What are you wearing today? Tell us about your outfit.
I spent the day exploring Hong Kong — I’m here with my film team, working with the new Sav hotel in Hung Hom. They flew us here to do a video about the opening, and I’m decorating my very own “La Carmina room” at the hotel! Since Hong Kong’s weather is hot and humid, I wore a casual, cotton grey and turquoise dress with leopard print. I got it second-hand in Tokyo. (The photos of me with the robot show the dress).
You’re an icon in the world of subculture fashion. Could you describe your favorite styles to us?
I’m inspired by Japanese style tribes, such as J-Gothic (spooky cute), Lolita (elegant Victorian-style dresses), Fairy Kei (pastels, retro) and Gyaru. There’s a lot of layering and kawaii involved in these street styles. Every time I return to Tokyo, I love to see what people are wearing in the underground scenes.
It appears that many of the styles that have influenced you come from Asian street and underground cultures. How did you get involved in these international fashion scenes?
My parents are from Hong Kong, so I frequently traveled with them to visit family in Asia, starting from the time I was a year old. (Fun fact: I was part of the Cathay Pacific Young Discoverers club, back in the 90s!) I also had some relatives in the fashion industry. As a result, I observed these styles up-close, from a very young age, and had the opportunity to acquire brands found only in Asia. I started wearing these styles in my teen years, and started my La Carmina blog in 2007 — and everything grew from there.
On that note, what do you think is different/similar between Western and Asian subculture fashion, if one were to be so bold as to make that distinction?
It’s hard to generalize, but Asian underground fashion tends to have layering, greater degrees of modesty, a focus on quality materials, and “kawaii” cuteness. For example, a Japanese Gothic Lolita might wear a ruffled blouse and bell skirt that goes over the knee, with a heat-shaped purse and pattern tights. She’d emphasize details and craftsmanship, such as high-quality lace. On the other hand, a typical “Western Goth club” look might be a short PVC skirt, fishnets, and a corset top.
Okay an easier question—you appear to love to experiment with your hair so what has been your favorite hair color so far?
I’ve tried pretty much every shade of the rainbow! These days, I gravitate to the cooler hues: reds, blues, purples. I think they suit me best, and stay in longer (pastels tend to fade out fast for me).
It appears you are also an experienced travel blogger. What has been your favorite destination in terms of fashion whether that be based on the area’s shops, the street fashions, etc.?
It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I recently had a terrific time in Seoul, Korea. I loved exploring the slick K-pop culture, fashion and strange theme cafes in youth districts like Hongdae. I drank cocktails out of medical bags at a robot bar, hung out with YouTube stars Eat Your Kimchi, and ate cat-shaped cake at a Hello Kitty cafe.
What about the destination in terms of food? Food is always good.
Tokyo is hard to beat. The traditional food is unlike anywhere else in the world, and you can find great eats for cheap: takoyaki, ramen, izakayas, conveyer belt sushi, curry… The list goes on. I also enjoy visiting bizarre theme cafes, such as robot restaurants, 8-bit video game bars, and owl-petting cafes!
Speaking of travel, you were in San Francisco last week. What did you think of the Bay? What was your favorite moment during your trip out here?
San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the world. I grew up in Vancouver, so the lifestyle suits me and I could easily live in SF. I adore the fresh seafood, beaches, architecture… and there’s a vibrant alternative scene, with roots in the 1960s hippie era. I stayed at the San Francisco Zen Center, filmed with ABC Nightline at the new cat cafe, and did a vintage kimono shoot at the Conservatory of Flowers. You can see all my SF posts here.
San Francisco is a mecha for art especially for that of independent artists. Do you have any art or artists who inspire you?
Absolutely, art is a big inspiration in my life. I adore the works of Art Nouveau master, Alphonse Mucha. As for modern artists, I recently had a wonderful time exploring the alternative galleries of New Orleans’ French Quarter. Local artist Kevin Thayer also did a live portrait of me, turning me into one of his dreamy, big-eyed subjects. I wrote about this here, with tons of photos.
As an experienced blogger, do you have tips for those looking to be as established and “quality” as you are?
Quality is a key word, and these days, bloggers are getting more and more professional. It’s important to keep up in terms of photography (shooting with DSLR cameras), site design (sleek and fast-loading, with medium-large images hosted on Cloudfront), technical know-how, and of course writing (at regular intervals). These days, I focus on longer posts and stories that open people’s eyes to some aspect of travel and culture, in addition to style. Social media is also a means to reach new audiences and interact.
BARE is a magazine made by and marketed to fellow college students. To all the college students out there who often have trouble juggling trying to look cute and making it to that 8am lecture, do you have a piece of advice to offer them?
I’d encourage them not to stress over looking cute! Education comes first – I graduated from Columbia University and Yale Law, and so much of what I learned went into my current blogging career. Most bloggers present only the “public” side of their lives, so it may seem like we’re perfectly coiffed all the time… but that’s not actually the reality. I also made a conscious decision to not blog in “real time,” meaning that my posts are often about events that happened months before. This way, the focus is on meaningful content, and not superficial daily appearance.
The theme of our issue this semester is “Me.” So I have to ask: what makes you you?
Funny you should ask, since I’m quite interested in Buddhism and recently have been reading more about no-self and impermanence… When I think about it, the external identifiers I’m known for (the way I dress, etc) aren’t truly essential to who I am. I don’t really have an answer, but for anyone struggling with change and identity, Herodotus has wise words: ‘No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.’
Last question: list the last five songs you’ve listened to.
I was doing a magazine cover shoot, and the makeup artist played vinyl records from her uncle’s collections. We listened to ELO (Turn to Stone), Led Zeppelin (Kashmir, In my Time of Dying), The Doors (Strange Days), Procol Harum (Whiter shade of pale).
Photo credits go to http://www.lacarmina.com and http://instagram.com/lacarmina. Also, check out La Carmina on any or all of these social media platforms: