I’m thrilled to announce my next TV project: I’ll be a guest on the award-winning late night news program, ABC Nightline! We’ll be shooting a segment in San Francisco about concept cafes and J-pop culture. I can’t reveal all the details yet, but I’ll fill you in before the program airs so that you can watch.
And then, I’ll be in the city of vampires and voodoo: New Orleans! Anne Rice’s home has been on my wish list for a long time, and thanks to NOLA Tourism, I’ll be diving deep into the dark culture.
Speaking of dark fashion, Black Friday is one of the best times to pick up Goth, rock and edgy clothing at much lower prices. Above are some of my picks (click the black “+” sign in the top right corner to shop the look). These include a black Shakuhachi Tulip Dress and Blade Runner Shirt Dress.
You can also purchase clothing from my own wardrobe — including Japanese street style brands — at discount prices right here.
Since I’m off to San Francisco, it seems fitting to talk about one of my favorite stores in the city: Loved to Death. Like the name implies, this shop is a lovingly curated collection of morbid art and antiques. Expect to see taxidermy mice, baby coffins and other odds and ends.
Perhaps some of you recognize Loved to Death as the site of the TV show, Oddities San Francisco. It’s a spin-off of the Science / Discovery Channel hit series, Oddities New York. Remember when I appeared on the show, and bought a giant deer? (Here’s my Oddities video clip if you missed it.)
It’s easy to recognize the entrance of Loved to Death, from the swirling Gothic swirling sign. (Address: 1681 Haight St, San Francisco, 94117)
The posterboard invites passersby to come in and browse “creepy little things, as seen on Oddities SF.” (This show is sadly no longer running, but you can watch past episodes here.)
The store window features a two-headed skeleton, which you may have seen on the TV show .
When you enter, look up. There’s a Medusa chandelier hanging from the ceiling.
Our friend Trevor put us in touch with Loved to Death owner, Audra Kunkle. She opened this store to share her love of dark, eccentric antiques.
Photography is usually forbidden in Loved to Death, but Audra kindly let us take photos, so that I can share this story with you.
The small store was packed with shoppers. Many are fans of Oddities, and make pilgrimages to San Francisco to see the staff and take home souvenirs like stuffed bats.
Not sure if these animals come with the Goth-Rococo black chandelier!
We loved meeting the staff, and chatting about their favorite creepy items.
I’m impressed by the number of rare items. These brown poison jugs are from the 1940s.
Here’s a hat fit for a Civil War military drummer boy, or a pirate in training.
Glass absinthe drips, vintage ouija boards, and skulls intricately carved with floral designs. This is my type of Goth home decor.
This is also a fun place to people-watch, and meet fellow spooks. Outside, we ran into these two ladies in beautiful sugar skull fairy makeup.
It goes without saying, we loved Loved to Death! If you aren’t familiar with this TV show (I appeared in the NY edition), you can watch Oddities NY here.
Loved to Death is on Haight Street, one of my favorite shopping areas in San Francisco. For more tips, check out my guide to SF shopping — including New People World Lolita dresses, future-tribe fashion, and hippie hangouts.
If you could take home one item from the Oddities San Fran shop, what would it be? Don’t forget to let me know your New Orleans, Louisiana suggestions and check out the Black Friday sales!
If a single photo could sum up the awesomeness of Hong Kong, it would be this one: Cats in space! “Ground control to Major Tom-Cat…”
Hong Kong is known as a shopping and eating destination, but I always associate the city with modern art. There’s a wonderful annual art fair, and cute public installations such as the one above (see also the 100 Doraemons and Hello Kitty cafe).
Did you know that Hong Kong’s cool art scene extends even to restaurants? Let me take you on a tour of “edible art” in the city, from Basquiat murals to strawberry molecular desserts… and Miffy Cake!
For my foray into “cats space travelling,” I wore a Shakuhachi Future Minimal dress from West LA Boutique. It’s become one of my go-to pieces: the spongy fabric and pleated skirt are comfortable, yet give you a polished look.
Filmmaker Melissa Rundle and I turned the robot-cat into a Scottish Fold, by covering its ears. This funny mural was by the entrance of Hung Hom station (the exhibit constantly changes, but is usually something cute). This character is Jentle-Cat, a Hong Kong mascot.
Time to experience more art, this time combined with food. My friends and I went to Bibo, a new French restaurant that takes “the art of fine dining” quite literally.
John Skeleton shares his impressions of this eccentric Sheung Wan restaurant.”Even if there wasn’t any food to rave about, it would still be well worth your time to check out this strangely eclectic mix of pop and street art, all seamlessly blended into an integrated experience that calls to mind Paris of the 1930s.”
Every crevice of Bibo is decorated with modern masterpieces by artists I’m sure you’ve heard of: Keith Haring, Banksy, Takashi Murakami, Invader.
