Thursday, January 31, 2008

Walk The Line- Fresh and Dior Lip Pencils

Talking about lip liners is a bit boring. The subject falls under "if there's something to say about it, you must be doing it wrong", but since lining mistakes would make one channel Pamela Anderson, it is worthy of discussion.

My all-time favorite lip liner is Gypsy Rose from Fresh. They have repackaged it into a double sided pencil together with Poppy Plume, but I'm just happy it's still available. I've been using it for at least five years, maybe longer. It's about half shade darker than my natural lip color and goes perfectly with every plum/rose/mauve gloss or lipstick in my wardrobe. It's easy to apply, says put for hours and does it job in keeping top coats in place.

Yesterday I reviewed the other natural color option, a rosy brown lip stain/gloss, so a good match for that would be Dior lip liner pencil in Natural Beige. The color almost disappears on my lips, which is exactly what I need most of the time. It seals the edges and keeps the lipstick firmly intact, and while it's not as soft as the one from Fresh, it does have a slightly better longevity.

There are other pretty colors in this range and I have my eye on the one in Candy Rose. Testing the shades can be a bit frustrating, as they appear darker on your hand than they'd be on your lips (I'm not the only one who first tries lip products on my hand before putting any on my face, right?), but since the Sephora swatches are a bit off you absolutely must try them in person before making your choice.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

SAG Inspired Lips- Laura Geller Lip Stay

The makeup looks we saw on the red carpet last Sunday inspired a whole bunch of emails asking me to recommend neutral lip colors that would flatter the olive skinned and naturally pigmented lipped among us. It seems like I'm not the only one who thinks that Eva Longoria tends to choose lipsticks that are too pale for her (J. Lo also seems to make a similar mistake very often), unlike the flawless America Ferrera.

While I've already covered the subject in past posts, I do have a new favorite in the natural looking lip color category, and it's even a long-lasting one, that can survive an evening of smiling, kissing and careful champagne sipping.

Laura Geller Lip Stay is a two sided lip product. We've seen several of these in the last couple of years, from Chanel to Max Factor. Lip Stay is very reasonably priced ($13, compared to Chanel at $32, though the Geller one seems to contain less product), but doesn't compromise quality.

I tried it in Pout, a rosy brown color, a bit warmer than my favorite plummish colors (which are usually along the lines of what America Ferrera is wearing in the picture, Lancome's Raisinberry Le Lipstique with on of my most beloved glosses, Color Fever Gloss in On Fire. Scroll down the linked post for my review), but is still very flattering and completely neutral on my face, so it won't clash with a glamorous dress or eye makeup. In the tube there's more than a hint of shimmer, but it disappears on skin. The color is easy to spread, sits pretty, doesn't dry my lips or weigh them down and it stays on for quite a long time, as long as you don't challenge it with very hot beverages.

The clear gloss coat is pretty standard: not too shiny or sticky, not too resilient and smells of vanilla. You'll need to reapply this part throughout the day or night, but that's to be expected.

Tomorrow: A lip liner to match this look.

SAG photos: Just Jared

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Skin Savers: Carol's Daughter Body Products

*** Winners of the Incense Extreme drawing, go back one post ***

And for today's fun:

My ongoing battle against the cuir de crocodile has been very successful this winter. Carol's Daughter body products have been a great asset in this war, and it looks like I have another holy grail cream: their Shea Soufflé. While they offer several other good options, the soufflé is perfect in a Goldilocks way: not too thick, not too thin, just rich enough to feel satisfying and nurturing.

The regular lotion would probably work for everyone who needs good moisturizing without coating the skin too much. Be careful if you also use the hair milk: the bottles look exactly the same and I ended up with lotion in my hair on a couple of dark mornings when I was primping half asleep, not remembering that the hair products are the ones on the left side of my dresser.

The body butter in the flat tin is amazingly rich, but quite greasy. It forms an excellent protective barrier that would work great for those who spend longer periods of time outside than my regular dash from door to car. You need to be careful if you apply it before dressing up, because it would get on your clothes. This is why I prefer to use it for a quiet night at home, before putting on thick PJs. The next morning my skin feels extra soft. Another word of warning: the butters are chock full of natural ingredients, including the color of whatever fruit they are made of. The Mango Mélange has stained my sheets with its orange color. It washed off easily, but you should not use it around your white satins.

