Category Archive for Press
Fashion blogger profile on FashionOne TV! Tokyo’s Cutest Stores: Kokokim pastel goth, Harajuku girls.
Tokyo remains the cutest place on Earth — and there’s no better place than Harajuku for fashion inspiration!
Wouldn’t you like to follow along with me in Tokyo, and see what happens on a typical day? You can, thanks to the magic of television…
I’m honored to be profiled by FashionOne, the international style TV network that broadcasts to 120 countries worldwide!
The “day in a life of La Carmina” episode first aired on June 15, but you can see it on repeat and online on FashionOne’s channel (or just click play below).
Thank you to Stephanie and everyone at FashionOne TV, for letting me share my world with you. The video is created and produced by my travel filmmaking partners, Borderless Media.
In the video, you’ll notice that my team and I stayed at an AirBNB in Shibuya. We’re big fans of this short-term apartment rental site, which lets you live in comfort — as if you were a local — while spending less. Our apartment had two bedrooms and a kitchen, and was a five minute walk from the station. (Psst, here is my AirBNB discount link that gets you $31 off your first booking!)
A lot of people ask me where to stay in Tokyo. If you’re only visiting for a short time, I urge you to stay in one of the major districts (I prefer Shibuya or Shinjuku). This way, you won’t waste time and money on getting to the city every day. Also keep in mind that the trains stop running around 1am, so you might as well be in a neighborhood where you can party and then walk home.
But let’s go back to fashion blogging in Japan. To celebrate the release of the FashionOne episode, I thought I’d share photos of the best alternative shopping destinations in Tokyo.
Let’s start with Harajuku, since it was featured in the travel video. Over the years, Takeshita Doori has gotten more and more commercial. Nonethless, you can still find Goth, punk and metal fashion here.
At AC/ DC, the clothes are inexpensive ($10-40 US per item), and have cute-Gothic prints you can’t easily find anywhere else.
Such as tutu-dresses and this Miffy-mouthed hoodie.
Many of Harajuku’s shops are quite mainstream now, but if you wander down the side-streets, you’ll find the gems. Here’s a sign for Kera Magazine, featuring a cute model in a dessert-pastry-print Lolita JSK.
The StayReal brand is actually from Taiwan. The Heavy Metal Hello Kitty sign gives you a hint of the cute meets edgy fashion inside.
It pains me to report that more punk and Gothic brands are closing doors. Sex Pot Revenge is now no more. On the bright side, Hyper Core and Listen Flavor are still around.
And the experimental fashion boutique, Dog, is as madcap as ever. (Address: 3-23-3 Jingumae, Harajuku)
Every time I go down these stairs, I’m astonished by their intricate, avantgarde designs. Dog’s pricetags are expensive — I’ve never bought anything here, but I love to loo.
Lady Gaga and others go nuts for the various handmade garments, from Japan and all over.
For more affordable prices, stop by Kinji, the secondhandstore on Meiji-jingumae. Mori and dolly-vintage fashion is big here.
And if you have no money to spend at all… Well, Death Is Free!
Onward to Shibuya, another favorite neighborhood for the young and trendy. There are endless restaurants and bars here.
Inside Tsutaya (the music and DVD store), we saw these posters for the Jrock band Black Cherry. Looks like the two guys are giving some “fan service”…
Everyone has a smartphone these days, even this cute bear sitting at the top of a skyscraper.
Don’t forget to look down, or you’ll miss these Japanese manhole covers, decorated like flowers.
High-quality images are important to me, so in recent years, my blog photos are all from DSLR cameras. However, there are times when I’m in a hurry, and simply use my iPhone to capture inspiration.
I usually share these snaps on my Instagram, but felt I should also put some in this post for you. Keep on reading for my Tokyo smartphone snaps…
… including a peek at the Kokokim pastel goth boutique, which sells coffin purses in mint and lavender!
♡ Lots of photos below, click to see ♡ More here!
