Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nars Yachiyo Brush

Things I can't resist: kittens, fresh pasta, funky hats, figs, vintage Shalimar, handmade accessories, makeup brushes with a unique design. Nars Yachiyo brush falls under the last two categories. It's hand-spun and has an interesting handle made from black wisteria that wraps all around and feels very nice when you hold it.

One of the secrets of a really good blush brush is the amount of product is collects at one sweep and how much buffing and blending one needs to do after depositing the color on skin. That's what makes Nars Yachiyo the superb brush it is. There's something about the domed and tapered shape of the Yachio and its hair density that creates the magic- it makes even dark and very pigmented blushes almost fool-proof (as long as the color looks good on one's skin, that is).

The tapered shape makes the Yachiyo great for more delicate jobs like contouring, if you're so inclined. I played with a little and saw that it can be manipulated very well into small areas such as the sides of your nose. It's also good for touch highlighting either with the tip or sides, and some use it for cleanups, but personally, I prefer a simple fan brush for this purpose.

While this brush isn't the softest one I own, it feels pleasant enough. I've been using it for a little over a month, and while there was a little shading the first week, things are stable now. It survived its first washing (I wrapped the handle with a washcloth while doing it, to protect the black wisteria) and dried well. For such an expensive makeup brush I wish it came in nicer packaging (think Edward Bess brushes) or at least with a protective velvet pouch like Chanel or Guerlain, but that's my only complaint.

Nars Yachiyo Brush ($50) is available from and some deartment stores.

Photos by me.

Laura Mercier Fall Favourites Face Palette Collection (Saks Exclusive)

One of the most beautiful and practical sets of the season comes from Laura Mercier. The Fall Favorites Face Palette Collection is centered around the color palette, but also includes a a full size black mascara and three brushes- cheek, lip and eye. The brushes have short travel size handles but are otherwise full size, high quality and help one get the most of the palette. I wish Bobbi Brown would take notice and do the same with some of her face palettes.

The colors are neutral, wearable and very flattering. I already have a full size pan of Coffee Ground, a matte taupe, which I use often and always pack for travel. As you can see, it coordinates well with the other shades Laura Mercier has included here- Bamboo, Rose and Stellar. The four eye shadows are versatile, perfectly coordinated and are truly great for a day-to-night look. I swatched them very lightly, but the colors can be built for more drama if needed. They have a soft texture and a luxurious finish that fits this set very well.

The blushes are quite universal. I can wear both and also like mixing and blending them together. I could have lived with less shimmer, but it's not too bad. I swatched the colors more heavily then I wear them, to make sure you can see the difference between Spice and Apricot Blossom. A lighter application gives the face a natural healthy glow.

Out of the three lip colors, Crystal is a sheer gloss with very little pigment. I don't wear it on its own, but it's great either mixed with the other two or topping a different lipstick. My favorite thing to do here is blending Black Currant and Orchid together for a juicy and rich neutral color that's dark enough to look sexy but isn't too bold.

The only issue here is the size of the pans. The eye shadows are quite narrow and cross contamination is very easy, especially when using good brushes (like the ones that came with this collection). Still, as long as one is mindful things can be kept fairly clean. I've been putting the palette to good use in the last few weeks and have a feeling I'm going to run out of several colors within 6 months or so.

Bottom Line: Between the pretty packaging, tools and the work horse colors, this is a big winner.

This particular Laura Mercier Fall Favourites Face Palette Collection ($125) is a limited edition and exclusive to Saks (in store and online). Other department stores have different sets for fall 2010 with other colors and products (Neiman's has no lip products but includes more eye shadows and a pencil liner).

All photos are mine.

Vero Profumo- Kiki, Onda & Rubj in Eau de Parfum

Vero Profumo's three original perfumes, Onda, Kiki and Rubj have been cult favorites ever since they came out as an extrait de parfum. Their limited distribution has made them a sort-of-secret , word-of-mouth (and blog) thing among those in the know. The heavy concentration, bombshell  character and stunning composition (not to mention a liberal use of animalic notes) made sure they remain the darlings of only a small part of the perfume community.

