Interview with La Carmina: Travel Host, Fashion Blogger, Mermaid-Haired Goth Globetrotter

November 14, 2013 | Posted by: rissvandal

SONY DSCAnthony Bourdain may be considered the punk rock rebel of travel hosting, but he’s certainly not alone, and it’s safe to say he has some stiff competition. Has Bourdain ever encountered aliens at a Tokyo fetish club, posed with Lolitas in Austria, or explored lip sewing body modification in Vancouver? No…not quite, but let me introduce you to someone who has…

Meet La Carmina–a gothic globetrotter with her finger on the pulse of all things dark and alternative. She blogs, hosts travel shows, writes books, and goes on countless underground adventures across the world. And while La devotes herself to a career that is unconventional, and not to mention, often unpredictable, she originally dedicated herself to a far more structured path–attending Yale Law School.

So how exactly does one make the leap from the world of law to a world of fetish bars, exotic restaurants, and international goth clubbing? And what are some of the obstacles to be faced and points to consider when making such an unexpected life transition? Here’s what La had to say about it all.

Gothic Style Blogger, La Carmina

FV: As your fans see on your website and TV appearances, these days you travel the world–from Tokyo to Budapest–highlighting underground culture and chronicling your unique travel experiences, but ultimately, it all began with your blog. If you were to go back to 2007, when you first started your blog, did you ever imagine that this was the direction your life was heading? What you did envision for your future?

La: Never in a million years. In 2007, very few people had blogs, and the social network landscape was very different (remember Myspace’s dominance?). With a few early exceptions, there was no precedent for blogging being a path to something larger, such as doing books, TV and worldwide travel. Because of this, I had no expectations when I started — but I quickly found that I truly enjoyed blogging. (And not everyone does.) To this day, I get excited to create new posts and share my passion for alt fashion and culture. At the time, I hoped I would eventually find a creative career where I was my own boss, but I didn’t think blogging would be the key to opening so many doors.

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Photo Set: Creepy Kids and Cereal Killers

October 31, 2013 | Posted by: rissvandal

Happy Halloweeeeen, friends! ^_^

Monster Cereal hits the stores but once a year and what better way to celebrate the arrival of this seasonal spooky goodness then with a photo set? To tell you the truth I only tried three of the cereals (I recommend Yummy Mummy). I’m actually not supposed to eat cereal, nevermind sugar, but I like the idea of Monster Cereal so…

Here’s some costumed fun for the holiday with a bit of behind-the-scenes anecdotes throughout:

Killer Gothic Lolita: The entire time those pictures were being taken, my grandmother was standing off to the side  (odd timing for a visit) repeatedly asking “What are you doing? It’s not Halloween, I don’t understand, why are you doing this?” Sometimes the best response is to pause then just say “the Internet.”

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Photographer: Carlos Phillips Images //Model: Riss

Ultimate Fruit Brute

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Model: Markus AD (more…)

Halloween for Everyone! Recommendations for Every Costuming Type

October 17, 2013 | Posted by: rissvandal

Happy October, everyone! I hope you’ve been enjoying Fall and that your Halloween preparations are well under way. To tell you the truth, I haven’t really been taking as much time as usual to really soak in the season. Maybe it’s because this month has been so busy for me–every weekend I’m out of town, most weekdays I’m running around setting up shoots for my special Halloween photoset (more about that later). Or maybe it’s because I can’t eat candy, or because making costumes is no longer a grand, once-a-year type of thing in my life. Whatever it is, I hope to get in the spirit this weekend when I take in the beautiful sites of the country, visit a notable haunted house attraction (Easter State Penitentiary in Philly), and hopefully eat lots of pumpkin stuff. That should do it, right? Maybe? I hope?

