Friday, October 31, 2014

Winner Of Tocca Giveaway

Miss Josephine above has chosen Emi of Project Swatch as the winner of our little draw. Congratulations, Emi!

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Corday- Toujours Moi (Vintage Perfume)

Toujours Moi, Always Me, might sound like the name of a Paris Hilton perfume, but it's a lovely oriental perfume from 1923-1924, that was described in the 1960s Dictionnaire des Parfums de France as a fragrance "made for women with an assertive personality", and was recommended for evening use, to wear at receptions, the theater, for dining out and "ideal for fur wearing". Indeed.

Toujours Moi used to be so popular that in 1951 Corday issued a flanker, Toujours Toi (Always You). You can read more about it in this blog, dedicated to Parfums Corday.

I went back to Barbara Herman's book, Scent & Subversion, when I got my little bottle of Toujours Moi. Herman described this Corday former bestseller very accurately as the "love child of Tabu and Habanita", with a bit of Shalimar thrown in. I'm guessing that the ratio of Tabu to Habanita depends on the particular vintage of the juice you find. Mine is a bit older, pre-Max Factor, and comes in a bottle that has the tall and straight engraved glass stopper. The connection to Habanita was immediate: powdery and smoky incense galore, a bit dusty and free of any top notes that had once ruled the opening.

But it was the oriental woody base with an animalic hint that won me over. The sensuality unfolds as Toujours Moi envelops the skin with the warmth of that fantasy fur. It's just sweet and vanillic enough to present a temptation that lures you deep into the folds of the coat, where it touches the skin.

I wear Toujours Moi the same way I wear my very vintage Shalimar extrait. For myself, not caring how it's perceived by the cupcake generation. But it's also ideal for cozy wear and as a treat. Once upon a time it was recommended for going out at night. Tonight I'll wrap myself in a fluffy cashmere blanket and settle on the couch to watch Cary Grant in Arsenic & Old Lace while wearing this little treasure.

Notes (via Dictionnaire des Parfums de France): exotic woods, musk, myrrh, incense, orange blossom, rose, jasmine, amber.

NARS NARSissist Smokey Eye Set

Boy, am I late on this one. I received the NARSissist Smokey Eye Set eons ago, placed it in one of the "to photograph, swatch, and test" box away from feline reach. Then I misplaced the box and promptly forgot about it. When I found it a couple of weeks ago I was worried this NARSissist set is already sold out, but a quick search has shown that it's still available from NARS website; if you know where to look, that is. From any page on the site take this path:

With that out of the way, I obviously have to grump about the spelling of this palette's name, and remind the very lovely people at NARS that Smokey is a bear, while "smoky" is the adjective relating to smoke.

Now about the actual set. I was really happy that includes Mekong, the rich gold-infused espresso shade on the far right. I've been eyeing and waffling about this eye shadow since it first launched, hesitating because of the heavy gold shimmer. But I have to say, that Mekong was born to be applied with a damp brush and cause some good drama (the swatch is dry, though, to show how incredibly pigmented the color is on its own). The other two eye shadows in the set, Madrague I (matte cream with a buttery texture), and Bali (classic dark taupe, same wonderful texture) are a safe and easy choice, but adding Mekong takes it to evening territory.

Another way to use Mekong is over a smudged (or not) layer of Via Veneto, the black eyeliner.It's a mini version of the excellent Larger Than Life eye pencil (reviewed here). The regular pencil is one of my staples, so it's nice to have a purse-size version to tuck in a makeup bag, especially since it comes with the same built-in sharpener. The same can be said about the Wide Contour Eyeshadow Travel Brush #43 that comes in the NARSissist  set. This is the redesigned and improved version of the old #16. The name is accurate: this is a wide angled brush, so those with small lids and short gap between the crease and the lash-line might find it less practical, but I like it quite a bit, and in a pinch it can create the entire eye look, as long as you go from light to dark when using it, and don't start smudging the pencil and Mekong until everything else is already in place.

Bottom Line: a workhorse (and a great Holiday gift).

NARS NARSissist Smokey Eye Set ($59) is availabe from (see above how to find it). The product for this review was sent by the company's PR.

4 Tom Ford Outfits At amfAR LA Inspiration Gala

At least four stars chose to wear Tom Ford to the 2014 amfAR LA Inspiration Gala honoring the designer. Miley Cyrus and Rihanna gave us exactly what you'd expect from these two icons of class and taste. It's not a party until someone shows a sideboob, so why not Miley? In contrast, January Jones chose a frumpy and tired looking Tom Ford dress. Maybe in person the sparkle helped elevate this look, but it sure does not photograph well. And then we have Gwyneth Paltrow, who in the past had some rather amazing Tom Ford moments (remember the white cape and gown from the Osacrs a few years ago?). On this occasion, though, Ford equipped Gwyneth with a less-than-original, less-than-fitting pantsuit that does her no favors.

Can the honor be revoked?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Try Before You Die

Photo by Leandro Farina

Ever since reading The Perfume Bible last week and poring over the list of "100 perfumes to try before you die" I've been obsessively making my own lists, arguing with the authors (in my mind), listing and deleting, trying to decide between Onda and Rozy, Bottega Venetta and Elie Saab, L'Eau d'Issey and Escape (the latter is in the "worst ever" category). And you know what? I'm not going there. But I still want to make a list. Not the "100 perfumes every perfumista should try" (Robin of NST already did that), not "100 Best perfumes in the known universe", and not even "100 greatest classics" (Luca Turin already wrote the book).

