Sunday, April 20, 2014

Perfume Shopping In Italy: Aqva Bland and Rheyms



Walking around Naples, the Husband and I noticed that quite a few of the fashion stores had perfume bottles on display, mostly of brands we didn't recognize. There was a lot to see (and smell, and taste), so there was no chance to try everything, but something told us to enter the Traffic boutique on 141 Umberto I. Traffic is a "Concept Store specialized in Avant-Garde and Fashion designer for man and woman. Based in Naples" (from their Facebook page). None of the fashion on display called to me, but there were several perfume brands scattered around the store, and while none of the sales associates spoke English, they let us browse and play. Some of the lines offered at the store smelled generic-- the kind of stuff you'd find at a young fashion store at your local mall. But two brands stood out: Aqva Bland and Rheyms.

As far as I can tell from online research, both Aqva Bland and Rheyms are relatively new Italian brands that were presented at local trade shows. They come in heavy bottles with substantial caps, and have don't seem to be particularly gender-specific. The husband thought that the floral and hay of Adrenalin by Rheyms was the most interesting in the bunch, while I was amused by the dirty resins of Pure Hasch. Looking back, I think the husband was right, as Adrenalin was definitely more fun. But I was already spraying the five Aqva Bland fragrances and having a hard time separating my nose from my wrists, as two of those got my full attention.

My Way  by Aqva Bland made me think of a lighter version of Tauer's L'Air du Desert Marocain. Official notes are bergamot, listea cubeba, ylang-ylang, lilac, geranium, patchouli, cedar, labdanum, vetiver, and vanilla. The overall impression is of a dry incense lifted by a crisp citrus opening and an ambery base. I liked it. A lot. If it wasn't just the beginning of the sniffing day I might have walked out of the store with a bottle (and I'm  kicking myself a little for not doing it). But I was also quite intrigued by Senatour. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly was there that on my skin translated into an animalic honey in the general ballpark of Miel de Bois. Not as thick and with a very questionable longevity, but the honey-musk-cedar seems there, even if the notes according to Aqva Bland's website don't support my initial impression (bergamot, bitter orange, pimento pepper, jasmine, ylang-ylang, cedar, patchouli, vanilla, cashmeran, wood notes).

There are a handful of online retailers that offer both Aqva Bland and Rheyms, though I haven't checked if any of them ships to the US, and none seems to sell samples or a discovery set. I was amused to see that there's a seller on Italian eBay that offers imitations of both brands-- so be careful if you're online shopping as a result of this post: that stuff isn't real.

Have you tried Aqva Bland or Rheyms perfumes? Which ones are your favorites? and if you're in Italy, can you tell us more about them?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Guerlain Shalimar Light/Shalimar Eau Legere


I guess I'm still in an Amalfi Coast kind of mood, as I can't get enough of the lemony confection of Guerlain Shalimar Eau Legere and its fraternal twin, Shalimar Light. Normally I'm rather old school when it comes to Guerlain perfumes, collecting and wearing vintage and pre-reformulation versions. Vintage Shalimar in every concentration is among my most worn fragrances, but that didn't stop me from falling in love with the 2003/2004 modernized take on the classic oriental.

The original Shalimar was meant to be grand and complex. Smoky and animalic just as much as powdery and sweet. Obviously, by making a light Shalimar, perfumers Mathilde Laurent and Jean Paul Guerlain were set to strip Shalimar of its more complicated facets to make the fragrance more accessible to the Aqua Allegoria generation. The magic here is that it is still a recognizable Guerlain perfume that is clearly related to Shalimar, giving us all the fun just without all the drama.

But there was some behind-the-scenes turmoil around this perfume, as evident by the two versions realeased one year apart. You can read more about it on Perfume Shrine, where Elena gets into the details, including how to tell the two apart.  In short, the first incarnation, Eau Legere was the golden juice in a bottle that had a blue cast. The later Shalimar Light is plain blue. I've been gathering as many bottles of both as I could get my hands on back when their  price was ridiculously low, trying to ensure a lifetime supply. I used to spray Light and Legere side by side, challenging myself to find all the subtle differences. Occasionally I'd get it and have an Aha! moment, but eventually I stopped doing that. These two perfumes, especially now that the juice has aged nicely, are so similar and so beautiful it no longer matters to me. Henceforth I'll use the name Shalimar Light when referring to either one.

Shalimar Light opens with a frothy cloud of lemon meringue. If you were to make a pavlova with fresh Italian lemon curd from Campania, this would be its scent. Unapologetic sweet and delectable, quite fluffy, full of life and sunshine. The more Shalimar-like facets emerge soon: powder and vanilla, a less-than-clean floral touch, and that intricate and rich vanilla-plus base that could only come from Guerlain. It's not heavy or too plush for daytime, and it's clear that the modernization of Shalimar aimed towards the "yummy" side that by 2003 was already an industry standard for a bestseller. Still, Shalimar Light managed to remain interesting and quite chic, easy-going but never low-brow.