Even though the works are so eclectic, the interior design feels cohesive.
Each dining space was surrounded by different works. We had Space Invaders and an 8-bit princess next to us.
Within minutes of sitting down, we knew Bibo was a gem. Our waiter was fun to chat with, and the warm bread was so satisfying (served with red pepper spread) that we devoured two orders. The creative cocktails, with flavors like Asian 5-spice, were some of the best I’ve had in the city.
John writes, “The gastronomic delights are just as fabulous as the décor. Using the finest ingredients and heavy on luxurious items like truffles and foie gras, the contemporary French menu is sure to please.”
“Even better, for Goths and those with a passion for the Belle Époque, what is most likely the best selection of absinthe in Hong Kong is presented in the traditional style – mixed with ice-cold water slowly dripped from an elegant fountain over a sugar cube on a slotted spoon.
Highly recommended is Butterfly, a take on a U.S. pre-Prohibition recipe that uses mint and other herbs to put a unique spin on the classic Green Faerie.”
When we set up this photo, our waiter joked, “I don’t think Jean-Michel Basquiat wants to eat lobster tonight!” But we were delighted by this dish, as well as a Dover sole and Australian Wagyu filet mignon.
Dessert was both tasty and a work of abstract art: spiced rum sponge cake with vanilla chantilly and strawberry sorbet. We devoured the baked-to-order chocolate and black currant soufflé so quickly that I wasn’t able to take a photo of it! Trust us, it’s a must-eat.
Everything about Bibo works: the smartly-dressed staff, expertly prepared food, and cheeky decor.
On another evening, we ate at a new Chinese restaurant inside the art hub, PMQ.
John says, “If you’ve sampled the exquisite international delights of Hong Kong’s gourmet scene and are looking for something a little more local, SOHOFAMA offers a little slice of Chinese home cooking with a healthy philosophy of sustainable eating to back it up.”
I confess that I usually am not fond of Chinese food. It tends to be heavy and often seasoned with monosodium glutamate, which makes me nauseous. What a relief to eat at Sohofama, where the chefs use “locally sourced, organic ingredients to create Cantonese comfort food without any MSG or excessive grease.”
True to this approach, the art mixes Chinese and modern, all with a clean and warm feeling. The interior design is by G.O.D., a local design collective.
Co-owner Edwin Chuang (who also invited us to his Pacific Cebu Resort) told us that the chandelier was an impromptu piece, made from colorful toy water guns.
Sohofama has its own organic herb garden, and uses these ingredients in its dishes. We tried mocktails made from fresh berries and mint.
John’s favorite “was the xiao long bao, well-balanced dumplings with a thin skin surrounding savory soup and meat without any unnecessary oil.” Also marvelous are the 24-hour drunken prawns, and a seared organic pork with garlic that tastes just like beef.
Next, we returned to one of the most creative and delicious restaurants in all of Hong Kong: Naked Gurume Gyarari (グルメ画廊).
John raves, “Once again Justin Chan’s Japanese fusion tapas establishment came out the winner among all of the amazing places we visited this time around. ” Above is the “Sexy Naked” sushi — we had it the first time we visited, and couldn’t get it out of our minds.
“Naked never fails to impress with its menu, from black truffle lotus root chips to a poached crow’s egg with big-eye tuna on a crispy wonton wrap.” On the right, Justin wowed us with tapas that combine sea urchin and an olive oil roe (made using molecular gastronomy).
Like last time, each dish was a winner, and drew from the chef’s personal experiences. We adored this grilled hamachi collar with vegetables and mashed potatoes.
Chef Justin ended with a flourish: a dessert plate full of strawberries in just about every form imaginable, including freeze-dried and sun-dried. “Friendly staff and an elegant, chic modern Asian atmosphere, its always good to get Naked in Hong Kong!”
Ready to admire more food and art? “Hong Kong is known for having just about every variety of cuisine available from around the world, so the problem becomes how to figure out just which place to visit when you have a hankering for a specific culinary genre. If you’re in the mood for authentic Thai, Chachawan is the place to go,” says John.
“Highlights of our meal included Khao Pad wok of fried rice with crab meat, egg, and spring onions, and the succulent Pla Phao Glua, a salt-encrusted whole sea bass stuffed with lemongrass, pandanus, and lime leaf, lovingly cooked over a fire and served with a chili dipping sauce, perfect for sharing with a group of friends!”
The atmosphere at Chachawan is just as inspired, with an intricate mural by Caratoes. Love the detailing on the golden claws.
Finally, we tried the cutest food of all… a Miffy cake! These confectioneries, shaped like the Dutch characters Miffy and Melanie, are sold at Arome Bakery (which has many locations all over Hong Kong).
You can pre-order the adorable cake online, and pick it up from any branch. At one restaurant, the diners next to us brought out a Miffy cake! It was so sad when they cut off her ears.