Giuseppina Magazine cover model! Shanghai street fashion malls & graffiti art murals: M50 Moganshan Lu.
Death stare… That’s me, on the cover of Giuseppina Magazine!
I’m honored to be featured in Issue #27 of Giuseppina (available here), with an editorial spread and interview. I’ve been a fan of this leading alternative / Gothic fashion magazine for a long time.
Above is the cover! My almighty team created these images to fit with the “Lace” theme of the current issue. We were inspired by an elegant, Gothic, Japanese moodboard.
I love how it all came together. A fog machine added to the witchy, spooky feeling of this shoot.
Jennifer Little of A Little Artistry keeps on raising the bar, each time we work together. She airbrushed over lace fabric, to create this ninja-like effect.
Stephanie Hoy of Stratosphere Salon made my hair come alive with dark blues, purples and magentas. If there’s a hair-color-Zen-master, it would be her.
Photographer Joey created this eerie effect by shooting into the mirror. It has a The Shining type of vibe, don’t you think?
(I’m wearing a top by Teale Coco.)
Everyone got creative with the “lace” theme. We wanted the look to be Gothic, yet a departure from what usually comes to mind.
A million thank yous to Giuseppina Magazine for the cover feature, and to my creative team for their outstanding work! (You are welcome to Pin / share our images, if you kindly link and credit back.)
To see more of these modeling images, and read my interview, you may order a copy of the issue.
Speaking of photography — I’ve decided to share some of my Shanghai iPhone snaps with you. As you know, I now travel with professional photographers, and we strive to keep the image quality high in all of our works.
However, there are times when I leave the big DSLR cameras behind. I relish these moments of wandering at leisure, and capturing sights like these on my iPhone.
On my last day in Shanghai, I went to M50 or Moganshan Road by myself. Strolled around, met with local friends, and snapped away at inspiring murals (like this skull one above).
I hope you enjoy this casual iPhone diary of street art and fashion in China’s biggest city!
M50 is known as one of the coolest districts in Shanghai. It’s home to contemporary art galleries and a long wall of street art, which anyone can contribute to.
Address: ask your taxi driver to go to 50 Moganshan Road (Chinese: 莫干山路50号). Cab fares are cheap in China, and the streets in this area are a bit confusing, so it’s better to just pay for a ride.
Moganshan Road stretches along a crumbling wall, and every possible space is covered with street art. I took photos of my favorites, like this one of Street Fighter Chun Lee.
The works are an assortment of graffiti, sketches, and painstakingly-made paintings. The messages are a peek into the minds of the artists. I wonder what China Face and “Campbelli Soup” represent.
Every time you visit M50, the colors and images change. It’s a constant work in progress. A fellow visitor handed me a silver market, and I added my fold-eared cat to the wall.
About 15 years ago, this district was a run-down industrial area. Shanghai artists flocked here, drawn by the cheap rent, and opened up studios.
Today, this area has over 100 art studios, which are free and open to the public.
I met up with my local friends, Andrew and Storm, who were adding art to the famous Moganshan wall. Using stencils, masking tape and spray-paint, they created this intergalactic work.
Want to see their street art in action? I took a short video of them making the mural; see it above and on VideoFy Me.
This art district reminded me of Woodstock in Cape Town, where local artists also brought color and creativity to decaying buildings.
Unfortunately, the property is owned by a Chinese developer, which has threatened tear it down. Parts have already been demolished, despite pleas. Hopefully they won’t tear down this wall, as it’s one of the few public spaces for expression, in strict China.
I could have spent hours in Moganshan Lu, exploring the contemporary art galleries and studios. I was most impressed by this solo exhibition by Qiu Shengxian.
His painting style is known as “Mother and Son” because he fuses classical Chinese motifs with contemporary fashion and styling. The result: arresting, alien-like portraits like these.
Look closely. The red jackets contain a subtle pattern of Buddha heads and demons, all drawn by hand.
Ancient Chinese empress meets The Fifth Element. No wonder local artists like Qiu Shen Xian are gaining notice worldwide.
