Thursday, November 29, 2012

Parfums Grès- Ambre de Cabochard

The biggest sin of Parfums Grès in creating Ambre de Cabochard is by naming it after their classic masterpiece, the original Cabochard. There's absolutely nothing that connects the two, nor were they created with the same wearer in mind. Ambre de Cabochard is a safe little  foody-floral-ambery-vanilla thing along the same lines of the more popular and better marketed  Ambre Gris from Balmain.

Ambre de Cabochard opens with a promising bouquet of spices. They end up being more gingerbread than an exotic destination, but I have to say that other than the chemical aftertaste I do enjoy this cookie. I like the way the fragrance is kept lighthearted and bouncy with some zesty fruit and is later infused with tuberose to keep things interesting. The tuberose and whatever other white floral notes used here smell so spectacularly synthetic it's almost campy. It's so bad that it's almost good-- you just have to keep sniffing, overdosing a little on the sweet concoction while laughing at yourself (and having some dark thoughts about he fate of Parfums Grès).

The dry-down is your standard amber/vanilla. There's a berry musk undertone in Ambre de Cabochard that's probably supposed to convey youthfulness but can also register as cheap trash on the wrong skin. I have the skin chemistry to carry this kind of perfume rather successfully, but honestly, I don't see why. The fragrance could have come from The Body Shop just as easily, which is sad when you consider the history and legacy of Parfums Grès. If Ambre de Cabochard is "the renaissance of a legend" as the ad claims, then we, Paris, and Parfums Grès are in deep trouble.

Ambre de Cabochard  by Parfums Grès was released in 2006; it may or may not still be in production. It's hard to say, because Parfums Grès doesn't have a functional website, so there's no current list of products anywhere. In any case, Ambre de Cabochard can be found at discounters here in the US. 

Notes: ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, mandarin orange, black currant, blueberry, tuberose, lily-of-the-valley, cyclamen, musk, patchouli, amber, tonka bean, vanille and woodsy notes.

Valentino Goes To The Theater

"What disturbed me a lot, I can tell you, is when I go to the theatre in New York or London – less in France or in Italy – but the other night in New York I went to see, I don't remember which piece of theatre or music, but I start to look around and suddenly I saw a person in front of me. I swear to God, in a T-shirt, not very –not very clean. And a Bermuda short and a flip-flop on the foot."         --Valentino Garavani, November 2012 
The quote above is from an amusing interview with the legendary Valentino in the Guardian. The journalist, Decca Aitkenhead, is not a fashion person and has a different perspective (and very little reverence) of the designer and his work. She asks some good questions, Valentino manages to ignore them, but she still managed to get some good quotes. I heartily agree with the one above, though I often suspect that the offending theater goers are actually tourists and not anyone from the Tri-State area. I'd also like to see better footwear in restaurants. It's a matter of respect-- for the people preparing and serving your food, as well as for those unfortunate enough to see your Crocs, ratty flip-flops and the neglected hooves in them.

Of course,Valentino's grasp on reality is not the best:
" know you are English, you must know, that many many people do the Saturday evening in tuxedo and gown."
Did he watch too much Downton Abbey? Still, the interview is a good read and Valentino has got a point at least about this issue, even if one wants to smack him upside the head with a shoe at times.

What do you think?

Photo: Valentino in NYC, 1984 from NewYork NewYork, photographs by Harry Benson.

Serge Lutens Makeup Base Quant a Soi Primer

Serge Lutens is perfectionist, and as such he has a very clear idea of how he wants our faces to look. His ideal is porcelain-like and perfectly even. His compact foundation is one way to achieve the look, and adding his Quant a Soi primer will give you the full effect.

 The elegant black pot of Serge Lutens primer is pretty small and looks more like the size of an eye primer. But it's not, and as a matter of fact I don't think it's particularly effective for priming the lids (it very creamy and has too much slip). Don't let that scare you, though, because you only need to dot the tiniest amount of the makeup base on your face to achieve an incredible smoothness. Quant a Soi does more than just provide makeup with a good grounding base. It also brightens and helps achieve a better coverage. The makeup artist at Barneys who sold me the primer showed me how it can also be used over foundation in areas you want to brighten subtly without using a light reflecting product. She touched my under eye area with just a hint of Quant a Soi-- barely anything, really, just enough to give the sunken pit of despair a little lift.

