La Carmina is a fashion, alternative culture, and travel TV host, journalist, and professional blogger. With all of this going on she is a very busy Lady of Steampunk. We are very lucky to have caught up with this globe trotter after a recent trip to the orient where she attended a very posh Steampunk event in Japan.
We’re very pleased to have you. Tell us, who is La Carmina?
I’m a TV host, journalist and blogger at lacarmina.com, who covers underground fashion, nightlife and arts worldwide. I’ve always been fascinated with alternative subcultures. As a teen, I was drawn to dark culture and aesthetics from past eras, such as Victorian England. I loved going to Goth clubs and dressing in retro/vintage styles.
When I started La Carmina blog (www.Lacarmina.com/blog) in 2007, blogging as a career was unheard of. I simply enjoyed the creative release I got from writing about Steampunk culture, Japanese Gothic fashion and other passions.
Gradually, my site connected with an audience, leading to bigger projects and life-changing challenges. To date, I’ve published three books (including Cute Yummy Time and Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants), and appeared in major TV shows like Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods”, Discovery’s “Oddities”, and Food Network “World’s Weirdest Restaurants.”
Everything came together into a “pirate ship,” or TV coordinating and hosting company that I run with “First Mate” Naomi Rubin (http://www.lacarmina.com/pirates). Some people describe us as coolhunters, since we give insight and access to underground cultures, and film TV shows in Japan and worldwide.
Today, I travel constantly for my work in travel TV presenting and journalism. I have a global video series on Huffington Post / AOL, where I explore alt culture worldwide (Prague, Mexico, Hong Kong and more). You can see my television clips at http://www.lacarmina.com/bio.php; they include The Doctors, The Today Show, Food Network.
You have traveled the world and been on a number of interesting programs, can you tell us about one of your most favorite adventures?
It’s easy to have fun when I visit alt-fashion-friendly cities like Tokyo, Berlin, Prague and Hong Kong. However, I’ve discovered that there is fascinating underground culture in the most unexpected of places. For instance, I did an AOL travel TV series called “Coolhunting Wisconsin,” where I discovered a retro love hotel with bondage beds, a spy themed bar, and a cheese castle! I also had a lovely time drinking absinthe in an intimate Phoenix, Arizona Goth party, and visiting a body modification studio specializing in subdermal implants. Realizing that there are alt cultures in hidden corners, I’ve simply become more eager to keep exploring the world.
You are always so well put together and beautiful from your hair to your clothes. You are always stunning in your TV appearances and modeling pictures are captivating and beautiful, when did you first decide to pursue fashion?
Ever since my early teens, I’ve been experimenting with neon hair colors and alternative looks. When I moved to NYC for university, I became inspired by the fashion around me, and learned more about designers and styling (the FIT Gothic exhibition, which exhibited gowns from the 18th century to the present, made an impact). I love the intersection of subculture fashion with music and culture, and try to express this both in my works and my personal style.
How did you get your start in Steampunk?
I’ve always loved adventure novels by Jules Verne, Sherlock Holmes stories, and tales from Victorian England like Jack the Ripper. However, I didn’t know about the term “steampunk” until about five years ago. Ronan Farrow (father of my Scottish Fold cat, Basil Farrow) introduced me to it when he was playing the video game BioShock. From then on, I visited websites, store and meet-ups to learn more about Steampunk, and explore it for myself. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to see the culture worldwide, from fashion designs in Prague, to picnics at Wave Gotik Treffen Leipzig, to the budding scene in Tokyo.
Other than Steampunk is there a particular style that calls out to you?
Like many members of the Japan alt community, I like to wear different styles and play around with them, to make my own unique expression. For example, in Japan, Steampunk often has a cute element to it, such as Gothic Lolita frilly dresses with clockwork and brass accessories. I also like to add inspiration from Harajuku style tribes into my outfits. In these photos, I’m wearing an octopus corset by Dracula Clothing (an appropriate symbol for Japan!), with anime-style hair and eye makeup. It’s a cute, poppy and colorful twist on the style.
Please, tell us about the Steampunk event you’ve recently attended in Japan?
The concept of Steampunk is only beginning to gain recognition in Japan, even though there have been many works that incorporate the aesthetic, such as Katsuhiro Otomo’s anime film “Steamboy.” My Tokyo-based friends Kenny Creation and Luke Chaos have been passionate about Steampunk for some time, and last year, they founded the event Steam Garden. On March 10th, I went to their fourth event, themed “Celtic Fantasy.” Luke and Kenny rented out the entire Christon Café Shinjuku (a theme restaurant filled with European relics), and filled it with tribal fire dancers, cosplay performances, Medieval food, and live music on period instruments. People from all over Japan traveled here to attend, as it’s the only regular, organized steampunk event in the country. Steam Garden attracts an extremely fashionable, well-dressed crowd, and I can’t wait for the next one in July.
Rumor has it that Steampunk is becoming more of a mainstream fixture. Do you feel this might be detrimental or positive to the subculture?
A bit of both. It’s disheartening that there’s a new Japanese idol-pop group that describes itself with the term, even though they have no connection to the subculture… and this can cause the general public to have a distorted view of what is Steampunk. However, on the plus side, the growing interest lets leaders like Kenny and Luke to expand their underground projects, and showcase Steampunk authentically for a larger audience. For example, they just produced a Steampunk performance for a “mainstream” fashion show (by hairstylist Kinoshita Hiroaki) -- it was a first in Japan, and received very enthusiastically. As Luke puts it, “Here’s hoping the airship will keep on soaring higher!”
Your fans follow your adventures all over the world, where are you off to next?
I’m excited to keep showcasing underground culture and travel worldwide, especially in the mediums of TV and writing. Coming up, I am appearing as a guest on Discovery/Science’s “Oddities” TV show; my episode airs June 8th, and then on repeat. And I’m soon heading off to several international destinations, to shoot travel videos with my film team… You’ll have to stay tuned to my La Carmina social networks (@lacarmina) and blog to see where I end up next! www.lacarmina.com/blog