La Carmina’s path to success seemed laid out along fairly conventional lines, except for one notable exception. Whether on an annual family trip to Hong Kong or pursuing her JDL at Yale Law School, she remained true to her sartorial self-expression, developing a playful Gothic-Lolita style that drew heavily on both traditional dress and modern couture.But when her career took an unexpected left turn, La Carmina found the perfect venue to showcase her penchant for fashion, ethnicity, and street culture beyond the mainstream.
How did you transition from a budding law career to being a travel and fashion blogger?
It all happened gradually. I started the blog while I was in school, so I developed it first as a hobby. My posts about cute food in Japan and weird theme restaurants got the attention of a literary agent, and by the time I graduated, I had two book contracts. I was able to focus on blogging and related work, and it all grew from there–to TV, travel partnerships, and more.
Why do you travel?
I’m lucky that my family exposed me to travel from an early age. We went to Asia almost every year to see family, and I had been around the US and Europe by the time I was in my teens. Even as a child, I loved seeing new places and feeling inspired by the local culture and architecture. I knew travel would always be part of my life, but I never imagined in a million years that I’d be able to make it my job, and see all these far-off dream destinations.
With her purple hair, cat-eye makeup and penchant for black, La Carmina creates a sartorial base that is both distinctive and oddly universal. In the way that a cartoon can sometimes be a truer rendition than a photograph, her Gothic context makes the details and structure of traditional dress uniquely accessible, be it a Balinese robe or a German dirndl.
Do you ever go out without your signature look?
All the time. On planes, I’ll wear comfortable clothes, no makeup, and glasses. I’m never without my colorful hair, and my t-shirt may have a bat print on it, but I don’t feel I need to dress to the nines at all times.
Does traveling with such a standout look ever get in your way when exploring a place, or does it help?
I actually enjoy dressing up in styles that are inspired by the local culture, but still fit my aesthetic. For example, in Bali, I wore an Indian-style outfit–but with my signature purple hair, and hippie glasses! Likewise, I wore rainbow colors in Cape Town (known for its bright Bo Kaap district) and Japanese street style in Tokyo. I feel fashion is a huge part of my personal expression, and a way for readers to make a strong visual connection to the places I’m writing about. Everywhere I’ve traveled, I’ve always gotten positive feedback on my style–and it’s a fantastic way to get conversations started with locals.
Along with many amazing opportunities with worldwide media outlets (such as National Geographic CNN and the Travel Channel), La Carmina’s inimitable travel style has brought her access to international subcultures that are virtually unnoticed (if not ignored) by outside visitors. While any traveler can benefit from her reports on where to stay, local festivals, and cultural notes, La Carmina offers travel guides specifically for alternative communities whose aesthetics she represents.
Have your particular interests in lifestyle and fashion helped you see sides of destinations that you might not otherwise experience? (Helped you meet certain people, gain certain experiences, etc.)
Without any doubt. Some favorite memories include trying on hats and jewelry with Israel designers and bloggers, partying with drag queens in Cape Town, dressing up for a cosplay festival in Tokyo, doing a Victorian photoshoot at a Gothic festival in the UK, and more. I’m genuinely passionate and immersed in alt fashion and lifestyles, and this has helped me connect with wonderful people and gatherings worldwide.
No matter how much you read about a place, it’s different to actually be there, exploring and meeting people and taking it all in. I’m also happy that I can share stories about underground and marginalized subcultures worldwide, from Goth festivals to German body modification artists. Hopefully, my reports show a more positive side and give them a voice.
What’s included in a “Goth travel guide?”
I feel every place has a darker, spooky side and usually a Gothic or alternative scene that can be explored. A worldwide guide would include the Paris catacombs filled with skulls, absinthe bars in Prague, fetish nights in Berlin, Gothic Lolita stores in Tokyo, and Metairie cemetery in New Orleans. The term is a lot more expansive than many people think, and there are an endless number of such intriguing places worldwide.
Over the past eight years, La Carmina has covered nearly every major destination of note, from standbys like Paris and Bali to newer trendy destinations like Vietnam and Iceland. She makes herself at home in every place she visits, showing how looking different need be no barrier to accessing the cultural riches all over the globe.
Where is a place in the world where you feel perfectly at home?
I always feel at home in Hong Kong, since my parents are from here and I’ve been coming here annually since I was a year old. Picture walking down the street and looking up and neon signs in Chinese characters, next to cute character posters. You’ll smell Chinese food coming from market stands and local eateries, and hear people talking in Cantonese (peppered with the signature Ai-yahh! expression). The humidity will stand out on your skin, followed by brisk air conditioning as you enter one of the many giant malls. Perhaps you’ll stop for a cup of jasmine tea and egg tarts. Hong Kong is truly a feast for the five senses.
What does your way of traveling bring to the world that no one else’s does?
Hopefully, I can bring awareness to alternative and sometimes misunderstood cultures around the world. Right now, my team and I are delving into the new technology of Virtual Reality, which lets you capture environments in 360 degrees. With a headset, you’ll feel like you are actually traveling with me, in the Fez market or looking over a view of Lisbon! Our most recent virtual reality travel films are found on their Radius VR site–we’re excited to grow this new medium. Check out my La Carmina blog for my latest adventures and add me on Instagram and Snapchat (@lacarmina) to see my latest travels on the go!