The shea soufflé was the most perfect of the three products I tested. Rich, creamy but very absorbent, feels luxurious, pampers the skin and leaves it in a very happy condition for the whole day. With 47% of natural butters and oils, no mineral oil or petroleum (two ingredients that always end up making my skin feel dry), it's fast becoming my favorite skin saver.

Winners: Tauer Incense Extrême

The lucky winners in the Incense Extrême giveaway are:


Please email me your address.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Lost Perfumes: Balenciaga Cristobal

In 1998, thirty years after Cristobal Balenciaga left his fashion house and 24 years after his death, his namesake perfume was launched into a very different fashion scene than it was during the designer's 1950s golden age.

It's interesting to note that Balenciaga's retirement is often associated with the increasing importance and profitability of the ready-to-wear market as opposed to the meticulous couture tailoring he was known for. But let's be honest: He was also in his early 80s, so that might have been a bigger factor than the commercialization of designer names and high fashion.

The perfumes that were launched by the designer himself, Le Dix (1947) and Quadrille (1955) have been watered-down and reformulated until someone at the Gucci Group, the house's current owner, has decided to put them out of their misery and discontinued them together with almost all the other Balenciaga fragrances. One of them is the 1998 Cristobal, a scent which was probably supposed to capture and evoke the spirit of the late designer.

Did the perfume succeed in doing so?
Maybe. It depends on your view of the Balenciaga label.

If you only look at the originality and detailed, luxurious perfectionism, then the answer is no. Despite the beautiful bottle with its elaborate cap, Cristobal the fragrance with its fruity-floral-vanilla based blend was far from a new concept in refined perfumery. However, dig deeper into the house's legacy and you'll find that Mr. Balenciaga was responsible for such creations as the cocoon coat, balloon skirt, the babydoll silhouette and the sack dress. Basically, some of the worst fashion trends of all time when taken out of their original context and made into an over-the-top, unflattering clothes that tend to wear the fashion victim who puts them on instead of it being the other way round.

Is Cristobal the fragrance equivalent of a balloon jacket?
Not entirely, because unlike a garment that makes your midriff look huge, Cristobal can actually be a very feminine and attractive scent, as long as you're careful not to let it have the upper hand. It's quite sexy with the ripe fig and vanilla combination, but if you're not careful the honeyed fig grows into a big juicy plum that will take over and suffocate you with its richness.

The perfume is quite sweet and there's no amount of sandalwood that can rescue it from being a big diva. I have the EdP version and only a vague recollection of what the EdT smells like, so maybe the less dense formula is easier on the noses of your elevator mates. That said, in the right setting and weather conditions (I'd be wary of wearing it when the temperatures start climbing back up), Cristobal has the potential to be a romantic aphrodisiac.

What's left of the Balenciaga perfume collection can still be found from the discount e-tailers and occasionally on eBay.

Okadi, Pheonix Art Museum and Di Moda.

Beauty Blogs Making Headlines

Women's Wear Daily has a semi-interesting article about beauty blogs, their growing influence on consumers and the way companies, retailers and traditional media are coping with us. Some are learning to live with it and even develop respect for independent opinions, others are launching their own blogs, trying to reach out more directly by skipping the usual purple prose of an ad campaign.

Here's the link, but you need a subscription to read the full article.

I had to stifle a little giggle when reading this quote by Stacy Baker, editorial director of Sephora: "A blogger has to know what she's talking about and have the résumé — or at least citations — to backbone her opinion,".
(For the record: My issue with Sephora was never with their beauty products, of which they still offer a great selection. My gripe is with their perfume department that is sinking deeper and deeper into the realms of Pink Sugar and the lowest common denominator)

What do you think? What bothers you more: lack of formal beauty credentials or the obvious obligation traditional media has to its advertisers?

Image: The Little Writer by Raccoon with a Cigar, from deviantArt

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Misunderstood- Laura Geller Balance-N-Bronze

Here's a product that gets quite a bit of bad rap (just look at the reviews on MakeupAlley), and I don't think it's justified. Laura Geller's Balance-N-Bronze is a split compact, a two-in-one product. One side is Bronze-n-Brighten (basically, a bronzer), the other is Balance-n-Brighten (a mineral makeup-style pressed powder).

I came across it in Sephora, tried it a couple of times before deciding I love it and got to have it, despite the reviews. After all, my skin knows best.

