Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chanel Kaleidoscope Nail Polish

I was sniffing perfume at Bergdorf's Chanel counter (basically, reminding myself how much the Exclusif line with its family-size bottles of too weak juice annoys me), when the SA noticed my nail polish, Chanel Kaleidoscope. It's quite recognizable, and hard to miss.

Most of the bottle images and swatches you see online look more silvery and on the cool side of things. It's just how it photographs, as I discovered myself. But Kaleidoscope isn't silver, gray or even taupe. The best I can describe it is as a very light metallic khaki with gold undertones.

Metallics can be tricky to apply without showing every brush stroke. Kaleidoscope is a bit better in this regard, especially when you go for a second coat. The result is quite striking and very shiny, almost mirror-like. The trade off is in the drying time, which is longer than most metallic polishes (and causes me to repeatedly mess up). I use two coats of Essie base, which helps tremendously in spreading the wealth. A top coat is necessary for me, otherwise there's serious chipping and peeling after the third day in the areas that hit the keyboard most.

Chanel Kaleidoscope ($20) is a limited edition for fall 2008. It's still available from most Chanel counters, so please check your local department store before you drop $29-$50 on an eBay auction. I got mine from Neiman's.

Images: mine

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Would You Wear This?

I spent way too much time tonight staring at this D&G creation trying to understand the thought process behind it. The oversized turtleneck and huge sleeve are just too much for me to take. Maybe a (very) tall woman can pull it off, but it's still more medieval page boy than a sexy dress.

Richard III:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Smoky Alternative: Nars Paris Eyeshadow Duo

After the disappointment of Chanel Smoky Eye Quad (too much shimmer, too little pigment), I was on a mission to find a reasonable alternative. I wanted a silver/gray set (I already have a couple of black shadows, and white is a complete waste on my skin) with minimum shimmer, and Paris, the duo from Nars fit the bill.

As you can see, the colors (especially the silver) are on the cool side. The shimmer in the silver one is minimal and it's a bit darker than most highlighters. I use it with a very light hand, to avoid the Heigl effect. The gray works well as an eye liner and looks good on the lid. It requires quite a bit of blending, and I like to add a bit of taupe (Bobbi Brown Flint) for a smoother, less harsh look. And I can't stress the light hand thing enough. Seriously. Remember the Heigl.

Photos (and freaky looking wrists): mine

And just because she matches the color scheme, Giselle. This time napping with Gracie.

Nars Eyeshadow Duo ($32) is available online and offline. I bought mine from Sephora on Union Square.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Serge Lutens Borneo 1834

I don't know it would have made any difference to have Borneo 1834 as the first Serge Lutens I smelled when I was taking my first sniffs of the road less traveled. Maybe Borneo, with its camphorous opening blast and dusty dark patchouli might have scared me away. Or maybe not. I already had a strong enough aversion to the shower-fresh genre and a distinct preference for masculine fragrances, so maybe I would have fallen hopelessly in love even then.

As things stand, my first Serge was Un Bois Vanille and it taught me that not all vanillas were created equally. It was followed closely by Cedre (a subversive tuberose), Miel de Bois (I like funk) and Gris Clair (who knew my husband could smell like that?). All the above means that by the time I finally got to try Borneo, my nose has already seen a thing or two and I was ready to take on a scent that has been described on one of the boards as "chocolate covered mothballs". So I did, and loved every minute of it.

Now, Borneo is not an easy scent. Camphor is not necessarily what one thinks about as pretty, and the cocoa-patchouli is as far from Thierry Mugler's foul and fallen Angel as the Palais Royal is from a B&BW store at your local suburban mall. But the depth and development are rich and addictive, though not in a foody way, despite the bitter chocolate. It's not really of the "yummy" variety, probably because of the dry, dusty element. This is a warm, smoky scent, and on my skin there's a complexity not entirely expected from such straightforward two main notes. The spices rise and fall, the camphor fades into a minty accord, the chocolate maintains a dark, not-so-fresh quality and you half expect it to disintegrate into a musky-tonka cuddly thing, but it never does. This is what keeps Borneo unisex.

I don't think I've seen a comparison to Mazzolari's Lui, which is another big patch-spice combo. Cocoa isn't listed among Lui's notes, but I get quite bit of it (also in the feminine version, Lei). Lui has an ambery sweetness, and gets its warmth from sandalwood and vetiver. It might be easier to wear for some, because it lacks the weird opening, but others would find Borneo more understated and elegant. I adore both.

On my skin, Borneo has a moderate sillage (a bit more when sprayed) and a good staying power (8 hours, easily). I wore it occasionally in tiny amounts during the summer, but it's much more suited for cold weather as it can be applied liberally (read: sprayed with abandon if I'm in the right frame of mind and not planning on entering a public elevator). The residue on my shawls and scarves is heavenly. When the weather is right, the scent is perfectly acceptable for daytime wear, but I'd be a bit wary of exposing innocent souls to the top notes. If I were a man, I'd wear it on a first date and expect swooning, but I'm not sure I can recommend the same for the ladies, probably because it makes quite a statement. Would I wear it for the third date? Not sure. Isn't that what Shalimar was made for? But I'd be overjoyed if my date would go with Borneo for the occasion.