Serge Lutens makeup base is meant to be applied with your fingers. I guess we should all be grateful that dear Uncle Serge doesn't require us to also buy a line of brushes made of magical unicorn hair and priced accordingly. There's actually something nice (if less hygienic than I prefer) in smoothing and sculpting the face with one's hands and fingers. The primer seems to melt into your face, feels very comfortable and does its work perfectly: foundations hold onto it nicely and stay put. I tested Quant a Soi in oppressive humidity and it performed very well for a full day.

Bottom Line: It works.

Serge Lutens Makeup Base Quant a Soi Primer ($80) is available from Barneys and

Art: Serge Lutens, 1997.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Aftelier- Wild Roses

For a decidedly anti-rose person I do have a surprising number of favorite rose  fragrances. I enjoy and appreciate roses when they're full-bodied and layered, especially with non-floral notes that highlight the dirtier or sweeter facets of the flower. It's rose alone that scares me because it often turns sour when I wear it. So how does Wild Roses from Aftelier fare on my skin?

It's rosy, no doubt. Perfumer Mandy Aftel of Aftelier aimed to capture the experience of walking around her garden and smelling each rose. She wanted it to feel and be real, transporting, and even healing: there's something about immersing yourself in dozens and dozens of live roses, taking in the subtle nuances- the pretty, the heady, the innocent, the naughty. Roses, if you let them, can be all that; this new Aftelier creation allows the intricacy of the note to fully show and takes it as far as it will go, elaborating on the more interesting facets of the rose.

Wild Roses opens with a slightly bitter undertone. It captures my attention immediately with its herbal and spicy bite. It skips between the familiar sweetness and the darker threads of clove, pepper and anise that crisscross the velvety petals. As the fragrance warms and develops on skin it loses some of the medicinal notes but gains booziness- a fruit liquor, apricot skin and flesh, apricot leather that's almost edible. The jammy rose is of the gourmet deli variety, as it's cooked with savory herbs, spices and seeds.

Just before Wild Roses becomes something to serve with vanilla ice cream, the dirtier dry-down begins to appear. The spice becomes dustier and earthy, influenced by a beautiful patchouli note. The rose itself is now indolic and slightly animalic, reminding us that Wild Roses is indeed a Perfume, not just an ambiance. It's meant to be worn and enjoyed on human skin. The dry-down is intimate and warm- it's what you smell on yourself after walking around in a blooming garden on a warm day, touching the flowers you sniff and perhaps rubbing a couple of them against your cheek to enjoy their tactile quality as much as their inviting scent.

Notes: rose CO2, heliotropin, bergamot, geraniol, m-methyl anthranilate, damascenone, apricot, Turkish rose absolute, pimento berry, p-ethyl alcohol, rose petals attar, tarragon absolute, vanilla absolute, indole, aged patchouli.

Wild Roses by Aftelier ($170, 30ml EDP, $50 2ml parfum mini, $170 1/4oz parfum; samples also available) can be purchases from The samples for this review were sent for consideration by the perfumer.

Photo via

Holiday Sale: The Beta Version Bags

Paging Santa Claus!

Do you remember Hungarian handbag line The Beta Version? They're having a 15% off sale from now until December 23rd with code CHRISTMAS in their online store They ship all over the world and accept PayPal. Above you can see their new Josefina messenger bag from their recent Kasita line (350 euro, also available in black), that features a lined tablet pocket and ample storage space. I'm also lusting  after their red  Pixelfolk totes from Spring/Summer 2012 (290 euro) and their iPad cases (90 euro). Beta's bags are all handmade and feature elegant and subtle details. I wish they also offered free shipping (shipping to the US costs 20 euros), but it's still a great deal on a unique item.

All photos via The Beta Version website.

Estee Lauder Garnet Desire Pure Color Lip Gloss

Garnet Desire was the Estee Lauder lip gloss I got to match my Exotic Orchid Pure Color Lipstick. It's a sheer and shimmery red with high shine but no visible glitter particles. Garnet Desire definitely has enough pigment to be worn alone as a lively bright face perking accent, but is just as great over lipstick. I remember that I could have easily walked away from the Estee Lauder counter that day with three or four other shades- Cherry Fever, Plum Desire, and Plum Divine were equally appealing, and I really do like the Estee Lauder lip gloss formula: not too sticky, reasonably tenacious, and very (very!) moisturizing and comfortable.

Once again I get to kvetch about the scent of Lauder's lip products. Pure Color lip gloss has a strong fruity smell, kind of like a cheap synthetic juice. It lasts a few minutes longer than fragrance used in the lipsticks and I can't say I'm happy about that. I guess the majority of department store shoppers either like it or don't mind, because it's lip products from the biggest brands that stink the most (waving to the good people of Lancome). Still, Estee Lauder's Garnet Desire is a fabulous lip gloss in a color that works all year round.