Unlike many of the disappointed reviwers, I don't try to use it as two separate products (I agree that doing that wouldn't be very efficient given the medium sized compact). It's the mix of both the bronzer and the colored powder that works so well and making it into a unique entity that's worth the precious shelf space in my cabinet.

I swirl a soft blush powder over both sides and then swipe it on my face just as I would a light bronzer and/or a powder. What I get is a very soft non-shimmery but glowy tan in a shade that matches my skin perfectly. It also adds a notch of coverage to my light and sheer foundation, gives it a smooth finish. What makes BnB special to me is the lack of shimmer and the natural color. It's always appropriate and never looks overdone. If I want a little more drama I can always add a little blush where appropriate, but for daytime it's hardly needed. It does a great job evening out my complexion, but unlike mineral makeup that comes as loose powder, it doesn't make my skin look weird, waxy or resemble Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. And that, my friends, is a very good thing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Shadows- Tauer Perfumes Incense Extrême (and a readers giveaway!)

The samples of Incense Extrême arrived a few weeks ago, the same day as the package containing my new camera. I ignored the bigger box and ripped open the envelop with the Swiss postmark. You got to have priorities and digital cameras don't smell.

Like all Tauer fragrances, Incense Extrême takes you places. While Andy described it on his blog as a minimalist scent, there's absolutely nothing here (thankfully!) to remind you of the biggest minimalist of them all, Jean-Claude Ellena (can I say thankfully again?). You get that unmistakable Tauer touch which goes from the top notes all the way through to the base that has more than a little of the "Tauerade". The frankincense is peppery and fresh at first, then becomes darker, woody and dry. Very very dry.

The "extrême" in the name might make you expect an over-the-top Catholic church on steroids kind of incense, or the entire CdG Incense Series crammed into a single bottle (Zagorsk would eat them all). This is not that scent. Instead, you get the different faces of frankincense, paired with a little wood and a little orris. Some feel it has a lot in common with Andy's limited edition, Orris, but my skin doesn't support this theory. Orris is more kaleidoscopic with the different layers picking here and there and revealing themselves almost randomly. Incense Extrême is much more streamlined and pulled-together. There's starkness in it, bold and clean, it dries down almost soapy, remains close to the skin, with just a hint of the shadows lurking from beneath.

Andy has warned me that this scent is basically masculine and would suit my husband better than me. A masculine label has ever stopped me before and I like wearing this scent, but when I smelled it on my husband I knew what he meant. A man's skin (or my man's skin) brings out more of the dark and mysterious part of the scent, those dark silhouettes on a bare ground.

Incense Extrême would be available starting tomorrow from Luckyscents. I have a few samples to give away, so if you're interested please leave a comment. I'll announce the winners early next week.

Art: Pine Shadows by Hamilton Aguiar from the Vinings Gallery.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Goddess of Pretty Things- The Goddess Guide by Gisèle Scanlon (Book Review)

Ignore the name. Despite the immediate associations, there's nothing new-agey, pseudo-spiritual or faux-empowerment in this book. It's not that kind of goddess.

Gisèle Scanlon, a Dublin-based illustrator and lifestyle journalist, created a book that looks like one of those pretty journals you see in stores, and is already full of scrapbook-like pages made of collages, mementos, photos, stories and little tips. It's about living in style, shopping for the best and enjoying every minute of doing it.

Had I been fifteen years younger, I'd probably regard this book as a bible for all that's pretty. Of course, back then I couldn't afford most of the recommendations, but it would have fueled the fantasy. Now that I can actually pursue the stores I also have my own opinion on most of the topics covered in the book, and a salt cellar full of grains when it comes to style gurus. Thus, I go for Manolo shoes instead of the too obvious Louboutins, I already know that I'm anosmic to whatever musk Narciso Rodriguez has poured into his perfume and when it comes to luxurious food, my top choice is this and not a steak bèarnaise.

Not that any of this takes away from this book's charm (and many good points and ideas). It's just that at this point in my life it's my own style that takes center stage and I'm a bit critical when it comes to other people's marketed ideas.

A fact that definitely explains this blog.

The biggest flaw of this book is the very little (if any) adjustment that was done for the American edition. Most of the stores and addresses given are in the UK, and while some can't be avoided, especially when talking about very specific items, there is room for some research and editing. The perfume chapter is a good example. Many great fragrances are mentioned, but you'd think none are available in the US, because only two stores are listed: Slatkin & Co. and Bond no.9, while all of the scents (except for the exclusive Serge Lutens Bois de Violette) can be found in NYC at Barneys, Bergdorf or the Chanel and Caron boutiques.