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Now let’s talk the serious stuff of the season–costumes. If you haven’t chosen your costume yet, what are you doing and how can you be so casual? If you’re still debating, let me give you a couple of recommendations, hopefully help to guide you in the right direction. But first and foremost, before I throw a bunch of shops and websites at you, let’s break it down a bit. What’s your costuming type? Are you…

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Lying to Myself, Finding True Love, And Getting Older and Weirder

September 18, 2013 | Posted by: rissvandal

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A lot of people tell you to follow your passion and pursue the things you love. But what if you can’t actually figure out what the heck that is?

I pondered that question a couple months ago while searching for pictures of “bad” prom dresses for a Dos and Don’ts of Prom article I was assigned to write while interning for a stylist in NY (ooh, doesn’t that sound all fancy?). When the article was done I went back and removed my name from the byline, preferring it just be credited to some enigmatic ghost blogger, as opposed to me. I’m the girl who’s supposed to be the almighty cheerleader of alternative fashion, and firmly believes that fashion “don’ts” dont actually exist. Afterward I pushed my computer aside and took a moment to ask myself What are you doing? Like seriously, what are you doing?

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Strange and Sunshiney Days

August 18, 2013 | Posted by: rissvandal

Have you ever seen the video for the cover of “Strange Little Girl” Tori Amos did back around 2001? It’ll always remain one of my favorite videos for its creepy beauty and dark ambiance, and it’s forever creeping into my subconscious. Although altogether difference in terms of atmosphere and tone, there’s a part of me that thinks that that video was somewhere in the back of my mind when we put things together for this shoot.

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I held on to these images for a while. It was my first shoot with a new Nikon and without even a day to toy around with it ahead of time, I failed to realize my camera settings were out of wack, and so I was a little bummed out about the image quality. That aside, I do think some of the images came out pretty nice nonetheless, and my model, Bianca Di Paolo, did a lovely job prancing about with a bundle of balloons amidst the rubble on a windy day. And ain’t that the cutest damn pixie cut you’ve ever seen?

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Bloody Burlesque and Twilight Lullabies

August 1, 2013 | Posted by: rissvandal

I haven’t been updating enough lately, I know. I’m gearing up for a move  so I’ve been spending the last few weeks doing fun things like sorting through all my crap, finding good homes for my unwanted stuff (I needed to make sure my tutus and spiked bras found homes with fabulous people), and trying to consolidate my large costume and prop collection so it can be moved with little to no hassle.

Those boring details aside, I have been up to other stuff. One of the things I’ve been doing, besides not updating the blog, is practicing with the band Astorian Stigmata, since I signed on as their live show keyboardist a couple of months back. You’ve seen the dudes before–they pop up in a lot of posts and photoshoots, so you might already be familiar with the fact that their general aesthetic is sort of like…dark Neo-Victorian gone mad…or maybe romantic goth meets visual kei. Either way, when they asked me to be part of a lyric video for their song “Twilight Lullaby” I rolled with those general ideas. I had just a day to put an outfit together so I blasted some Emilie Autumn, gathered every bit of black, red, and tattered fabric I could find, and got to work.

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These are casual outfit shots we took prior to filming, as opposed to a preplanned thematic photo set, but I think there is a cool, kind of chaotic quality to them [Photos by Dennis Condusta]. The outfit somewhat resembles what I wore for this previous shoot, but way more amped up and crazed.
The hat comes from FanplusFriend Garden, the corset Heavy Red, and the boots Dr. Martens. The wig comes from my go-to shop, Gothic Lolita Wigs, the gloves are from Hot Topic, and the lipstick is Lime Crime.

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Boys Over Flowers Kdrama Picnic

July 15, 2013 | Posted by: rissvandal

Lately my greatest love has been Kdramas (Korean television dramas). One day I stumbled upon one (Shut Up and Let’s Go) on Netflix, and from that point forth they’re basically all I watch. I won’t go on about them too much, because I realize romantic melodrama isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I will say there’s one I love so much I decided to create a mini event around it, to both celebrate and soften the blow of the series’ finale.

