David Bowie Blackstar: mural & memorial in Brussels. Carnival de Binche with Gilles costumes!

david bowie blackstar mural

Bonjour from the David Bowie “Blackstar” mural in Brussels!

Earlier this year, I traveled to Belgium for a press project with the tourism board. My film team and I dove into the vivacious local art /culture of Brussels-Wallonia.

In this first post, I’ll introduce you to the young Liege artist who memorialized Bowie…

gilles costumes, carnival de binche

… and we’ll celebrate the Carnival of Binche, with feathered hats and Mardi Gras costumes!

(PS – If you’ve been wondering why I’m selling off most of my wardrobe, there’s a detailed explanation at the bottom of this post.)

David Bowie Mural Painting brussels

I know many of you are David Bowie fans… so we’ll start with this beautiful tribute by NOIR Artist.

The Belgian pop culture artist was commissioned to make this mural for the release of Bowie’s latest album, Blackstar (available here). The day after the painting was complete, the world learned that Bowie had died of cancer.

noir artist, david bowie memorial art

I interviewed 20-something year old Lucien Gilson, at the opening of his art exhibition at Mazel GalerieHis striking works are influenced by tattoos, Pop Art, Baroque and magazine covers.

noir artist belgium gallery paintings

He uses the pseudonym NOIR Artist because his paintings use only black pigment. You won’t find any shades of grey in his works.

mazel galerie bruxelles

His portraits of pop culture figures — Bowie, Edward Scissorhands, Darth Vader — have struck a chord with young audiences worldwide. NOIR Artist is very active on social media, and likes to take viewers behind the scenes, such as through time lapse videos of his murals in the making.

japanese face tattoos

That evening, Mazel Galerie unveiled an exhibit focusing on Belgian artists. I walked through the two floors, and was impressed by the range of striking, modern works.

david bowie memorial mural

NOIR Artist took me to see his now-famous mural, located near the gallery at Toison D’ Or shopping mall in Brussels.

It was commissioned by Sony Music Belgium for David Bowie’s Blackstar ★ album — and one day after it was completed, the legend behind Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane was gone.

(I’m wearing a hooded jacket by The Kooples, and sunglasses by Moat House Eyewear.)

david bowie street art, black star

Fans turned the David Bowie mural into a memorial, leaving flowers and gifts below, and writing messages on the wall. I left one too: “RIP, glorious space oddity.”

Words can’t describe what a powerful impact Bowie (aka Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust) has had on so many, especially those who feel like outsiders.

belgian mardi gras festivals

During our trip, we also got to take part in the centuries-old Carnaval de Binche, a quirky local take on Mardi Gras.

Every year, in early February, these celebrations occur all over Belgium. However, the most colorful parades are in Binche: a small town about a two hour drive from Brussels.

french mardi gras costumes

The Belgian Tourism Board arranged for us to visit a local family’s home. There was such a welcoming energy in the room, as everyone gathered to eat and drink, and dress up in the traditional costumes.

These “Gilles” outfits are handmade by artisans, and represent a “strong man” folk character. The participants stuffed their torsos with straw to create the effect — although we thought it made them look a bit more like “fat men”!

gilles costumes history

Binche Carnival’s origins are unclear, but likely date back to the 14th century. Only males from Binche can take on the role of a Gilles, and this tradition is taken very seriously. Many pass along the torch from father to son: we saw Gilles children marching alongside their grandfathers.

binche street confetti, logo

Around 3pm, we headed into the Binche town square for the parade. These celebrations take part over several days, turning the normally sleepy village into a drunken bacchanal. You know there’s a party going on, when you see rainbow confetti strewn all over the streets!

kids harlequin Pierrots costumes

Although only males can be Gilles, women can take part as other folk characters. These “societies” dress up and march together in the parade.

In a scene that looked straight out of a Wes Anderson film, we came across these pointy-hatted, pastel colored Pierrots. 

binche throwing oranges peasants

Here come the harlequins, with ruffled collars and diamond print suits. In between the brigades, musicians played a festive shuffle on horns and drums.