It's no secret that Guerlain as it is today, another LVMH label, is not what it used to be. Roja Dove thinks, and I fully agree, that the brand is trying to be all things to all people at the cost of what made it so special. I wonder what would have happened had Guerlain kept the gem that was Shalimar Light in production and stayed that particular course instead of producing all those Robe Noire flankers and the unbelievably bad Aqua Allegoria Limon Verde. It might have made it easier to swallow the more outrageously packaged and priced bottles for Guerlain's favorite market segment, the Russian mobsters and their mistresses.  In any case, the disappearance of Shalimar Light in favor of the 2008 paler, less tenacious and slightly more sugared Eau de Shalimar (also discontinued, but still very easy to find) tells the story. It's our loss, but also Guerlain's.

Notes:  lemon , bergamot, jasmine, iris, orange, vanilla, and amber.




Thursday, April 17, 2014

Want: Alexandre Birman Blue Sandals




I don't know what it is about Alexandre Birman shoes, but they're at their best in blue. I already have this pair from three years ago, and it's one of the favorite items in my shoe closet (and, yes, it is quite comfortable and very sturdy), so I've been ogling the cobalt blue sandals from Birman's recent collection (available at Saks). The stilettos are obviously the least practical, and I'm certain that the ankle strap would never stay put when walking, but the other two are wonderfully wearable, not to mention fun.I need to replace my beloved but ancient flat Manolo thong sandals that finally gave up their very last ghost. Maybe I should go blue this time.

Tatcha- One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil


One of the things about testing skincare products is the commitment it takes. I can't review an item without spending weeks upon weeks consistently using it while keeping everything else in my routine exactly the same. It's not as easy as it may sound, and need to be in the right mood for that. When a specific product or a new brand makes the rounds among many bloggers at the same time, chances are that I'm going to get bored before doing much  (or any) testing.  Which is why despite having and using samples of Tatcha One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil sporadically over the last couple of years, I never got around to doing the actual testing. It was more of a "oh, yes, it's nice. Look... here's something shiny!". Silly me.

It was only after several other camellia oil products-- the ones by Aroma M-- became indispensable to me (I've gone through several bottles of the hair oil over the last year, but also the glorious body/bath oil), that I decided it was time to see what this Tatcha oil can do. I've read quite a bit about Japanese skincare principles, which are also behind Tatcha's approach. It makes a lot of sense, and camellia oil is, indeed, a fabulous ingredient, even if it's not the only thing in this specific product (see below). But the major thing for me was the fact that it is, indeed, a one step cleanser. I've used many wonderful cleansing oils and balms over the years, but have found that as much as I love them for a gentle but thorough makeup and grime removal, I still needed a second step of washing the face with a mild cleanser to make sure no residue is left.

I was a bit hesitant to trust Tatcha Camellia Oil at first, but even my occasional dabbling proved that it really works as a single step cleanser. Once I started using it daily it became clear that this thing doesn't only deliver on this promise, but that my skin was happier, balanced and stable, without any off days of capricious behavior. The oil removes makeup and dirt while thoroughly cleaning and de-congesting pores (the final test was taking the bottle with me on vacation, and using it to remove a full day of muck from walking around Naples). It's scarily efficient, yet incredibly gentle. After rinsing and/or using a warm washcloth my skin is clearly refreshed and clean, but it doesn't feel stripped or dry in any way. Only fresh and ready to go, with no sign that it was just coated in oil. I'm not making any promises, but it looks like I'll be using this oil for a very long time, since at this point I think it's the best cleanser I know.

Ingredients: Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Polyglyceryl-10 Dioleate, Polyglyceryl-2 Sesquicaprylate, Camellia Japonica Seed Oil, Glyceryl Behenate/eicosadioate, Water, Algae Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Ethylhexylglycerin, Alcohol, Fragrance (Natural), Phenoxyethanol.

Tatcha- One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil ($48, 150ml) is available from tatcha.com. The original samples and travel size product were press samples, but I've since purchased the full size.

Orange Blossom, Lemon Flower, Neroli- My Top Picks



The air on the Amalfi Coast and the Sorrento Peninsula is intoxicating right now with the scent of orange and lemon groves. The trees are heavy with blooms and fruit, and you can smell them wherever you go in and around Sorrento. For a fragonerd, walking around those parts is an exercise in sniffing, comparing, and recalling favorite perfumes that evoke this beauty, though truth be told: you have to be there in person. While nothing compares to the real thing, here's my very personal list of perfumes that offer a hint of this magic:

The Obvious Choice
*Serge Lutens- Fleurs d'Oranger and Fleurs de Citronnier. The sultry and the innocent.
* Il Profumi di Firenze- Costa Mediterranea. Sitting outdoors in Sorrento drinking a frozen limoncello.
* Vero Profumo- Rubj. Bottled sunshine with more than one twist.
* L'artisan- Seville à l'Aube. a rare case of perfume that was worth the hype.Smells better on the Husband, but I can definitely appreciate the beauty.

