Monday, August 31, 2009

Nina Ricci Farouche- The Lost Perfumes

I was well into adulthood the first time I visited Paris, so growing up, my idea of what is "French" was more than a little simplistic*. My parents favorite music: Yves Montand, Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel, subtitled movies with neverending dialogs (I didn't get it until being introduced to Eric Rohmer's films), fabulous desserts and Nina Ricci perfumes.

Why Nina Ricci? I'm not entirely sure. Chanel No. 5 was probably too global and universal and Miss Dior wasn't that far behind it. Nina Ricci was a more exotic name and embodied something I couldn't quite identify. White gloves? Hats? It doesn't make much sense considering I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and these images were already on the vintage side back then. My mother didn't wear any Nina Ricci perfume, though she received them as gifts a couple of times because her first name is Nina.

Farouche, an 1974 release is pretty much my childhood idea of a French perfume. An Aldehdyc floral with some spicy carnation and what I can now identify as an oakmoss base, but a relatively tame one. It's not a diva kind of chypre and it doesn't hang out in smoke-filled bars. Farouche keeps the pearls and gloves on from start to finish and doesn't let me in on its secrets, if it has any.

Farouche is pretty but aloof. It doesn't seem to belong in the 70s- consider other 1974 releases like Cristalle or Sisley Eau de Campagne. It would probably have done better a decade earlier, but then again, maybe its kind of tame prettiness was never meant to be a big hit. After all, if you compare it to Caleche (original formula), a quite iconic aldehydic floral chypre from the 60s, Farouche has absolutely no chance.

Nina Ricci perfumes are no longer what they used to be. The house changed hands and is currently in the business of churning out fruity-florals. Farouche has all but disappeared, though it can be occasionally found online. A few sellers still have the gorgeous Lalique bottle priced around $375, but I was lucky enough to find a sealed and still in paper gift wrap small (regular)bottle of the parfum sold for pennies, which is what I reviewed here.

*With endless apologies to my French readers.

Photo of Farouche in the Lalique bottle by Leora Long
Grace Coddington (
yes, that Grace Coddington) in a Nina Ricci suit by photographer John French, 1965
Nina Ricci coats and hats from 1961 by Mark Shaw

YSL Rouge Volupté #22 Exquisite Plum

You don't need me to tell you that plum is big this fall. It's everywhere, from makeup to boots, and personally- I'm very happy about it. Plum lipsticks come in every shape and texture, from the sheerest to vampy opaque. I have several reviews coming, but decided to begin with one of the boldest options, YSL Rouge Volupté #22 Exquisite Plum. This is the star of the YSL fall makeup collection and it's impossible to ignore.

Exquisite Plum is dark, creamy and offers full coverage. This is a sexy, after dark color that commands attention and dresses up your outfit. It applies easily wears beautifully, just make sure to exfoliate your lips and use a liner. The texture is rich and moisturizing, it keeps the lips feeling soft without compromising the lasting power. Actually, this Rouge Volupté mostly survived dinner, though I reapplied to restore its shine.

Bottom line: Gorgeous (if you dare).

YSL Rouge Volupté #22 Exquisite Plum ($34) is available from any YSL counter. I hope they now have testers, because when I bought it a few weeks ago, my local Saks didn't have any and the SA said they were not allowed to make one. Is it better for their business to have customers return the product rather than just "waste" one as a tester?

Photos: mine

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Watching "The September Issue". Can Vogue Be Saved?

I watched The September Issue this afternoon. It was fun, interesting, and even the husband who accompanied me didn't look tortured afterwards. If you've suffered through the informative but badly written Front Row, Anna Wintour's biography by Jerry Oppenheimer, or (the even worse) The devil Wears Prada, you're already familiar with Anna Wintour's special charm and probably have a general idea how a Vogue issue is produced. But watching it on screen is much more powerful, and it cements the shock and awe at the power, creativity and egos involved.

The movie gives some screen time to the intentional and unintentional hilarity of André Leon Talley, but the real star is neither André The Giant nor Cruella de Wintour. Grace Coddington, Vogue's long-suffering creative director, steals the show. She's inspired, artistic, knowledgable and utterly charming. She embodies everything I've ever loved about Vogue, even before her (and Wintour's) days in the magazine. We get to see her in action, watch her creative process and her struggles. While I have no choice but respect Anna Wintour's skill and achievements, it's Coddington who commands admiration for her work and personality. We want to strangle Wintour on her behalf and cheer when she ends up getting her way in the end.