Borneo 1834 is part of the non-export line (I bought my bell jar at the Palais Royal), but starting this week it's available as a limited edition from most of the usual suspects in the regular rectangular bottles. It's already at Barneys NY (they haven't updated the ridiculous website, though, so you'll need to call), and according to the SA at Bergdorf, they'll have it in a couple of days.

Image by Pamela Sukhum from Vinings Gallery

Sunday, October 26, 2008

New At Bergdorf Goodman: Serge Lutens Santal De Mysore

The formerly Paris exclusive Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore has joined the other scents that left their bell jars (Bois et Fruits, Bois et Sepia, Un Bois Sepia and Bois de Violette), and is now available at the rectangular bottle only at Bergdorf Goodman in NYC. They also have the gorgeous Chergui now, which was previously a limited edition Barneys exclusive (and rumor has it that most Barneys store are now out of stock).

Uncle Serge defines Santal de Mysore as "Maternal sandal wood laid over Siam spices" (from the Serge Lutens website). It's a unisex scent, leaning heavily towards the masculine. I like the woody part very much, but the "Siam spices" is more or less cumin (think Arabie light), though smoother and maybe blonder, if that makes any sense.

It's wonderful to see more and more of the non-exports actually being exported and available here (while they're not online, you can still call the store and place an order). If someone at the Palais Royal is listening, I dearly hope to see Rahat Loukhoum and Bois et Musc cross the Atlantic next. Pretty please with cumin on top...

(And don't forget that this year's limited edition that will be available from most Serge Lutens distributors is Borneo 1834. Bergdorf will have it later this week)

Image: Serge Lutens

Friday, October 24, 2008

DVF Fights Counterfeiters

Remember my eBay fiasco with the fake DVF dress?

Apparently, Diane von Furstenberg designs were very popular among counterfeiters, because the company decided to take some serious action. All the new items I've purchased recently have an additional inner label, right above the white one that indicates the model and its number. The new black label has a metalic insert very much like what you see on paper money, but with the designer's face on it. Pretty cool. The back of the label reads: "This label with security features is a certificate of authenticity".

From now on, if you're considering buying DVF on eBay (and the item is from fall 2008 or newer), ask the seller takes a picture of this inner label to make sure you're getting the real deal.

More companies need to consider taking such measures. Not sure if it's enough to restore customers waning faith in eBay, but maybe it's a start.

both photos are mine

Thursday, October 23, 2008

All That Glitters- Part 2

We're back to discussing shiny stuff : shimmer, glitter and metallic makeup options for those of us who have come of age...

Last week I reviewed Chanel Facette D'Or highlighting powder, which is a (very) subtly glittery finishing face product. The other day I realized that I'm getting a similar shimmery effect from an old favorite, Guerlain Terracotta bronzer. While its purpose is different and I still use a touch of powder over it, when it comes to a glowy touch, Terracotta is actually my favorite of the two. Which leads me to including bronzers or even blushes with a touch of shimmer in the list of age-appropriate options, as long as they're lightly applied. Personally, I'd avoid the popular Nars blushes (and Orgasm has never worked for me in all its weird orange glory), as they're just too much, but if you have a favorite item, don't bury it at the bottom drawer (any recommendations?).

If there's one area in the face we really want to shine, it's the eyes. There are endless textures and options for highlighting eye shadow (often referred to as "wash" in SA and makeup artist speak). Basically, it's the light shimmery color you apply under the brow and "opens up the eye". While Nars is famous for super pigmented, super shiny eye shadows, I find most of them over-the-top and not morning friendly. Many of the Chanel quads are also too much (though the singles are highly recommended), and I found the Smoky Eye set verging on unwearable for me (I do have a great alternative for this look. Stay tuned).

My choice in this category is Bobbi Brown. Her shimmers are elegant (though some are too light for my skin) and the metallics are velvety and perfect. All of them are office-friendly and quite fool-proof. No complicated application technique needed.

The other option for sparkly eyes comes in the form of shimmery eye liners. Here you can be a little bolder, because you apply a small amount and only cover very little skin, but the result is always pretty. Lancome Artliner comes in several pearly colors (I still miss Socialite, a limited edition metallic taupe from a couple of years ago) and there's a new one in their Holiday collection. Other favorites are Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner in Chocolate Shimmer Ink (there are several other shimmery options) and the liquid liner from Urban Decay. They have several interesting colors and the look of an ultra thin glittery line just at the lash base can work for just about everyone, even if you only dare to go there at night.

Lips are easy. I actually find that matte lips can be aging (not to mention require more work than I'm willing to do on a daily basis). As long as we avoid the goopy Paris Hilton look, I think we're safe with just about any good lipstick or gloss. Once again, it's hard to go wrong with Bobbi Brown (including the new Glitter Lip Balm. I'm serious), but just about every brand from Chanel and Dior to your favorite drugstore pick-me-up. For evening, I'm especially fond of YSL Golden Gloss: Golden Pralin for a nude look and Golden Plum for some serious sex appeal.