As of today, Kiki, Onda and Rubj are also available in eau de parfum concentration. Vero Kern, the Swiss perfumer behind the brand took a long time working on the formulas and tweaking them to her standard of perfection. The final product she presents us is not a diluted juice but a variation on each theme, and I have to say all three have exceeded my expectations.

Kiki EDP might be the one that follows the original most closely while still smelling new. It always had a very gourmand aspect and a boozy fruit somewhere in its heart. That part has been amplified, the heavy curtains of the Parisian boudoir opened a little and more light is now shining in. A day that starts with a couple of Kiki spritzes can never go wrong. As long as one wears the right shoes. And lingerie.

I was most worried about Onda. The extrait is very dear to me- I have felt a strong connection with it from the very first time I sampled it three years ago. The EDP may be less animalic, but the sensuality hasn't diminished. Onda EDP is more polite, perhaps, a little less smoky, but it's still a firecracker in a black leather jacket, ready to raise some hell and take on the world. I doubt anyone who found Onda objectionable in extrait would come around and enjoy it now. However, if you loved it but was too self-conscious to wear it in public and deal with the stares, the EDP should make it easier for you.

Rubj might have gained a new level of sensuality in EDP, if that's even possible. It was always sunshiny and bursting with life and energy. The fruity musk drydown now has friends to play with it. A passion fruit note has been added to all three perfumes, but here it gets a solo. I'm not exactly a fruity person, but I love the way Vero has made it work. In the case of Rubj, there's a hefty dose of spice making the fruit as far from a mainstream cliche as can be. There's cumin here and for once its use is not a poor excuse for a sloppy reformulations but a perfect tool to bring out the heat of the composition.

All three EDPs have an excellent all day longevity and a good (though not obnoxious) projection. I'm having a very hard time convincing myself that owning all three extraits (they were a Valentine's Day gift a few years ago) should be enough for me and I don't really need full bottles of the new versions. The problem is they really are that good.

Kiki ($165), Onda ($165) & Rubj ($195) in Eau de Parfum by Vero Profumo (all bottles 50ml)  are available now from Luckyscent. They also sell samples, which I highly recommend if you're not familiar with the line. I received samples of all three directly from the perfumer.

Art: Woman In A Yellow Dress by Tamara de Lempicka, 1929

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Norma Kamali Talks To Chef Matteo

Designer Norma Kamali has a new project- A digital webisode series of conversations with artists and experts focusing on fitness, health, beauty and nutrition. The program debuts on Thursday, September 30th at 11:00 AM at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The reason I'm very excited about this is her first guest, Chef Matteo of 4 Course Vegan, who is not just a personal friend of mine, but also an amazing chef.

One doesn't need to be a vegan or even a vegetarian to enjoy Chef Matteo's cuisine. I've sat countless of times at his dinners and watched the faces of omnivores and carnivores who came in skeptical and left amazed after a truly extraordinary dining experience.It's wonderful to see him get the recognition he deserves. You can see a clip on Norma Kamali's Conversations website.

Photo of Norma Kamali by Todd Heisler, The New York Times.

Le Metier de Beaute Midnight Anamorphic Lash Mascara

One of the very first Le Metier de Beaute products I tested was their Anamorphic Mascara in Jade. Its quality caught my attention immediately, as did their use of color. Here was a black-based green that was dark enough to be a functional mascara and not make my lashes look weird and dusty (a problem with most mainstream brands colored mascaras), but still have enough green tint to brighten my eyes and bring out their color. Since then I've had my makeup done several times by Le Metier people who used Aubergine on my lashes (it's gorgeous and I really need to get one), so I had to add Midnight to my blue mascara quest.

Like the other Le Metier de Beaute colored mascaras, Midnight is black-based, so the lashes are darkened enough to stand out. The blue shade is beautiful and brightens the eye area without looking too obvious. It has a somewhat glossy finish, but again, the result is not overly done and works very well with a soft neutral eye. As far as quality goes, this mascara is top notch- it provides good volume, a little extra length, separation and definition with no clumps or smudges. It stays in place until I go after it with a makeup remover and doesn't require extra effort for cleanup.