As I waited for a taxi, I took this snap of a Shanghai hipster girl, sitting with her pink cat bag and texting on her phone.
What else should I do on my free day in Shanghai? Shop, of course!
I walked from Cachet Hotel (where we stayed) down West Nanjing Road, and went into whichever boutiques drew my eye. Such as Snoopy, dressed in A Bathing Ape (BAPE) camouflage, and the silver cone-heads in the window.
I passed a lot of luxury brand stores, similar to the feeling of Fifth Avenue in NYC, or Ginza in Tokyo (not my cup of tea). Finally, I came across something intriguing: a smiley face, and three golden lions perched on a tall pole.
They are guarding Jing’an Temple, a of worship that was built almost 800 years ago. After a devastating fire in the 1970s, the Buddhist temple was rebuilt, and remains a popular site today.
❤ Continue reading this post, to see photos from the Miffy store, Gladnews and more Shanghai style. ❤
I’ve taken on a new job in the travel industry… located in the imagination of filmmaker Wes Anderson. Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve become a Lobby Girl!
My costume is inspired by the “Lobby Boy” character in The Grand Budapest Hotel, which recently won four Oscar awards. Can you believe I’ve watched this movie about 10 times? It’s witty, charming, funny and stylish — Wes Anderson at his best.
Later in this post, I’ll share more photos from our shoot. But first, the Lobby Girl had a gala to host… in Tokyo, Japan.
Last month, I flew to Tokyo for the launch of travel start-up, Odigo. We threw a phenomenal party — thanks to my friends who celebrated with me!
What went down? Demon masks, an open bar, Italo Disco music, and a photobooth by ROMP.
Are we doing the “X Japan” Jrock sign, or “dame-ee” (which means forbidden, in Japanese)? Probably a bit of both.
I’m happy to officially unveil Odigo to you. The English-language site is for you guys: people who want to travel to Japan, and see all things offbeat and authentic.
Readers tell me it’s hard to figure out Japanese addresses, and how to get around. With Odigo, you can easily plan a trip that’s tailored to your interests –– where it’s sushi or Sailor Moon.
It was wonderful to reunite with old friends, and meet new ones. We grooved to DJ Swiftt Edits’ Italo Disco playlist…
… and nibbled on colorful hor d’oeuvres. Despite the rainy day, our party was packed!
Several attendees got prizes through the lucky draw. (My lace cape is from Black Milk Clothing.)
The event was at Streamers Meguro, a coffee house that brewed probably the best latte I’ve ever had in Japan.
Upstairs is Kilo Shop Tokyo, which has a large selection of vintage designs.
Payment is by the kilo, rather than per item.
The whole team has been working day and night on the launch, and it’s paid off.
How does my Lobby Girl outfit fit with the site’s mission? In my speech, I explained it represents Odigo’s personalized approach to helping travelers plan “an extraordinary journey” to Japan.
(Above, I’m with founder Takamasa Kawasaki, who wrote a book called “The Power of Embracing Diversity.”)
Like the concierges of the Grand Budapest Hotel, we’re passionate about sharing the best spots and creating a seamless itinerary, which you can download to a mobile phone and simply follow along.
Now, let me share the photoshoot we did for Moov Magazine’s cover and spread! Funny enough, I actually stayed in a grand hotel in Budapest, in 2013. This setting, however, is the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Vancouver.
This movie truly is a must see (here’s a link to the digital download). The cinematography, set design and costumes are outstanding: look at the colors! Those military buttons!
We wanted to re-create this feeling, in our images. Huge kudos to my photographer Shutterbug James, assisted by Amy Kay. My crimped hair is the magnificent work of Stephanie Hoy, of Stratosphere Salon in Vancouver, Canada.
The Lobby Boy’s hat is integral to his look. I DIY-ed a “Lobby Girl” version of the cap — using felt, fabric and letters, which I painted with gold sparkly nail polish.
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver was the ideal setting, with its gilded interiors that date back to the early 20th century.