The safest choice for shimmer, though, is nail color. Here one can experiment a lot more. After all, it's not on our faces, right?
I'd still avoid the heavy glitters, but that's a personal choice. I don't wear blue or black polish, either. My mother's signature nail color is a pearly peach. She changes the brand frequently but never the look. I don't think I ever saw her with a satiny nail color (or in red, for that matter). I used to love the Anna Sui nail lacquers that are now nearly impossible to find (some online discounters still have some). The new OPI for Sephora line includes several interesting ones (and also some really atrocious colors) and Zoya has a huge selection of metallic colors. Another personal favorite is Lippmann Collection. While I'd skip the new limited edition Superstar (copper glitter. A bit too much for me), Brown Eyed Girl is a perfect chocolate shimmer, and Pump Up The Jam is a purplish glimmer.

I think the point is that you can wear something shiny at every age. The key is a light hand, a good quality product and, of course, focusing on just one area and wearing matte colors everywhere else.

How do you feel about all that glitters? What wouldn't you wear? Do you think there's an age limit for shiny things?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I've Been Tagged...

Several of my most favorite bloggers (Dain, Tom and Tamara) have tagged me, insisting I share six random things about myself. It's as good a post as any for a headachy night...

1. I have nine cats. Seriously. 9. That puts me exactly one husband and several pairs of Manolos away from being a crazy cat lady.

2. I didn't learn how to drive until I was 27.

3. Other than jeans, I rarely wear pants. I feel more like myself in dresses.

4. I wasn't allowed to wear makeup until I turned 16.

5. The first perfume I bought myself was Paloma Picasso.

6. Other than stray cats, perfume and artisanal jewelry, I also collect vegetarian cookbooks.

That zebra (from this site) at the top is just a random thing. I love zebras.

Since just about everyone I know has already been tagged, I'm tagging you, readers: Try to come up with a few random facts and leave a comment.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Let's Talk About Saks, Baby

Like many good consumers, I was doing my part to stimulate the economy during Saks 5th Avenue's Friends & Family sale. Not that they made it easy for me (other than providing the discount, that is).

It starts with the fact that my local Saks doesn't carry Diane von Furstenberg at all, so I had to order the items I wanted online. It's not a big issue since I didn't pay shipping, but still, it would have been nice to get the immediate gratification. I still went to the store to see what I could find, but their selection is not exactly what I was after (unlike what they offer online). Apparently, I wasn't the only one who felt this way, since the store was mostly dead. The only heavy traffic on the fashion floor was at the Elie Tahari and Theory sections, which are still much smaller than their parallels at Bloomingdale's across the mall (which is where I ended up shopping: they had a pre-sale and offered the same discount % as Saks, and even had my size in stock). Someone up there should take notice what sells and what doesn't, and realize that an empty store during a major sale event indicates more than a crappy economy.

The ghostly fashion floor was depressing, but it didn't stop me from heading towards the light: the makeup counters. Unlike their piranha-esques colleagues from the flagship across the river, the suburban SAs have made ignoring their potential customers into an art form. Not all of them, of course, not for every brand, but several counters were deserted while bewildered customers were trying in vain to get some attention from SAs who have turned into an army of pink lipsticked Helen Kellers with highlights.

At the Bobbi Brown counter, the efficient and gracious Libby was picking up the slack left by her coworkers who had better things to do. The only problem was that I had to wait 15 minutes before I could even test the palette I wanted (more on that later this week). The Estee Lauder counter was buzzing with activity while across the path at Lancôme there was mostly confusion and frustration. I have no doubt that they lost sales as a result.

This isn't just a Jersey issue and I'm not the only one who noticed. Check out this makeupalley thread from three days ago. Someone at Saks should be very worried.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Jo Malone Red Roses (for Breast Cancer Awareness Month)

I remember an article in some old and forgotten teen magazine I read when I was about 13. I can't tell you what was the exact subject, but I remember it describing a girl, a senior or junior in high school (the most glamorous creature to my poor junior high mind), who was everything I could ever want to be and fail miserably. She was popular, had a bunch of glamorous extracurricular activities, had frizz-free hair and was equipped with this mythological creature, a boyfriend, something I couldn't even dare hope to have. But the most amazing thing about this girl was her closet, where everything was neatly placed, including her beautiful cashmere sweaters, perfectly folded and arranged by color. Of course, I didn't have one cashmere thread in my godawful closet, and the most I could hope for was keeping our cat out of it (apparently some things never change, even after a quarter of a century and owning enough cashmere items to recreate a Himalayan goat).

It's funny that out of all the desired things she had, it was the closet that got to me most.