The movie comes out at a time Vogue (and the entire publishing industry) is at the lowest point it's been in years. The September 2009 issue is no longer "the biggest one ever". Subscriptions, circulation and ad revenues are falling; magazines and newspapers are shutting down. It's a new world and the old media is having a hard time adjusting. You, my reader, being here is part of that. After all, blogs like this one came to be because the Beauty section of the magazines didn't deliver. Consumers want easy access, immediate information, honest reviews and the ability react, interact and participate in the process.

Can Vogue be saved?

I think the answer to that is yes. Probably because I strongly believe that it should be saved. Vogue has so much value as part of our culture and art. I've been a Vogue reader for most of my life, have always admired the work of Grace Mirabella and Diana Vreeland and would like to see the magazine emerge from Wintour's reign of terror and become better. It's an important resource that should be preserved and allowed to thrive, but it needs to adjust. I would like to see it step up, embrace the social media and engage its loyal readers and subscribers in ways that would enforce the magazine's relevance.

How do you feel about it? Do you think Vogue can be saved? How would you like to see the magazine evolve?

Photo of Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour from the NY Daily News

Dior Creme de Gloss

Dior offers so many lip products it's not so easy to keep them straight. Still, Crème de Gloss deserves a lot more attention and hype, as it just might be the best Dior lip gloss.

Crème de Gloss is a hybrid: something between a liquid lipstick and lip gloss. The coverage and pigment intensity are lipstick-like, but the texture is super light, moisturizing and glossy. Amazingly enough, it's not sticky. Unlike most liquid lipsticks, there are no goop and migration issues- Crème de Gloss stays where you put it (and application is easy and accurate. The slanted sponge wand is perfect for this texture) and never tries to meet your teeth. It feels great on the lips and the moisture holds up nicely, though the staying power is similar to any light gloss and requires reapplying after your first cup of tea.

The color range is impressive and full of great shades. The one I picked from Sephora is Creamy Burgundy (735) which actually looked darker at the store, so when I opened it at home I wondered if I made a mistake. The color looked a bit too warm and I wasn't sure I liked it. Until I put it on. Creamy Burgundy is a medium red that makes my face come alive. It's incredibly flattering and doesn't compete for attention with the rest of my makeup. It would be appropriate for day/office on most, unless you're extremely fair and keep red lip colors for evening only.

Creamy Burgundy has a luminous finish- somewhere between pearly and shimmery. It's delicate- not glittery or porn star-frosted. Other colors have a satin finish and I'm planning to check Plum Elixir and Creamy Rose next time I'm at the Dior counter.

Dior Crème de Gloss ($26) is available from most decent department stores and Sephora.

Photos: Mine

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Beautiful Compacts and Makeup Palettes

As the competition for our hearts, faces and charge cards becomes more fierce, it's no longer enough to simply launch pretty makeup items and coordinated collections. Many companies are putting a lot of effort into creating stunning compacts and embossed pans. The new palettes catch our eyes with textures and patterns the like of which haven't been seen until now.

It used to be the domain of the top brands- after all, Chantecaille has been doing it for several years, with flowers, butterflies and animals embossed in their face, eye and lip compacts. Last year, Lancome made an attempt with their Elephant bronzer, but in that case the execution was somewhat lacking and the actual product didn't look as good as in the stock photo. This season many more brands are offering elaborate products, and so far, everything I've seen looks gorgeous and is worthy of a holiday gift status.

Perhaps the most unique in this bunch is actually the Cargo Runway Palette. It's big, bold, and the patterns of the blush and the bronzer are unlike anything else on the market. It looks even better in person (review coming as soon as I can talk myself into dipping my brushes in the colors).

Click on the image above to see and drool.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Valentino Eau de Parfum (2009 Edition)

I had a bottle of the original Valentino that I got as a gift and used to wear in the very early 90s. I finished the bottle but never repurchased because it had absolutely no staying power (hence going through it in less than a year). I don't remember much about it, except that it was a sheer aldehydic floral with quite a bit of green, a lovely hyacinth note and a sweet drydown. From digging online, I realize that the 1986 version was a re-launch (and probably a reformulation) of a 1978 chypre, which sounds a lot more interesting with its oakmoss and civet base. As far as I know, both came in the ribbed bottle and the Valentino-red box (I still remember how beautiful and shiny it was).

While the original Valentino perfume tried to keep some sort of connection to the über-fabulous fashion house, the designer and his aesthetics, the 2009 launch of the same name has no such aspirations. The licence holder of Valentino perfumes is no other than Proctor & Gamble (you will have to agree with me that this explains a lot), who chose to go with a very pink juice. From the company's website: Top notes are pomelo, pear blossom and magnolia; middle notes are orange blossom, mimosa and violet leaf; base notes are rice vapour, heliotrope and vanilla-orchid. And if that sounds to you like a royal mess, you'd be right.