To celebrate Eric’s birthday, we ordered him a chocolate mousse Melanie cake. The shape and face are 100% on point. You must be wondering, how did it taste?
See for yourself, in the funny video above. Things got pretty crazy when we cut the cake… “Miffehhhh!”
PS: Someone asked which camera I use for photography. From mid-2014 onward, images are taken with the Sony A7, a mirrorless DSLR camera. My travel videos are mostly filmed on a Canon 5D Mark II, which is what many fashion bloggers use to shoot outfit photos. Underwater footage is from a GoPro camera.
PPS: Speaking of cats, Basil Farrow has sniffed out a favorite new book: The Art of Gothic, by Natasha Scharf! This full-color tome covers the many manifestations of Goth, from death rock to cyber to Lolita. My friends SiSen and Gothique Prince Ken (GPK) are featured…
… and I’m interviewed in the Japanese Goth section, along with a full-page photo. (Makeup by Jennifer Little of A Little Artistry, hair by Isolde Semple, styling/assisting by Tracy Cake). For a gorgeous, comprehensive and intelligent overview of Goth subculture, check out Natasha Scharf’s The Art of Gothic (available here).
Coming up: I’ll announce my next two destinations, and unveil a new design! I hope the video made you smile. Would you want a Miffy cake for your next birthday?
My team and I were in the Philippines to film a video about Pacific Cebu Resort (did you see my post about this gorgeous place?) We met the mayor of Lapu-Lapu — one of the biggest cities in Cebu — and she arranged for her tourism board to take us on an island-hopping beach excursion.
There’s no better backdrop for this Unif rainbow tie-dye robe, also from West LA Boutique (check out their fabulous online store, which carries brands like these). It’s the perfect swimwear cover-up, with a fringe that moves in the wind. Unif also makes a rainbow tie-dye skirt and colorful sneakers.
We met our Lapu-Lapu guide, and hopped onto a boat. I walked the front plank like a pirate, and let the wind blast through my robe and hair.
(The above 5 photos are by K of Bright Production in Hong Kong. The rest of the images are by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann.)
A Titanic moment, at the bow of the boat. How I love my Technicolor dream coat.
About 30 minutes later, we docked at Caohagan Island. I couldn’t believe my eyes: white sand, pristine waters, and almost no-one else there.
Travelers tend to overlook Cebu as a beach destination, which is a mistake. It’s not expensive to stay in the Philippines, and you get a far more authentic experience than if you went to a place like Phuket, which is over-run with tourists.
There aren’t any Starbucks on this island. You pick your seafood fresh from the local vendors, and they’ll cook it up for you.
What on Earth is this striped sea-creature?
It’s a mantis shrimp, a lobster-like Southeast Asian crustacean. They move in a creepy-crawly way, as you can see in my Instagram video.
I find it thrilling when I come across local food that I can’t recognize. Not sure exactly what type of conch and clams these are, but I’m willing to try.
Our Lapu-Lapu tourism rep took charge and ordered a selection of seafood for us to share.
While we waited for our meal to be cooked fresh, we browsed other stalls that sold handmade jewelry. The Philippines is an easy destination to visit because many locals speak English, and accept American dollars as currency.
Black Mustache meets Rainbow Brite. Filmmaker Melissa and I waded into the calm and warm shore.
In the reflection of Melissa’s heart-shaped sunglasses (get them here), you can see the palm trees and beaches of Caohagan.
Apparently, these Japanese men are in on the secret! Cebu is not far from Japan and Hong Kong, but still, not many people think of it when they plan a vacation.
Time to chow down on seafood, lightly seasoned with Asian flavors. Crab, squid, fish, abalone, mantis shrimp, conch… I’ll let the photo above speak for itself.
After, to wash off, all you need to do is jump back into the ocean. Ah, the island life!
Only a few hundred people live on this tropical isle, mostly working as fishermen and craftspeople. I enjoyed seeing how the residents of Caohagan lived.
It didn’t take long to walk across the barangay (or village). We ran into a lively parade of Filipino schoolchildren!
They all waved and smiled at us. So sweet, these school uniforms.
Aren’t you tempted to climb this treehouse, camouflaged by leaves?
These children insisted on posing for photos. I must have taken a dozen snaps of them.
Sad that we had to leave Caohagan, but there were more islands to explore. Since the waters were so shallow, we had to ride this little “jukung” in order to board the larger “banca,” or pump boat.
By now, I’m sure you see why this Lapu Lapu adventure was one of my favorites this year.
Cebu’s weather is humid, and I was glad to cool off during the boat ride.
We arrived at Nalusuan Island, a resort and marine sanctuary. Located in the Olango Reef, these waters are rich with sea life.
Case in point: this is what the sea floor looked like, from the pier. How many starfish can you count?