The first time I smelled Jo Malone's Red Roses scent I was instantly reminded of that old article and the perfect girl. This is what she would wear. A perfect rose with more than a hint of green. It's clean and fresh, probably why my nose interprets the scent as "young", and unlike so many rose notes, my skin doesn't turn it rancid.

While the sillage is minimal and vanishes quickly, the lasting power is surprisingly good and can be detected on skin level many hours later (6-8 hours, applied moderately). There are no secrets and mysteries to Red Roses. What you smell is what you get. It's crisp, well-bred and neatly folded, goes well with cashmere sweaters and a preppy boyfriend named Chad.

The bath oil is a pure luxury, both in smell and texture. It's very true to the scent and it makes the most ordinary bath a place right out of my early teen fantasies.

Red Roses is Jo Malone's "pink product" for Breast Cancer Awareness month. A portion of all sales goes towards cancer research (Breast Cancer Research Foundation).

The cologne ($100 for 100 ml) and bath oil ($60) were a PR freebie. They can be purchased at Jo Malone boutiques, Saks, Bergdorf and Neiman's as well as online.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hidden Gems: Little Pleasures From Two Sides Of The Globe

Or: Thinking Outside The Mall

Fall is here in all its glory. It's the perfect season to go out of the City, take a drive somewhere pretty and discover something new.

When my friend Helg from Perfume Shrine and I first started discussing the idea of writing about our favorite "hidden gems", the focus, naturally, was perfume. But we soon realized that we wanted to do something a bit different, to bring a little local and seasonal color (after all, Helg hails from Greece while I come from the New York Metro area). We both have interests that go beyond the bottle but fall under the lifestyle/culture category, and besides: so many of our readers are fragrance enthusiasts and have searched the globe for fabulous scents. It'd be hard to surprise you.

The list offers a little of everything, a local flavor and some fun suggestions. I'd love to hear from you about your favorite hidden gems, regional or other. Please share them in the comments.

Makeup: Alison Raffaele
There are many lines by famous makeup artists and Alison Raffaele is among the very best. Her previous range, Skin By Alison Raffaele, has sadly been discontinued (though still available on the web site under "Last Looks"), and her new products focus on a perfect complexions. If you can find a makeup artist who works with her products you're in for a treat. There's a store locator on the site, and it's worth checking so you can go in person and find your match. I'm Skin Tone #3.

The veteran fragrance affictionados might yawn here, because you've smelled it all before. Still, I'd like to mention a few items that deserve a little more attention, and also a local creative nose that makes perfumes that smell like nothing else.

L'Occitane tend to put all their marketing money on the new releases and the snazzy bottles (sadly, I'm not a fan of any of those), but there are a couple of older very well done scents. Amber is a beautifully balanced, satisfying yet transparent sweet amber, while Eau D'Iparie is a unisex myrrh and incense combo that doesn't smell like anything you'd expect to find at the mall. The best part? Both come in travel o.68 oz bottles (20 ml) for $17.

Sonia Rykiel has a couple of my favorite fashion designer perfumes. Le Parfum (look for the EDP version) is a cozy, rich scent, an oriental with a classic feel and an almost chypery kick (though there's no oakmoss listed). Easy to find online, and if you're in Europe also in stores. Rykiel Woman (also known as Not For Men!) is about leather, incense and cozy cashmere. It's lovely and very wearable while differing greatly from mainstream and designer fragrances.

Tiffany EDP is only available at the jewelry store. It's a sweet floriental, a bit big around the shoulders and quite luxurious. It's one of my personal staples and has been so for years. A perfect date scent.

From the "(almost) only in Paris" department, here's a little-known gem: Memo is a French line featuring four perfumes that are supposed to evoke exotic destinations. The store also offers home fragrance and a bath & body line, all are very pretty. My favorite is Lalibela, a very dark rose with a lot of incense. It's so goth you'll find yourself reaching for the black nail polish (a review coming soon). Available in Paris and Harvey Nichols in the UK.

CB I Hate Perfume is not exactly news for the perfume enthusiasts community ("crazy perfume people" to the rest of the world). But if you haven't begun sniffing outside Sephora or the regular department stores, there's a good chance you've never heard of Christopher Brosius and his transcendental creations. They are small journeys in a bottle, designed to touch your memories and emotions. If you're visiting NYC, a detour to Williamsburg is highly recommended for the food, fashion and to visit CB's gallery (93 Wythe Avenue Williamsburg Brooklyn, between North 10th and North 11th). It's the only location where you can get not just the perfumes, but also his special accords, many more than what you see on the web site (I think I need the Soap-Tabac).

Jewelry: Tilly Bloom
A Brooklyn artist that makes fun, quirky jewelry with a vintage feel and a sense of humor. I fell in love with her t-shirts.

Household Products: Caldrea
Making housework into an (almost) aromatherapy session. The lavender-pine line is especially wonderful. A countertop cleanser that smells luxurious can sometimes make my day.