Still, The Goddess Guide is highly enjoyable. It's whimsical and personal, based on Ms. Scanlon's own experience, travels and good taste. It's beautifully done, full of joie de vivre and would be a pleasurable reading on a rainy afternoon or a fabulous gift for a young woman taking her first steps in style.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Serge Lutens- Ambre Sultan

Every once in a while I find a perfume that makes me stop in my tracks and realize that "this" is how things should smell. It's the scent equivalent of what Tim Gunn calls "Soul Stirrers" when he talks about clothes people should keep in their wardrobes (versus all those "meh" items that should never have been bought to begin with). In Serge Lutens collection of Soul Stirrers, Ambre Sultan manages to remain a major achievement.

On my skin, Ambre Sultan is very gourmand, from top to base. The spicy-herbal opening of coriander, bay leaf and oregano takes me straight to foreign markets and exotic kitchens (even though they are all staples in my own kitchen, so how exotic can it really be?). It goes greener and more resinous before settling into a sweet benzoin-vanilla base that still sparkles with amber and spice and completely lacks the powder quality that so often comes with the territory.

The rich and dark qualities make Ambre Sultan perfect for a cold day, though I loved the courage displayed by Tom, who reviewed it for Perfume Smellin' Things and braved it successfully on a July day in L.A..

Unlike another big amber (which I love and wear), Ambre Russe (Parfum d'Empire), this isn't boozey and only half as sweet. It also stays closer to my skin, and while long lasting (12 hours, easily), despite the assertive blast of the first spray it is not a sillage monster and can be used generously. I love having a significant amount of it on me. It feels like my favorite cashmere dress, warm and cozy, refined, well-made and incredibly flattering.

Ambre Sultan is available from top department stores (Neiman's, Barneys, Bergdorf in the US, Selfridges in the UK) as well as from Aedes in NYC and Scent Bar in Los Angeles. It can also be bought in a bell jar from the Salon du Palais Royal Shiseido in Paris.

Art from The Vinings Gallery: Journey Inward II by Pamela Sukhum.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Laline Massage Bars

Madonna might be hooked on Laline products from Israel, but apparently she must be getting them either in London or in Israel and can no longer buy them when she's in the US, because the Santa Ana store seems to have closed in recent months. The line is available in the UK (also online) and in Norway, so looks like European customers can still get their fix of sweet smelling creams and lotions.

I had the opportunity to try Laline massage bars, that also multitask as rich body butter. Unlike many other Laline body products, the bars don't contain mineral oil and do more than just coat the skin. The ingredients are sweet almond oil, beeswax, shea butter, coconut oil and fragrance. It's all good and very nourishing, even for extra dry limbs.

You break a small piece from the bar and let it melt in your hands before slathering it on the skin. The rich butter feels nice, but takes a lot of time to absorb and leaves a thin coat behind: great for protection against harsh weather, but a bit too sticky at first, so it's not a "slather, get dressed and go" product. It's much better for use after a relaxing bath before bed, when you don't worry about getting your clothes greasy.

The fragrances used here are very strong, so you need to be careful if you plan to wear a perfume. My favorite of the bunch is the addictive Vanilla Cocoa. It's a guilty pleasure kind of scent, as foody as they come. It's sweet, far from sophisticated and would make you crave chocolate, but some nights it's not a bad thing at all.

Monday, January 14, 2008

An Inside Look Into A Blogger's Purse

I was tagged by Grayburn. The game is simple:

I need to let the world see what's in my purse. This is the handbag I carried today:

And its content:

A blue J. Crew silk scarf (I usually have a scarf, a cardigan and/or gloves), my ancient red wallet that desperately needs to be replaced (but wallet shopping is not really fun), sunglasses (I keep a pair in each purse), phone, keys (house, two cars, neighbor's house and the elephant key ring was a gift from my mom. I love elephants), mini Altoids, two packs of Kleenex, a pen, a sample of Andy Tauer's Incense Extreme (fabulous scent. A review is coming soon), two lip colors: One Chanel and one Benefit, my business cards (old version. I need to order new ones with my current graphics) and a sample of The Thymes Eucalyptus lotion (I just ran out of a mini tube of hand cream, so I grabbed the first lotion I found).

There you have it.