Estee Lauder Garnet Desire Pure Color Lip Gloss ($23) is available at the counters and online.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sonoma Scent Studio- Winter Woods

You'll find Winter Woods by Sonoma Scent Studio under "cozy" in your dictionary. This one is all about warmth and comfort, a cashmere blanket by the fireside, a cup of hot smoky tea, and a couple of snugly cats. It's the perfect winter hibernation night (or day. It snowed for hours today, which prompted me to reach for my little bottle).

Perfumer Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studio is known for her use of wood notes, often with incense, smoke, amber (Fireside and Fireside Intense, Champagne de Bois, Tabac Aurea and others). Winter Woods may be the sweetest and cuddliest; a fragrance that is pure indulgence, like canceling all plans on a cold and miserable day, staying in wearing fuzzy socks and spending the afternoon reading and watching a favorite old movie. It's meant to give pleasure and delight, but doesn't compromise on either quality or interest twists.

Winter Woods opens with a whiff of smoke, and I remember the first time I tested it I was certain it will lead to some heavy incense. Instead, the fragrance gets both sweeter and a bit outdoorsy- it feels like opening the window for a minute or two and letting in the smell of snow and rain-soaked trees for just a bit. Then you close the window again and take in the warmth of the room, taking note of the sweet woods burning in the fireplace, the brewing tea that is just about ready and the cat who just rolled in your perfumed blanket. There's a bit of an animalic hint in Winter Woods, and it takes the fragrance to the level beyond a candle or other ambiance aromatics. It becomes sweeter and more ambery the longer I wear it, and clings in the best possible way to scarves and jackets, creating a scented bubble around me that works well for both hibernation or facing the cold world outside.

Notes: Guaiac wood, cedar, sandalwood, birch tar, cade, oakmoss absolute, castoreum, amber, labdanum absolute, vetiver, ambergris, musk.

Sonoma Scent Studio- Winter Woods ($17, 5ml extrit travel spray. Other sizes and samples available) can be purchased from

Image: Malene Hartmann Rasmussen-"If I Had A Heart I Could Love You", mixed media sculpture (2011)

Hakuhodo G5528 Eye Shadow Brush

At some point last year I realized I could really use a backup for my Hakuhodo Kokutan T brush, but I was reluctant to spend over $40 for another T. It's not that I don't appreciate the beauty and function of the Kokutan series with their ebony handles, but I already have a nice small collection of them and just needed a second hard working tool. Enter Hakuhodo G5528, a brush that's just about identical (there's a teeny tiny 0.1mm difference in width)- same size and shape, same blues quirrel hair.

Hakuhodo G5528 Eye Shadow Brush is really a thing of beauty. A firm yet soft squirrel hair head that's packed unbelievably densely, making it an incredibly soft and efficient tool for smudging and smoking, as well as for crease work. At $29 I see it as a bargain, considering that MAC 219 pencil brush (goat hair) is priced at $25.

You can see how G5528 compares in size to other similarly shaped brushes: NARS 14 (small dome) is the closer, but the hair quality is obviously incomparable. Hakuhodo B533 is a smaller pencil brush made of horse hair (still great quality) that fits smaller spaces. Suqqu eye shadow M brush is significantly larger and fluffier (though still has a lot of bounce).

Bottom Line: hard to catch it on a clean day.

Hakuhodo G5528 Eye Shadow Brush ($29) is available from

Estee Lauder Exotic Orchid Pure Color Long Lasting Lipstick

Confession: I bought this Estee Lauder Exotic Orchid Pure Color Long Lasting Lipstick in May or June (together with a matching gloss that I'll show you tomorrow), took photos but didn't like any of the swatch shots, so I put it in my "retake" file and kept procrastinating. I have been wearing the lipstick, though, so finally figured it was time to actually reswatch and, you know, blog about it. Which brings us here.

There are several different ranges in Estee Lauder's Pure Color lipstick line, and with the wide selection of colors (not complaining here!) it can be quite confusing. Exotic Orchid is from the Long Lasting range, which is far more creamy and comfortable to wear than I had thought. It's enriched with apricot kernel, shea butter and murumuru butter (don't you love this name?), and definitely feels this way, while the color is, indeed, long lasting. The finish of this Lauder Pure Color Long Lasting Lipstick is satiny and rich, not quite opaque, though it can be built. It's light enough to be fine when applying straight from the bullet, but I like to use a brush to get the most out of its elegant texture and longevity.