TV Show: Pushing Daisies
It's probably the best show you don't watch. A little fantasy (a guy who can wake the dead), a little love story (the girl whom he brought back from the other side) and the occasional murder mystery. Beautifully filmed, the colors and frames are very retro, as is the fashion. And occasionally, you'll hear Kristin Chenoweth and Ellen Greene sing.

Old Movie: Cactus Flower
Ingrid Bergman, Walter Matthau and heartbreakingly young Goldie Hawn. A joy to watch.

Book: The Lost Legends Of New Jersey by Frederick Reiken
Coming of age in Suburban New Jersey of the late 70s-early 80s. You don't need to be from the Tri-State area to enjoy this sensitive story. One of my all-time favorites.

Restaurant: 4coursevegan
I know vegan food has a bad rap. You immediately think of weird textures and lacking flavors. This couldn't be further from Chef Matteo's creations, which are among the most creative and delicious meals you can find. Matteo serves a four course (plus extras) dinner every Saturday night. The guests are seated at a few communal tables, enjoying the food and the conversation. If you're planning to be in the area, consider making a reservation. For food lovers, not just vegans/vegetarians. Bring your own bottle of wine.

Bakery: Jean-Claude's Patisserie
Warwick, NY has pretty Victorian houses, a farmer's market and a couple of antique stores. But the reason I like to visit is Jean-Claude's French patisserie. They have buttery, flaky mini quiches, beautiful cakes, pies and cookie platters. The coffee is great and the service friendly. If I were to get married again, I'd order my cake from them. It's probably the best place to stop if you're on your way to shop at Woodbury Common.

Radio Station: WFUV
There are very few radio stations today that focus on alternative music, old and new. WFUV from Fordham University, NY is a member supported public station (which means no commercials and a very limited budget). They've introduced me to many of my current favorite artists and can always be counted on to have knowledgable DJs, an interesting lineup and a web site full of content, including live streaming you can enjoy online, no matter where in the world you are. This week is their Fall Membership Drive. If you're a listener, please consider becoming a member and supporting this wonderful gem.

Music: The Chapin Sisters
Haunting voices, sensitive lyrics, beautiful music. Gothic folk? Folksy goth? who cares. You can also find them on iTunes.

Please visit Perfume Shrine for more suggestions and a completely different take that's also off the beaten path, and share your local favorites in the comments.

All photos are mine, copyrighted, etc.. That's what fall in New Jersey looks like.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chanel Facettes D'Or Powder And All that glitters (Part 1)

A few months ago, when Chanel first introduced their fall 2008 golden collection, I fell in love with it: from the obscenely expensive nail polish to the ambery Glossimer that adds shine and depth to several of my old lipsticks. I wasn't too sure about the golden powder, mostly because I'm not into elaborate highlighting makeup, and couldn't see why I'd need it. But the promise of a "candle-lit, glowing from within" look was just too good to pass, and this was one product I didn't already have in my stash.

Opening the compact and dipping a brush, I got scared of the little golden flecks. They looked too glitter-like for comfort. I don't know about you, but my clubbing day are long behind me and I just can't see myself applying shiny little particles to my face, highlighting or not. But I braved the powder and gave it a try. At first there was definitely glitter. Then I could almost see how the product would melt into the skin, leaving behind a very faint glow. It's much more finely milled than you'd expect from looking at the pressed mound.

The result is a very faint glow, nothing dramatic. The golden particles mostly disappear into the skin, and I can't say I like the idea of them sitting in my pores. It's not the best finishing powder I've ever seen, but it's decent. Not $50 decent, though. It also has a distinct gold/yellow tint that I don't mind, but might not work on the cool-toned.

Personally, I wear it to add something extra to an evening look, but wouldn't attempt it for day, because there's still just enough gold there to make it questionable. Not so much because of age, it's just that I'm not sure that tiny gold flecks were meant to appear for a Sunday brunch or at the office. I'd probably avoid this powder altogether if I had visible wrinkles, since I'd worry about the tiny flecks settling in them, but other than that, this is one of those subtle shimmers that are mostly ageless. It's just not that exciting.

Part 2 will include several other age-appropriate options to add a little shine to our looks.

Chanel Facette D'Or highlighting powder ($50) is a limited edition for fall 2008. Most Chanel Counters still have it in stock. It's available online from I bought mine at my local Saks.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Karl Lagerfeld For Saks

This might be my favorite special product for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Karl Lagerfeld designed this t-shirt for Saks 5th Avenue. It's quirky enough, with a portrait of Karl himself on the back, and thankfully, not pink.

The shirts are sold online and in store for $40, out of which $35 go to the Entertainment Industry Foundation's Women's Cancer Research Fund.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Spray With Caution: Robert Piguet Visa

I remember reading the descriptions for the reconstructed Visa from Robert Piguet and thinking it was probably not for me, but I guess that once I stopped worrying and learned to love the pulp, I was ready to take on some perfumes that previously I would have skipped.

The peach and pear alone would normally send me running for the hills, but while in Paris I got adventurous and gave it a try. And then another one. And another one. The scent haunted me enough to seek it out until I finally broke down and surrendered. Why?