Now, I've smelled worse things than Valentino EDP. It isn't vile by any mean, and I can see why some might find it appealing. Basically, it's a very sweet floral, a genre with many fans. The opening is very sweet and quite fruity, but the majority of this scent is a mix of poorly blended orange blossom and mimosa. It gets a bit loud and swallows up anything more subtle that might have been mixed into the juice. I was looking forward to the promised rice vapor (thinking of the lovely rice steam accord by CB I Hate Perfume), but got none. The bad mimosa also killed the promised heliotrope, leaving a generic sticky sweet drydown.

What kills me about the new Valentino (other than the idea that this unconvincing cocktail is supposed to evoke Valentino Garavni), is that this Neiman Marcus exclusive is sold for $80-$100 (depending on size). Under the same roof you can buy Chanel, Goutal, L'Artisan, Aqua di Parma, Jo Malone and others, all are better made. The first bottle of Valentino are already making an appearance at a couple of online discounters, which, frankly, that's where they belong. So while I certainly don't hate this perfume, I resent those who try to convince us this is a high-end luxury fragrance.

Perfume ads: Cranky attitude: my own

Fleurs Célestes de Chanel Natural Finish Face Highlighter

Some products have such beautiful presentation it makes one hesitate before dipping a brush and actually using them. Fleurs Célestes de Chanel Natural Finish Face Highlighter is a good example. You just want to keep staring at the colors and the embossed pattern and admire them.

Fleurs Célestes de Chanel is a hybrid is a limited edition finishing powder and highlighter from Chanel's fall 2009 Symphonie Blanche, a collection with a shimmery white theme (there's also an eye shadow quad that looks a bit too transparent for me and a white nail polish). The compact includes three colors- the white shimmery highlighter, a warm pink and a very light bronze. By swiping a powder brush (there's one included with the compact in its own velvet pouch, but I usually prefer a round, full-headed brush for a lighter application), you can determine how much of each color would be applied. The shades combine well and the powder has just enough warm pigment to avoid a chalky look. The shimmer makes it ideal for a glamorous evening look, and you are also supposed to apply some to your décolleté, but I prefer my cleavage to look natural and not twinkle with a pearly shimmer. I'm weird like that.

Fleurs Célestes de Chanel is still available from most Chanel counters at the better department stores, though it seems to be sold out online.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Profumum Dambrosia

More fig goodness- because it's the end of summer and because these perfumes are bottled happiness.

The simple note list for Profumum's Dambrosia sounds downright scary: almond, pear, fig and sandalwood. Just add brown sugar and bake- something like this pear and fig crisp. I actually researched some recipes, and the combination of figs and pears is rare even for desserts. It seems a bit too much.

The opening of Dambrosia is decidedly fruity, but not in a bad way and it doesn't resemble any of the mainstream pear scents (Gwen Stefani's L or the Marc Jacobs Pear body splash in all its synthetic glory). Instead, I get a round, honeyed fruit note with more than a hint of its green skin, without crossing the line into fresh territory. That's also where a very sheer almond note can be detected. It's not dominant and isn't very sweet- definitely more green almonds than sugary marzipan, which makes sense considering the fruity theme. None of these notes lasts long, though.

The heart and the drydown are intertwined in an interesting way. Most of the perfume's development is about figs and sandalwood. At times, one note dominates only to make way to the other one. The creaminess of sandalwood (think Tam Dao) is used here the way you often find milky coconut paired with green fig, but instead of the tropical result of those scents, Dambrosia feels darker and more grownup. If you wear L'Artisan's Premier Figuier during the day, you might like Dambrosia for night. It certainly feels sexy.

There aren't any other notes listed, but I think I smell some spices- nutmeg and maybe coriander seed, which go well with the cake idea of this lovely and satisfying scent. The lasting power is massive. I easily get 12 hours and more, especially when some cling to my clothes. A scarf that got sprayed would remain lightly perfumed for days.

In the US, Profumum fragrances are exclusive to Luckyscent/Scent Bar in Los Angeles, samples are also available from The Perfumed Court.

Art: Fig Tree by Paul Klee

Kevyn Aucoin - Liquid Patent Lip

Kevyn Aucoin's Liquid Patent Lip in Infernelle is a beautiful rich burgundy liquid lipstick that gives full coverage and lots of shine. The issue, like with many liquid lipsticks, is applying just the right amount and not a drop more, otherwise you end up quickly blotting the mess and wiping your teeth.

