Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ralph Lauren Romance Always Yours

I remember buying a bottle of Ralph Lauren Romance in 1999, shortly after it came out. I was still captivated by all things Lauren (hey, I was young and even Jersey Girls dream of the Hamptons), and since I loved both the original Lauren (pre-mutilation) and the beautiful Safari and have gone through several bottles of both during the previous decade, I felt like I was supposed to love Romance just as much. The problem was that Romance belonged to the new generation of faceless, characterless perfumes that were meant for a new customer, one who wants to smell "clean", whatever that means, and would be horrified were someone to actually notice her scent. As you might have guessed, I wasn't that woman even ten years ago. I could never distinguish any of the specific floral notes and the whole synthetic mess thing didn't work with my skin chemistry any more than it suited my personality. I ended up selling the bottle almost full and never looked back.

Late last year, to commemorate a decade of making people smell like laundry detergent, L'Oréal, who owns the license for Ralph Lauren's name, launched Romance Always Yours. It's a variation on the same theme, an updated sequel, which actually is supposed to add something to the original, instead of the usual flanker MO of using an established name to sell an inferior product. Smelling a magazine insert got me interested to sniff the real thing at Sephora, and I liked it well enough, so when it appeared on one of the discounters' site for the ridiculous price of $22 and some change, I decided to get a bottle.

Romance Always Yours feels to me like someone tried (and mostly succeeded) to fix whatever went wrong with the original concept of Romance. I think it gives the washed-out floral a little character. It's still pink, still not my idea of a grand romance, but it's cute, likeable and wearable, while actually having a point of view.

The official note list makes very little sense. Have a look:

Romance notes:
Sun goddess Rose, Marigold, Yellow Freesia, Ginger, Chamomile Oil, White Violet, Lotus Flower, Musk, Day Lily, Patchouli, Oakmoss

Romance Always Yours notes:
Sun Goddess Rose, Freesia, Ginger, Lotus Flower, White Violet, Musk, Day Lily, Patchouli, Oakmoss

If there's any real oakmoss (in either perfume) it's in such miniscule amount, neither I nor an IFRA bureaucrat can detect it. I can't tell what really changed, added or tweaked, but the end result is that Romance Always Yours smells nice. It's not challenging or inspiring and I just can't see it as very romantic in a soul stirring way. It's a Doris Day scent and not a sultry screen siren, but there's a place for that even in my dramatic wardrobe.

Marina from Perfume Smellin' Things suggests some appropriate occasions to wear Romance Always Yours. Like her, I don't see a meet-the-parents event in my future, so I wear it when weeding my tomatoes.

Monday, June 29, 2009

StrangeBeautiful Nail Polish- The Yellow Challenge

Previously on The Non-Blonde:
I fell in love with StrangeBeautiful nail colors and superb quality. My one complaint was about the concept- you cannot choose your colors and buy them seperately, and I wasn't sure all the colors in the series were wearable. To prove me wrong, StrangeBeautiful creator, Jane Schub., sent me the strangest color in Series 2, the mustard yellow.

I took the challenge, and must admit she was right. Once I got over the unfortunate associations of yellow nails, I could see this color is actually pretty. It's just a bit brighter than a good mustard and actually reminds me several bags and accessories we've been seeing the last couple of seasonsthis season. It's noticeable but not too loud, and worked nicely with the DVF prints I've been wearing the last few days.

The indoors photos were taken with and without flash, and I shamelessly used the cats to show the colors. Buffy and Lizzy were (mostly) cooperative.

All photos (and freakishly large hands) are mine.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

News from JAR: Shadow Discontinued, Al Palazzo to Launch Soon

My Bergdorf visit today was bittersweet. The JAR alcove has been calling my name, but when sitting down for a sniffing, only six scents were presented. Shadow is no more, according to the (wonderful) JAR rep because one of the raw materials is no longer available and couldn't be replaced. JAR doesn't reformulate, substitutes or compromises. Since Shadow could no longer be made the way it was conceived, it was sent to Great Fragrance Counter in the sky, to sit with Hermes Doblis, Shiseido Nombre Noir, Guerlain Djedi and Tauer Orris.

I don't know which ingredient was responsible to Shadow's demise, as JAR notes are kept secret. The SA said twice that it was an availability issue and not a consequence of regulation, so your guess is as good as mine. It's sad. I was very fond of this earthy, damp leprechaun of a scent.

The good news is the new JAR that is expected to be launched right before the Holidays. The name is subject to change, according to the SA, but most likely will be Al Palazzo and it takes the line in a new, interesting direction.

It was sweet. Really sweet. But not in a conventional amber or vanilla way. It moves from raw to burnt sugar, has a wet feeling but never crosses the line towards the cliché or the cloying. There's a burst of a bright green, herbal note (mint? tarragon?) and very little (if any) of the typical JAR darkness. I think I got something a bit spicy, but the It's probably more accessible than anything else in the line (other than maybe Golconda). There's only a small spray tester available at the moment, and JARs are meant to be dabbed, so this is only a partial impression. I'll need to go back (again and again), but I suspect this is a serious new love. It's quite gorgeous.