Innocent, comedic (both intentional and unintentional) and immensely heartwarming, Boys Over Flowers started as a guilty pleasure, but now I’ll unashamedly state that it’s one of the best programs I’ve ever seen. It can be described as a modern-day Cinderella story with multiple princes, or else Twilight without the supernatural aspects and far better acting–but however you put it, it’s basically the story of a poor girl who steals the hearts of a bunch of self-absorbed, out-of-touch rich dudes, and a long, overly-complicated love triangle ensues.

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This past weekend I prepared a Boys Over Flowers-themed picnic (I sure do love me a themed party, dinner, anything). Nothing too over-the-top, but with themed food and attire.  With my personal motto being “the more dramatic the better,” my original intention was to cosplay as the lead character, Geum Jan-di, but my school uniform was a bit too slow shipping from Japan, so plans changed. Instead, my friend and I donned summery outfits inspired and color-coordinated to match our favorite male counterparts of the show’s love triangle. Here’s Alisha’s light and lovely Yoon Ji-hoo attire.

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And I, always clad in black and a fan of the bad boy in any love story, wore a look inspired by character, Goo Jun-pyo.

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Dark Style in the Summertime: Don’t be a Melty Goth

July 1, 2013 | Posted by: rissvandal

I bring it up because I’m guilty of it myself, but more importantly, because I care. Last year I was stubborn. I didn’t care to conform to the changing weather–I decided that the sun should somehow conform to me. I worn tight black bustiers in the sweltering heat, black tights under shorts with knee-high boots, and I refused to stop layering. But my friends, you deserve more than constant discomfort. You don’t deserve sweat pooling down your back or forced smiles to prevent those around you from saying “I told you so”. Instead of fighting summertime, embrace it and learn to work with, not against it.

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Dress: h. Naoto / Hat: Payless / Sandals: Offbrand

As I say all of this, realize that I have a primarily black wardrobe, and have no intentions of changing that. What you need to rethink in the summertime is not necessarily colors, but fabrics and fits. Think breathability, movement, and if you’re going to wear something fitted take advantage of light fabrics, cutouts, and short hems. And c’mon, if the temperature exceeds 80 degrees, take some time to seriously reconsider anything involving boning, pvc, lace sleeves, latex, or shoes that lace up beyond the knee…

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AnimeNext 2013: The Cosplay, The Fashion, The Antics

June 11, 2013 | Posted by: rissvandal

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It’s hard to know where to start. If I didn’t have a blog, I’d be tempted to say “what happens at an AnimeNext, stays at an AnimeNext,” or “the first rule of anime cons: don’t talk about anime cons.” But I won’t cop out, especially since I took so many pics of my adventures. Though even with a full con recap, there are still some things that can’t truly be explained, and you had to see for yourself. For example, watching Link and Hello Kitty have a krump off while two young vocaloids squeeled with glee from the sidelines is the kind of stuff dreams are made of. And cosplay burlesque–I definitely didn’t expect to see Richter Belmont whipping the clothes off of sexy vampires, or April O’ Neil gyrating in turtle pasties…

Atmosphere, Events, and Antics

I take it for granted that people reading this already know what an anime con is, but if not, it’s basically a con for all things relating to Japanese animation, manga (Japanese comics), gaming, and even branching out to include Japanese music, fashion, and some Korean pop culture. I’ve been to regular comic conventions in the past, but this is not the same, with the glaring difference being the amount of cosplay. If you don’t show up in costume, you’re in the minority.

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4 Simple Steps To Create A Faux Undercut

May 28, 2013 | Posted by: rissvandal

My two greatest loves these days, style-wise, are skeletal accessories and rockin a faux undercut. Well, the skeleton accessories–nothing new there, but it wasn’t until just recently that I realized how damn easy it is to fake the dramatic hairstyle. There are four basic steps: Part, Tuck, Spray, Pin. Continue on for more details…

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