Thursday, December 11, 2014

Scent By Alexis- The Poetry Of Longing

The Day is Done

The day is done, and the darkness
      Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
      From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
      Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
      That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,
      That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
      As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
      Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
      And banish the thoughts of day.

Perfume is a fantasy. A good perfume is longing, bottled. A longing for  things just outside our grasp, memories, and half-formed ideas about places and situations we might never experience again except in their olfactory form. Poetry can be the same. The right combination of words opens a hidden door in our hearts releasing a bottled emotion, taking us there.

If you're familiar with the work of perfumer Alexis Karl you  know that poetry is never far from her fragrances. Neither is longing, which goes well with the dark themes of her other artwork (painting, music). But her latest creation, a limited-edition perfume that is only available by request (more on that later) takes the concept even further. The idea behind Poetry of Longing was a prompt by  perfumer/writer Monica Miller to create a chocolate perfume. Of course, Alexis has  worked with chocolate notes before in her Body Made Luminous (review coming soon, now that a new batch is available), as well as in Dev from the Devilscent project. But Longing is very different from them.

While The Poetry of Longing shares a gourmand idea with Body Made Luminous, but if the latter is a dark dark chocolate that hits a very specific spot, Longing is softer and somehow creamier. The chestnut note takes you almost to Nutella territory, only better, richer, and even more satisfying. It's the thing you crave in the middle of a sleepless night where nothing in the pantry touches your inexplicable hunger. Because you're not just hungry for food; you want a plusher bedroom, a more romantic view out of your suburban window, a more glamorous nightshirt... You want and want and want.

The Poetry of Longing takes you out of the kitchen and into a dark corner in the living room, where you settle with a soft blanket that smells faintly of the French sachets you put inside the  ottoman where you store a blanket or two for such nights. The cat is ready to settle at your feet the second you find the right position that allows you an easy reach for the chocolate truffles and the stack of old books on the side table. You read a few lines here and there. A favorite poem, the first few lines from a novel you almost know by heart ("It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."), which leads you to the next one, but as the printed lines blur before your eyes, you think of Mr. Darcy (or is it Colin Firth? or Benedict Cumberbatch? or any of those English gentlemen who make your heart race?).

The Poetry of Longing becomes quite animalic and sweet with its composition of rich  amber and dry ambergris. It performs some acrobatics on skin, like wild creatures born out of that semi-awake fantasy. It's fascinating to follow the development of the perfume from thick chocolate ganache to a dark and twisted carnival. It makes you see things, dream things, plunge head first into the mysterious rabbit hole where who knows who and what awaits you.

(A stiff neck by morning, from falling asleep with a book and a cat in that chair, but what a trip it was!)

Notes: Chocolate Absolute, Ambergris, Muguet, Black Agar, Smoke, Chestnut, Fossilized Amber

Scent by Alexis- The Poetry of Longing is hand blended in very small batches. It comes in a gorgeous gilded bottle (see photo in Monica's post), and can be bought only if you contact Alexis Karl by email: She'll tell you the rest of the story.

Art: Autumn by Arthur Hacker, 1907

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush

I have a soft spot for Bobbi Brown makeup brushes, probably since they were the most beautiful and luxurious looking ones in my collection for years. Some of my older Bobbi Brown brushes have been reworked (for the better) or discontinued and replaced with other shapes and sizes, but I still cherish the ones I have, and occasionally add a new one to the stable. Like the recently-launched Full Coverage Face Brush.

I knew I wanted this brush the second I saw it. The shape is unique enough among my face brushes (imagine that): medium length, very densely packed soft synthetic bristles, shaped into a nice curve resembling Kabuki brushes, and meant to provide full coverage no matter what foundation you're using: powder or liquid. It doesn't quite buff the product on ( a flat head is more of a buffing tool), but it's close. And, indeed, allows for full coverage of any part of the face you use it on.

LY34 is floppier and not as soft, Hakuhodo G527M is made of natural hair and meant to only be used with powders.

My personal preference is to use this Bobbi Brown brush with a powder foundation on areas I'm trying to even out, or all over for a flawless nighttime look, I've tried the Full Coverage Face Brush with various powder foundations (Dior, Bare Escentuals, Youngblood, Laura Mercier), and various liquid foundations (Lauder, Guerlain, YSL), all with good and solid results. It's one of those brushes that in smaller tool collections can become such a staple workhorse that one might find herself buying a couple of backups. for me it's become part of the rotation, and a much beloved one.

Bottom Line: an essential.

Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush ($42) is available at the counters, Sephora, and The brush comes wrapped in plastic but without a box and with no manufacturing details.

Alyssa Milano- Three Makeup Looks

If you're watching the current season of Project Runway All Stars you get to see a very pregnant Alyssa Milano rocking bold and fun fashion, and usually some very bad makeup (I'm guessing that this is what happens when the show is sponsored by Mary Kay). In the time between taping the show and now, Alyssa has already given birth and has returned to the red carpet for various events. Over the last few days we got to see  her in three very different makeup looks.