Bottom Line: Yes, it's that good.

Le Metier de Beaute Anamorphic Lash Mascara ($34) in Midnight and other colors is available from Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and now also Nordstrom Online. Overseas you can find it at Selfridges, among other locations.

All photos are mine.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ayala Moriel- Epice Sauvage

Wearing Epice Sauvage for the first time is fun. One assumes the wrist-to-nose position and starts inhaling, trying to take it all in while identifying each and every spice in the blend, and they are all there and very obvious at first-cardamom, cinnamon and clove, smooth, spicy and warm like a wonderful cup of chai.

The exotic theme continues, but in another direction once the jasmine makes an appearance. Natural perfumer Ayala Sender of Ayala Moriel Parfums is a jasmine sorceress. She takes this somewhat problematic note and brings out the best in it. Hot summer nights in a beautiful faraway land, the sensuality and the more delicate aspects of jasmine are woven together with the spices into a heady perfume that is all silk and color.

The perfume dries down into a honeyed wood base, well-balanced and not too sweet. Some of the spices, especially clove and cinnamon keep popping up and maintaining the exotic oriental feel of Epice Sauvage. The lasting power depends on how much one uses, and I find that a normal application of several dabs of the parfum extrait to the pulse points only lasts a couple of hours. This led me to using most of my second sample and almost bathe in it. I was in spice heaven for the better part of a day.

Epice Sauvage ($110, 9 ml extrait de parfum) is available from It also comes in several other sizes and formulations. A sample pack of six scents is currently priced at $40.

Image: Model Anne Gunning in Jaipur, India by Norman Parkinson, Vogue, November 1956

Milan Fashion Week: January Jones At Versace

At first I thought it might be an odd angle, but all the photos I've seen of January Jones from this event (Friday's Versace show during Milan Fashion Week) look similar. There's some odd proportions here- the geometric dress, the hair and January herself. She's beautiful, of course, and can pull off just about anything, but this dress isn't working. Or maybe a softer hairstyle would have fixed the problem.


Photo: Just Jared

Essie Fall 2010 Mini Collection

Essie's 4-packs of seasonal minis make it very easy for us, addicts. Between the cuteness of the packaging and the option to have four mini bottles (makes much more sense for those of us who rarely wear the same color two weeks in a row), this is an easy choice. I also got a full size of In Stitches, which I'll show you on Friday and only passed on one color, Velvet Voyeur, because I get my dark purple fix from last year's Chanel.

The mini fall collection includes:
Sew Psyched- celadon? blue sage? It's hard to describe, but the color is both unique and wearable even for my conservative taste.
Limited Addiction- sexy and classic red
Little Brown Dress- chocolate liqueur
Merino Cool- a cool mauve, urban and sophisticated

I love the creamy opaque texture and finish and the fact I can leave the house wearing only one coat. I usually apply the second coat the next day, so I have far less chance of messing up my nails. Dealing with your inner klutz requires a little creativity, and a nail polish that looks good enough even before your manicure is fully finished.

Essie fall collection mini 4pc ($17) is available from

All photos are mine

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ormonde Jayne Sampaquita

Sampaquita, is probably the least exotic-smelling perfume in Ormonde Jayne's group of lush tropicals. Known as the national flower of the Philippines, sampaquita (more commonly spelled sampaguita) means jasmine sambac. So, basically, this is a jasmine-centered scent, but with a twist- the typical OJ grass/wood/pepper touch.

I'm not a big jasmine fan and it takes a lot to make me love jasmine soliflores. The closest I got recently was with the exceptionally made and utterly gorgeous Love And Tears (By Kilian). Sampaquita is not quite in this league, but it still works for me. I don't think of this Ormonde Jayne creation as a true jasmine. It's a lot more unisex than many scents that focus on this note and has a very sheer, watercolor-like quality rather than the usual sultriness. The opening is a bit challenging, though. It's too sharp and makes my eyes water until things settle down a little. The rest of the scent is sheer flowers over a green wood and musk base. It's easy to wear and feel clear and cool like a waterfall. I'm not even bothered by the water lily and muguet, a combination that usually sends me running for the hills.

