La Carmina's alternative Goth fashion, travel and pop culture blog - [Blog] - has led to international TV presenting, press trips and appearances, including New York Fashion Week. She's a Huffington Post Travel journalist, author of 3 books (Penguin and Random House), and hosts TV shows for Discovery, National Geographic, Food Network, Travel Channel and more. Visit her site for spooky-cute Harajuku fashion, Goth nightlife, youth subcultures, theme cafes and Scottish Fold cats. Vampire Freaks got to chat to La Carmina about Jpop, Jgoth, her life in TV, food and also Scottish Fold cats.
Hi La Carmina, thank you so much for giving Vampire Freaks this interview. Can we start by giving our readers a little info about yourself?
I'm a spooky-cute pirate... a.k.a. full-time blogger, journalist and TV host. My work specializes in Goth fashion, alternative travel, and subcultures around the world, but especially in Japan. I started La Carmina blog (http://www.lacarmina.com/blog) in September 2007. I fell in love with blogging as a way to express my passion for underground fashion and alt culture. Gradually, the site built a following and led to projects I never dreamed were possible, including modelling, writing books for Random House and Penguin (info at http://www.lacarmina.com/books.php) and hosting TV shows. To date, my television work includes: Travel Channel “Bizarre Foods,” Food Network, Discovery TV “Oddities”, National Geographic “Taboo”, “The Doctors,” “Today Show,” CNN. You can see my film clips at http://www.lacarmina.com/bio.php
As well as being an alternative model you also have your own clothing line. You recently did a very noble thing and released clothing to help Japan’s Earthquake victims.
What was your inspiration behind the designs of this line?
Over the past few years, I’ve partnered with a variety of clothing brands on design collaborations. Since I have many friends in Japan and spend so much time in this wonderful country, the 2011 earthquake was devastating to me. Seby and I co-founded the Project HOPE, a t-shirt line with Japanese label Like Atmosphere. Various artists contributed designs, with proceeds going to the victims of the tsunami and earthquake. We also partnered with Soho Hearts on a panda bear necklace that benefits charities. There's more info at (http://www.lacarmina.com/main.php).
I personally am a cat lover and love my Manx cat Millie, he is a big ball of fluff and so loveable. You are a lover of Scottish Fold cats, what is it about Scottish Fold cats that you like so much?
My adorable kitty is named Basil Farrow, and he's like a real-life teddy bear! Pleasantly plump, furry, with no ears, no nose, sideways feet. Scottish Folds are an incredible breed: they are unbelievably gentle and cuddly, and love being around people. Basil's irresistible when he sits like a Buddha, stands up on his hind legs or lays upside-down. You can see his daily antics on my Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/lacarmina and Instagram (http://www.instagram.com/lacarmina).
You wrote a book about the crazy themed restaurants of Tokyo. What inspired you to write a book on themed restaurants and what was the highlight of your Tokyo tour?
I first noticed theme restaurants about 5 years ago, while traveling in Japan. I was fascinated by the cat cafes and monster restaurants, where you eat in jail cells while handcuffed, which didn't exist anywhere else. I started blogging about these cafes, and kept track of them as more developed. This led to my book Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo (http://www.lacarmina.com/tokyorestaurants.php) -- it's a collection of stories and photos from Japan’s wildest theme restaurants, such as monkey waiters and cosplay maids. All my books are available on my La Carmina site: http://www.lacarmina.com/books.php
As a child you weren’t as attracted to the alternative scene in America but when you experienced it in the Orient you were captivated, what was it about the Oriental alternative scene that you liked?
I love how Japanese Gothic fashion is more elegant and modest (long, decadent aristocrat gowns), in contrast to the revealing outfits in American clubs. J-Goth girls love layering with doll eyelashes and “kawaii” (cute) accessories, which you don’t see much in USA. Frilled skirts, corsets, big hair bows and glitter nail art suited me better.
I have noticed that the cyber scene has become quite big in Japan, what do you think it is about the scene that attracts the people of Japan to it and have you noticed major changes between the western and Japanese styles?
I think it's a breath of fresh air. The decora accessories, candy pastels and aristocrat Goth gowns are a world apart from what you'll find in Western malls. A lot of young people grow up watching anime and reading manga, and identify with the Japanese
fashion depicted in these works.
The Japanese scene is more flamboyant and extreme, why do you think that is and why do you feel people are more accepting?
Japan has a strong visual culture, which you can glimpse in the traditional festivals and geisha makeup. The society is a study in contrasts; there's a strong conformity component (salarymen, housewives), but also colourful, eclectic spaces for self-expression -- such as all-night fetish parties with drag queens and body modders. Here, you can dress as you want, and be who you want to be.