What did me in was the chyprey-leathery feel. It's entirely grown up and very sexy in a lush, rich, fully-clothed way. The fruit is as far away from the mall-bought body sprays that come to mind when you think of pear and peach notes. They are intertwined with a boozey warm rose note that calls to mind a similar combination in Parfum Delrae Bois De Paradis (berries, in that case), and I even get a decent amount of violet, a note that too often goes away to die when it meets my skin.

It's interesting how my skin retains the fruit for as long as the perfume is there (which is nearly forever. Like most fruit scents, all the king's horses and all the king's men can't make it go away), infusing the leather, moss and other rich base notes and making them fuller, more 3-D, if that makes any sense. I don't know how much moss they actually put in this, considering that it's a commercial fragrance, but the chypre kick is unmistakable (though don't expect anything Bandit-like. These scents come from the same house but you'd never know it).

If we go back to the Bois de Paradis comparison, Visa is more restrained and not as loud, but it's still a big one, with lots of sillage. One spray too many and it becomes a flesh eating creature on the same level as Angel. So it needs to be handled with care as to not become a tacky cliché (which is why I chose the artwork you see above). Used just right and it's a thing of beauty that would appeal to fans of Malle's Le Parfum de Thérèse.

In Perfumes- The Guide, Tania Sanchez, who smelled the original 1947 creation, says that our 2007 version is fully modernized and cannot be mistaken for a classic from a bygone era. While I somewhat agree, I still get a retro feel from the new Visa, especially when compared to the Delrae scent or (and don't throw anything heavy at me) to the new Secret Obsession from Calvin Klein. The latter is not bad at all, even if it's very mainstream and lacking in edge. But my point is that Secret Obsession is a rich spiced plum with a surprisingly adult drydown (compared to those LOLfrags CK has released in recent years this was a very nice encounter for me), but still very modern, while Visa has vintage, red lipstick and black hat vibe.

While I've heard that there's a quality issue with American-made Piguet fragrance, my NYC-bought bottle says "Made in France", so there might have been some changes in distribution (my two year old Bandit is an older, USA product). Unlike in Paris, where I saw these scents just about everywhere, here you can either order online from the Piguet website, or buy them at Henri Bendel on 5th Avenue, which is what I did (and how I ended up with a 100 ml bottle, as they didn't have the smaller size). There's also a pure parfum, and I have to tell you, I'm highly tempted.

Image: Enigma of the Generations by Michael Cheval

Friday, October 10, 2008

Butter London Nail Polish

My relationship with my bottle of Butter London nail polish didn't start on the best note.

Actually, I take it back: When I first spotted the bottles and the unusual colors with the quirky British names, I had to use every ounce of self control to keep myself from ordering a dozen of them (seriously, how can one resist something called HRH?). I settled for Teddy Boy, that promised to be a vintage dirty rose. It is definitely accurate , though a bit on the dark side (I'm not complaining).

My issue is with the design of the bottle/cap and the brush.

The rectangular box bottle looks modern and sophisticated, but it's not so easy to open (maybe I'm too used to Chanel caps that don't require much work because underneath the outer cap there's a roundish one, that turns normally), and I ended up with polish on my fingers and on the bottle. Then there's the very short and too thin brush, that is a bit hard to control and doesn't carry much product, so I have to re-dip more than I like to cover each nail (an invitation to messy application).

Despite that, the polish goes on easily enough and doesn't streak even if you need three dips for one nail. It's very pigmented and completely opaque, so one coat can be enough, though it takes two if you want to get the exact color you see in the bottle.

The durability isn't the best ever. Without a top coat I saw chipping after the second day (I didn't do anything more damaging than typing and the mildest housework), though a certain level of shine maintained after three days. With top coat (I use Essie), the polish survived nearly five days.

The best part, other than the color (which I love) is that Butter London is free of the worst 3 toxic chemicals found in most traditional nail polishes and it doesn't stink to high heaven.

All the pictures were taken without top coat in several degrees of natural/artificial light.

Butter London nail polish ($12) is available from
All images: mine. Models: Gracie and Giselle
Bonus pictures of Giselle, just because.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer is the reason I never got to meet my maternal grandmother, a stylish non-blonde who loved accessories and perfume. I think of her every year when I make several "pink" purchases, from companies that participate and donate to research and/or support organizations.

There are many to choose from and chances are that several of your favorite products are coming out in a pink ribbon edition and there are always some special releases in pink packaging. If you have a charity you especially like to support, it's worth checking who are the companies that work with it.

Here are a couple of things worth checking:

Pink Is The Link set from Essie has a limited edition nail polish, a base coat and my favorite: a glass nail file. A percentage of the proceeds will be donated to Living Beyond Breast Cancer whose mission is to empower all women affected by breast cancer to have the best quality of life. are supporting The Breast Cancer Foundation and offering many of their products like mats, yoga blocks and towels in pink. I have their thick mat and like it a lot (after I aired it and got rid of the rubber smell).