Image: Iris brooch by JAR from blog.jeaninepayer.com (a very interesting artist by her own right)

Friday, June 26, 2009

A note to the good people at Chantecaille

Dear Chantecaille People,

Having a spiffy new website is great. It gives us a sneak peak of new products, web exclusive- it's all good stuff. But don't you think that selling top-of-the line makeup requires color swatches that don't look like it's 1999? Seriously, Lancome, Clinique, Nars and others have figured out ages ago that people who shop online really like to see what they're buying. Your products are usually better than theirs, so why can't your website be? Otherwise we have to face the sour-pussed SA at Saks, and that makes us cranky.

P.S. The Bengali Tiger Compacts are to die for.

Gaia, The Non-Blonde

Images: Chantecaille.com

Two Jewelry Sales

If you need a good pick-me-up this weekend, there are two jewelry sales taking place right now, offering some pretties at a good price.

Anna Sofia makes jewelry of Japanese paper. Sounds a bit crazy, but it works. She makes the beads by hand, glazes them and constructs earrings, necklaces and bracelets. I've bought several necklaces over the last couple of years and they always get me compliments- they really are quite unique. I think the earrings are the best items Anna Sofia offers, which is ironic because I don't wear any (my ears aren't pierced)...
To get a 20% discount, use the code Summer09 at checkout.

Another favorite store, the French retailer Olivolga is having a huge summer sale. It looks like everything is %30-40% off, and those of us outside the EU also get the VAT taken off at checkout (and free shipping over 90€). I've bought from them several times and was always very happy with the customer service. Shipping time to North America is about 10 days.
The necklace above (48.30 € ) is by Skalli.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Farrah Fawcett 1947-2009

"God gave women intuition and femininity. Used properly, the combination easily jumbles the brain of any man I`ve ever met."
Farrah Fawcett
Photos: filmbug.com, tvguide, allposters.com

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Erno Laszlo Multi-Phase Blush And Bronzer

I've been a fan of Erno Laszlo skin care products for a while now (seriously, the pHormula No. 3-9 has been a life saver in several skin freakouts), so their expansion into makeup is a very welcome step. They've taken the one color fits all approach, which I don't always get, but since both the blush and the bronzer work so well on my skin, you will hear no complaints.

The picture above is a closeup on the blush. Both products are of the mosaic variety, which lets you see exactly which pigments are used. The blush has quite a bit of rose and plum in it, which looks natural and healthy. It's probably not for the coral lovers, but if you belong in my camp, the Erno Laszlo blush is worth trying. The powder is very finely milled and blends perfectly with anything else I have on. It stays on all day or night, but I haven't tested it on bare face- only over a foundation or a tinted moisturizer and always with a little powder to set things in place.

The bronzer is just as great and has become my favorite, especially for daytime since it's very low in shimmer. Photos online are making it appear more yellow than it actually is (and I've gotten similar results when I tried taking my own, but my camera sucks so no surprises there). It's comprised of six different colors, raging from sandy beige to terracotta. The blended result is exactly the right amount of sun kissed glow. I don't use much because I'm quite pale these days, but while testing I discovered the color is buildable, so if you've been fake tanning, it would still work nicely. If you have a very fair complexion you must test in regular daylight (department stores lighting is evil). I'm not sure how it would work on a cool toned porcelain skin- it might be a bit too much.

Erno Laszlo Multi Phase blush and bronzer ($38 each) are available from Bergdorf, Neiman, Nordstrom and Ernolaszlo.com. I got both as a PR freebie.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Politics Of Scent

One would think beauty and perfume blogs exist in a sparkly, sweet-smelling bubble, where the writers and readers go to escape daily life and not think of the economy, North Korea and Iran. But try as we might, we aren't really isolated; the outside world with all its ugliness can touch us and creep into what we're doing here.

The good news, I guess, is that even major brands no longer ignore the blogsphere. The bad news is that they're not forward-thinking enough to understand the concept, and try to manhandle it/us with the same belligerency they show in their normal business practice. Case in point is today's Guerlain vs. Octavian Coifan.

Octavian, a perfume historian, has been very vocal about the downward spiral Guerlain has taken in recent years. He spoke up about classic scents no longer smelling as wonderful and luxurious as before (cheapening of ingredients and over-regulating the use of raw material through IFRA). Now they want him silenced. They'd rather have Octavian (and the rest of us) post their press releases word by word without critiquing. They want us to help them promote their products without asking any questions they'd rather not answer. Or else.

Blogs are the one place you can find real reviews by people who are passionate about perfume and not about advertising budgets. We'll tell you what's great and what sucks. We talk about things the industry would rather hide. And they're terrified when they realize we can't be controlled and managed the way they're used from dealing with traditional media.

The griping and kvetching on the various blogs and forums is starting to get somewhere and annoy the snot out of marketing executives. Sometimes they try to retaliate. Longtime readers might remember why I and a few others have been boycotting a certain NYC-based perfume house. I really hope not to get to that point with Guerlain.

Guerlain and its owner, LVMH, have been getting a lot of well-deserved flack for destroying the wonderful tradition of the once family-owned house. They've been recycling and churning one mass-market scent after another in tastelessly expensive packaging that seem aimed at a very specific crowd, from the Russian mob to oil nobility.