Sipping a fresh coconut in the Philippines, under waving palm trees. If this doesn’t convince you to come here, I don’t know what will.
Cebu has it all. Marine diversity, snorkel and scuba, white beaches, clear waters, an intriguing culture, flavorful local food… and at much lower prices than Bali or Bangkok.
As I mentioned before, I have some eye and skin sensitivities that make activities like snorkeling impossible. Melissa and I stayed on shore and threw fish food at Eric, and he filmed them splashing around.
He used a Go Pro underwater camera to capture the experience of snorkeling. We’re excited to show you the fish in action, when we release our travel video.
How do you like my rainbow Gothic beachwear? Were you as surprised by Cebu as I was?
While in Taipei, I stayed at Le Meridien — a hotel that could easily be mistaken for a modern art museum. The focus is on Asian art with a sense of humor. Walking around, I encountered apologetic cavemen statues and grumpy fish.
Speaking of fun art… If you want a custom portrait of your pet (like the one of Basil Farrow above) then make sure you read to the end of this post. Lots of cute cat photos await you!
Let’s start with a tour of Le Meridien. When you step into the lobby, you’ll see an immense statue of a giraffe with his head bowed. Made from stainless steel by Chinese artist Li Hui, the animal represents the hotel’s dedication to guests.
Le Meridien belongs to the Starwood group, and opened not long ago (November 2010). Despite being an international name, the hotel has a boutique feel.
The large suites are popular for special occasions, especially New Year’s Eve. Can’t beat this window view of Taipei 101.
The building is located in Taiwan’s downtown business district, Xinyi. The proximity makes it ideal for both work and play (since the best bars are also located here).
At Le Meridien Taipei, art an essential part of the guest experience. The 160 rooms contain different works, putting art within reach of every traveler. This living room had X-ray photo of luggage above the sofa, by Nick Veassey.
I was charmed by these seemingly child-like drawings by Ye Yongqing. Primitive, simple, yet profound.
Anyone can come into the property and stroll through the public spaces. Contemporary art is everywhere, and you can take photos of (or with) it.
I got into a fight with this caveman, who tried to apologize.. but I wasn’t having any of it! (It’s by Cao Hui, one of my favorite Chinese contemporary artists. His remarkable works mix humor and morbidness.)
Another favorite: these “The Little Prince” quotes by the elevators. The twisted wire is abstract, but it creates shadows that form words from the famous novel. (The hotel features international artists too; this is by Fred Eerdekens of Belgium.)
My blue hair matches the hue of Taipei 101, which used to be the tallest structure in the world. I’m wearing a white sheer caftan by Show Me Your Mumu, and a rainbow tie-dye top with a Gothic harness collar, by Gladnews Japan.
Le Meridien Taipei is not just about design — it’s also a 5 star stay. Wouldn’t you like to soak in this freestanding bathtub?
Or in the swimming pool? I was tempted to jump in, outfit and all.
I can’t help but smile when I see “Dream Fish” by Hiroshi Ohashi, a Japanese Buddhist carver inspired by fairy tales. Look close: those are dolls riding on his scales!
Le Meridien’s luxurious seafood buffet is one of the most popular in Taipei, with a current waiting list of three months! The price for a buffet meal is about $30 US, but that includes sushi and eclairs.
The PR team treated my photographers and me to lunch at My Humble House, the Cantonese restaurant found in the hotel.
They’re known as one of the best dim sum spots in the city. I could have eaten these truffle-and-veggie steamed dumplings all day.
The dishes are hearty favorites — spicy tofu, barbequed duck — with an upscale twist, like these flecks of gold.
We also ate at Quube, a chic restaurant with tasty cocktails. The food ranges from Asian specials, like chicken fried rice…
… to Italian pasta with lobster, and tomato and bocconcini salad.
Quube’s dishes are perfect for sharing: there’s something for everyone. Images taken by Ken Yuen and noircorner.
I leave you with these Meng Jin paintings. They reflect on how everything changes while you’re travelling, but the sky is the same — no matter where you are. Thank you to Le Meridien Taipei for this inspiring experience.
Speaking of animal art… a huge package from artist Bitsy Knox arrived for us. Basil Farrow couldn’t wait to look inside.
So he used his big, plush feet to try to open up the cardboard! He was right — the present was for him.
We uncovered… a custom painting of my Scottish Fold cat! Basil gives it a sideways-paw of approval.
Isn’t the resemblance uncanny? Basil’s round face, plush fur and short tail are perfectly rendered. Huge thanks to Bitsy Knox, a Canadian artist living and working in Berlin, for this adorable painting.
Would you like a custom painting of your cat or dog? Just contact Bitsy Knox through her website, and send her a few photos. She’ll create a custom work that perfectly captures your pet’s look and personality. It would be the perfect Christmas gift, especially for animal lovers.
Do you buy your pets presents? Did you enjoy the cheeky works of art in this post?