In the west over the last few decades we have seen a lot of Japanese and Oriental trends coming over. What is your favourite trend that has come to the west and what do you feel is the next big thing that may hit us from the Orient?
It's nice to see Jpop and Kpop fashion influencing Western stars. "Living anime doll" makeup transformations have been popular lately. I think there will be continued interest in Asian beauty products and cosmetics.
When did you start modelling, what styles have you modelled and what style is your favourite?
I don't really consider myself a model, but I like to collaborate with friends on creative photo shoots for magazines. We did a terrific Tim Burton Corpse Bride-inspired look, and a fetish space-queen outfit with bubbles blown in the background. There's a
selection of modelling photos in this gallery: http://www.lacarmina.com/photos.php
You often like to mix styles, which styles do you find work well together?
I draw inspiration from Goth, cyber, Lolita, Victorian, fetish, steampunk and other alternative fashion. I don't think there should be rules or restrictions -- I like to play around with the various styles.
Your ultimate mission is to portray the alternative style and community in a more fair way. Why do you think that the alternative community attracts so much prejudice and apart from your TV shows showing what some may see as the darker side of life what so you feel that you can do to help stop the prejudice?
There is so much prejudice and misunderstanding that goes on today (such as the media labelling Newtown's Adam Lanza a "Goth killer", and violence against Goths like Sophie Lancaster). I try to tackle misunderstandings and show the positive side of the culture in my books, TV programs and journalism. Hopefully, this helps to educate people about extreme body modifications, fetish culture and "weird Japan" -- or at least start a conversation.
La Carmina & The Pirates is your TV fixing company, can you tell our readers what La Carmina & The Pirates does and what TV programs you have done so far?
My First Mate Naomi and I began a “TV fixing” company, La Carmina & The Pirates (http://www.lacarmina.com/pirates ), which helps travel, culture and food shows film in Japan and worldwide. As fixers, we do local production coordination, translating and organization for shoots. We also do consulting on various projects: for example, we're currently helping a photojournalist arrange shoots with alt Japanese youths. Our crew specializes in Cool Japan, cosplay, fashion, music, art and youth subcultures. Recent TV hosting and arranging credits include Travel Channel, Food Network, Dutch Pepsi, Sony Australia, Canal Plus France, Belgium TV, NHK, Norway TV, Fuel, Discovery, National Geographic, Pro Sieben, and CNN. Hosting reel: [Click]
You have written three books with the main theme being food dealing with the cute, spooky and odd so what inspires you about the food aspect of life?
Food is another intriguing medium for creativity and design. With a bit of imagination, you can transform an everyday meal (such as oatmeal) into something cute and playful (such as shaping it like a cat, and adding a face made from fruit). My book Cute Yummy Time (http://www.lacarmina.com/cookingcute.php) has step by step instructions and photos on how to make food look "kawaii" or adorable.
When was it you got into blogging, what is it about that you love and why do you think your blog has become so popular?
I first heard of blogs around 2004-5. When I started La Carmina Blog in September 2007, I was a student at Yale Law, but felt frustrated by the lack of a creative outlet. Blogging was a perfect fit: it combined photography, writing, and interaction -- allowing me to share my love of Japanese Goth fashion and culture. I never expected blogging to become a career, since the medium was completely new and unrecognized. However, when it led to the book projects and TV appearances, I realized something was in the air. So I decided to pursue this road instead, and I’ve kept going. My advice: Blogging is not for everyone. It shouldn't feel forced or a chore. Do it because you feel compelled and love the medium, not for external reasons like page views.
I recently went to see Chthonic and must admit I was blown away by their music and their style. Are there any bands from Japan and the Orient that you feel we should know about?
A lot of people are unfamiliar with Visual Kei and Japan Goth bands. Check out Malice Mizer and Moi dix Mois. The guitarist and leader of these bands, Mana, is significant for his elegant Gothic aristocrat and Lolita fashion. His music, and the dark and romantic image that surrounds him, is inspiring for many Goths -- and drove my fascination with the culture, beginning my early teens.
Thank you so much for giving Vampire Freaks this interview, is there anything you would like to add?
I love connecting with like-minded creatives. I'm keen to keep growing and doing projects in TV, writing, and other media -- especially in the realms of Goth culture, travel and fashion. Reach out to me if you'd like to collaborate -- always up for new adventures! I also hope to visit some of my "bucket list" travel destinations this year. Stay tuned to my La Carmina social networks (@lacarmina) and my blog to see where I end up next. http://www.lacarmina.com/blog
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