The interior is full of symmetry and decadent shapes, which would please Mr Anderson. I’ll gladly help guests plan a fun trip…
… but I’ll let the lobby boys do the heavy lifting. (Above is the hotel exterior, in The Republic of Zubrowka.)
If you haven’t already, you must see the Grand Budapest Hotel (available online!). It’s become my favorite Wes Anderson movie.
The soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat is also wonderfully evocative. The CD is available here; it won the 2015 Oscar for best original score.
Cheers to Shutterbug James for the fun photoshoot.
Do you think we capture the feeling and aesthetics of the movie?
I even made a Mendl’s Bakery box, and we shot this at a nearby patisserie!
Thanks to Moov Magazine for putting this Lobby Girl on the cover.
And gratitude to my friends who came to the Odigo launch event.
Fashion One wrote an article about my “Tokyo takeover” — soon, you can watch my “day in the life” TV segment with this style network.
And there’s a lot more Japan coverage coming up, including an DecabarZ 80s club night, and a peek inside the Pokemon theme cafe.
If you’re interested in traveling to Japan, check out Odigo. You can plan trips, submit your own spots, and be part of the fun.
What do you think of my Grand Budapest Hotel costume? Are you a Wes Anderson fan like I am?
Oakland Cat Town Cafe, first to open in USA! ABC Nightline TV interview, Shinjuku Tokyo Robot restaurant.
So many maooos! Last December, I was honored to be interviewed on ABC Nightline, the long-running news program that is broadcast worldwide. The network flew me to San Francisco to be interviewed in a segment about cat cafes and the spread of J-pop culture to America.
If you missed this ABC Nightline episode, don’t fret — you can watch it below and on my YouTube channel. It includes footage of the psychedelic Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku, bikini-clad fembots and kawaii maid cafes!
The TV crew and I filmed at the first cat cafe to open in the USA: Cat Town Oakland (near San Francisco). Unlike Japanese kitty cafes, this one has a meaningful mission: to save at-risk abandoned felines.
Want to peek inside Cat Town and a J-pop mall in San Francisco? Then read on.
Click the items below, to build an outfit like mine!
My long, leather skirt is by the young Hong Kong-based designer, Erbert Chong. Everyone is raving about his leather, edgy yet wearable designs for women. I can’t get over the materials and finish of his pieces — they’re some of my favorite items in my wardrobe right now.
My white creeper shoes, with a pirate bear, are Peace Now. This Japanese brand has unfortunately shut down…
My coiled, silver 3D bracelet is from Angelica Brigade.
Everyone should have a cat ring, in my opinion! Here’s where you can get a cat-faced ring like mine.
Trevor joined me for the ABC Nightline TV news shoot at Cat Town (address: 2869 Broadway in downtown Oakland, California). Not a bad job, playing on-camera with a dozen kitties. (Watch the video here).
Like the Shinjuku cat cafe, the space is creatively decorated with all sorts of climbing platforms and toys.
Japanese cat cafes — cute as the concept is — tend to operate a bit like petting zoos. These cafes bring in rare purebred species, like exotic shorthairs, for the customers to enjoy.
In contrast, Cat Town is a partnership with Oakland Animal Services. The cafe provides a stimulating environment for shelter cats, especially the ones who are the least likely to be adopted. Volunteers help to run the space, and the goal is to let these abandoned cats blossom and find permanent adoptive homes.
As soon as you step into Cat Town, you feel that the operation is full of heart. The humans who work here puts the needs of the cats first (and the decor reinforces their prime position!)
The coffee shop is separate from the cat-petting area, but you can bring your latte inside and sip it while playing with cats. The cafe focuses on supporting local businesses, and sells small-batch pastries from a local baker, like cookies laced with “Cattitude.”
Like in the Tokyo cat cafes I visited, there are rules to follow, which keep the cats safe. However, unlike in Asia, guests don’t take off their shoes before entering, nor are they required to sanitize their hands.