Non-product related, but worth checking, especially if you're high-risk for breast or ovarian cancer, or if you're looking for a vibrant advocacy community: Bright Pink is a support organization for young women. They work to enlighten and empower high risk individuals to take control of their breast and ovarian health by providing education, support and a sense of community for a better, brighter future. That's one worthy cause if there ever was one, and definitely close to my own heart.

For more information and Pink Product reviews, please check the posts from my fellow bloggers in the Beauty Blog Network (and if you're a blogger, please feel free to take the widget and join us):


top image: (they have black or white bandanas with the pink ribbon, but I'm not sure which organization they support).
product images: and

Apparently, Sarah Palin is now working in PR

Previously on the Non-Blonde: A press release for a lipstick managed to annoy me on several levels.

If you look at the comments on that post, you'll see an anonymous rambling one that makes very little sense. Of course, nothing on the web is really anonymous and you can imagine where it came from. IP numbers do not lie. But just to drive home the point, the PR person sent me an email that seemed to be written in Palinese, berating me not just for my lacking sense of humor, but also for not supporting the Breast Cancer Awareness cause.

If you're scratching your heads now, I don't blame you. You saw the press release that focused on the Shiksa theme. There was no mention of the Breast Cancer Awareness issue, which wouldn't make much of a difference, really. The Shiksa makeover for the poor Jewish girl angle would still be just as idiotic. But supposedly, I should have done "a little more research" (direct quote) to discover the good intentions paving this road to hell.

I don't think so.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Bad Marketing Syndrome

Or: How to lose potential clients and alienate a blogger or two

Apparently, I'm lacking sass. Because I'm Jewish (it's the nose, I'm telling you). But don't fret. A press release from the PR company that handles makeup artist Ramy Gafni and his product line has the cure for me: A pink lipstick.
Confused? Don't be. Here's the brilliant pitch I received today:

What Do A Male Makeup Artist And Jewish Author Have In Common?
Author Taps Makeup Guru RAMY For Creative Spark, Inspires Limited Edition Lipstick

Do Shiksas really have more fun? Ramy Gafni, NYC’s celebrity makeup artist and brow guru thinks so. He has partnered with author Laurie Graff, to create a limited edition Shiksa Goddess Lipstick to coincide with the debut of Graff’s novel The Shiksa Syndrome. This lipstick has so much sass, you are sure to forget about the Challah!

SHIKSA: n. Yiddish
1. A non – Jewish woman
2. A quintessential blonde beauty
3. The polar opposite of the quintessential Jewish mother
4. A type of woman who instills deep longing in Jewish men
5. A Jewish boy’s dream
6. A Jewish girl’s nightmare


Would the lipstick make me tall and blonde? Is it going to make my nose smaller? Should I change my blog's name to something sexier for the sake of Jewish boys who dream of Shiksas?

Does anyone really think that it's a good idea to push a product with the message that one needs to hide/change/deny their heritage in order to look more appealing?
(At least they didn't mention gefilte fish. We should all be thankful)

I was asked earlier today if I'm offended by this spiel. I'm not. Ramy Gafny is Jewish and I doubt he or anyone at the PR firm had any bad intentions. I just find the whole thing beyond stupid. And challa has too many carbs, anyway.

Edited to add: Follow Up (and more bad marketing) here.

Image: from Segment no. 3 of New York Stories, Woody Allen's Oedipus Wrecks. The Jewish mother appears in the sky to berate her son until his relationship with the shiksa (Mia Farrow) falls apart and he replaces her with a Jewish psychic (Julie Kavner). Woody has made a career of lusting after blonde shiksas only to marry Soon-Yi.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Serge Lutens- Daim Blond

I've always had the strongest aversion to fruit notes in perfume. I still do, to an extent. Let's face it: Most fruity fragrances smell either cloyingly punchy or horribly cheap. Or both. And I have the skin chemistry to bring out the worst in these scents and make them last forever.

Daim Blond, a 2004 Serge Lutens creation from the export line, has one of the boldest fruit notes I can think of in high-end perfumery. Apricot. Or apricot jam. It's not your grandma's confiture, though. There's a spicy cardamon note in it, like those fancy sophisticated apricot preserve you'd buy at an exquisitely decorated deli, where you can also buy chocolate with sea salt and chili pepper and mango-papaya balsamic vinegar. That was my way of saying that the apricot in Daim Blond smells good and unlike anything you'd find at those atrocious Yankee Candle stores.

But Daim Blond isn't really a fruity perfume. The story here is the suede note. Serge Lutens might have wanted to evoke a whitish suede, but as far as I'm concerned it could have been a caramel, amber or tobacco colored suede just as well. It's soft, buttery and sensual no matter what color it takes, and because of the rich fruity note, it actually feels to me a bit darker.

