribute to its former incarnation. I noticed elements like a polished concrete floor, inset with clippings from 19th-century Queens newspapers.
Althought I lived in Manhattan for years while attending school, I never explored Long Island City. Today, it’s become an emerging hip neighborhood, with a relaxed industrial vibe.
The lobby has a cafe — you can tell I’m pleased with my giant cup of coffee. Within walking distance, there were plenty of affordable local cafes and pubs. (And this area is safe, so don’t worry about walking around at night.)
The staff was lovely, and I hope I can be back for the summer opening of Mundo, a earthy Mediterranean restaurant. The downstairs area may also be converted into a club or gallery space.
The Paper Factory Hotel often hosts art exhibits and workshops. They’re right by the Noguchi museum, MoMA PS1, and the Museum of the Moving Image.
I’m 100% behind their mission to encourage creativity and collaboration. The website states: “We will help connect you with other like-minded individuals so that you might perhaps motivate each other and restore innovation to all aspects of life.”
My room was enormous — what a nice change from the usual cramped Manhattan spaces!
It even had a kitchenette and stand-alone mirror. I’m wearing a Moi-meme-moitie cemetery dress (Sleeping Garden print by Mana’s brand), and Gal Stern Flashback tights. You can shop her handmade legwear collection through her website.
I hope you’ll keep this hotel in mind, when you’re next visiting NY. Their site has special deals and lets you book online.
Thanks to the Paper Factory Hotel for hosting me and my TV team. We were blown away by this view of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings!
I had the best time shooting with photographer Ryan Edwardson, who is based in Toronto. He has a great eye for composition and capturing natural moments.
Here is a behind-the-scenes shot from our photoshoot on the rooftop.
Ryan caught my happy reaction to a sip of fresh coffee.
He’s a world traveler and storyteller, and this comes across in his photography. If you’re looking for a Toronto photographer — whether for weddings, commercial projects, portraits — keep Ryan Edwardson in mind.
I still have more photos from this chic boutique hotel to show you. Until then, you can see previews (and cat, and current travels in South Africa and Asia) on my LaCarmina Instagram.
Have you been to New York, New York? What do you think of the Paper Factory, and the mood of these images?
PS: I’m on the cover of Kirameki Magazine, out July 15! Here’s a preview of my magazine cover – yes, I’m wearing Moi-meme-Moitie.