The pen tends to dispense more goop than you need for one application, so I prefer to dip a separate lipstick brush in the color on the built-in brush and apply a smaller amount as needed. But you can also make it work as is, just pay attention and use a good lip liner. The color is great and the lasting power somewhere between a thick gloss and a sheer lipstick.

Kevyn Aucoin Liquid Patent Lip ($27) is available at Bergdorf Goodman (in store) and

All photos are mine.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Weil Antilope (Old and New)

There was a booth at the PXA 2009 perfume expo in NYC with a name I haven't seen in a while: Parfums Weil. I knew a little about some of their long gone classics, vaguely remembered I had a mini of something or another which has probably turned eons ago and was aware that they were some bottles at the online discounters, but have never smelled anything remotely new from Weil. And, frankly, knowing how horrible are some of the perfume zombies of this kind, I couldn't be bothered.

But the people at the Weil booth were very nice, they talked about relaunching and updating (read: reformulating) the classics and getting back into the game. They also have a skin care line that includes cleansers and creams (I'll need to test my samples soon), and in general, present a pleasant modern front. Like the ad for the recent version of the classic Antilope perfume:

Smelling this new Antilope made me think how the idea of smelling "clean" has changed over the years. Nowadays it mostly means laundry detergent, clean musk and crisp citrus, at best (aquatic aromachemicals like Calone in the worst case). But once upon a time, soap meant prim and proper floral aldehydes that gave the impression of a well put-together lady. The new Antilope, while clearly different than its ancestor(s) still has that retro feel. It's aldehydic and mildly soapy. It feels... nice. Nothing groundbreaking and definitely not animalic, as might have been expected from the name.

Antilope is quite herbal. I smell clary sage and maybe some tarragon, and that is probably my favorite part. The floral heart is abstract, and other than some neutered jasmine, nothing stands out stands out there, for better or for worse. The generic theme continues into the drydown, where it morphs into something reminiscent of men's cologne. It's not bad, and the scent is very easy to wear, but even without an emotional attachment to the original Antilope, I'm a little disappointed.

Digging in the darker parts of my vintage stash, I found a tiny bottle of the vintage parfum, dating most likely from the early 80s. It was part of those Parfums de Paris gift sets sold to tourist and air travelers, and while still full and kept in the original box, Antilope (unlike the other four perfumes) seemed to have turned. The top notes were definitely stale- deflated aldehydes at their worst. I still applied it for the sake of this post, but the first twenty minutes were not my idea of fun. At some point the mustiness disappeared and I nearly forgot I was wearing it, until I caught a whiff of something a lot more pleasant. A serious, assertive floral with more than a hint of a green, mossy base, and later- a beautiful musk. Finally, I got it- the nostalgia, the elegance, the beauty.

While the newest version of Antilope (and the rest of the Weil line) hasn't been officially launched in the US, you can actually find it- an EDP in an orange-red box at some online retailers. There's an earlier (dating from the 90s, I think) EDC version circulating online, but rumor has it that it's downright awful. As for vintage- it's between you and your eBay account, but take note that Antilope's origins are now lost in the mist. Different sources give launch dates from 1928 to 1948 (including several years within this range) and different note lists, making the perfume anything from a woody floral to a leather chypre (!). There was also a bath oil version of Antilope, which at some point was named Secret de Venus. All this can make anyone's head spin, even before you get one sniff of the actual juice.


Erno Laszlo pHormula No. 3-9 Lip Balm SPF 15

Being prone to dry lips, I can never have enough lip balm, and I certainly can tell a good one from cheap petroleum gel crap that does nothing but sit on the lips. That said, realizing that the o.5 oz tube of Erno Laszlo pHormula No. 3-9 Lip Balm SPF 15 I was sent retails for $34 was a bit shocking. After all, it's more than the cost of a Chanel lipstick.

I love Erno Laszlo products, and the pHormula No. 3-9 moisturizer is an amazing cream (and a lifesaver at times), and this lip balm is worthy of the label. It's the one I carry with me lately and leave by the bed at night. It goes on a bit oily at first, but when I look in the mirror it doesn't appear greasy, just balmy, and if I were one to go lipstick/gloss-free, this would be a good substitute, especially because of the SPF 15.

The balm heals and calms chapped lips. I have a scar that tends to bother me if my lips are dry, and even re-opens in extreme cases. Lately it's been feeling a lot better, and I've discovered that Octinoxate, the main ingredient in the No. 3-9 Lip Balm is not used just to protect skin from damage, but also to reduce the appearance of scars. Between this and the fact this balm is perfect with dry formula lipsticks (Shiseido and Nars are usually hard for me to wear), I'm starting to think this pricey product might be able to earn its keep.