Did you notice that everyone is holding a basket of oranges? As they parade through the streets, these participants throw oranges into the crowd! 

belgian festivals parades

It’s considered proper manners to accept a offering of the fruit — and it’s good luck if you are hit by a lobbed orange. Although take it from me… this can leave a bump on your head. (My faux fur ombre coat is this exact one, on sale!)

Once again, the reasons behind this tradition are unknown. Perhaps it’s simply great fun to launch fruit at people.

young gilles parade binche carnival

Then, about a thousand Gilles appeared in their distinctive bonnets, wooden clogs and copper bells. This special costume can only be worn during the Binche carnival, and is forbidden to leave the city.

belgium wallonia gilles parade

I felt like I had stepped into a surreal universe. Everyone was smiling and dancing, and oranges flew through the air.

The Gilles’ feathered hats weigh a ton, and are easily damaged by rain — which is why only some of the men wore them on their heads that day.

Carnival of Binche costumes

Photos alone can’t describe the sounds and frenzy of Binche! (My coat is available here.)

We filmed a travel video, which we’ll release soon — but until then, check out my Instagram video clip of the parade. You can see children throwing oranges in all directions, and the men shuffling their feet to the live music in a funny “pas de Gilles” dance. 

brussels wallonia tourism travel

Funny how the festival had an avantgarde feeling, even though these rituals have been happening for hundreds of years.

If you are in Belgium during Mardi Gras, the Carnival of Binche is one party you don’t want to miss. 

blackstar david bowie album mural

Much more from hip Brussels to come — including an S&M art gallery, a coffin bar, and the Rene Magritte museum. (I got my jacket in Belgium too; it’s by The Kooples brand.)

Have you heard Bowie’s final Blackstar album yet? If you’re a fan, you may also enjoy my photos from the David Bowie cafe in Tokyo.

goth kawaii japanese fashion boutique sale

Finally, I owe you an explanation… When I announced that I was putting up most of my wardrobe for sale, I didn’t realize that it caused some people alarm. I got messages asking if I was quitting blogging, or if something was wrong!

Don’t worry, this isn’t the case. I am going full steam ahead, and have superb new destinations, photoshoots and travel filmings coming up for the summer. There are still lots of stories from Istanbul, Morocco, Vietnam, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and more going up in the next weeks.

As you can imagine — over the years, I’ve accumulated literally mountains of clothing from around the world. Many designs are from Japan Goth and Lolita brands, and unavailable anywhere else. For a long time, I wanted to make my wardrobe available to you, at less than 50% of retail price — but simply hadn’t figured out a good way to do it.

Now, thanks to Depop, I’m able to easily list and sell my fashion to you. A lot of items are already gone, so I encourage you to check out my shop listings ASAP and let me know what you want. (Email me at gothiccarmina att gmail dotcom). Once again, I’m happy to do a bundle discount, combine shipping, and include personal notes and photos in each package!

Shop La Carmina’s Goth Lolita wardrobe sale now!



  1. MelissaR
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    Love this!

  2. Edieh
    Posted May 28, 2016 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    That’s an amazing coat

  3. haalie
    Posted May 28, 2016 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    I am glad you’re not giving up !!!!

  4. Samantha bear
    Posted May 28, 2016 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    Crisis averted lol

    And I love the Bowie art.

  5. Veronica
    Posted May 28, 2016 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    Ah you went to Brussels!

  6. Jamy
    Posted May 28, 2016 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Oh the places you’ll go!

  7. BowieNext
    Posted May 28, 2016 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    #thanks for sharing about #bowie, have a great Saturday :)

  8. naeshu
    Posted May 28, 2016 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Love this pictures ^^ very beautiful

  9. DeadRinger
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 11:10 pm | Permalink


  10. zara
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Miss you beautiful

  11. Nicole M
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 11:10 pm | Permalink


  12. iree
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    love BOWIE

  13. Ikaru
    Posted June 14, 2016 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    I miss Bowie San

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    Posted June 10, 2019 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

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