Sampaquita is light-weighted and light-hearted. It's not on the same level of Ormonde Jayne's true masterpieces, but sometimes this is the right thing to wear on a miserable rainy Monday.

Ormonde Jayne Sampaquita (£68.00, 50ml EDP but also in a £54.00 travel spray version and a full range of bath, body and home products) is available from (they ship worldwide) and for the lucky ones also in the London boutique and in Harrods.

Art: Sampaguita Flower by Yencagulada on

Benefit Cosmetics Posietint Blush

Some GWP items take you so far out of your comfort zone you might need a passport. Occasionally it can be a very good thing. I would have never bought Benefit's Posietint lip and cheek stain if it were up to me. I don't think I've even gave it a second look. It's a liquid tint and it's petal pink- two things I have no interest in wearing. I never liked the original Benetint, an aggressive wine-colored liquid blush/stain. I've found its application too messy and the shade very off for my cheeks. As for using it for lips, stains and tints are too dry for me. I don't even like the one by Serge Lutens, so that should tell you something.

Posietint is much lighter, of course, making the color more forging and easier to apply and blend without ending up with weird streaks on your face. Still, I was skeptical about this very cool toned pink, especially when first touching it to the skin (see first swatch). However, once smoothed and blended it looks quite fresh and nice. It melds into my foundation and looks like a natural blush. While I'm not too fond of using fingers to apply makeup, I find it really works in this case. The whole thing is quick and easy and the result is surprisingly flattering.

I never tested it on my lips and have no intention to try. I know my limits.

Posietint doesn't have the best staying power, unless you make sure to encore it in place with a good foundation (I find it holds better onto full-coverage products than to tinted moisturizers) and a dusting of a good finishing powder, but that's always recommended. I only wear a light and sheer coat- building up the color brings out the blue-based pink too much and that's not a good thing on a light olive skin. Those who have a better relationship with pink could probably amp it up a little.

Bottom Line: Cute and way better than expected.

Benefit Cosmetics Posietint Blush ($28) is available from Sephora, in store and online.

Photos by me.

A Day And A Night Out On The Town

The Blond and I have been hermiting it since we came back from vacation, but today we broke the spell. We had tickets to see Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight in David Mamet's A Life In The Theater. I'm perfectly happy to watch Sir Patrick just stand there and read the NYC phonebook, but an actual play, with a dialog and everything is even better.

Grandaisy Bakery and dinner at Cafe Blossom, but I know you're not here for the cake. Obviously, in between noshing and admiring Sir Patrick's accent there was some serious perfume sniffing and shopping.

Aedes has the newest Serge Lutens export, Bas de Soie. I didn't expect to love it, but I sprayed it before the show and by the time we were done applauding I was head-over-heels. Uncle Serge knows his iris, but this isn't that rooty carrot and damp dark soil of Iris Silver Mist. Instead, this is dry and piercing with its hyacinth note. Bas de Soie is a lot more sophisticated than it seems at first sniff and proves our favorite uncle hasn't lost his touch just yet. Have I said love already?

The Blond played happily with some CdGs, wasn't too impressed with Diptyque Duelle, but he's just not a vanilla person. I actually liked it, but it reminded me of Le Labo's Paris exclusive, Vanille 44. Well, maybe Vanille 44 on a diet, but still. It's not very tenacious, which is a problem I'm having with most of the newer Diptyque perfumes.

We headed uptown for the Triple B tour (Bergdorf, Barneys and Bendel). A couple of the brands formerly found across the street at Takashimaya have migrated to Henri Bendel, so we can still get our fix of Ineke and Histoires de Parfums. The newest Bendel private label scent, Wild Fig, did nothing for me, and I'm a fig freak, so you know something is amiss there.

The L'Artisan boutique there has one of the two new scents,Traversée du Bosphore. I don’t know if the Blond didn’t spray enough or what, but I could barely smell anything. I’ll have to seriously test again before making judgment, but at this point I was going to give up on L’Artisan. It’s a good thing the day wasn’t over (spoiler alert!).

