Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mazzolari- Alessandro

How I wanted to love Alessandro!

Considering my infatuation with both Lea St. Barth (extreme) and Keiko Mecheri's Loukhoum, I thought that this was a sure thing. Alessandro by Mazzolari is often hailed as the holy grail for sweet almond scents (other than Jarling, that is).

It is a soft, comforting scent. It's definitely pretty, and unlike Jarling that turned cleaning product sharp on my poor unsuspecting skin, it stays light and gentle. The problem for me was the lack of character and depth and the obviousness of the almonds. I like them as a note, but I don't want to smell like marzipan. The honey and vanilla notes are barely there, just enough to soften the almond but not to take it into any new depths.

Worst of all, it's an EDT and is seriously lacking in staying power. It was gone so fast that I had to reapply twice before I could have a real impression. I gave it a chance over two days, but it ended up leaving me wanting something bigger and better. I have neglected my bottle of Lea for the last couple of months, but as soon as I sprayed it I knew that it was just what I needed. I don't know how I wore Lea over the summer (and I did often). This is clearly a cashmere sweater scent, and it has never smelled better on my skin. It has everything that Alessandro is lacking, and then some. It has depth and staying power, the vanilla and white musk are adding some character and the end result is a wonderful comfort scent.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Evening eyes for non-blondes

There's an interesting and useful piece on eye-centric evening makeup in the December issue of InStyle. They are featuring actress Thandie Newton, who is an olive-skinned brunette, in three distinct looks: navy (very heavy on the liner), bronze (lots of sparkle, but still light and natural) and plum (with lots of black liner). All three looks use pencil liners to define the inner and outer rims and two colors of eye shadow. I like all three, but would be a bit careful when it comes to the lower lashes area. I was happy to see that I already own all the right colors I need for playing with this, except maybe a really good shimmer base. Their recommendation (Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal) looks very interesting. I'll need to check it out soon.
If you have a big holiday party coming, I highly recommend having a look at InStyle (pages 430--435).

Monday, November 27, 2006


Two things that I tried last night and left me unimpressed:
DuWop Lip Venom
F by Ferragamo

The lip plumper: I'm the last person on the planet to try a plumping product, I know. I just never felt a need (not that I'm any competition for Angelina Jolie, but I've no problem with my average lips), and I have a problem with the idea of applying a potion that's meant to irritate my lips. But I tried in the name of research. The stinging wasn't too bad. It was more annoying than burning. It lasted for about 30 minutes, made my lower lip round and pillowy, but did nothing for my upper one, which is the part that actually could use some help.

I liked the shine and non-goopiness, but not enough to decide that it's a procduct I actually need. You won't be mistaking me for Angelina any time soon (my blond man is nicer and smarter than hers, and I tend to adopt kittens, not little kids).

The fragrance: F got a trashing on many a blog. I can see why. This three note wonder (orange flower, jasmine and rose) is definitely not the most original creation, and jasmine tends to turn weird on many skins (Thierry Mugler's Alien comes to mind). I didn't hate it. The blossom turned quite candied on my skin, and it's a note that always works for me.
If it were some kind of celebrity fragrance I'd be quite happy with it. After all, it doesn't have berries and watermelon notes. But as a designer effort it's boring and just joins the reeking ranks of the fruity-florals.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Hand made, all-natural products have a certain charm. They're rustic, crunchy and have an authentic appeal. One line that offers a wide range of such treats is Maryam's Soap Nook. Maryam's passion for healthy, natural products to use on her daughter has gotten her into soap-making and aromatherapy.

The products come in generous, simple packaging and in many different scents. Naturally, many of them are very fruity and would appeal to those who like strong, straightforward foody fragrances. The ingredients are fresh oils and extracts, shea butter and Dead Sea salts.

I found the Japanese Camellia body oil to be of special interest. It was too thin for my alligator winter skin to work as a body moisturizer, but it's a very pleasant massage oil. The Yuzu (Japanese citrus) scent is fresh and invigorating. I wonder how it would work as a bath oil.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

With Love, Hilary Duff, Donna Karan Gold

There's something very wrong going on if after testing two fragrances, one by Donna Karan and the second by Hilary Duff, I positively hate the designer perfume and kind of enjoying the one by a really uninteresting celeb.

Maybe I shouldn't have had too many expectations from Donna Karan's Gold. After all, this is a lily fragrance, and I'm not that crazy about this note to begin with. Also, Karan is responsible for Cashmere Mist, one of my all time hated perfumes. Then again, she's also behind Black Cashmere, which I love and wear on a weekly basis. Sadly, this one will join the Mist on my eww list. Its Liliness is so strong and overpowering that it made my skin smell like a cheap air freshener spray. I found the top and middle notes to be downright skanky and unpleasant. It was very sharp, very strong and terribly floral. The drydown wasn't as horrible. It's softer and a little more creamy, but the Lily still prevails and made my husband wrinkle his nose at it.