Easy To Find And Surprisingly Good
* Jo Malone- Orange Blossom. Almost too pretty to be real.
* Dior- Pure Poison. This is what happens when  Carlos Benaim, Dominique Ropion and Olivier Polge create a perfume.

The Discontinued
* L'Occitane- Neroli (original). It used to be magic. None of the sequels came even close.
* Mona di Orio- Jabu. A luminous, joyful perfume that stirs the soul.
* L'Artisan- Fleur de Oranger. One of those mid-2000s Harvest editions that redefined luxury.
* Guerlain- Aqua Allegoria Flora Nerolia. It's good to remember that the Aqua Allegoria series didn't always suck.

The Naturals
* Ayala Moriel- Zohar. A slightly fruity and honeyed twist on the classic theme.
* Providence Perfume Company- Divine. Orange blossom and neroli over a gorgeous animalic base.


I had the hardest time narrowing this list down and no matter what, couldn't limit it to a top ten. Still, I'm sure some truly brilliant ones have been left out, so what are your favorite perfumes in this category?



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Want: Missoni Crochet Dress


I'm obviously dreaming of lazy summer afternoons, a weekend getaway, and warmth in general (I told you we woke up to half an inch of snow on the ground. Thankfully it's mostly gone by now, though I'm not sure my daffodils will recover). This little Missoni dress is all that and then some. The crochet work is done with a metallic thread for some extra glamour, so I'd dress it down with a pair of flats for a relaxed summer look. The cuff pictured here, by the way, costs almost as much as the dress.

$1510 at net-a-porter.

Make- Solstice Bronzer W2





Let's ignore the fact that when I woke up this morning there was a coat of snow on the ground. We'll pretend that it's already bronzer season and have a look at this new one from Make. The online photos of this product (both on weseebeauty.com and on Barneys' website) were incredibly tempting, and even though the lovely pattern appears less crisp in person, it's still an attractive little thing. I bought another one for my sister which had a slightly sharper lines, so your mileage may vary.

Make Solstice bronzer comes in three colors. This is W2, the medium one. It's a mosaic of four shades, three matte and one (the lightest) has a very fine shimmer that barely registers on skin. You swirl a brush (Make #13 is a good option, but any fluffy brush will do) to mix the colors and the result is the natural sun-kissed color you see in the swatch above. There are many great bronzers on the market, but it's not always easy to find one that doesn't turn you orange or looks too dark. Solstice W2 works particularly well for me because it's almost neutral (for a bronzer, obviously) and doesn't require a lot of blending or diffusing.

As I said above, the finish doesn't show the shimmer part, for better and for worse. It's very natural and slightly flat, so if you're after a glow product you'll have to layer or go somewhere else. But for a quick all-over faux tan look this is a great option, especially if the color is as good a fit for you as it is for me.

Make Solstice Bronzer ($25) is  is available at select Barneys locations, barneys.com, and directly from the company's website, weseebeauty.com, where 33.3% of each purchase will directly benefit the WE SEE BEAUTY Foundation, a non-profit organization that funds women-led co-ops in the US.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Currently- April 2014- The Jet Lag Edition


Book
I'm in the middle of After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman. A very well-written mystery set in Baltimore and told from from various points of view along several decades. Fascinating characters and a great story. I need to download Lippman's  other novels.

Music
Our iPod stopped shuffling during a long drive in Italy, and instead decided to play the music in alphabetical order. Now I have Aimee Mann stuck in my head.


TV

The DVR is full of two week's worth of stuff. I just need to keep my eyes open long enough to actually watch any of it.

Perfume
Shalimar Light. I craved it for days while I was away. But I did bring a couple of new things from Italy. You'll hear about it soon.

Makeup
The new Shu Uemura pen eyeliner. Review coming soon.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
I really like my Rag & Bone skinny jeans for days I can't decide what to wear.

Food
Anything lemon-flavored. I had the most amazing lemon granita on the side of the road somewhere above Sorrento.  I wish I could have a lemon tree in the yard.

Guilty Pleasure
Lemon soda. See a theme here?

Bane
One of the kitties (we suspect Kosh) has taken his revenge on my slippers. Stinkily.

Joy
Coming home to the kitties.

Anticipation
Bedtime. Sorry.

Wishlist
Summer dresses. And a summer to wear them. It's supposed to snow tonight.

Random Thought
Not so random and certainly not original, but there's no place like home.




How are you? Please share your recommendations, banes, and random thoughts.  You'll notice that I changed the comment system, so please let me know (email, Twitter, or Facebook)  if you experience any issues with it.

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