Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Let's Talk About It: Diana Vreeland Perfumes

You don't have to be a cranky perfume blogger to feel exasperation at the never-ending stream of new perfume brands vying for your attention. It's not necessary to get a daily stream of press releases: just visit the news pages of Fragrantica or the Recently Added list of the Basenotes directory. Fragonerds today often feel equal amounts of curiosity, skepticism, and  "whatever" when told about new brands. Did the world really need a third range from Michael Boadi (Boadicea The Victorious, Illuminum, and now Bohdidharma)? Did Sergio Momo really had to release over 60 perfumes since 2009 under the various Xerjoff offshoots?

Nowadays I rarely bother to shrug when learning about a new brand bursting into the scene with twelve fragrances. How many of them will still be around in five years? In ten years? But I have to admit that I did a double take when I saw the news about the release of a new line, Diana Vreeland Perfumes ($185-$250 at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman). The larger-than-life fashion editor died in 1989. She was a true perfume lover. In her autobiography, D.V., she wrote:
“There’s a whole school now that says that the scent must be faint.  This is ridiculous.  I’m speaking from the experience of a lifetime.
I always carry purse scent – that way I’m never without it.  Do you notice any scent on me now?  Don’t come any closer – if you have to sniff  like a hound, it’s not enough!
Perfume is an extravagance.  But it’s odd that Americans, who God knows are an extravagant people, have never used scents properly.  They buy bottles, but they don’t splash it on.  Chanel always used to say, keep a bottle in your bag, and refresh yourself with it continually.”
(and see also this post by Jessica on Tinsel Creation)

But when I see headlines in some online sites claiming "A new fragrance by the legendary editor-in-chief of Vogue US, Diana Vreeland", I cringe. And then I cringe again. Because the five new perfumes are not "by Vreeland". They were not commissioned for her, either. Her grandson, Alexander, is the entrepreneur behind this venture. Mr. Vreeland is the administrator of the Diana Vreeland Estate and the husband of filmmaker Lisa Immordino Vreeland who directed and produced the 2012 documentary Diana Vreeland- The Eye Has To Travel. I'm guessing that the film's success and what seemed like a renewed interest in his grandmother (Atelier Swarovski already created a limited edition jewelry collection 'Diana Vreeland Legacy Collection' in 2012) made Mr. Vreeland and the estate decide there was a commercial potential behind the name. So why not release a perfume or five?

I tried to think of similar examples of posthumous use of a celebrity's name in perfume, but the only ones are a single fragrance in an existing line dedicated to the person's memory (Immortelle Marilyn by Nez à Nez, Josephine Baker by Etat Libre d'Orange), but maybe I'm forgetting something. But does it matter? I don't know.Obviously, the estate has every right to do it, but I'm still uncomfortable, especially since the late Mrs. Vreeland wasn't a label of any kind. She was an editor and a curator, but not a brand. Making her one twenty five years after her death doesn't feel right to me. If the family wanted simply to honor her memory they could have donated a wing to a hospital or to a museum. Slapping her name on perfumes she never smelled? Not that big of a tribute. I don't even want to think what will come next.

Let's talk about it: how do you feel about the concept of Diana Vreeland Perfumes? Would you be comfortable with similar endeavors?

Photo: Harry Benson: Diana Vreeland, New York, 1980

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Secrets Of The Flat-Footed

(...and the weak-ankled)

There's a reason I'm a Manolo girl: sexy heels that are actually wearable. I once made a friend gasp when demonstrating that I could run in 3.5" pumps (well, perhaps some of the surprise was due to seeing me run, no matter the footwear. I doubt it has happened since). The sandals above, Manolo Blahnik's Platee ($765 at Saks and Bergdorf), are exactly the kind of shoe that conforms to the foot just enough, supports the ankle (my right one has been wonky for nearly 30 years), and allows one to walk without compromising style. And like all Manolos, it will not look dated by next summer. That's a big one on my list.

Not even Jada Pinkett Smith appearance at Comic-Con pairing these Manolo Blahnik sandals with one of the worst things she's ever worn (by Cushnie et Ochs, if you care) can turn off my admiration for this pair.