And, a bonus photo of my cat, Tulip, who really wanted to participate:

It was a fun challenge that reminded me the lovely "Petite Anthropologie de Sacs" by Nathalie Lecroc. You can read more about it here. The book is supposed to come out this year.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ralph Lauren Perfumes: A Story in Pictures

This is a week of perfume annoyances, so why should I bother getting grouchy about the new Ralph Wild from Ralph Lauren?
From WWD:

Created by Ralph Lauren Fragrances' Linda Kramer in collaboration with Olivier Gillotin and Jim Krivda of Givaudan, the "wild fruity floral" fragrance has top notes of pink peppercorn, watermelon and wild strawberry; middle notes of cherry blossom, red rose pedal and sheer jasmine, and base notes of amber, sandalwood and musk.

The image above is the one we'll see in Ralph Wild ads. The target demographic is between the ages of 15 and 25.
I thought we all could use a reminder about the classic Ralph Lauren scents, Safari (now discontinued) and Lauren (reformulated and stripped from its soul):

Images: WWD, Okadi and Images de Parfums

Thursday, January 10, 2008

War and Peace: More about the Bond no. 9 Issue

I (and at least one other blogger) got a comment on my last Bond no. 9 post. Here it is:

NYC Perfumista has left a new comment on your post "How I saved $230":

In response to standard actions regarding a Bond No. 9 trademark infringement,Ms. Zorn has personally waged war on us by Internet and by telephone.
For the information of those who support her based on these postings, etc., we thought it only fair to publish the following document. While waging said war, she sent this letter to the attorneys of Bond No. 9, declaring her 'peaceful' resolution. She has, in essence, committed the very offense to which she claims (without merit) Bond No. 9 has affronted her.
Bond No. 9 is a small, entrepreneurial company run by one woman who spends a lot of time and money protecting it—her life’s work—and the scope of this company includes her trademarks. As a small business owner, and given the significant portion of her budget required to secure the names and phrases that are essential to the success of her business, she strongly defends them all.
The creative spirit of Bond No. 9 is copied every day by various companies, large and small, and we protect our rights in all cases. Laurice encourages everyone to be creative and to protect their ideas.Two Springs ago she had the idea to launch a Peace fragrance at the United Nations and donate to UNICEF for that first year. Since 2007, the donations have been to Seeds of Peace (, and Laurice continues to donate for Peace. The Scent of Peace is a top selling fragrance which allows us to donate a large amount of money to charity, and we're very pleased

The first annoying thing is the lack of name and title. Hiding behind a fake blogger account doesn't give anyone more credibility, and as my readers, friends and family know, this blog has always been open to comments from everyone, no need to create an account (and a silly user name. NYC Perfumista? Really?).

If you're Ms Rahme, her assistant, or her PR person, own up to it. Post your name and your email address the way all of us do.

I also don't appreciate using my blog for spammy content. You're welcome to respond directly to the points I've made, like everyone else did. But spewing empty PR crap which you copy and paste all over the blogsphere is not cool. Those of us who write and read about the perfume and beauty industry know how to spot commercial prose from miles away, which is what this comment is. There's no real substance here, from attacking Ms. Zorn to playing the "poor me" card.

Seriously, Bond no. 9 has several Manhattan boutiques and is sold at Saks. That might be "small and entrepreneurial " compared to Kenzo and Avon who also have Peace themed fragrances, but don't make me gag. It's not anywhere near the small artisan houses Bond decided to bully. And perfumistas (real ones, I mean) know the difference.

You can see the copy/paste campaign on my friends' blogs:
Pansy's Rants
The Lipstick Page

War and Peace movie image from IMDB

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Anyone in Phoenix, Arizona?

Every month I get the Bliss catalog and check what's new. Sometimes I order an item or two, drool over something, scratch my head over others and never skip the fitness products to look at those MBT shoes and wonder if I need to have them.

Let's face it: they are ugly even for running shoes, which have never been the most aesthetically pleasing footwear. But I can't resist the claims and promises for a superior technology (Swiss engineering, according to Bliss, and I'm all for Swiss stuff, from chocolate to perfume) that improves one's posture, tones and strengthen leg and butt muscles and even gets rid of cellulite. As someone who has named her elliptical trainer (Gladys, if you have to know), the concept sounds quite appealing. So I select my size and click on "add to basket" before reminding myself that I'm about to drop a hefty sum on ugly athletic shoes and navigate away from that page.