Add to that the crapification of Dior perfumes to the point they are unrecognizable (just ask Luca Turin). They also eliminated Fendi perfumes (after discontinuing the good ones- the original Fendi, Asja and the legendary Theorema). It's safe to say that LVMH is not about the art of perfumery.

Of course, they are not the only major force in the industry that thinks their customers are a bunch of idiots who would buy any dreck as long as there's a fancy label. YSL perfumes aren't any better (have you smelled Elle???). The butchering of Jean Patou by Proctor & Gamble is lamented by many, and I hope the ghost of François Coty is haunting the boardroom of his company and poltergeisting the executives with Beckham For Her bottles.

If you've found this blog because you've been searching the net trying to figure out why your new bottle of Diorissimo, Opium or Joy doesn't really smell as good as it used to be, you're not alone. While I doubt the old classics can be resurrected in the short-to-medium term, there is an alternative. Don't give your money to companies who don't respect you. Instead, search the web for names such as DSH Perfumes, Tauer Perfumes, Vero Profumo, Anya's Garden, Liz Zorn Soivohle, Roxana Illuminated Perfumes, Ayala Moriel, Strange Invisible Perfumes, Neil Morris Fragrances, Hilde Soliani, Mona di Orio, CB I Hate Perfumes and Aftelier Perfumes. Think of it in the same terms as the Slow Food Movement and supporting small, local businesses who have integrity and pride in what they do for a living.

Yes, I know it's becoming an almost political issue. It also smells better. A lot better.

Image: Pierre François Pascal Guerlain. Taken from lipstickpowderandpaint.com, original unknown.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hilde Soliani Perfumes

One of the best things about independent artisan perfumers is how they manage to melt even the hearts of cynical people who've smelled too many mediocre  major releases and have been watching the perfume industry go to hell in an overpriced bee bottle. It's been shown over and over that there are still real artists who put their hearts into their bottles, creating scents out of love and really good ingredients.

Hilde Soliani from Parma, Italy, is one such artist. Her scents tell stories of laughter, loved ones, her favorite places, and cherished memories. Each one creates a sincere emotion, something so sorely missing from just about any mainstream release nowadays (what exactly does something like Magnifique make you feel?). Soliani is now launching a third group of perfumes. The first, Ti Amo ("I love you", 2005) was composed around flowers and their symbolic meaning. The second, Teatro Olfattivo Di Parma (2008) was inspired by her love of the local theater. The most recent one, Profumo e Gusto in Libertà is all about haute cuisine.

Sampling six scents from all three collection has reminded me once again not to judge a perfume by its notes or description. Notes are merely a suggestion , but the best thing is letting the fragrance show you what it can do. When it's well-made, that is.

Il Tuo Tulipano (from the Ti Amo collection)- It's a fruity-floral. A gorgeous, succulent fruity-floral that reminded me what this much reviled genre can and should be when not created to please a faceless, senseless focus group. It's an embodiment of the color red: red fruit, huge red flowers. It makes me want to wear a pretty little sundress and go prancing somewhere, preferably with a red tulip or poppies in my hair. In this little vision-fantasy I'm also singing to the birds and butterflies and they don't attack me just so I shut up, which  shows you what kind of magic Hilde Soliani has weaved.

Sipario (Teatro Olfattivo Di Parma collection) is another one I was supposed to hate. I don't do pineapple. I don't even wear Ananas Fizz. But this Pina Colada scent is so much fun that it won me over with its happy, optimistic ways. Sipario is the ultimate beach fragrance and would make one forget all the bikini neurosis and just have fun.

Mangiami Dopo Teatro is a melon fragrance. That alone could have made it atrocious. But somehow this bright citrus and creamed fruit is nothing short of delicious, and takes me back to my own melon memories, the honeydew my mom used to cut for me, drizzle with honey and garnish with mint. This melon is all about love.

Vecchi Rossetti (Teatro Olfattivo Di Parma) is a delicate wood and flowers combination. I get more powdery violets than anything else, and it has an air of antique pink porcelain, carved wooden figurines and a well-stocked dressing table. It reminds me of the good perfumes of yore, pre-reformulations, when elegant leather notes didn't scare away young women.

Bell’Antonio (Teatro Olfattivo Di Parma), the most unisex of this group, is a holographic experience. Wear it and you're in an Italian coffee shop, where the roasted aroma is slowly surrendering to the cigarette smoke in the air. That's actually my problem with this scent. I love a good tobacco note in fragrance, but I absolutely hate the real thing and have been a life-long anti-smoking advocate. Wearing Bell'Antonio makes me and my clothes smell like a smoker, and I just can't deal with it. Interestingly enough, on my husband the perfume is much cleaner, but even the little tobacco he gets bothers him. It doesn't change the fact that this is a beautiful perfume, just not for us.

Acquiilsssssima is a new scent from the Profumo e Gusto in Libertà range. It was inspired by chef Claudio Sadler. It's clever, original and shows that not all marine notes were created equal. While it evokes salt water and fresh air, there's none of the horrible, stomach-turning note Calone. Instead, you get a play on salty and sweet, like a transparent Fleur de Sel Caramels. There's a hint of spice and jasmine, of all thing, and the big surprise here is how well it all works together. This perfume (like all the others, actually) is complex, layered and always evolving.