Looking at Estee Lauder's website the sample photo they have of Exotic Orchid looks purple and quite orchidy. As you can see above, that's most definitely not the case. I've been wearing it for months now and have taken enough photos to confirm that Exotic Orchid is actually a strawberry red. It's flattering (almost universally, I'd say), easy to wear and not too bright. But orchid? Not really.

The scent of Estee Lauder lipsticks is somewhat notorious. I don't know why they insist on keeping it the way things smelled during the reign of  Queen Estee, but even I who don't mind fragranced products and have a soft spot to classic lipstick smell find it a bit off putting. Thankfully the scent evaporates before I even step away from the mirror, so it's not that big of a deal.

Bottom Line: easy to love.

Estee Lauder Exotic Orchid Pure Color Long Lasting Lipstick ($25) is available at your local counter as well as from

Photo of Estee Lauder applying her lipstick via

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Top Ten Leather Perfumes

Listing my top ten leather perfumes has been an exercise in severe restraint. I have many fragrances with a dominant leather note and I love all of them. There has to be a leather scent I don't like somewhere in the world, but I can't think of any, so having to pick and choose was exceptionally hard. Still, I managed to come up with something semi-coherent for your enjoyment, even if I ended up cheating a little with Serge Lutens perfumes. In absolutely no particular order:

Much-deserved honorable mention: the ultra animlaics (Ramon Monegal Mon Cuir and Mona di Orio Cuir), Bulgari Black (a rubberized cousin of Dzing!), Bottega Veneta (a very accessible high quality mainstream version of Daim Blond), the vintage wonders (Diorling, Cabochard, Jolie Madame, and the aforementioned Chanel Cuir de Russie), Cuir Beluga (leather the Guerlain way), Rien by Etat Libre d'Orange (Bandit's modern offspring), Esteban Cuir (nice and easy), and Aleksandr by Arquiste (snow, leather and a dead Russian poet).

Photo:model Constance Jablonki wearing a Christopher Kane embroidered leather jacket, photographed by Cedric Buchet for i-D, 2010.

Sarah Jessica Parker's Bathroom

Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick are selling their Greenwich Village townhouse. The property can be yours for the paltry sum of 24.9 million dollars (hey, Wednesday NY lottery is for something like 425 millions, so why not?). But we're here not to dream of real estate but to have a look at the perfume display on Sarah Jessica's mantel. I wish the photo was larger, but even in this blurry size I recognize  a few bottles: Frederic Malle, one of Annick Goutal Les Orientaistes, Hermes Eau d'Orange Verte, Kiehl's Musk, and perhaps an Etat L'bre d'Orange. Do you spot and identify any others (click on the photo to enlarge)?


CHANEL 'The Little Black Jacket' - Exhibition Opening In Berlin

...and a note about Karl Lagerfeld's personal grooming habits.

Appearing like the three harbingers of the zombie apocalypse, Carine Roitfeld, Karl Lagerfeld and Laetitia Casta attended CHANEL 'The Little Black Jacket' Exhibition Opening In Berlin last week. Laetitia actually looked lovely when apart from her two friends, and I find her bronzy-gloden makeup quite interesting, especially since most of the other attendees either chose Le No Makeup look or opted for the season's bold red lipstick.

 Now, I deeply apologize for the eww moment that will follow (click on the photo at your own risk), but I had to comment on Karl Lagerfeld's personal grooming:

I'd probably ignore this embarrassing ear hair situation had Uncle Karl been a bit kinder to humans (just ask Adele or Pippa Middleton). But since Lagerfeld can dish it he should also expect something back, such as a recommendation to invest in a ear hair trimmer (maybe he should have designed one to go with his Shu Uemura holiday eyelash curler) and to make sure his earlobes are also smooth. This fuzzy look is better on Choupette.

Photos: Getty Images via Zimbio.

The Best Of Cyber Monday

In case you're getting overwhelmed with all the offers, coupon codes and other Cyber Monday deals, here's a quick list of worthy sales and a couple of recommendations. What's in your shopping cart?