Now, it looks like the good people of MBT have wisened up (though probably not enough to make the shoes pretty. Hint: poach one or two of the Puma designers) and are offering us an opportunity to see and test the shoes in person. Their Try, Trust & Love program is about letting people try on and experience various models and designs and meet an MBT Academy trainer (I wonder how you get such a job).

Sounds great, but the upcoming event is in Pheonix, Arizona. It's scheduled for Friday, January 11 – Saturday, January 12, at the Phoenix Convention Center, Ballroom’s D and E, Booth #416 33 S Third Street. I'm not going to be there, but since I know I have quite a few readers in that area I would be very happy to hear from someone who is planning to attend. I'd love to know how it goes and even feature your experience as a guest blogger, if you're so inclined. Just email me (the.non.blonde at gmail dot com) with your story and impression (state o'your cellulite optional).

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

How I saved $230

I was getting close to caving in and buying the new Bond no. 9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory perfume. After all, it's a great scent and I really liked it (it's the last item in the linked post).

However, it seems that Bond no. 9 has not only a love for my favorite city and its icons but also a huge case of hubris. Apparently, this company which has used the names of nearly every NYC landmark for its perfumes, is now the owner of abstract nouns and concepts. Case in point: Artisan perfumer Liz Zorn got a nastigram from Bond no.9 attorneys, threatening to take her to the cleaners. Why? Because her fragrance "Peace on Earth" is an infringement on Bond's right to the word "Peace" that was established in their "Scent of Peace" perfume (which to my nose is a total bore, but that's beside the point).

Do you think that a similar letter was sent to LVMH, the owners of Kenzo's "Time for Peace"? My money would be on "No".

It looks like this isn't a new tactic for Bond no. 9. According to posts made by Anya McCoy (here and here) of Anya's Garden, she had a similar experience before she discontinued her Riverside perfume (Bond no. 9 also offer a perfume called Riverside Drive, and apparently they own that part of Manhattan, though I suspect The Donald might argue with this statement).

I find this nasty and ridiculous. I don't see Serge Lutens battling Keiko Mecheri over the rights to the name Loukhoum, nor D&G going after Bulgari in a battle of the Blue, not to mention the many blacks, reds, passion or loves that can be found in many perfumes from competing companies (how many others can you find?). But Bond no. 9 owns "Peace". Don't you love the irony?

What they don't own is my money, which will be spent elsewhere, on something from a very small and independent perfume house  that doesn't have a law firm on retainer.

More on the questionable peacefulness of Bond No. 9 is here and here.

An Annoyance

I was running low on my Laboratoire Remède favorite serum, so I went to Sephora to get a new one, only to discover they no longer carry this line either in store or online. sells Remède, but the serum is out of stock, which leaves us with Bliss, who rarely offer free shipping (and are stingy with samples).

Looking at the Remède website takes us back to 1997. It's a Flash nightmare with no e-commerce, no product details and outdated info regarding points of sale. Not cool.

An Observation

Using white eyeliner on the inner rim of your bottom lashes will not make your eyes look bigger. You'll just look like someone with white paint in her eyes.
It might work for for photos, it might be an interesting concept on the runway, but in daily life when people actually look at you? Not so much.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Lost Perfumes: Kenzo Jungle L'Elephant and Le Tigre

This review takes us back to a time when mainstream perfumes still could have an edge that wouldn't pass a focus group's approval. Back then you could fine some weird juice even on Sephora's shelves, and know that it wasn't created with the thought of outselling Pink Sugar. The old days I'm talking about are the mid-late 90s. Can you believe it?

Fashion designer Kenzo Takada launched his first perfume (Kenzo de Kenzo) in 1988. He sold the house carrying his name to LVMH in 1993 but stayed there until 1999 (where have we heard this story before?). You're free to make the correlation between the scents coming from this house and the timeline.

The Jungle perfumes for women, L'Elephant and Le Tigre, were created in 1996 and 1997. The former is still in production and is even offered in a lotion and deodorant, but no longer sold officially in the US (some etailers still have it in stock, but the prices are creeping up). Le Tigre confirmed as discontinued, which is a bit surprising considering it's the more conventional of the two.

Months ago, March from Perfume Posse wrote a mini review of L'Elephant that caused several people to buy unsniffed. If I remember correctly, not everyone has ended up with their vanilla holy grail, because it's hard to be prepared for the stuff that comes out of the pretty bottle. You've smelled spices, vanilla and patchouli before, but this composition is so strong and unique that no matter how much I'm going to warn you here, it'll surprise you.