Jada Pinkett Smith photos by  Mark Davis for Getty via Zimbio.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Estee Lauder Sculpting Foundation Brush #2

Estee Lauder Sculpting Foundation Brush #2 was launched recently alongside the new Perfectionist Youth-Infusing Makeup (don't get me started on that name). Lauder's description of the brush confirms that you can use it with all of their other foundations, and I will add that obviously you can use any liquid foundation or tinted moisturizers.

I got the #2 foundation brush because of its shape. It looks like an oversized version of the insanely-priced Claudio Riaz Instant Smoke eye brush, and the "sculpting" part of the name hints towards the brushes ability to create shape if that's what you're after. But most of us simply seek an even coverage, which the brush allows for very easily thanks to its width and thickness. There's no special secret for working with this brush, but I do second the instructions on the Estee Lauder website:
"Pat brush into makeup.Apply with 3 quick upward motions, working from center of face out:
1. Across cheek and up toward middle of ear. 2. Across chin and over lower jaw. 3. At center of forehead and out towards temple.
Finish with a swirling motion to blend over entire face."
The brush has a great balance in my hand. It's sturdy and thick, and looks like a professional tool. I find that it doesn't soak up too much product (the hair appears synthetic) and dispenses it evenly and comfortably-- it's a lot softer than it looks. The angled corners allow you to reach every nook and cranny, and the short bristles ensure no streaks in application.

Comparison to a standard paddle foundation brush (the current version of Chanel) and the outstanding Le Metier de Beaute angled brush gives you an idea how unique the Estee Lauder #2 is. I can't say that I have a real preference-- a great foundation brush is a great foundation brush, and most days I simply reach for whatever's clean. I do feel that this brush performs better with the thinnest and lightest formulas (as well as for applying a face primer), while thicker/creamier foundations often require a bit more flexibility from the brush. But it's a matter of personal preference and skin texture.

The brush is made in China (like the one from Chanel, by the way), and comes in a box with a plastic protector that makes for a good kitten toy (like everything else in the house these days).

Bottom Line: a great tool.

Estee Lauder Sculpting Foundation Brush #2 ($45) is available from most department stores as well as online (

The Looks Of Comic-Con

Comic-Con is no longer the nerds Oscars, but a true A-lister magnet, where there's a wonderful combination of fun, irreverence, and red carpet glamour. It's the perfect event for experimental looks, like the one we see above on the lovely Elle Fanning who gets to look her age (she's 16, but often dress quite mature). I had a bright yellow eye shadow when I was her age which I actually wore to school more than once, to my mother's great horror.

Speaking of yellow, the yellow pumps made another appearance, this time on Nina Dobrev, who can pull of anything and everything.

And while  we're looking at shoes, Salma Hayek managed to find the ugliest shoes in existence. These are Alexander McQueen and she seemed quite proud of them:

I don't know what made Cate Blanchett choose this odd dress. The hair and makeup are her usual sophisticated self, but the dress looks off, especially from the waist down.

But the worst dress of Comic-Con was probably the one Elizabeth Olsen wore on Saturday. Elizabeth  has already had her share of red carpet disasters (remember her Disney On Ice look from the Met Gala?), but this dress from her sisters' The Row label can be a cause for a family feud:

To end things on a good and glamorous note, here are Vera Farmiga and Gwendoline Christie (both in Peter Pilotto embelished dresses. I want one). I think they were having a lot of fun.

All photos: Getty North America, via Zimbio.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bruno Acampora Profumi- Perfume Shopping In Naples, Italy

This is a bit overdue since it's been nearly four months since my Italian vacation where the husband and I sniffed our way through Naples and the area around it equipped with a Google map dotted with various perfume destinations. The Bruno Acampora showroom was one of the most anticipated ones. True, we can get all of Bruno Acampora fragrances here in the US, but there's nothing like visiting the source. Once we actually found it, that is. The location is quite central (Via Filangieri 72, Naples), but there's no sign outside the building and the boutique is on the second floor which you access through a staircase in a semi-inner courtyard. Thankfully, there was a doorman who pointed us in the right direction.