I never payed much attention to the Profumi del Forte line, but that's probably because the samples I had were of the masculines, which I've found boring, at least from casual sniffing. This time something compelled me to look further and I absentmindedly sprayed my wrist with By Night (White). Oh.

By Night, the feminine version, is a gorgeous orange blossom and vanilla over a sensual wood-musk base. Not the most innovative idea, but it works for me. Added to the wishlist. Because, really, I need more vanilla perfumes.

Speaking of which, Bergdorf will be getting the new limited Edition Shalimar Ode A La Vanille on October 23rd. I'm ridiculously excited, but then again, I've never met a Shalimar I didn't like. Sadly, this is the only exciting perfume thing going on at Bergdorf these days. They don't have the new Serge yet and it looks like they're stocking less perfume brands than ever. The young ladies ready to spray you with Balenciaga don't contribute much to the atmosphere, either. But the other aspects of the beauty level are still as fabulous as ever and maybe more. Le Metier de Beaute will have some new and exciting items soon, and if you haven't seen the latest Cle de Peau eye palettes yet I highly recommend them (a review of Malachite is coming as soon as I give mine an adequate testing).

Barneys has both Bas de Soie and Coeur de Vetiver Sacre, the other new L’Artisan. We both tried it on and were stunned to realize how much we liked it. Of course, one can never have too many vetivers (or leather scents, or dirty musks), but this was different and intriguing enough neither one of us felt it was redundant.

We came back to Barneys after the show and before heading west for dinner to buy our newest loves. Or tried to. The L'Artisan is peacefully resting in our cabinet now, but somehow the SA and I didn’t notice, but he grabbed Ambre Sultan instead of Bas de Soie. I didn’t realize it until we got home, so there’s an emergency  trip to Madison Avenue in my immediate future. Like most Serge groupies, I love Ambre Sultan, but I don’t need a backup bottle just yet. But I do need my iris fix, so there.

All in all and wrong Serge aside, it was a great day.
How did you spend your weekend?

Image: The Swinging Sixties Blog.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Weekly Roundup September 25

There's something in the air. Even those of us (=me) who aren't thrilled with the official end of summer, can smell and feel this anticipation- new clothes, shoes and makeup, the return of some favorite fall scents.Here are some of the latest finds from around the blogsphere:

Charlestongirl got her hands on four of the new Uptown Mauve Rouge d'Armani lipsticks from Giorgio Armani Beauty. Check out Best Things in Beauty them. She mostly focused on the pink and beige ones, while I focused on the plums. We both share the love for No. 606.

More pretty lips: Sabrina loves Rouge Volupté Perle. Visit The Beauty Look Book to find out why. I hope they release them in more colors, as none of the ones I tested at the counter hit the spot for me, though the texture is lovely.

Anne has something interesting for nail polish fiends. She told us why Dazzle Dry is the Energizer Bunny of nail polishes at BeautyXposé.

Kelly was in the mood for subtle and natural colors. Here she is, wearing the Fall/Winter Collection from Fusion of Color at Gouldylox Reviews.

Kari recently tried Professional Level Damage Repair Ampoule Treatment for Medium Thick Hair, and even though her hair isn't particularly thick, she liked it! Find out why at Fab over Forty. I wonder if this stuff might make a difference for my own super-thick mane.

I'm a technophile and an early adapter, but airbrush foundation gadgets scare me. Self-proclaimed klutz Lisa told us how she fell in love with the Luminess Air Brush Pro System at The Beauty Info Zone Blog. We'll be watching to see how long it takes her to repossess it from Marcia.

Did you watch Episode 1 of Flawless Faces for All Races last week? Vicki posted Episode 2 this week at Makeup Artist Backstage. All of us can learn tips and techniques by watching pro artist Vicki in action.

The launch of Burberry Beauty had us all excited and bloggers have been going through them systematically. Elvira at Pink Sith. shows us Rosewood Eyeshadow and it's gorgeous. I recently made some serious damage at my local Nordstrom (reviews and swatches coming very soon), but seeing this color makes me want to run back there and add a few more to my collection.