Now, Daim Blond usually works better on my husband and he's the one who owns the bottle. His skin tones down the sweetness and brings out more of the spice and suede, making it quite masculine and elegant. On me, it can sometimes be too much, depending on the day and weather (I absolutely can't wear it on warm, sunny days). Sometimes the opening is a bit medicinal and bitter, other times there's a weird cherry thing going on (blame it on the heliotrope) that intensifies the fruity aspect to the point I'm not happy wearing it. But on my lucky days I get a craving, knowing that it would be right. On those days, Daim Blond is all about skin and sensuality and has an addictive quality. While the strong sillage fades after a couple of hours, the drydown is nearly eternal. It's one of those perfumes that make me sniff my wrist a hundred times a day, just so I can admire myself. Utterly indulgent and very satisfying, even if it only happens a handful of times each year.

Notes: hawthorn, Ceylon cardamom, iris, apricot kernel, musk, heliotrope and leather.

Daim Blond is available from all the usual suspects who sell Serge Lutens perfumes offline and online: Aedes (NYC, my preferred Serge source), Scent Bar (L.A.),, Barneys, Bergdorf and several others. In the UK you can find it at Selfridge's, and if you're lucky enough to live in Paris, you don't need me to tell you that even Sephora carries Serge Lutens.

Art: Timeless Moment by Michael Flohr, Vinings Gallery
Daim Blond ad:

Sunday, October 05, 2008

L'Occitane Hair Products: How I Became (Almost) Goop-Free

When normal people need to pack hair products to take on a trip, they either get those mini bottles of popular brands you find in every drugstore or they decant whatever they're using into empty 1 oz bottles you can usually buy at the same drugstore in their travel section.

These options do not work for someone whose hair is at mid-thigh length (I recently cut off a few inches), so I usually buy the smallest regular size shampoo and conditioner bottles of some decent brand like Matrix and ask myself if I'd ever be able to travel light (the answer to that is a big NO). Back in June I was facing quite a bit of travel, domestic and abroad , and upon taking inventory, realized I need to replenish my stash. I had several things to pick at the L'Occitane store, like their mini hand cream tubes and other luggage-friendly items, so I had a look at their hair care offering and realized they were a good size for me.

I chose a bottle of Aromachologie Repairing Shampoo and tube of Shea Butter Ultra Rich Conditioner. My expectations were mostly that the products wouldn't suck. I was used to applying quite a bit of hair goop according to need, so I never counted on the stuff that washes down the drain to provide my hair with much. But I was in for a very big surprise.

There's only so much I can say about any shampoo. If it's good, it cleans well without stripping the hair and the scalp. If it's bad it makes me itch. L'Occitane Aromacologie is good, effective and gentle enough, and also smells herbal and green, which always makes me happy. I dislike the synthetic fruit notes you find in most mass market hair products.

The big story here is the conditioner. The texture is thinner than I expected and my hair seemed to soak it up instantly, so much that there was very little left to rinse off. But the result was a fully hydrated mane, soft, manageable and healthy looking. I cut back drastically on the amount of leave-in conditioners and other styling products. I simply don't need much, especially on days when the weather isn't anti-hair.

Now, if it only came in family-size packaging...

L'Occitane hair products are available from their stores and online. I buy mine at my local mall.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Lost Perfume Series: Jil Sander Woman III

Launched in 1986, four years before the more popular (and just as discontinued) No. 4, Jil Sander Woman III was an elegant chypre, somewhat out of place in the age of Giorgio and Obsession. The notes: orange blossom, hyacinth, nutmeg, angelica, ylang ylang, sandalwood, patchouli, pepper, coriander, oakmoss, cedar, musk, tonka and vetiver, do not tell the entire story,but they hint of a refined air.

While No. 4 is much more femme and cleavagy, Woman III is greener. It can be equally at home in a pant suit as it is in black velvet. Some days it verges on soapy, but never really goes there, which I'm very happy about. However it was clean enough to wear in summer without overwhelming, even if chypres are more traditionally fall scents, probably because of their complexity and the richness rendered by oakmoss.

Despite the name, Jil Sander Woman III could probably be worn by men. It's well-blended and restrained enough to not be so bold and make the grand entrance of Paloma Picasso, another chypre from the same era that shares some of the notes (hyacinth, coriander, patchouli, oakmoss) but is all red lipstick and drama. I get quite a bit of peppery spice and very little, if any, of the floral heart. The drydown has enough bitter vetiver to satisfy me and give it a unisex kick.

Woman III has vanished from shelves and stores some years ago, probably because of the restrictions on oakmoss and the fact that the franchise of Jil Sander perfumes is now owned by Coty, a house that traded off its history and glory for Celine Dion, the Beckhams and Jennifer Lopez. I was extremely lucky to find a sealed bottle, still in its cellophane wrap, on eBay. It's an EDT with a great lasting power and considerable depth, which makes lust after the idea of an extrait, even if I don't even know that it was ever produced. If you search well enough, there are still some tester bottles online and the Perfumed Court has two regular new 100 ml bottles , if you're willing to part with $370.

Art: Moonlight by Pamela Sukhum from Vinings Gallery
Fashion: Jil Sander Fall 2008 Ready-to-Wear from