 For once I'm being a minimalist. This is a list of 10 perfume I think everyone, be it a fragonerd or my assorted brothers-in-law, should smell at least once as cultural-olfactory references. Not because Gaia The Non-Blonde likes or hates them (well, maybe), but because I believe they have an important role in the fragrance world, and perfume is just one of those commercial/art/design elements that make up the modern world.

This is my list. I'm curious to know what's on yours.

  • Chanel No.5. Once upon a time everyone recognized it at first sniff. Nowadays younger generations are more likely to identify Coco Mademoiselle. Still, few perfumes are as culturally important (or as exquisitely composed).
  • Guerlain- Shalimar. It's nearly impossible to choose between the classic Guerlain perfumes. Still, Shalimar is the grandmother of all orientals (even if Emeraude came out earlier) and is the reference point for everything from Musc Ravageur to Le Labo Vanille 44.
  • YSL- Opium. The spicy oriental that defined the 1970s. Read "Fear of Flying" while wearing it.
  • Serge Lutens- Muscs Kublai Khan. There are many dirty musks out there, but MKK embraces the body like nothing else. Cleanliness, filth, a floral veil and a fruity undertone, it's as unique as it is polarizing.
  • Serge Lutens- Iris Silver Mist. I fully admit my bias toward Uncle Serge, so this is the second one from this iconic line. Since we can't have Fath Iris Gris on this list, I've chosen an iris from the other end of the spectrum, yet it showcases all the important characteristics of this note.
  • Dior-Eau Sauvage. The ultimate in aromatic-citrus that proves that these notes have more complexity than just "shower fresh". It'll also make you question the validity of most modern citrus perfumes from the last couple of decades. Why did they even bother?
  • Robert Piguet Bandit. I'm choosing Bandit over Fracas because there are uncountable big white florals out there, but there's only one Bandit. Gender ambiguous, leather, whips, and bondage. It'll help you understand art and music videos on a deeper level.
  • Thierry Mugler- Angel. No matter how much I personally dislike Angel, it's a a landmark in perfumery, the beast who launched a thousand clones, tainted the 90s with its monster rotten chocolate fruit, and probably the reason CB hates perfume. 
  • Frederic Malle- Le Parfum de Therese. This is the second appearance of perfumer Edmond Roudniska on this list (Eau Sauvage was also his). Therese, composed for the perfumer's wife, is one of the most beautiful perfumes ever created in my opinion. Diorama, Diorella, Diorissimo, and Femme de Rochas all lead to this magnificent achievement.
  • Hermes- Terre d'Hermes. It might be almost a cliche in men's fragrance, but this animal-mineral-vegetable perfume is a brilliant example of modern perfumery and the talent of perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena.

Julia Roberts- Quote Of The Day

Today is Julia Roberts' 47th birthday. I guess this is why UK You magazine decided to release these quotes from an upcoming interview with the actress (and Lancome ambassador):

By Hollywood standards, I guess I’ve already taken a big risk in not having had a face-lift. I’ve told Lancome that I want to be an aging model. They have to keep me for at least five more years until I’m over 50.”
The problem with this quote is not Julia Roberts, of course, but the way Lancome is dealing with "having to keep her". They promised to pay her, but apparently there's no obligation to keep Julia Roberts looking like herself:

Julia (and us) deserve better than this photoshop-fest.

L'Occitane Bonne Mere Olive Shower Gel

L'Occitane Bonne Mere is the brand's homage to the ancient artisanal soap making industry in Marseille, France. The bottle are designed as hefty cubes, like those chunky soaps made with a high percentage of olive oil and scented with the  various herbs and flowers of the region. The Bonne Mere range is extra gentle and is geared towards the entire family, including little children. The scents are soft and very low-key, and the formulas are supposed to be enriched with olive oil and olive water.

The scent of L'Occitane Bonne Mere Olive Shower Gel is, indeed, light and fresh. It's barely noticeable and would probably suit just about everyone, especially since it doesn't linger once you wash it off. The texture is gel-like and foams gently, just enough to make you feel clean. I have one major issue here: I was hoping that Bonne Mere is a true olive oil product, but while it does contains olive extract, the main body of the gel is made of coconut derivatives: coco-glucoside, cocamide propyl betane, and glyceryl cocate. For the majority of people this is a very good thing, as coconut oil is a good-for-you ingredient. From past experience I know that coco-glucoside is ok for me to use (it's made of the sugar in the coconut, not of the oil), but the other stuff? Not so much.

I wish L'Occitane had all the ingredient listed on their otherwise informative website. I had to strain my eyes to read the small print, which made me cranky (but at least not itchy). I find that I can actually use this gel as a hand soap, and it's gentle enough not to dry my skin. But I'm wary of bringing it anywhere my face or more sensitive skin.

Bottom Line: it's a good soap. Just make sure to read the ingredient list.

L'Occitane Bonne Mere Olive Shower Gel ($14, 10.1 oz) is available at L'Occitane stores and online. The product for this review was sent by the company's PR.

Art: Van Gogh, Olive Grove, 1889.