I had zero expectations from With Love, Hilary Duff (seriously, even the name conjures up an image of something written in glitter, that probably smells like those fruity gel pens). The thing is, that it doesn't. There is a fruity note, but it's different because it comes from the exotic mangosteen and not from a ubiquitous berry. It also has spice, woods, incense and amber. Not exactly the makings of another teen scent (the questionable honor of doing that belongs to Vera Wang and her bastard of a Princess).

With Love is on the sweet side, but it didn't make my teeth rot. I kept sniffing my arm, trying to catch the notes as they changed on my skin and remember what it reminded me of. Finally I got it: Paloma Picasso's men's fragrance, Minotaur. Back in 1993 or 1994 I bought it for my husband (then my new boyfriend). It was very different than all the standard young men's stuff and I liked it, despite its heaviness and agressive nature. Years later I got rid of the half used bottle, (just as I discarded his entire wardrobe) in favor of more subtle scents.

I searched for Minotaur's notes, and what I found (Top Notes of Citrus, Middle Notes of Lavender, Geranium and Jasmine and Base Notes of Sandalwood, Vanilla, Leather) doesn't fit With Love, but on my skin it smells like a slightly more delicate and feminine version of the long gone mythological monster. I would have probably adored it when I was 23.

Robert Altman (1925-2006)

Director Robert Altman has passed away yesterday, at the age of 81. Among his (many) credits you can find the fabulous Prêt-à-Porter (Ready to Wear), which is not only "about" fashion and the industry, but it also gives clothes and our perception of them a major role. I re-watched it recently and enjoyed it much more than I did when it first came out in 1994. It was also a lot of fun to see the cameo appearances of several top designers and supermodels.

Some of my favorite Robert Altman quotes:
"Maybe there's a chance to get back to grown-up films. Anything that uses humor and dramatic values to deal with human emotions and gets down to what people are to people."
"Men make clothes for the women they'd like to be with or in most cases the women they'd like to be." 

Saturday, November 18, 2006

You Know You Need It

This is making my hand twitch. It's not every day that one can get 20% off at Sephora, and there are several items that I've been eyeing for some time. I was considering a Lorac palette, but the gloss and all the shimmery stuff might be too pale and too much. There's also the lovely eye palettes from DuWop, and I think I need the grey one, though the green looks very appealing as well. An Urban Decay lipgloss is also on my list (I already have it in Hustle, so I'll get one in Deep).

But, the best part for me is the restocking on Philosophy bath and body stuff (why don't they make an Amazing Grace body souffle?) , and some Bliss foot creams. In my opinion, this is one of the best deals, because Bliss products are always full price everywhere you can get them. Same for L'Occitane. They don't have the full range of products, but with winter coming and drying up my skin, I need the shea butter cream. And I'm almost out of the Korres body butter (I love the guava scent that, thankfully, smells nothing like real guavas).

Happy shopping! (and don't forget to actually use the code FF2006 at checkout)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pilgrimage- JAR Perfumes at Bergdorf Goodman

Monday Morning has found me worshipping at the altar of the ultimate destination for all things pretty: Bergdorf's Beauty Level. Together with my husband, I visited the inner sanctum: The dimly lit cavern of JAR.

There are many fragrances I've been and still am curious to try. But nothing can compete with a line so exclusive you can only find at two locations in the world: Their Paris boutique and Bergdorf Goodman in NYC. It doesn't sell anywhere else, you can't order it online and there are no samples, other than teeny tiny decants that you can purchase on eBay. So what's left for a fragrance obsessed girl to do?

The answer is to make an appointment for a sniffing ceremony with one of the two nice gentlemen who are in charge of bestowing the JAR goodness on us mere mortals. Not only do they have perfect manners and a friendly personality, these two guys are supposedly the only people in the US who know exactly what's in those sacred bottles.

The seven fragrances are not just exclusive, but also kept as secrets, as far as their notes go. There's no record anywhere of what's inside, and the very few reviews you can find online are only guesses. In some cases, certain notes are pretty obvious- gardenia, carnation, clove, almond. Others are a complete mystery, as is the name of one of them- the jewel in the crown that is only marked by a bolt of lightning on the bottle.

We met with Robert, the JAR guy (the ladies of Perfume Posse have raved about Franz, and Robert himself has told us that his colleague is an incredibly charming and handsome man. I really liked Robert and didn't mind missing the Franz experience). He presented us with seven containers, each holding a piece of satiny cloth infused with a fragrance. The scents are presented in a certain order, from left to right, according to the creator's specific instructions (Joel Arthur Rosenthal, a world renowned jeweler, whose initials are JAR). But after the initial sniffage, if you ask nicely, Robert would let you re-sniff in whatever order you choose.