Product Girl Carla celebrated her five-year blogging anniversary this week. Congratulations, Carla! Ever wondered what a beauty addict's home looks like? Head over to see her true confessions. Now I don't feel so bad about my own obsession. My own fifth anniversary is coming next year. I wonder how I should celebrate it...

We hope you have a great weekend. Do something nice for yourself!

Photo by John Rawlins, 1960-something from

Friday, September 24, 2010

Giorgio Armani Uptown Mauve Rouge d'Armani Lipsticks (605,606)

As promised, here are the newest two shades of Rouge d'Armani from the Uptown Mauve collection: Plum 605 and Plum 606. According to Giorgio Armani website they are limited edition, which is too bad. These are such classic, beautiful and wearable colors- could easily become signature lipsticks for many. For one insane moment I considered getting a backup. Then I remembered the three drawers full of lipsticks in my dressing room and the fact I haven't finished a tube in over a year. So, yes, by the time I'm done with 605 and 606 there will be many other favorites.

Like all /rouge d'armani lipsticks I've tested, the Uptown Mauve ones are just as soft, comfortable and saturated with color. They're not full coverage, though, and 606 is actually on the sheer side. I don't get 8 hours of wear, probably because I'm very fond of eating, drinking and talking throughout my day. Still, the pigment survives a snack and leaves enough behind after several hours. I like to reapply, though, and admire the sleek packaging.

605 is the darker of the two. It's more plummy while 606 is a rose/blush shade. Both have a good chance of flattering many skin tones. On me, 606 is a your lips, just better kind of thing, while 605 is dressier and can look great on a date night. Both are going to earn their keep- they are so easy to wear I don't need to put too much thought into matching and adjusting my look for them.

Bottom Line: big love.

Giorgio Armani Uptown Mauve Rouge d'Armani Lipsticks ($30 each) are available online from and probably at the various counters. I'd have checked and gotten them from my local Saks if the Armani SAs there weren't the worst I've ever encountered (on this side of the Atlantic). Seriously. Since both Armani online and most department stores don't charge shipping when you're a member (or have a code), I fully intend not to buy at that counter until something drastically changes.

All photos are mine. Assistant: Sophie

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bijan by Bijan (Vintage)

I can almost hear some of you giggling.

Bijan is as 80s as it gets and I love it, despite my habit of wrinkling my nose at most of that decade's aesthetics. Big florientals become me, I guess. This ridiculously baroque blend of just about any fragrant flower known to men over a high caloric ambery base ends up smooth and honeyed on skin. It's an ultra-feminine diva with all the subtlety of Alexis Carrington, her hats, cleavage and scripted lines, but when I (dare to) wear it outside the house  it adds a couple of inches to my already significant heels and makes me feel like I could throw Krystle into the pool with my bare hands.

The opening of Bijan is loud and sharp. All those orange blossoms and Neroli insist on being heard and seen. They don't exactly calm down, but the transition into sweeter and fuller floral notes (rose, jasmine, muguet and tuberose, among several others) is less piercing. This is where Bijan starts radiating its distinct signature sillage and the love-or-hate stage begins for most. Those who are able to ride the flower tsunami will be rewarded with a rich, somewhat powdery (there's heliotrope there) moderately sweet amber. It's lush and vanillic but not really gourmand- the eighties weren't so much about yummy, after all. Bijan is probably better dabbed than sprayed, and used judiciously. Let's face it, neither the 1980s nor the Mr. Bijan himself were ever about restraint.

Bijan was released in the 1986 or 1987 (when the bottle won some serious awards). I haven't smelled the most current juice, but I'd go out on a limb and guess it has changed over the years. The only concentration still in production is an EDT (usually a dead giveaway for reformulation) and it's official retail price according to Bijan's website is $130 for 1.7 oz. Seriously. Searching online reveals it can actually be bought from various sources for under $30, and the EDP is still around here and there.

Bijan perfume ad-
Bijan billboard in Los Angeles-