Hilde Soliani perfumes are available from New London Pharmacy in NYC (beware of their utterly outrageous shipping fee) and Luckyscent/Scent Bar in L.A. (though they only offer Il Tuo Tulipano out of the Ti Amo range). The Perfumed Court has samples of all the scents from the first two lines. I can't wait for the entire Profumo e Gusto in Libertà to be available here, because two of the scents sound beyond scrumptuous: Saaliiisssiimo is a risotto with saffron and liquorice, while Doolciiisssimo is about a custard cream with cherry flavoured leaves of tobacco pipe. You can read more about them in this Perfume Shrine post.

Photo: Parma, Teatro Farnese by Judith Barath from worldisround.com

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Winners of Tauer Un Rose Chypree Samples

Kamo and Edwardian are the lucky winners of Andy Tauer's Un Rose Chypree samples. Please email me your address.

Also, if by any chance the person who left comment no. 52 (the anonymous one on June 20, 2009 9:25 PM eastern time) is reading this, please also send me an email (the address is here on the right).

Thanks to everyone who participated!

image: Tauer Perfumes

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Top 10 Memorable Masculine Fragrances

Fathers, spouses, old boyfriends, scent twins- they all have one thing in common: they (and us) create memories. Nothing is more emotionally triggering than scent. Think of your father's old cologne from the 70s (did he wear Old Spice? Did he later graduated to the original Polo?) or the Drakkar Noir of your first boyfriend. Did you ever date a man who wore Creed Green Irish Tweed and made you think of Cary Grant (the story is that GIT was created for him)? Did your little brother drench himself in Axe before his first date? Maybe you had a great teacher or work mentor who used to wear Grey Flannel, or had your heart broken by a Chanel Égoïste fan (I did). The point is that it's not just our Shalimar that creates special moments.

Things have changed since the days of the ubiquitous bottle of Polo, and the choices are many. Here's my list of (very) memorable masculine scents for the unforgettable men in our lives. In no particular order:

1. Tauer Perfumes-Lonestar Memories
Smoky, strong and outdoorsy at times, warm leather, herbal with a hint of Lapsang Souchong. More interesting and sophisticated than the cowboy image.

2. Tom Ford Private Blend-Tuscan LeatherSoft, smooth and as leathery as they come. Warm and inviting, evokes both a leather jacket and an old study full with leather-bound books.

3. Mazzolari-Lui
An animalic patchouli like no other. Sweet and dangerous (especially if over-applied).

4. Serge Lutens-Gris Clair
Burnt lavender. A bit brooding, yet clean and crisp.

5. Guerlain-VetiverA great classic. Citrus top over green vetiver. Perfectly tasteful.

6. Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier-Iris Bleu GrisDry to the bone, earthy without being dirty.

7. JAR-ShadowDamp and mysterious. A visit to dark cellars and forgotten attics.

8. Frederic Malle-Vetiver ExtraordinaireDry and bitter vetiver, yet still green. A scent to take over the boardroom before going out to take Manhattan.

9. Hermes-Terre d'HermesPerhaps the most popular in this bunch, yet somewhat controversial. Orange peel and minerals, crisp and strong.

10. Comme des Garcons-Monocle Scent One: HinokiIncense, evergreens, a forest floor.

Please visit Perfume Shrine for more unforgettable masculine fragrances.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Serge Lutens- Un Bois Vanille

It occurred to me that while Un Bois Vanille was my first step into the Lutens universe, I never actually reviewed it beyond telling the world I was completely and utterly smitten. It probably had to do with being too busy cooing at my bottle.

My love affair with Un Bois Vanille has unleashed my passion for gourmand notes. The richness of the anise/licorice, milky coconut and roasted, caramel-like sweetness reminds me of making dulce de leche at home. It's too interesting and complex to be a simple comfort scent. It's darker than many other vanilla perfumes, and while I often see it compared to Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille, I find them very different. SDV is very boozy, and while I like it well enough, my skin neutralizes most of the interesting aspects of smoky incense and leaves me with something too simple. Un Bois Vanille has that Lutensic (Lutenesque?) magic that makes household items start singing and dancing.

Un Bois Vanille can be intoxicating by itself, but it's also a wonderful team player when layering. It works well with many other Lutens fragrances. Try, for example, with Louve, Rousse or Chene. But I also go outside the family: it transforms Eau d'Hadrien and makes it sparkle over the rich vanilla base. But the most wonderfully outrageous combination is something I thought about one day when I layered UBV with Fleurs d'Oranger (another good one): the next day I wore two (small) sprays of Un Bois Vanille and two dabs of Rubj (Vero Profumo). It just might be my greatest contribution to the world.

Un Bois Vanille ($120) is part of Serge Lutens export range and available wherever the other square perfumes are sold. In the US it means Barneys, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Blue Mercury, Aedes, Scent Bar (Luckyscent), Beauty Habit and probably a few others. Most of them also offer it online. If I remember correctly, I bought mine from Aedes.

Photo of homemade dulce de leche by audinou on flickr

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Many Faces Of Lancome Blush Subtil

It wasn't that long ago that most of us only had one blush in our makeup stash at any given time. After all, once we've found our perfect shade, why would we need other colors? We'd go through compact after compact of the chosen blush, getting a new one as soon as we'd hit the pan and not give it any thought until the color or the formula were discontinued (which didn't happen that often back then). Remember those simple days?

I recently looked through my makeup cabinet and realized that blushing has become a serious business. I own blushes from many of the leading brands, but somehow managed to amass the most compacts by Lancome. Probably because I started using them in the late 80s and have kept buying them ever since.

The oldest one I have is Blush Subtil in Bronze Glow. I probably first bought it one summer when I was under the influence of too much sun and self tanner, otherwise I can't explain it. It's even worse to admit that I've gone through at least two. It's an almost metallic medium bronze that is way too dark for me and shouldn't be worn as blush at all. Lightly applied it can function as a bronzer, which is how I use it now (and only on summer evenings). If you're pale, stay far away. It'd give you the infamous muddy look.

Once I've realized my mistake, I turned to Blush Subtil in Cappucine. This one makes a lot more sense with my coloring, but it's very beige and only looks good if I have another color on my face to perk it up. It works best with a red lipstick, when the somewhat pale cheeks look sophisticated and not wilted (and in a dire need for some happy pills).

Next came Aplum, which is still my go-to color most days. It neutralize my green undertones and looks very flattering. It requires a light hand so my cheeks don't look painted, but generally it's almost fool-proof. Aplum is comparable to another favorite, Dallas by Benefit. If you're a Dallas user, chances are Aplum would work for you.

My latest discovery at the Lancome counter was that I can actually go much lighter than I've ever thought. It probably has to do with religious use of sun blocks and completely giving up on self tanners, but I've rediscovered my natural skin and it's a lot lighter than I thought. Cedar Rose is closer to Cappucine but with a distinct rosy pigment, and was my most worn color during the winter. Very pretty, very easy to wear, doesn't clash with most of my lipsticks.

Blush Subtil Shimmer in Violet Sunrise was a GWP. It's more challenging as it's a cooler color, lighter than Aplum, darker than Cedar Rose. Applied lightly it actually works nicely and is less vibrant than expected. It belongs to the "pop of color" department, but the shimmer isn't overwhelming so it's a nice summer color.

Lancome Blush Subtil and Blush Subtil Shimmer ($29.50) are available from every decent department store and Sephora, as well as their online outlets. I buy mine at my local Saks and Bloomingdale's.

Vintage (is 1982 considered vintage?) Lancome ad: paperpursuits.com

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Le Metier de Beaute Eye Shadow

*Just a reminder: A giveaway of Andy Tauer's Un Rose Chypree samples (as well as a review) is one post back*

My first encounter with Le Metier de Beaute eye shadows was at Bergdorf, where I got to play with the Violaceous Splendor Kaleidoscope Eye Kit. I was quite impressed with the pigment saturation, the texture and the ease of blending, but the color themselves, black, orange, rich rose and a red violet were just too much for me. Lucky for me, I was later sent a couple of examples of Le Metier de Beaute's subtler side, so I could really test and enjoy the eye shadows.

Naked is exactly what it sounds like. A matte skin tone that works as a base shadow and gives some highlighting under the brow bone. Unlike many similar colors from other brands (I have a long gripe with Bobbi Brown's Bone for this very reason), it actually shows up on my skin just enough to provide both a little highlighting (minimal. It's very natural looking) and an excellent base that blends with other eye shadow colors for a flawless look. I've used it with several favorite eye shadows from Chanel, Dior and Laura Mercier, all with excellent results.

Thunder is a gorgeous shimmer charcoal with quite a bit of black undertones and silvery flecks. It's as pigmented as it gets and created a super-glam evening look. With or without a primer, it lasts the whole night without creasing or flaking, works well for lining and if you're into the smoky eye look, it would do the work beautifully.

These Le Metier de Beaute eye shadows have a very fine, luxurious texture which I absolutely love. Wishing for a daytime look, I bought Sequoia, a neutral matte brown that works with many other colors I already own and looks very sleek without any drama. I'm now eyeing one of the green Kaleidoscope kits, because they are so exquisite and if one is going to do a green eye shadow, she might as well go for the best...

Le Metier de Beaute eye shadows ($30 for a single pan, the four shadows Kaleidoscope is $95) are only available from Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, in store and online. The color swatches on the websites (including the company's) are utterly useless. They do not reflect the color and you can't tell if something is matte, satin or shimmer. Very annoying. I purchased one shadow online from Neiman's after I got two as a PR freebie.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tauer Perfumes- Une Rose Chypree (and a giveaway)

Today's article about the woes of the perfume industry from the NY Times, The Hunt for That Genie in a Bottle, was very aptly timed, as far as I'm concerned. The big companies and industry leaders are busy soul-searching and naval-gazing, trying to understand where they went wrong (most of us actually have an answer or two, including what they can do with some of their bottled dreck). While they ponder how to win back our hearts, the independent perfumers have been doing things right for a while now.

Quoted in the article, Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, president of Aramis and the Designer Fragrance division of Estée Lauder, said: “We have to make sure what we bring to market is meaningful and relevant”. Ms. Gabai-Pinsky is right, of course, and I highly recommend that she gets herself a sample (or two or three) of Andy Tauer's work, especially his new perfume, Un Rose Chyprée, because this is exactly the kind of emotional, meaningful and luxurious fragrance so sorely missed on the shelves of mainstream stores.