The following is my impression. It's not a real review, just how the scents felt to me either from smelling the cloth or from those that we tried on. Also of note: the fragrances are quite unisex. Supposedly, even the gardenia one. The idea appealed to me, because lately I've been gravitating towards more masculine perfumes and I love sharing bottles with my husband.

Ferme Tes Yeux: Others have described this as "barnyard" and animalic. I've smelled something on the wrong side of rotten. Bad cheese. Bad something. It wasn't anything you'd classify as perfume, and not something that I felt like checking again. My husband wasn't repulsed by it at all. He didn't get the barnyard reference, and he should know, as he grew up on a dairy farm. Or, maybe that's why he didn't mind the smell.
Edit: How things have changed. Ferme tesYeux has become one of my holiest of grails. I actually bought a bottle about two years after first smelling it. You can read all about it here.

Shadow: It smelled dark and masculine. I think that there was vetiver and probably lavender. It smelled damp and musty in a pleasant way. My husband tried it on and it was sharp and good. Too sharp for his liking, though.
*edit: It took the husband another visit but now he's utterly in love with Shadow. I am, too.

Jarling: My big disappointment. The initial sniffing wowed me. It was rich and sweet, lilac and sunshine, but had a wicked twist to it. I thought it was going to be the one. But upon landing on my skin it was nothing but almond. Not a hint of another note. Sweet almond, like my mother's marzipan at first, but soon enough it became very sharp. It could have been made by Crabtree & Evelyn. Or by Method, and used for cleaning up wood furniture. I'm not making this up. I wish I could exchange my skin for one that would work with Jarling.

The one with the bolt of lightning: I'm definitely regretting not trying it on. It's probably not my thing- too "wet", earthy and green, but it was very complex and interesting, unlike anything else I know (but in a good way, unlike FTY). This is the most expensive one in this very expensive lot, and costs nearly as much as our car payments, combined. The scent and the price tag are not for the faint of heart.
Edit: my full review after quite a bit of testing and wearing

Diamond Water: Sparkling carnations and a hint of clove. Definitely floral, but with some oriental spice. Very beautiful in its delicate sweetness, never cloying. It developed to be very carnation-like, with a soft, creamy musk dry-down that lingered for hours. Interestingly, on my husband it wasn't sparkling or floral. It had the green part of the carnation, and was deeper and creamier. I really liked it on myself, but absolutely adored it on him.
*Edit: Here's my full review of Diamond Water.

Jardenia: They were not kidding with this name. This is a gardenia, the whole plant, including some of the dirt that gets caught up in the roots. And cheese. It makes any other gardenia-like fragrance pale in comparison, and if you are a fan of the scent- this is your holy grail. Sadly, I'm not.

Golconda: Carnations and skin. It was amazing how similar Golconda and Diamond Water smelled on me. Bob was quite surprised at the result on my skin. According to him, it's not supposed to do that. Great. I broke the JAR. All kidding aside, this was really good. It lacked the sparks and glitter of DW, but blended better with my chemistry. To the point that I couldn't smell anything after a while, while Robert and my husband assured me that it's very much there.

It was an amazing experience. I liked the fragrances and was quite enamoured by Golconda and Diamond Water. But I couldn't make a decision on the spot. eventually, after living with the scents for several hours, DW has clearly become my favorite. I like the extra oomph that it has over Golconda, though they are very similar when I'm wearing them. But do I really love it so much that it justifies a purchase? I'm not yet sure. I enjoy perfume very much and I don't wear cheap ones. But considering the collection that I already have- do I really need another one that cost so much but didn't make me feel the Must.Get.It.Now thing that I have for other favorites? On the other hand, I really really liked it, and am certain to wear it a lot. Wouldn't I wear it as often if not more than a pair of boots (that I only wear during fall/winter and is one of several that I own)? More pondering is in order.

**Another edit (September 2008): I revisited the boutique and wrote about it here.

(Picture: Greg Geffner, Diagonal Bolt Hitting Queensboro Bridge)


People magazine's sexiest man alive is George Clooney. No surprises there. I've been saying this for years, and even more so since he's become a modern Cary Grant. It doesn't hurt that he's also outspoken about political and social issues. And nobody looks better in a tux.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Back Home

Sorry for the lack of post this week, but I was away in San Francisco. It was my first time there and I had fun. No beauty find or insights, sadly. I survived the flights and the security thing with my most necessary products packed in a plastic bag. I checked in most of the stuff (all the shower and getting clean essentials) and only carried the important skin care and makeup with me. All the items that come in solid and powder form were in a small train case in my carry-on, while the glosses and mascara suffered the indignity of the Ziploc baggie. Not a big deal, just annoying.