(Do you see the Scottish Fold drawing in the top corner? It’s the only fold at the cafe, since this round-faced breed rarely ends up in animal rescues.)
I’ve been chatting with ABC Nightline’s team for some time now, and gave them travel tips when they went to Tokyo. As a follow-up for their Tokyo pop culture stories, I appeared on the show to give background and context on maid, cat and robot cafes in Japan.
Here I am with ABC News presenter Cecilia Vega, and producer / director Nick Capote. They’re so sweet, and we had a fun day together!
Cecilia and I wandered around Cat Town, and played with the cats. It’s great to see the strays thriving in this cat-tastic environment.
You can grab a cat toy, and they’ll pounce all over it. The walls are covered with colorful murals, including artwork of Grumpy Cat, Totoro, Nyan Cat and more pop culture icons.
The custom-built playgrounds are a tip of the hat to San Francisco’s landmarks, like the Tribune building.
Cecilia Vega and I chatted about the appeal of cat cafes, the spread of Japanese concept cafes to North America, and more. Watch our conversation on the ABC Nightline segment.
Peekaboo, I see you! The cats have a private room in the back where they can escape the crowds and sleep.
A few of the kitties couldn’t take their paws off our film equipment. Several took a nap in a camera bag.
Rescuing and re-homing cats continue to be a challenge in cities worldwide. Animal shelters do great work, but are over-crowded and stressful.
So far, Cat Town is succeeding at giving them space to thrive.
Already, adoption rates are up: customers will play with the cats and fall in love with one. All the adoptions go through a screening process, to make sure the pets go to secure homes.
The volunteers genuinely care about the cats, and do the best for them. As an example, I noticed that they feed the kitties Wellness — a byproduct-free, grain-free brand that I feed my own Scottish Fold baby, Basil Farrow. The staff told me that they turned down sponsorship offers from big-name cat food companies, since this mass-produced food doesn’t contain the best ingredients for their health. Go Cat Town!
Another instance of dedication: co-founder Adam has a tattoo of their coffee partner’s logo (Bicycle Coffee), with cat-ears and whiskers. On the left, Trevor strokes a black cat, which matches his look.
For these reasons, I’ve been recommending Cat Town to everyone who visits San Francisco. It’s the first cat cafe to open up in America, and hopefully sets the standard for a meaningful, adoption-oriented approach.
Entry is by donation; you can reserve a guaranteed visitation time with a minimum $10 donation. Every hour, about 20 people are allowed into the space, and you can play with about 10-15 felines.
Trevor, the ABC team and I took a quick lunch break in SF’s Japan Town. I’m still thinking about the ramen at Waraku, it was that good!
We continued filming for the episode at New People World, the Japanese fashion mall. (The address and a tour of the boutiques are in my San Francisco shopping guide.)
MaruQ, located on the first floor, remains my favorite store in the Jpop mall. So much cuteness in one room, including brands like Ayammy, Omocat and Liz Lisa.
Raise your paw if you love Rilakkuma the bear! (Sadly, this segment was cut from the ABC Nightline feature, but I still wanted to share these images with you.)
Cecilia and I walked around the store, and chatted about the growing popularity of Japanese street fashion in America. Can you spot Trevor in the background?
Gothic tattoos and a rainbow cat dress: spooky meets sweet, that’s how we roll.
The shop girls are adorable as ever. They’re modeling a variety of looks from Japanese style tribes.
Trevor couldn’t resist getting these sunglasses. “And I won’t break your heart shaped glasses.”
For more info on where to get Goth, vintage, alternative and kawaii clothing, check out my San Fran shopping guide.
A million “arigatos” for the ABC Nightline team, for having me on the program!
Please take a moment to watch my interview on ABC Nightline! The segment includes crazy footage from the Robot Restaurant in Japan (with robot-women performers), maid cafes, and cat cafes in Tokyo and California.
Have you ever been to a cat cafe? Would you want one to open in your hometown?
Shop my ABC TV outfit below…