Erno Laszlo pHormula No. 3-9 Lip Balm SPF 15 ($34) is available from Nordstrom and I got it as a PR freebie.

Art: Lips by Man Ray

Givenchy Prismissime Eye Shadow Poetique Blues & Browns

I admit I blind-bought the two Givenchy Prismissime eye shadow compacts. I saw the Poetique Blues and Poetique Browns on Sephora's website and had to have them. The jewel-like appearance and the many color options were impossible to resist.

Both palettes are full of subtle shimmery colors. You can wear each one by itself or mix and layer them together. The shadows are sheer but surprisingly pigmented and it's a lot of fun to play with the different hues. It can also make you late, if you're getting too absorbed in adding just a little of this or that, but the compacts are also perfect for just a quick wash of color on the lid or in the crease. If you're pale, the darker blue shadows wold also make a beautiful eyeliner. I just use them close to the lash line for extra depth.

The Prismissime texture is very fine and smooth. Both sets last a lot better over an eye shadow primer- they stay on from morning to night, even in this humid weather. Take note that the individual pans aren't big, so the widest brushes might not be the best to use here, unless you're swirling over several colors. Speaking of brushes, it's really a shame the brushes that come in the compact (there's a lower compartment) are so thin and crappy. The product itself is high quality and elegant, it deserves better.

Prismissime Eye Shadow Poetique Blues and Poetique Browns ($53 each) are a limited edition Sephora exclusive (at least in the US).
All photos are mine.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire

This time of the year I tend to frequently invade my husband's side of the perfume cabinet. The muggy weather calls for dry woods, incense and crispy vetiver, either separately or blended together. Frederic Malle's Vetiver Extraordinaire offer both woods and vetiver, it manages to be both green(ish) and dry, and the linearity- a "what you smell is what you get (until the next morning)" makes it easy to wear and refreshing.

The official notes are bergamot, bigarade orange, pink pepper, nutmeg, floralozone, Haitian vetiver, sandalwood, cedarwood, oakmoss, myrrh, cashmeran wood and musk. The ozonic molecule elluded me until I smelled the Vetiver Extraordinaire body wash (a wonderful product in its own right). That was when I fully got it- it's not an airy/aquatic smell, but an uplifting "charged air" kind of thing, very subtle, which adds another dimension to this otherwise earthy scent.

For my husband it's an easy go-to scent. He wears it for business meetings and sale presentations and feels it gives him an extra touch of confidence. I know what he means. While vetiver is a rooty, green note, I've always felt it has a cool, stone-like facet. It can be green but also has a gray, urban feel, which makes it a great "first, we take Manhattan" cologne.

Vetiver Extraordinaire might be quite masculine (and when I wear it in colder weather it almost makes me feel like an intruder), but the extreme heat and humidity soften it on my skin. I get a whispery floral note in its heart, together with a green citrus veil that stays with me for long hours. The edge is almost taken away and the result is actually (dare I say it?) pretty, which is why I'd urge even the girliest among us to give VE a chance.

Vetiver Extraordinaire (like all Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums fragrances and body products) is available from Barneys in store and online, as well as from

art: Black Shoe by Craig Stephens

Matrix Sleek Look Shampoo and Conditioner- A Rant About Packaging

Matrix Sleek Look shampoo and conditioner are great products. The are gentle and nourishing, great de-tanglers, never irritate my hyper-sensitive scalp and don't require tons of goop as finishing products (except during this time of the year, when frizz is king). I like them and they're part of my rotation, as evident by the product level in my bottles above.

There's just one issue. Look at this bottles- the only difference between the shampoo and the conditioner's bottle is the color of the cap (one is a darker orange, and don't even get me started on the nail-breaking caps. They're the devil) and the numbers- 1 on the shampoo and 2 on the conditioners. The label itself is printed in a small font, so it's not very obvious at a glance. Now, think of yourself taking a shower and washing your hair before your first cup of coffee in the morning or while already half asleep at night. How observant are you? And while my eyesight is still as good as ever, what about those who can't read without their glasses?

That's why I'm always grateful to brands that make significantly different packaging for their shampoo and conditioners. Matrix has other product lines, like Biolage, which had more thought put into this very issue, so why not this semi-exclusive salon line?

Matrix Sleek Look shampoo and conditioner (about $14 each) are sold in select salons. Mine were PR freebies.
Photo by me.