And speaking of indignity, it seems that my underwire bra has set off the metal detector. That was a fun moment.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Stay With Me

Another good thing that I have to say about Tom Ford's Black Orchid is its long staying power. It holds its own for 6-8 hours, and a soft vanilla trace stays on the skin even longer. That's a very good thing in my book. I was never shy about fragrance. I don't use body splashes or any watered down scented products. I want the real thing, and I want to be able to smell it all day, and if possible- if you get close enough to me, you'l be able to smell it as well. This is why I'm terribly annoyed with serious perfumes that do not last.

There are two houses famous for lack of staying power. Annick Goutal is one, though I'm getting the feeling that it's not a universal problem with these scents, except for poor Hadrien. I love both versions (Eau d'Hadrien and Le Nuit d'Hadrien), and while the latter ambery nature keeps it around for much longer, it could still be improved. The original EdH is as flighty as it is wonderful. I wish they'd come with an improved version.
I'm quite happy with the other Goutals I'm using. Grand Amour lasts nicely and Quel Amour! stays all day and well into the evening. No complaints there.

The other infamous maker is L'Artisan Parfumeur. It starts with the fact that the majority of their scents only come as an EDT. Why? I don't buy the faux French snobbery about how a good perfume needs to be subtle and barely there. Tell that to Serge Lutens (or any of the other big names. They are all very distinct. And they last). I only tried one of the EDP that they do offer (La Chasse aux Papillons Extreme) and while it smelled nice, I wasn't too impressed with its staying power, either.

That said, I actually like their scents. Very much so. Especially the more masculine ones, and have even fallen in love with Mechant Loup. I don't get the hazelnut notes that some mention, but there is something deep and laced with honey, without being too sweet. It feels like wearing something velvety in forest green and burgundy. It even stays on the skin long enough to justify buying a bottle (which I will share with my husband). But if only it was an EDP... That would have been so perfect.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tom Ford Black Orchid

I'm turning 36 in a week and a half. It's not a big milestone and I'm not doing a wardrobe/fragrance/makeup re-evaluating . But it does make one wonder. Back when I was much younger, mid-30s seemed like such a distinguished age. You're supposed to have all the answers and have everything figured out. I definitely haven't reached that point yet, but at least I can smell like I have.

For the last several days I've been constantly wearing the very new (official launch is today) Black Orchid by Tom Ford. It took me a little while to get comfortable with it, to understand what I was smelling and sensing. The notes are not obvious at first sniff but there's quite a bit of fruit there- very different than the fragrances I usually go for. But from the first time I sprayed Black Orchid there was its elegance. This isn't a fluffy, pink princess type of scent. I'm not entirely sold on the model who chosen for the ad campaign, Julia Restoin-Roitfeld (yes, of that Roitfeld). I'd prefer to see someone a bit older who actually earned her glamour, someone more Hollywood. But, on second thought, who in today's Hollywood is that glamorous? At least, Tom Ford had the good taste not to choose  Sienna Miller.

Back to the fragrance. The second you inhale the top notes (black truffle,ylang ylang, bergamot, black currant) you know that this one is different. What I smelled was mostly the ylang ylang. Not a note that I always care for. Here, though, it offered a sweet sharpness that I found intriguing at first wear, and attractive upon later sprayings. As for the earthy the black truffle note, it doesn't evoke a risotto, which is a good thing.

Next comes the black currant that leads into the heart notes, that are fruits and florals. I'm not too crazy about the fruity part and the black currant is just a bit too much. But the sweetness is not too overwhelming and it is followed by the darker, deeper touch of patchouli (just enough of it, no over-patching), supposedly incense (not on my skin), vetiver, vanilla, balsam and sandalwood. Out of all that the one that is more pronounced for me is vanilla. And it's the vanilla that lingers after all the rest is mostly a memory. But it's a twisted, dark vanilla, touched with sandalwood.

I like it. I enjoy the complexity and retro elegance. I like how it's very different than everything else that I own, I like the grown-up feeling of this scent. It's a great cold weather fragrance.
My husband still isn't head-over-heels with it, but I could tell that it was growing on him. His comment was that it's more elegant than sexy, and I have to agree. But I'm pretty sure that just like with several other scents, after a while of me wearing it and making it mine, he learns to love it.

The bottle is lovely in its black and gold elegance. Makes me want to wear something fabulous and put on a red lipstick. My nails are already painted in Essie's Wicked. Very appropriate.

(Picture by Mastsy Wynn Richards, Skinners silk advertisement 1932, vintage gelatin silver print, Worcester Art Museum, Eliza S. Paine Fund, 1991.56)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

If The shoe Fits

Not really beauty related, but The Manolo has this great photo of Tony Blair looking fondly at shoes. A decade ago I had a huge crush on the British PM. Back then he had lots of charm, the bluest eyes and the sexiest accent. He made me cry when he spoke about Princess Diana. It was long before he has earned his "I'm with stupid" t-shirt.