You spray, and the first thing you notice is that you didn't have to spray that much. It's very strong. The innocent mandarine part in the opening is a blink-and-miss. It's almost instantly replaced by a creamy vanilla and spice cloud. It's sweet, dark and Licoricey and feels like you're wearing a concentrated and maybe not so fresh chai. When I overspray the heliotrope becomes more dominant and makes the scent feel dusty. Supposedly, there's also mango somewhere in the middle notes, but, thankfully, my nose skips it. I guess it's supposed to add some Indian dessert vibe, but the chai is more than enough as far as I'm concerned. While it does somewhat settles into an ambery vanilla patchouli base that is a little less sweet and actually feels woody (the dusty element doesn't go away), the clove and cardamon tend to reappear and hit you unexpectedly. Have I mentioned how strong and long-lasting this elephant is?

It's also fascinating, oddly comforting and has gorgeous moments. I'm just not sure I'm brave enough to wear it in public.

Official Notes (verified through the Kenzo site):

Top note :
Mandarin, Cardamom, Cumin, Clove
Middle note :
Ylang-Ylang, Licorice, Mango, Heliotrope
Base note :
Patchouli, Vanilla, Amber, Cashmeran (an animalic amber)

Compared to the uncivilized Elephant, Le Tigre starts out very conventionally. A sweet citrus blast in all the fruity glory, but with something sharp and edgy (probably the grassy Davana) that makes it different from Fendi Theorema (and not as pretty). It remains fruity-floral for quite a while, until the cinnamon shows its face and saves the day. Sweet orange and cinnamon are quite irresistible, though had it been up to me, I'd make it much spicier. As a matter of fact, some of the elephant's cardamon could have made this perfume a lot more interesting. The dry-down is utterly gorgeous, though, with its Massoïa wood and a hint of sweet vanilla.

Notes from OsMoz:

Top note :
Bergamot, Kumquat, Davana
Middle note :
Osmanthus, Ylang-Ylang
Base note :
Massoïa wood, Cinnamon

The bottles are beautiful. Both the tiger and the elephant on the cap make me wish they were detachable so I could wear them as a pendant or a brooch.

Kenzo ads:

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Grape Adventure: 29 Cosmetics Dew Grape Seed Age Protecting Lip Gloss

Continuing our theme of "you can never have enough lip gloss, I went ahead and grabbed some that promise to also be good for you. 29 Cosmetics use grape seed extract in their makeup (it helps when your family has a vineyard, as is the case of Lydia Mondavi, the owner of 29 Cosmetics) and claim the products have anti-aging properties. In reality, looking at the ingredients of the Dew Grape Seed Age Protecting Lip Gloss , the Vitis Vinifers (grape seed oil) is pretty low down the list, just before the fragrance, so I'm not sure how much of that we're getting. Still, the gloss feels very comfortable and gentle on the lips and is quite good at softening and calming. It also has an SPF 15, so that alone counts as great protection and anti-aging armor.

Two other good things: No stickiness and an almost non-existent scent that goes away before you finish applying the gloss. I wish more companies would skip the synthetic vanilla.

I tested three colors: Lay It Down Cab (a very shimmery true red, lots of pigment), Hang Time (mauve pink, looks like a light shimmery nude on my naturally dark lips) and my favorite, Sparkling Pinot (light shimmer plum, probably the middle one in the picture above). They are all pretty and wearable, though I'd keep the Christmas red for evening use. All these shades are nice, but somehow not exciting. This is where you'd notice the difference between the pigments used here and the ones you see in Chanel glosses that make so many bloggers swoon (see many of the "2007 Favorites" lists that included various Glossimers). Still, it's a quality product. The balmy part of the gloss survives a cup of tea, even though the color is quickly gone.

29 Cosmetics is available from select Neiman Marcus stores and the company's (rarely updated) web site.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

The first day of the new year is an excellent opportunity to look back and reflect. It's been an amazing year that saw The Non-Blonde grow beyond my expectations. The blog was mentioned in the New York Times and was linked by Glamour Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. The number of readers I have is nearly six times what it was last year. Quite amazing!

I made many new friends, met a few in person and hope to meet many others. It's a big part of why blogging has been such a great experience. Thank you, friends and readers, for making 2007 so fabulous.

I wish you a happy, healthy and beautiful New Year!

P.S. The "Best of 2007" list is in the previous post.

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