Thymes Filigree Discontinued

If you're a fan of the Filigree range from Thymes, you'd want to do some stocking up, as this fragrance collection is being discontinued. The products are still available for the full price on their website (, and you are very likely to find them discounted locally at stores carrying the line.

This makes me worried about the future of Goldleaf, which was the sister scent of Filigree (though much more popular, I think). I also just realized they no longer offer any environmental oil for lamp rings and burners, which really sucks. I don't use candles because of the cats, and reed diffusers, while not dangerous, are not exactly feline-proof. I know that companies need to renew and innovate, but regularly discontinuing products that have a loyal fan base isn't the best business move. One of the contributing factors to Crabtree & Evelyn's troubles was exactly that- long time customers started feeling betrayed and stayed away.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

L'Artisan Parfumeur Havana Vanille- First Impression

Perfume obsession is a funny thing. One day after I bought a bottle of a fragrance so unique it makes my entire collection seem almost silly* and for a few minutes even entertain the concept of a signature scent, I got to try the new L'Artisan Parfumeur Havana Vanille and was reminded why I'm so in love with many perfumes.

Havana Vanille is what I wanted Hermes Vanille Galante to be. It's an almost understated, non-cupcake, well-rounded vanilla scent. Robin on NST has compared it to Guerlain's Spiritueuse Double Vanilla, and she is right. But SDV is too much booze on my skin, and it sadly takes away from the smoky vanilla. Havana Vanille has a beautiful tobacco note, leafy and smooth, which keeps the scent from going the yummy foody way. It's far less sweet than Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille which I love, but must admit is more honey-tobacco than vanilla and isn't as sophisticated as this L'Artisan creation.

The rum here is mostly in the top notes and then it clears the way to a warm dry vanilla. It's satisfying and comforting without the feel of a guilty pleasure. It's easy to wear without being low brow, and it doesn't smell cheap. One would never be mistaken for wearing a body spray from the mall while having this on.

I can't wear L'Artisan's other vanilla scent, Vanilia, because after the beautiful first 20 minutes I get a weird chemical burnt sugar and a dead orchid note that on a bad day turns my stomach. There's nothing of this sort in Havana Vanille, which makes it an ideal scent for fall.

Havana Vanille will be officially launcehd in October.

*I promise to talk about this perfume soon. In the meantime, you're invited to try and figure out what it is. The first person to guess correctly will receive a sample of the fragrance. If he or she would want it, that is. Just to make this clear: Not Havana Vanille.

Image: Homemade Bourbon Vanilla by

Le Metier de Beaute Roopal Patel Collection For Fall 2009

In which I get a makeover using an orange blush (and live to tell)

Roopal Patel has one of the best jobs in the universe: she's the Senior Women's Fashion Director at Bergdorf Goodman. Basically, her eye and taste influence what we wear and what we can only dream about wearing. Now she will also have her hand in our makeup.

Ms. Patel has collaborated with Le Metier de Beaute in creating and editing the Roopal Patel Collection, a makeup palette of eye, cheek and lip colors straight from the fall 2009 runways.

The runways.

If you looked online or through the fashion magazine you know what it means this season: 80s influence. And if you've been reading this blog, you also know I'm not necessarily a fan of that trend, though it does have its high points. At least it's never boring. I was at Bergdorf on Friday and not only got an advanced peak of this palette, but also had my makeup completely done with it. When Dustin, their very talented makeup artist showed me the colors, I gave him The Look. The one that says "not in your life". After all, the palette had orange, yellow and hot pink smack dab in the center. I think I had a similar set in the mid-80s. It was around the time I was planning to marry George Michael and we all know how well that turned out.

But Dustin wasn't phased by The Look and by the memories of my long lost youth. He explained that most of what I see in the palette is just pigments, with the exception of the red lip color and the iridescent Magic cream gel that you mix with the powder pigments in various amounts to create colored glosses, gels and stains. He had me sit in the chair and promised to make it work.

And he did.

Like most Le Metier de Beaute color products, the pigments in the Roopal Patel Collection were meant to be blended and layered. Just as their Kaleidoscopes appeal to our inner artist (or the inner little kid with the Crayola box), this is another such tool with many possibilities, especially if you consider all that using the Magic cream/gel can do. Dustin used Dangerous as a liner and blended several of the other colors to use as eye shadows, with a dominant dove gray overtone. He blended and lightened up that scary Sunburst yellow and dabbed it in the inner corner of my eyes. I would probably have taken it down a notch, but I got what he was doing.