Part of a new series, Mémorables, and a new concept: smaller bottles of the highest quality juice, Un Rose Chyprée is uncompromising in its intention to capture your heart and take you someplace wonderful. It's a real perfume and doesn't try to pretend otherwise. It will make you smell like you know what you're doing, the way perfumes of yore used to be.

Andy Tauer has taken one of the classic structures, the chypre (an accord built on a base of oakmoss and labdanum and topped with bergamot), and gave it a new life. Chypre lovers will be thrilled to find their old, elegant acquaintance here. But it's also a modern perfume that feels very much alive, young without being juvenile, and hopelessly romantic.

If you've smelled Tauer's Incense Rose, you're already familiar with the uplifting, radiant clementine note. Here it's the perfect accompaniment to the roses, making them appealing even to someone who rarely wears rose well (that would be me, though I've never met a Tauer rose I didn't like). Technically speaking, Une Rose Chypree is an elaborate study of rose: The absolute and the steam distilled essential oil. A 15 ml Rose chyprée bottle contains one pound of fresh rose petals. Emotionally speaking, this roses are full of beauty and longing.

An interesting aspect of Une Rose Chypree is how while the perfume opens up and develops on skin, both the juicy citrus and the opulent rose are constantly present. From the spicy heart to the distinct Tauerade base, the metaphoric brushstrokes in a rich but slightly sheer orange color, are always there.

Another wonderful trait of the perfume is its strength and tenacity. One spray scents me for the day (or evening. It's a wonderful date night fragrance). When I wear it, it's big and feminine. A tiny half a spray on my husband's skin is just as beautiful, only quiet and withdrawn, with a more pronounced oakmoss note. In both cases, it has that feeling of a real luxury item, handmade by an artist who knows and loves his craft and respects his customers. It simply doesn't get any better than this.

And now for the giveaway:Thanks to Andy's generosity, I have two samples to give away. If you're interested, please say so in the comments. The one and only condition is that you haven't won a sample of this very perfume through any of the other blogs that offered it. The winners will be announced by the end of next week.

Une Rose Chypree($75 for 15 ml) will be available July 1st from Luckyscent.com (Scent Bar in L.A.). They currently accept pre-orders for bottles and samples. If you live in Europe you might want to order directly from tauerperfumes.com or check the site for distribution in your country. The samples and bottle I received were a gift from Andy.
Art: Rose Closeup by Declan McCullagh

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The One Hundred by Nina Garcia- Book Review

Nina Garcia's Little Black Book Of Style was a fun read, though not the iconic fashion guide it aspired to be. Her second book, The One Hundred- A Guide To The Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own, might be even more ambitious, but is also delivers better.

Basically, it's a wardrobe checklist of one hundred items Ms. Garcia believes every woman must have in her closet. From the A-line dress to a zippered hoodie, she goes through classics and modern clothes (and also shoes, accessories, gadgets and beauty items), explains their importance, offers advice on how to wear them, where to shop and also tells stories and expands on their history, making this a more detailed and in-depth book than one would expect.

There's a lot of valuable information about brands, when to buy high-end and when it's OK to skimp, noteworthy designers, how to shop for vintage. The chapters are peppered with little quotes, bits of trivia and Nina Garcia's typical dry quips ("From time to time, you may see a girl wearing her black opaque tights as pants. There are, in fact, not"). It all contributes to making The One Hundred both informative and fun to read. As for her choice of these 100 items, for the most part I think she is spot on. Garcia names the cuts, styles and landmark designers (DVF, Pucci, Missoni) one should collect to build a stylish wardrobe. She doesn't forget the simple things, like basic white t-shirts (here she goes for Hanes), Spanx or sneakers (where she allows both Converse and Vans). I'm not sure what Champagne is doing as part of this guide and the beauty advice is flawed (only red, pale pink or black nail polish?). As a perfume nut, I'd rather ignore the recommendation to find a signature scent and stick to it. And, of course, I hate that fur is included (though she isn't against fake).

In the introduction, Nina Garcia reminds us to adapt each item according to individual style, body and personality. She states that there is no ultimate list and true style allows a woman to assert herself through her choices. Thus, we can make personal choices, edit according to our needs and make these items our own. I prefer my t-shirts and sweaters to have a v-neck, I don't own even one pair of khakis and I favor biker boots over cowboys. As long as one remembers to make such adjustments, the book can be a great resource.

The One Hundred by Nina Garcia ($21.95, about $15 on Amazon) is available from every bookseller online and in store. I bought it from my local Barnes & Noble.

Photo by Paulo Roversi

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse (Multipurpose Dry Oil)

Or: My Mother Knows Best

Last year in Paris I saw the ads for Nuxe products all over the city. I had every intention to check the dry oil which seemed to be in every drugstore/pharmacy (there are two things I envy most about living in France: baked goods and drugstores), but somehow never got to it. I was happy to learn that unlike decent croissants, Nuxe is actually available on our shores from several online retailers. I kept meaning to order the famous Huile but, again, somehow never got around to do it, until my mother, who apparently has been using it for ages, sent me a bottle and a firm order to use it.

And she was right, as always.