Bruno Aacampora was a Capri-based jetsetter with a passion for his native area and the scents that defined it, as well as luxury and travel (his son, Brunello, is a yacht designer). The perfumes that carry his name are, indeed, luxurious. They come in two formulations: spray and oil, and I much prefer the latter. Bruno Acampora's oils are heavier and have an unmistakable high percentage of natural ingredients. The alcohol-based sprays (unfortnately named "Eau de Bruno") are still extrait de parfum concentration but feel more perfumy, for better and for worse. The boutique carries everything in several sizes, including travel sprays, and  also offers body products (I'm kicking myself for not buying any), candles, and gift-sets, including one of the entire oil range that costs like a small Italian car.

Smelling everything on the spot can be a bit overwhelming. I was only familiar with Musc, which I've smelled a couple of times, including on my friend Lucy (see her post on Indie Perfumes). Thankfully, the people at the showroom were wonderfully generous with samples, which allowed me to spend some quality time with these gems and conclude that I like them quite a bit. Really like them, even. The only one I somehow didn't get to sample and can't even remember is Seplasia. If you're familiar with it please chime in.

Bruno Acampora Private Collection includes two perfumes: Bianco and Nero. I expected to fall for Nero, a dark spicy amber, but instead found myself coveting Bianco. Nero is a saffron and chocolate affair, ambery and woody, heavy on patchouli with a somewhat smoky dry-down. It's a great one, for sure, but it's Bianco that captivated me with its complexity: a musky white floral with a surprise sparkle, like tiny crystals on a silk chiffon dress. There's jasmine and spice, white roses over smooth wood, and a creamy dry-down.

Nero: citrus, saffron, cedar, patchouli, sandalwood, amber, musk.
Bianco: lemon, orange, bergamot, coriander, rose, ylang-ylang, clove, pepper, jasmine, lily of the valley, musk, tonka bean, sandalwood, vanilla, patchouli, raspberries.

The other perfume oils I've tested-

Musc. This one smells shockingly different on everyone, to the point it's hard to believe it's the same perfume. The animal here is lurking in a  very French lavender field and is semi-concealed by powder. I like it, but it's not true love. I guess I'm spoiled by MKK. Notes: musk, rose, violet, vanilla, cloves, amber, sandalwood.

Sballo. La Primavera. The essence spring. Call it whatever you want, it's an intoxicating and beautiful green floral with a hay dry-down that is far less feminine than the opening suggests.
Notes: rose, geranium, violet, orange blossom, musk, resins, sandalwood, vetiver, hay, sage.

Prima T. My first impression was soap. An expensive galbanum soap. Upon further testing the true chyper-like nature of Prima T becomes more apparent. There's a hint of vintage there; a vintage Chanel No.19, to be precise.
Notes: narcissus, violet, jasmine, rose, galbanum, mandarine, muguet, lily, musk, patchouly.

Volubilis. What an interesting creature! A bright and minty rose that reminded me instantly of Frederic Malle Geranium Pour Monsingeur, only deeper (and perhaps better).
Notes: pink pepper, bergamot, peppermint, rose, iris, patchouli, vanilla, amber, musk.

Blu. Tuberose, tuberose, and more tuberose. I love this narcotic yet beachy flower, so this was a no-brainer, but I can't say that Blu adds a lot to the already-crowded white floral shelf, except for being truly beautiful.
Notes: tuberose, orange, sandalwood, ylang-ylang.

Ignore the feminine label on Luckyscent. This is an outstanding and unique masculine. Opens as fresh-cut grass and damp earth, and becomes dirtier, somewhat fatty, with a hint of cuminy curry and a herb garden after the rain.
Notes: musk, sandalwood, jasmine, rose, amber, galbanum, patchouly, vanilla

Jasmine T. Bruno Acampora had a thing for jasmine (it's also his daughter's name), and this is his ultimate interpretation of the flower. Jasmine T really needs heat to develop and I like it much more now in mid-summer than I did back in the cool and rainy days of early spring. It's truly golden, with a heavy dose of mimosa and ylang-ylang.
Notes: jasmine, cyclamen, cloves, ylang-ylang.

Luckyscent carries all Bruno Acampora perfumes, both in spray and in oil, the latter is around $200 for 10ml. I wish they also stocked the 5ml size that's offered in Italy (I'm pretty sure you can call them and ask for a special order, though). Nero and Bianco, unfortunately, are only offered in 10ml and 20ml

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Laura Mercier Peacock & Gilded Gold Caviar Stick Eye Colour

Laura Mercier just released six more colors in the phenomenal Caviar Stick range. Regular readers know that I'm a huge fan of these cream-in-a-stick eye shadows because the smooth formulas are incredibly easy to work with and offer an all-day longevity once the color sets. Laura Mercier has made it easy to achieve a very sophisticated look with absolutely no effort with these Caviar Sticks-you paint the lid, smudge as much or as little as you want (just do it quickly, before the color is dry), and that's it. Just add mascara.

Out of the six new colors I got Peacock, a rich turquoise, and Gilded Gold, a light antique gold. Peacock is a very bold choice, but I can pull it off and even do a smoky eye when applied judiciously (my mother would rather I don't, though). Gilded Gold is a classic fall (or transition to fall color), that goes well with an espresso brown eyeliner (which incidentally, Laura Mercier offers in the Creme Eyeliner formula).

Bottom Line: I also want the one in Moonlight, a pewter shade.

Laura Mercier Peacock & Gilded Gold Caviar Stick Eye Colour ($28 each) are arriving at the counters (most department stores already have them online) and from The products in this review were sent by PR for my consideration.

NARS Dione & Himalia Dual-Intensity Eye Shadows

As I told you, the first taste I got of NARS Dual-Intensity Eye Shadow (see here: Giove and Callisto) sent me right to the NARS counter to get more of them. I've already shown you the stunning Subra and Desdemona, and here are the last two I bought: Dione, a beige champagne and Himalia, a warmer metallic camel . The wonderful texture is the same molten metal which you can apply dry or wet. I've come to really enjoy working with a damp brush to get the most out of them. My favorite way to wear these are using one of the dark colors (Giove, Subra, or Desdemona) to create the shape on the lid, and then patting a dot of a light color in the middle. For me this is an evening look, but not all of us are middle-aged, so go wild.

 I added a comparison swatch next to Callisto to show the differences between the shades of these Dual-Intensity Eye Shadows. As you can see, Callisto has a lilac/pink cast next to Dione and Himalia.

Bottom Line: I showed a great restraint by only buying four colors.

NARS Dione & Himalia Dual-Intensity Eye Shadows ($29 each) are available at most department stores, Sephora, and from

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta

Bertrand Duchaufour and Jean-Claude Ellena walk into a lab...

Sounds like the start of a good fragonerd joke (and you're more than welcome to fill in the blank), but it actually happened back in 2003 when the two superstar perfumers composed Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta, which is not to be confused with Acqua di Parma's Colonia or Colonia Intensa, each a completely different perfume.

I think that Colonia Assoluta was labeled a masculine fragrance. The press release for the 10th anniversary edition (same juice, but a gorgeous refillable bottle with an engraved bicycle motif ) certainly talks about
"... the man who lives deep in the surrounding world, ready to capture all stimulation....... He has a unique sense of style, matching garments and accessories with carefree elegance to combine tradition with modernity, Urban contemporary icons. The elegance of a man riding a bicycle in the city streets."
Whatever. Bicycle riders you see around here are more about  neon-colored spandex than elegance (if you've ever been to Nyack, NY on a weekend you know exactly what I mean), and I never learned to ride a bike, anyway. But none of this changes the fact that Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta is a modern take on the classic eau de cologne theme, with some interesting contradictions within the typical citrus and herbs composition.

There's something very stark, blanched, and almost overexposed in the first few minutes of Colonia Assoluta. Think of the blinding light of a summer midday in a small town as the heat drives everyone away from the emptying streets. This is where I also smell a bit too much white musk on its synthetic facet, but I have to admit that it enhances that 'blanched" effect. The citrus, flowers, herbs, and wood elements are blended seamlessly. None of them is too obvious, but there is an undercurrent of spice that keeps Colonia Assoluta from smelling too light and fresh/clean.  Back in her 2005 review on NST, Robin identified a shade of cumin in this Acqua di Parma perfume, and I get it. It might be a phantom note that trails the cardamom and various peppers used by Duchaufour and Ellena, but it's there and I actually like it. It keeps things fun.

Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta requires a heavy hand if you want things to last a while. It dries down into a warmer resins and roots than you'd expect from a summer cologne, and I'd personally layer it with some dry and bitter vetiver to enhance the effect.

Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta ($96, 1.7oz) is available at Sephora and select department stores. This review is based on a bottle of last year's anniversary  edition that was sent to me by the company's PR. To my nose it's identical to the regular juice (hence the refillable option).

Photo: an outtake from a famous John Rawlings beach shot for Vogue, June 1947.

Coming Soon From Hourglass: 1.5mm Mechanical Gel Eye Liner

Fall 2014 is shaping up to be a great season for eyeliners ( I already bought some from Lancome, NARS, and Laura Mercier. Reviews soon). Now Hourglass is joining the fun with a gel formula in a mechanical pencil. A very very thin mechanical pencil (hence the 1.5mm). From the press release the new Hourglass liner seems to be a true hybrid: not a gel-like pencil, but a real gel inside a pencil-like applicator that holds enough product for a 17 to 20 uses. This is not a lot, which I guess is why the mechanical eyeliner will also be offered in packages of three units ($45) as well as a single ($16. The latter only at Sephora and Right now the only shade will be Obsidian (black). I'll sacrifice a virgin for a navy version.

Release date: Today on It will launch on on July 29 and in all stores on August 15.

Jumpsuits: It's Time To Say Goodbye

Maggie Gyllenhaal in Maison Martin Margiela
Jumpsuits made a big comeback about five years ago and have become a celeb favorite that's often seen on the red carpet. At their best, like on Kate Hudson below, jumpsuits can be incredibly stylish:

Kate Hudson in Roland Mouret

Unfortunately, not all of us are Kate Hudson, and I'll never be able to unsee some of the stuff going around the Jersey malls (and NYC streets). Jumpsuits look best on the tallest and most statuesque among us. But height is not enough- there's also the proportions issue (a long torso with a defined waste, and a reasonable balance between chest and hips), as demonstrated by Cameron Diaz vs. Jennifer Love Hewitt:

Cameron Diaz in Stella McCartney

Jennifer Love Hewitt in Sass&Bide
Diane Kruger in  Marios Schwab

Then there's the cut and tailoring. Kate Hudson's look is so perfect because it's crisp. Diane Kruger's could have worked if it weren't so busy and overdone. Maggie Gyllenhaall above just looks frumpy (as did Scarlett Johansson back in 2009).

Do you wear jumpsuits? Are you ready to see this trend go away?

All photos: Getty North America via Zimbio.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jury Duty

It doesn't get more Mondayish than this, if you ask me.
Scent of the day: After considering Fracas, Miel de Bois and Absolue Pour Le Soir, I decided to play nice(r) and settled on Tauer Le Maroc pour Elle. Quite a bit of sillage, which is much needed around here.

Photo via Time Magazine

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Currently- July 2014

I finished two this week: The Cuckoo's Calling by J.K. Rowling as Robert Galbraith which I started and abandoned when it first came out, only to come back to it now before reading the sequel. It's a well-written mystery with some noir overtones. The other one was The Book Of Life by Deborah Harkness, the conclusion to the All Souls Trilogy. I won't get into it other than to say I was disappointed. Maybe that's what I deserve for reading a vampire story.

We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea by Declan O'Rourke

Something To Believe by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan

There's absolutely nothing to watch on TV.

Rozy by Vero Profumo. It's beautiful, magical, and puts to shame most other new releases.

NARS Subra Dual Intensity eye shadow.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
Little cotton cardigans over just about everything.

Bobby Flay's roasted cauliflower dish that's served at his restaurant Gato. It comes in a peppery sweet and sour marinade, and is probably the best cauliflower I've ever had. We keep ordering it hoping to figure out the secret, but no luck this far.

Shame Inducing Guilty Pleasure
Skipping lunch in favor of consuming scary amounts of watermelon.

The side effects of Benadryl.

Happy, healthy kittens. Kate and Philip are doing wonderfully.

Nick Cave concert next weekend. Mark Lanegan is the opening act.

I could use more maxi dresses.

Random Thought
(For those who read or intending to read the Book of Life) Still better than Renesmee.

How are you doing? Please share your loves, banes, recommendations or random thoughts.

Art: July Night by Frederick Childe Hassam (1898)