The one above from the 'Into The Woods' World Premiere is rather heavy (dark lips, smoky eyes), but I think it works with the color of her dress and ensures that the actress doesn't look washed out (we have very similar skin tones, so I know the perils).  Below are two other looks. In the first one, at last week's  March of Dimes' Celebration of Babies the eye makeup is toned down and dearly missing a liner. I'm not sold on the orange lipstick, though it's an interesting contrast for her Peter Pilotto dress:

Then there's my favorite look, Alyssa Milano arriving for The Opening Night of 'Elephant Man' on Broadway. Rosy lips and a more balances eye makeup with a bit more liner, and what appears as a hint of bronzed cheeks:

Which one is your favorite?

Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger- Lavande Ombree

Travel posters, mood-boards, advertisement, and fantasies about the south of France tends to focus on sunshine, beaches and the promise of an eternal summer (I'll take one of each, thank you very much). Most of the perfumes by Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger follow this pattern, as the family that founded the brand has roots in Grasse, Vance, and Cote d’Azur (I'll take that as well). But Lavande Ombree is different, and not just because it has a black cap and a more masculine leanings, but because the mood and atmosphere take a turn away from that bikini in Saint Tropez. Winter in Grasse?

Lavande Ombree is a leather and lavender perfume that moves between the crisp and clean to the warm and spicy aroma of warm skin under a leather jacket. The leather is well-worn but buttery soft and of a high quality. It was probably bought at an exclusive boutique on Via Veneto or Rue Faubourg a couple of decades ago, and has seen a few adventures and love affairs. The freshness suggests that is now ready for more. So why not in the lavender fields of Grasse, where the wind carries the scent of herbs and flowers, and every rock and grain of soil retain the memory of blossoms and summers past.

Lavande Ombree is in the middle, sporting a black cap

I've sniffed most of the perfumes by Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger, and Lavande Ombree is the standout (I'm also partial to Figue Fruitee, which should not come as a surprise). It's very obviously animalic, earthy (there's a good dose of patchouli somewhere in its folds), and quite musky. But the greatness of this fragrance is that it never crosses the line. This mystery man is never anything other than a perfect gentleman, well-groomed and dressed to the nines, even if you suspect that he has quite a past. Worn by a man, Lavande Ombree speaks of travel, creases in the corners of the eyes, and an effortless worldliness. On a woman, I think, this effect is increased tenfold, but again: it's never vulgar. It's a sexy scent, for sure, but it wears close to the skin and doesn't project much more than lavender and spice until you get very very close and the fun really begins.

I bought Lavande Ombree for the husband a few months ago (it was love at first sniff, and he asked me to quote him that it smells like "sex on just-laundered sheets"). I've  since borrowed it shamelessly many times. It's one of those perfumes that feel right for every occasion, so despite the Blond's description I think of this Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger gem as kind of like my favorite pair of black boots. Whatever works, I say.

Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger- Lavande Ombree ($125, 100ml EDP) is available from Twisted Lily, Indigo Perfumery, and BeautyHabit.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Smashbox Full Exposure Palette Part 2: The Shimmers

This is the second part of my Smashbox Full Exposure Palette review. This one focuses on the seven shimmery eye shadows.

Like the matte colors, the shimmer ones come in a range from cool to warm toned. Once again, the shades are pretty basic and kind of expected (charcoal, bronze, etc.), with a couple of standouts, the more complex S1 and S5. The shimmer is created by infusing silver and gold pearl into the pigment (sometimes both). The eye shadows have visible shimmer micro-shimmer particles, though it's not actual glitter, and surprisingly: almost no fallout. The photo above shows the palette after intense swatching and some playing with the colors. The debris you can see was actually a result of shipping/transit and not from actual use, so I'm highly impressed with that.

The texture of these Smashbox shimmer eye shadows is decent but far from perfect. I'm spoiled, I know, but I'd like something smoother and less gritty. Still, pigmentation is good, end even the lighter colors show up well. It's just not a luxury palette, though I know it will do the work and then some. Longevity is exponentially improved by using a primer, and the Smashbox brush, while not the softest, is usable and effective. The palette would make a good gift for a beginner or give  a good value for someone who wants a bunch of workhorse colors in one palette.

Bottom Line: Better suited for those who are less obsessed with textures.

Smashbox Full Exposure Palette was sent to me by PR. It's available from Sephora ($49). The palette is made in the USA, brush manufactured in China.

Smashbox Full Exposure Palette Part 1: The Mattes

Mega palettes are somewhat of a craze right now. Urban Decay started it, of course, with their Naked palette and its sequels. Then there was Lorac Pro (and other ginormous offerings from the brand), not to mention Laura Mercier's several Artist palette in more variations that I could follow. Smashbox is now joining the fun with their Full Exposure Palette. Original? Not really.But it is well-thought and contains fourteen eye shadows, half of them matte, so it's worth having a look. Each Full Exposure Palette comes with a dual-ended brush (one side for matte, the other for shimmer), and there's also an extra item, in my case a mini mascara, but I also saw a version where the extra was a primer (or was it an eyeliner? I'm getting my palettes mixed up). No one buys the palette for the free mascara, right? So let's move on to the main course. This post is about the matte eye shadows, the next one will feature the seven shimmery colors.