While I'm not adventurous enough these days to attempt using the dry oil on my face or hair, as recommended on the bottle, when it comes to my limbs and other body parts this is a fabulous product. Easy to spread and fast absorbing, it's never greasy and won't give you the Gwyneth Paltrow finish. It softens, moisturizers and makes even my cuir de crocodile look and feel normal with no sticky residue, which is especially appreciated in the summer.

The scent is this faint beachy-white floral thing with a hint of clean musk in the dry-down. It doesn't project and won't interfere with perfume, as it disappears within 20 minutes or so.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multipurpose Dry Oil ($44 for 100 ml that last a very long time, and be aware that there's also a gold shimmer version, but I'm utterly not responsible if you get that one) is available online from beautyhabit, apothica and beauty.com. Or if you're in France, just about on every street corner (but you probably already own a bottle and don't need me to tell you about it).

Monday, June 08, 2009


Katherine Tanny- Carousel Of Progress. Just started and trying to get into it. Not sure about it yet.

Jane Birkin- Elisa:

Frequently worn outfit/item
Jeans. Slim cut, the darkest wash I can find.

Tauer-Une rose chyprée. Review and giveaway coming soon. It's beyond fabulous.

Red lipstick. Can't get enough.

Roasted cauliflower and quinoa.

Tea Vitale- cocoa cardamon black tea

Guilty Pleasure
Blind Gossip

Bane of my existence

Meeting a new(ish) friend.

Not something that money can buy.

Is it just me or are most of the gossip blogs becoming unbearably misogynistic and obnoxious?

What are your current loves, hates and little pleasures? Please share.

Art: Angel No. 287 by Heidi Vaught

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Honoré des Prés Perfumes- A Lesson In Skin Chemistry

100 % Organic perfumes created by my girl crush, Olivia Giacobetti (Hermes Iris, Diptyque Philosykos, Idole de Lubin and many L'Artisans, including my two favorites, Dzing! and Premier Figuier). Can anything be better?

Apparently so. Perfumes that actually stay on skin at least until one reaches the door, for example.

I might have blamed the (lack of) longevity issues on the all-natural ingredients, knowing how many of them are very volatile and not really supposed to last. But I've tested a few other natural perfumes and had no problem with their staying power, so I know it can be done. Just check Anya's Garden or Roxana Villa's work.

I got samples of all five scents and have tested them enough to know I won't be seeking out a full bottle, which is really sad, as the concept and most of the scents are very appealing. But I have a thing about actually being able to smell my perfume, and the Honore des Pres line just doesn't work for me as a personal scent.

Nu Green is probably the most baffling of the bunch. It should have been named "it looked like a good idea at the time". It's all about pure green. Herbal, grassy, cool. My nose was intrigued for five full second before it lost any trace of the scent. I could have been wearing water that had a tarragon sprig swimming in it and get the same effect.

Honoré’s Trip is the only perfume in the line not composed by Olivia Giacobetti. It's the sunniest, happiest thing one can imagine- almost like wearing pure orange and tangerine juice. I was told to imagine a walk through an Italian orange grove, and it kind of works before my mind starts seeing an orange juice commercial with smiling fruit. But, seriously, it's a very pleasant scent. For the first 10 minutes, that is. Afterwards I had to practically lick my arms to feel something and even that didn't last after 45 minutes or so.

Chaman’s Party was the one I liked best at first (further testing changed it, though) because it was the most intriguing with its smoky vetiver notes. It was interesting to compare my first reaction to my husband's. He absolutely hated it because he got nothing like burnt, smoldering wood and smoke. It was pretty disgusting on his skin before everything calmed down. On me, the smoke was gone in seconds, so I could enjoy the dry aspects of this odd vetiver. I just don't think I want to smell like that. My husband compared Chaman’s Party to the wonderful Lonestar Memories by Andy Tauer: Lonestar also has a campfire aspect and a bone-dry open space feeling, but it's deep, rich and beautiful, while Chaman’s Party falls flat.
Chaman’s Party has an acceptable longevity- 5 or six hours.

Bonté’s Bloom is another one with a normal staying power, which in my case was quite unfortunate. I know this warm floral scent has quite a few fans, so don't take it personally. No matter what Luca Turin says, skin chemistry is a bitch. All I got from Bonté’s Bloom is the smell of a compost pile after one throws the rotten content of a neglected vase on top of it. I'm not sure I want to know what exactly in my skin cells creates this effect.

Sexy Angelic ended up being my favorite of the Honore des Pres line. It took me a couple of tries and realizing I needed to drench myself in the juice to actually get the full depth and richness, but it worked. Except for the longevity issue, that is. Sexy Angelic is meant to evoke a special candy from Aix-en-Provence, called Calisson. It's a paste of sugar, candied melon and powdered almond laid between two wafers of unleavened bread and iced with an egg and sugar glaze. Reading this you either recoil with horror or started plotting ways to get your hands on the stuff. I belong to the second camp and I adore many almond-marzipan scents, so no wonder I fell for Sexy Angelic. It's really all that, but after the first ten minutes of bliss you can only smell it by planting your nose to the skin, and even that was fully gone after two hours. I looked utterly ridiculous trying to dive into my own cleavage, that's all I'm going to say about it.

