KKS: What attracts you to your different styles of expertise, and Goth specifically? Had you shown any signs of being fashionably bold at a young age, and what is your main goal or statement that you try to convey through your style?
La Carmina: Halloween was my favorite holiday from the time I was very young. My mother liked to dress me in chic clothes from Hong Kong (I had a teal-colored dress with a kawaii cat face that I refused to take off). As a teen, I loved to experiment with Goth, punk and alternative fashions. I was awe-struck by the Harajuku street style I saw on summer vacations in Asia.
I’ve never tried to convey any particular statement; I enjoy dressing up elaborately and expressing myself visually. I like to mix styles, so I draw inspiration from Goth, cyber, Lolita, steampunk and other alt fashion. Perhaps the thread that holds it together is curiosity and courage in my individual style, regardless of what others might think.
KKS: Who are your fashion icons and why?
La Carmina: I adore the styling of Visual Kei / alt Japanese musicians like Mana, Kaya, Kanon Wakeshima. But most of all, I’m inspired by my “pirates” — my friends and underground associates, who never fail to create out-of-this-world looks.
KKS: How would you say youth culture differs in America and Japan?
La Carmina: It’s hard to generalize about youth culture in general, but among style/subculture tribes, there’s more emphasis on visual expression in Japan. In Harajuku, you’ll see Sweet Lolitas in candy-floss dresses and lace bows in their hair. Or boys with hair that spikes up to the clouds.
KKS: Ok, so tell us which cities in the world are the best in the following areas:
Night Life: For Goth Industrial EBM music and flamboyant fetish parties, Tokyo and Osaka are the best in the world. I have a full Japan Alt Nightlife Guide on my site, which includes maps, directions and photos: http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/2009/04/japan-goth-club-nightlife-guide-tokyo-decadance-dark-castle-midnight-mess-gothic-lolita-heaven/
Food/Eating out: I love izakayas, sushi and traditional/street food (such as okonomiyaki and takoyaki)… so again, I’ll go with Tokyo and Osaka. And I urge every visitor to check out a maid café or theme restaurant. I wrote about about Tokyo’s craziest, wackiest theme restaurants (http://www.lacarmina.com/tokyorestaurants.php), which include Alcatraz ER, Vampire, Valley of the Fairies, monkey waiters, cat cafes and more.
Fun on a budget: 100 yen (dollar) stores are my wonderland. I stock up on dramatic false eyelashes, stickers and gems to use as eye decorations, nail art polish and various cute items. I’m also fond of making ridiculous videos with my friends; you can see our adventures on my YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/user/lacarmina
Friendliness of the natives: Shout-out to my hometown: Vancouver, Canada. The locals are very nice here.
Weird-ness of the natives: I still have nightmares about the mascots at the Hello Kitty theme park, Puroland. http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/2010/05/sanrio-puroland-hello-kitty-theme-park-in-tokyo-japan-strange-kids-amusement-park-hello-kitty-rides-costumes-musical-performances/
Overall awesomeness: It’s hard to beat Tokyo. But I also love living in Los Angeles and New York.
KKS: Where is your favorite place to visit when you’re in LA? Where is the best place to go for gothic fashion accessories?
La Carmina: I’m a little bit obsessed with the food at M Café. The soy lattes! The chocolate cake! I’ve photographed and written about my favorite Goth clubs, parties and Jpop events in LA; here is the link to my guide: http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/2010/04/la-goth-club-nightlife-guide-goth-fashion-shopping-guide-where-to-buy-alternative-clothes-in-los-angeles/
KKS: What does it take to run a successful blog? How many people do have helping you?
La Carmina: It takes extreme, obsessive passion about the subject. A genuine enjoyment of the blogging medium (writing posts, editing photos, responding to comments). An eye for design. Regularly posted high-quality content. Social network building and interaction. And a stroke of luck — you never know what will get people reading.
I created and manage La Carmina blog (http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/) entirely on my own. Every once in a while, my friends write guest posts (mostly covering events in other cities). Finally, I couldn’t go on without the support of readers.
KKS: How did you get affiliated with CNNGo?
La Carmina: CNN launched an Asia travel / lifestyle website, and many prominent Asia pop culture authors got involved as contributors. I write for the Explorations section, which covers all of Asia. All my articles are here: http://www.cnngo.com/author/la-carmina
KKS: Do you have any advice for young professionals with not a lot of extra time but who love cute bento lunches?
La Carmina: Many busy bees have found my book, Cute Yummy Time (http://www.lacarmina.com/cookingcute.php), to be helpful. It contains 70 recipes that transform everyday healthy foods into kawaii characters, like the cute bentos found in Japan. Almost everything takes 10 minutes or less to decorate, and doesn’t require special equipment — so any one can do it!
KKS: How was law school? What knowledge do you bring from your time there to your business life now?
La Carmina: My law school savvy kicks in every single day. Contracts, negotiations, permissions. I think many artists shy away from business/legal learning, but it’s crucial if you want to protect yourself and reach your fullest potential.
La Carmina: Over the past two years, production companies have been finding my blog and inviting me to appear on their shows. My experience as a Japan TV host and “fixer” (making arrangements for TV shoots) has included CNN, NHK, Travel Channel, Canal Plus, Sony Australia, Dutch Pepsi. My first mate, Naomi Rubin is fluent in Japanese and a pro at scheduling/negotiating, so she’s been the perfect partner in the last few shoots. We decided to set up a proper website to showcase our experience and services: La Carmina & The Pirates. (http://www.lacarmina.com/pirates) One day after unveiling our business, we had an offer from NRK, the national TV station in Norway. This Halloween, we’ll be scheduling and appearing on their TV shoot in Tokyo!
KKS: What was the hardest part of starting La Carmina and the Pirates? What difficulties did you have to overcome?
La Carmina: So far, it’s been nothing but smooth sailing. My readers have been wonderfully supportive, and companies are reaching out to us about working with them. We hope to keep expanding our pirate crew and working in a variety of media.
KKS: Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?
La Carmina: Buck up and do it. Now. It’s better to launch five projects and have one succeed — than to sit around, doing and learning nothing. Today, it’s possible to get started on nearly no budget; I taught myself video/photo editing and web design, so the sole expense was a URL (lacarmina.com) and a hosting plan. As my readership grew, I went with whatever opportunities presented themselves — writing books, journalism, coolhunting, TVhosting.
KKS: What is the most difficult decision you have ever had to make?
La Carmina: While at Yale, I realized I had no passion for practicing law, and despaired a bit over what to do with myself. I considered and explored a number of creative options, none of which were quite right. But once I got hooked on blogging about Japanese pop culture and fashion, the fog cleared.
KKS: What are you most excited about right now?
La Carmina: Halloween revelry in Tokyo! I’ll be working with Norway TV and attending a Goth wedding. Above all, I’m so excited about La Carmina & The Pirates, my new trend consulting and Jpop TV services company. (http://www.lacarmina.com/pirates/) We have scurvy plans ahead… stay tuned for announcements.
KKS: What do you think is the key to a happy life?
La Carmina: A dependable crew, a sense of meaningful contribution, new experiences and opportunities to learn and grow. Plus living with the world’s cutest Scottish Fold cat… that’s instant happiness! (Check out my kitty Basil Farrow’s blog: http://lacarmina.com/basilfarrow/)