For blush, he blended Tangini (the orange. Orange!) with Barely There (and probably also some of the pink) and applied it lightly. Seduction, the very red lip color (similar to one of the layers in the Red Rupture lip kaleidoscope, which I really should review soon) was blended with a couple of the pigments to make it a rich red-pink that was still daytime appropriate. It looked good and lasted incredibly well, considering Dustin took off all the makeup I previously had and applied this look without using a primer, a foundation and any other fixatives. He did use an under eye concealer, and I think I will need the line's concealer brush. It was wider than any of the ones I own and worked incredibly well for seamless blending.

Bottom line, the Roopal Patel Collection for Le Metier de Beaute is an interesting concept, very high quality and as fashion forward as they come. It's a lot more versatile than it appears at first glance, and my only concern regarding it is that I have no doubt any user would run out of Magic, the secret ingredient, pretty quickly, which would limit the use of this palette.

The colors are: 1. Dangerous (dark charcoal) 2. Sparkle Dust (shimmery light blush pink), 3. Purple Haze (the name says it all, cool toned) 4. Magic (clear iridescent gel) 5. Barely There (lightest beige) 6. Disco Ball (silver) 7. Hot Pants (shocking pink) 8. Sunburst (as yellow as it gets) 9. Tangini (shimmery orange) 10. Seduction (true red cream lip color)

The collection is a limited edition and will be available exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman from September 15th. It retails for $225.

The rest of Le Metier de Beaute fall 2009 line includes new eye and lip kaleidoscopes, which are the items I'm personally more likely to purchase. The colors (I haven't seen them yet) will include golden tones inspired by the season. The launch date for them is also September 15th, and I must say I'm very pleased with brands that don't release their fall looks in July (meaning everything is sold out before August ends).


Edward Bess For Fall: New Products Coming Soon

The wait is almost over: The new lip colors by Edward Bess are coming to Bergdorf Goodman on September 14. Just as promised, the lipsticks and glosses will feature plum and berry colors, and there will be matching lip liners. I got a sneak pick of the latter, and just like the rest of Edward's products, the texture is dreamy-smooth and the pigment quality is top notch. From the liner's color I can already predict the lipsticks will be just what I've been craving since I first tested his line.

There's more Edward Bess good news:
Coming next month are two new sets that are much easier on the pocket and actually offer a significant saving. A lipstick trio, Best of Bess ($75, compare to $29 per lipstick a la carte, which is $87 for three colors), and a gloss trio, Little Black Box ($75, again, compare to $28 for one, or $84 for three). Buying both sets together would get us extra $25 off for a total savings of $46, or 26%. I'm waiting to see the exact color in these sets, and hopefully they would be what I'm looking for, since it's such a good deal.

Photo of Edward Bess from his Facebook fan page.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Miller Harris Figue Amere

I love living in the NY metro area. We have everything and can find the best of the best from any category of items- food, fashion, culture and more. The one thing we don't have is figs.

I have a thing for figs. A huge thing. I can eat and eat and not stop until they are all gone (so does my mom. We've been known to polish off lbs upon lbs of ripe figs). The little plastic containers of six shriveled figs I buy from Whole Foods never ever come close to the real thing, but I still get them and inhale. The best figs I ever ate were in Castel Gandolfo, Italy. We were staying at a hotel overlooking Lake Albano. There were several old and beautiful fig trees on the hotel grounds and one of the employees hand picked and brought me a bowl. I was sitting outside, smelling the air, the figs and taking in the view while eating my favorite fruit. It couldn't get any better than that.

Figue Amere by Miller Harris is as close as it gets to that September afternoon in Castel Gandolfo. It's green and dry at the top, like smelling the tree and the clean air around it. There's no hint of the milky coconut note that is often paired with figs (not that I mind. I like coconut), so it's a bit less foody than expected, at least for the first hour or so of the scent. The sweetness arrives later, in the form of woody amber. My skin probably amplifies this facet, to an almost vanilla-like drydown. I adore it, of course. On a different chemistry I suspect the cedar would be more prominent, so Figue Amere can work as a masculine.

While the perfume has a modest sillage and will not announce one's arrival, the staying power is impressive. I get 16-18 hours easily, from only three sprays. While I could bathe in my bottle, there's no need for it, as the scent is really strong enough. But I just discoevered that they also make a Figue Amere body lotion, and that might be a must-have for me.

Miller Harris Figue Amere ($140 for 100 ml) is available from tLuckyscent/Scent Bar.

art: Three Figs by Craig Stephens
photo: view of Lake Albano from Hotel Villa degli Angeli by me. Sadly, the hotel has built a modern and fugly convention center on most of what used to be their garden. The magnificent fig trees are no more.