Honore des Pres perfumes are available from Bergdorf Goodman in NYC and Luckyscent online (and in Los Angeles). The 100 ml (mistake no. 1) bottles of EDT (mistake no. 2) are priced at $145 (mistake no. 3). We would all have been much better off with tiny bottles of extrait or perfume oil.

The samples I received were a PR freebie.

Photo of Olivia Giacobetti from Honoré des Prés.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Sonia Rykiel 7e Sens - The Lost Perfumes

You don't get to hear much about Sonia Rykiel's first perfume, 7e Sens (1979). It has vanished off the shelves in the mid 80s and seems to have been forgotten. It's not very surprising, though, considering the shift in taste and trends. In an era when people are constantly looking to smell like their clean laundry, a dark animalic beast as 7e Sense doesn't really fit in the designer market. And what an animal it was...

The opening of this Sonia Rykiel creation starts with some seriously old aldehydes. My tiny bottle isn't exactly fresh and it takes a minute or two before the blast from the past settles down and reveals what's underneath. There's a feeling of an aged, exquisite fruity liqueur, dark and syrupy, being poured into crystal glasses. You can almost see the dim, candle-lit, velvet-draped room in which this rendez vous is taking place. Long black gloves, a slinky dress, soft murmurs. It's a cliche, I know, but the setting for this perfume simply cannot be an ordinary date at a hook-up bar. It's about strangers on a train, Lady Chatterley and her lover, Isadora Wing's sexual adventures... take your pick. Just not Jennifer Aniston and her ilk.

The progression of 7e Sens is a lesson in animalic notes. It's raw, leathery and warm, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn there's some real castoreum or civet in this juice. This is not for the faint of heart or for the easily offended coworker. There's some barnyard in it and a lot of human bare skin. I find it captivating and engaging, but I'm not sure about wearing it in the company of non-perfume-people.

I have a tiny bottle of the parfum extrait, bought on eBay. There aren't many of these floating around, so I cherish every little drop. The ladies at The Perfumed Court have the EDP (just as rare), so one can obtain a sample and weep a little.

Ads of 7e Sens: Okadi.com

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral SPF 30

The Good:
A finely milled powder with a slight yellow tone does double duty by giving the face a smooth finish while providing SPF 30 sun protection. It solves the problem for those of us who dislike starting our makeup with a heavy sunscreen cream, it allows us to re-apply and touch up without messing up our makeup. It's also very portable: the powder is housed inside the brush, so you you can take it with you everywhere.

The Bad:
Execution. The powder is sometimes a it reluctant to emerge from the brush. You need to tap several times and hope for the best. Other times there's a fine cloud of powder that gets everywhere. It's hard to tell how much you've actually applied and if everything is covered. Also, the brush sheds quite a bit.

The Verdict:
Despite the mechanic faults, the product itself performs great. It matches my skin and doesn't require too much buffing to look natural. I've been using it the last couple of weeks, applying to face and cleavage and have managed to completely avoid getting a tan.

Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral SPF 30 ($30) is available from Sephora, Ulta and beauty.com which is where I bought mine. There's also an SPF 45 version for those who need heavier protection.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Edward Bess Lipstick And Lipgloss

I met Edward Bess at the counter carrying his name in Bergdorf Goodman. I was immediately taken with him, even before I got to test the makeup products. Truth be told, I wanted to take him home with me so he could go over my makeup cabinet, my wardrobe and shoes, edit everything and give me a makeover. Then we would have watched a movie, maybe The Philadelphia Story, sighed over Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart and attempted to guess the exact shade of Katharine Hepburn's red lipstick.

But enough with this fantasy.

Edward Bess is a talented young beauty entrepreneur, blessed with exquisite taste and eye for details, whose makeup line is sold exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman (and on his own web site). That should tell you something about the quality and luxurious feel of the products. The eye shadows deserve a separate post (once I decide I really need more perfect shimmery taupes) and I haven't tried the bronzer and face highlighter (yet), so today is all about the lip colors.

Testing the Ultra Slick lipsticks ($29) and Deep Shine glosses ($28) was the biggest thrill, but also the greatest disappointment. While the products are absolutely amazing- rich and beautiful pigments, perfect texture and superb lasting power, the current color range (10 lipsticks, 5 glosses) just doesn't work for me. The "perfect reds" are not my reds- on my lips they both show with a disturbing shrill pink tone, and the rest are mostly way too light (resulting in a chalky look) or too brown. The best the SA and I managed to get was by layering the Dark Blossom gloss over the Deep Lust lipstick, which looked like a neutral milky brown rose, but it lacked something to make my face come alive.

On someone else with less pigmented lips and a completely different complexion, these colors would be amazing. I suspect blondes and redheads in particular would be thrilled with Edward Bess' creations. But there's good news for the rest of us: According to the SA, this fall will see some additional colors that include purple/berry tones. I can't wait.

Photo at the top is of the entire Edward Bess lip wardrobe ($400) which comes exquisitely packaged in the sleek black box. Please take note that the tiny color swatches on Edward's website (edwardbess.com) are NOT true to life. Everything is actualy a shade or two lighter.

For more on Edward Bess and his products, I highly recommend this post by Annie of Blogdorf Goodman. Reading the comments there is also quite amusing, and that's all I'm going to say about it.