The textures of M1-M7 is decent. I've seen silkier ones, but they're fine and easy to apply and blend without muddying things up. The shades range from the basic lid brightening nude to black, with two warmer browns and two cooler ones to balance things out. Pigmentation is moderate for the light colors and intense for the dark ones that can also be used for lining. The standouts for me are M2  (a natural crease color) and M6 (perfect contour) but I'm pretty sure I already have similar ones somewhere in my collection (Bobbi Brown? Rouge Bunny Rouge? maybe Naked Basics 2?). Smashbox has succeeded in making these eye shadows the perfect combination of firm and soft--- there's no chalkiness or powdery mess in the palette or on the lid, so that wins them a gold star in my book. The eye shadows might not be a dream-come-true of silkiness but they're still a good starting point for several matte eye looks.

Next: The Shimmers.

Smashbox Full Exposure Palette was sent to me by PR. It's available from Sephora ($49). The palette is made in the USA, brush manufactured in China.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Yves Saint Lauren- Rive Gauche (vintage Perfume)

Rive Gauche by Yves Saint Laurent is a good reminder that the 1970s offered more than John Travolta and polyester. It's so incredibly chic that it's sometimes hard to accept it as part of that particular decade, until two things happen: you look up high fashion of that era (not the stuff your mother still stores in boxes down in the basement), and you realize that while very French and elegant, there's an edginess to Rive Gauche that doesn't exist in iconic floral perfumes of the previous decades (think Caleche, Ma Griffe, Madame Rochas, and many others).It's the same kind of feeling you get when you look at Saint Lauren's designs for Mick and Bianca Jagger on their 1971 wedding day (the same year Rive Gauche was released).

Rive Gauche is a seamless aldehydic floral. It's hard to point at most of the single notes, especially at the beginning, where this is just a cool cloud in the Parisian sky. The abstract floral heart was declared a rose by Luca Turin, and I think the degree of rosiness varies between vintages.  have a couple of 1970s bottles, bought in pristine state, and what I get from them is considerably smoother than an aldehydic rose. According to Nigel Groom the floral notes are gardenia, honeysuckle, jasmine, ylang-ylang, orris, geranium, and magnolia (while the base is sandalwood and vetiver). The truth is out there, hiding behind the metallic canister and the distinct metallic note. It's related to two Paco Rabanne perfumes: Calandre (1969, by Michael Hy who cooperated with Jacques Polge on the creation of Rive Gauche), and the greener, colder Metal from 1979.

Karl Lagerfeld's bathroom,  photographed by Oberto Gil for Underground Interiors, 1972

All of this is more a reference and a ballpark to the universe in which Rive Gauche exists (existed, rather). It's perfumy, with just a hint of powder, and a woody-musky dry-down that sends me right back to my childhood and my general idea of "perfume". In that sense, Rive Gauche is the all-chrome version of Chanel No.5 and its various offspring. Rive Gauche was a natural development: a bit harder, pointier, crisper, but just as stunning in its original state.

The dry-down of the fragrance, at least in the EDT versions that I have, goes back a bit to the familiar sandalwood and musk realm. It's easy to settle into and live with, just like a perfectly-tailored expensive pantsuit. There's dryness, courtesy of the vetiver, that I think would appeal to men who are not afraid of the aldehydes and flowers that precede it, and a depth that lets you know that whatever they put in was the real thing, before the ever receding standards (and manufacturing costs) of designer fragrances. Rive Gauche is highly satisfying when I wear it and when I pick up a scarf or a sweater saturated with it from the day before. It's more than just nostalgia: this is truly a great perfume worth exploring, because it makes everything feel just a bit more refined than it actually is: like the 1970s through this particular prism.

Shu Uemura Gloss Unlimited PK 70C & RD 20 C

These two Shu Uemura lip glosses were gifts with various purchases (hence the travel size), and to be honest, I was rather shocked to see the $25 price tag of the full size product. It's not that shu's Gloss Unlimited is a bad product, but it's barely a makeup product. As you can see in the swatches above, I had to glooop a good amount on my wrist just to make the colors show and prove that there is a difference between the two outside the tube. Because when I put them on in a reasonably even light coat you cannot tell I'm wearing anything but a very shiny balm.

The goopiness is also an issue. On one hand it creates a very good and effective briar between the lips and the freezing cold New York air (I wore them last week the day it alternated between snow and ice pelts). It's also hydra-plumping, which is a nice effect. But no matter how little I apply, the gloss feels very heavy on my lips. Extremely heavy, actually, which in 2014 when there are so many lightweight formulas to choose from is unacceptable from a premium brand such as Shu Uemura.

RD 20 C looks fabulous in the tube, and I hoped to get that "just bitten" effect from the sheer red color, but as I said above: nada.   PK 70C is a little more opaque, but you can only tell if you really coat your lips persistently. It's a pretty pink color if it shows on you, but who has such colorless, bloodless lips (other than corpses, and I'm pretty sure morticians don't invest in Shu Uemura).

Bottom Line: a dated formula and sub-par pigmentation. Pass.

Shu Uemura Gloss Unlimited PK 70C & RD 20 C ($25 each) are available from

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