Dior Vernis Nail Enamel (Nordstrom Exclusive)

In the world of beauty products, exclusivity sells. As do great colors. The two Nordstrom exclusive Dior Vernis Nail Enamel polish colors were launched in July and have fall written all over them. Mystic Violine (#987) is a beautiful if predictable satiny red plum. It's very dark, super sexy, but I have to admit that I already own several similar colors. You probably do, too.

Lemon Balm (#703) is the real star here. The color is hard to describe and changes significantly under different light conditions. It's a brown-gray-taupe-purple thing with a metallic finish. The gray shows more in the bottle and in broad daylight, while nighttime brings out the purple chocolate.

The Dior Vernis Nail Enamel brush is among my most favorites. It's thick, wide and gives great coverage without streaking. As a metallic color, Lemon Balm dries quickly, which in my klutzy world is a major advantage, as I tend to ruin my manicures and get cat hair all over them. I tested with both Zoya and Anise Nails base and top coats, and the results are always good.

Dior Vernis Nail Enamel in Lemon Balm and Mystic Violine ($20 each) are exclusive to Nordstrom. I ordered mine online.

Photos: mine

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lanvin Rumeur (Original 1934 Version)- The Lost Perfumes

It took me time and experiencing different concentrations (and probably different vintages) to figure out what was going on with Rumeur by Lanvin. I could tell it's a chypre (sometimes it feels like just about any scent from that era was a chypre, probably because of the oakmoss and patchouli abundance), and a dirty one, but it smells so full and layered I had a hard time getting an olfactory picture in my head.

Just to make this clear: I'm not talking about the 2006 chemical fruit dreck or any of its flankers, but of the original perfume which was created by Andre Fraysse and launched in 1934 and discontinued at some point in the 70s.

Some of the old bottles and samples I've smelled were a bit off at the top, but from the one I currently own, I'd go out on a limb and say there were some aldehydes involved. What I get now is spice. Clove? Cardamom? The former, most likely, because the floral heart calls to mind a carnation, if a bit abstract. The scent is warm, woody and fuzzy, but it quickly becomes this classic, womanly scent, the idea of what a grand perfume for a grand lady should be. Well-furnished, shaded rooms in which mysterious ladies talk in hushed voices (it's probably just my imagination and watching too many Clark Gable movies, after all, both my grandmas were little girls back then and Eastern Europe was not exactly Paris). Many chypres have a certain formality, as does Rumeur, but it also has such a heavy base that throws me off a bit. A hint of leather, but also something furry and animalic. Maybe it's a musk, the kind you no longer find in modern perfumes, but there's also some similarity to the warm fruity thickness I smell in CB Musk Reinvention and MKK, so I'm thinking civet.

Note interpretation aside, Rumeur is beautiful. I wear it like a costume at times, mostly around the house, but occasionally on a night out, the way it was meant to be worn.

photos of 1934 fashion from

A Quick History Of Blue Eye Shadow

With blue and green eye makeup everywhere, we shouldn't forget why these colors had a questionable reputation. And it's not just an 80s thing: these looks are from the 60, some are worse than others, all are amusing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mona di Orio Lux

The good news, I guess, is that this review isn't part of my Lost Perfumes series. The bad news is that at the moment the only place you can buy the Mona di Orio line is Les Senteurs in London. At least they sell online and ship worldwide, which is a big comfort since I'm kicking myself for not buying a backup bottle of Lux.

There's nothing in the list of notes that prepares you for this scent. We've all been through a citrus opening or two and experienced an amber-wood-vanilla drydown before. Sniffing the bottle or spraying a paper strip will not teach you much, either. Like all of Mona di Orio's creations, Lux must be experienced on skin, where it comes alive within seconds. From the luminous lemon top to the rich and dirty vanilla-benzoin, this perfume has a full, sensual body. It's beautiful and feels perfectly put together with just a hint of dirty touch underneath it all.

While Mona di Orio has dedicated Lux to the memory of her mentor, the great Edmond Roundnitska, my own perception links it to very vintage Guerlain: think of an older, more animalic Jicky without the lavender. Last weekend I had a chance to sniff a bottle of Shalimar circa 1940. The juice was in great condition, and even some of the top could be detected. While Lux is a very modern scent, I feel it shares the aesthetics and the "what is perfume" sensibility of yore.

Mona di Orio perfumes (£85.00 for 50 ml) can be purchased from Les Senteurs in the UK, online and in store. I bought my bottle when it was still available at Bergdorf Goodman.

photo of actress Romy Schneider, 1960, from