  • NARS is offering a 20% discount with code NARSFF2012 (on and in their boutiques). The Andy Warhol collection is an obvious gift idea, but also consider some of NARS best loved staples. My recommendation: their revamped stylo eyeliners that stay put through thick and thin.
  •  Madini Oils by Talisman 20% off with code HOLIDAY2012 ( are still a perfumista's secret. There's nothing like their Ambargris oil, but also check out Olive Flowers (their answer to Shalimar) and the incomparable musks.
  • YSL is being extra generous with 20% off, free shipping and 6 samples of your choice. Use code CYBER12 on My choice: gel eyeliners, and any of their lipsticks. Skip: the perfume pretending to be Opium.
  • J Crew is giving a 25% discount and free shipping with code MONDAY. Get anything cashmere (the polka dot sweater is super adorable).
  • Thymes is giving away a free Hoiday Fir candle on orders $50 and above (use code HOLIDAYFIR on The thing to buy there is their limited edition Filigree collection (it's one of their wonderful original fragrances that has been discontinued but is brought back yearly for the holidays. Now, if they only did the same with their Goldleaf-Hydrangea scent...
  • Shiseido is having a tempting gift with purchase event, offering a cosmetics pouch with three deluxe samples of excellent products (primer, powder and blush) with every $50 order. The must-haves are skin care, face products, and the wonderful Lacquer Rouge. Skip: mascara.
  • Nuxe is offering a 20% discount with code NUXECYBER20 on Must haves: Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Use Dry Oil (get two while you're at it) and their amazing Rêve de Miel Ultra-Nourishing Lip Balm. There's also a holiday gift set ($59 before discount) that includes the Dry Oil 100ml, Crème Prodigieuse Anti-Oxidant Moisturizer 40ml, Huile Prodigieuse Golden Shimmer, Multi-Use Dry Oil Golden Shimmer 10ml/0.33 FL OZ, and NUXE Spa Candle with the Huile Prodigieuse fragrance. This one is definitely on my personal wishlist.
  • Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics is another well-kept secret. They offer a free travel beauty kit with every $100 purchase (use code YBSTEAL on The set includes their excellent mineral primer, an eye cream, a tinted moisturizer, an illuminating tinted moisturizer (highly recommended), a liquid mineral foundation, and a body illuminator. Other then their excellent base products, I also love their blushes in every format (cream, pressed, mineral).
  • Shu Uemura is having a 20% off with code WISH2012 ( Get: makeup brushes. Skip: the Karl Lagerfeld Dora The Explorer collection.
This should keep us busy for the rest of the day. Please comment your own recommendations and shopping stories.

Photo: The Last Christmas Shopping, 1961, from somewhere on the web.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Serge Lutens- Une Voix Noire

Or: This is what happens when Uncle Serge does gardenia.

The newest fragrance in Serge Lutens' Exclusive bell jar line, Une Voix Noire, is dedicated to a real human muse, Billie Holiday. That's a Lutens first as far as I know. Interestingly, the ad copy that came with Une Voix Noire is less vague and incomprehensible than usual, though not less poetic. It says: "The stars rise in chorus. The night sky is filled with the light of the moon."


Billie Holiday: the voice, gardenias in her hair, 1920s Harlem jazz clubs, the big bands of the 1930s; but also addiction, abuse, heartbreak and poverty. It all spells lush and dark notes, night air, abundance and decadence. Also decay and melancholia, which are both characteristics of a gardenia note done right. This brings us to the question I've been asked a few times in the last couple of months: is Une Voix Noire anything like Jardenia by JAR (and its distant relative Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia), a perfume known for being all about life and death, using the dirtiest facets of gardenia: earth, blue cheese, and rot. The answer is a resolute "no". Serge Lutens and perfumer Christopher Sheldrake took the theme and shaped it according to their own style and aesthetic.

Elena from Perfume Shrine mentions in her review the characteristics Une Voix Noire shares with Lutens' Bois series: the familiar stewed fruit and cedar. They peek behind the sumptuous gardenia that opens the fragrance and remain in the background as the scent unfolds and develops. I do smell quite a bit of dark boozy fruit that works with the rum (and maybe also whiskey) notes.

Lutens' gardenia is also tinged with smoke and the petals are a moment past their prime- Victoria Frolova of Bois de Jasmine described Une Voix Noire as a flower on the brink of turning brown and I agree. I'll even add that it smells slightly singed, as though the bouquet was placed too close to a burning candle. Une Voix Noire is a far cry from the green and garden-fresh summery  fragrances that populate the gardenia category. It's also very perfumy (and wonderfully so). Not in the heady gardenia-tuberose way, but rather through the spice and musk core and the black velvet-and-fur that define this Serge Lutens creation. While the fragrance remains fairly close to the skin after the initial intoxicating burst (I've been applying from a spray decant), its luxurious dry-down inhabits my personal space for long hours. The bell jar format and the elegant and indulgent dabbing it requires are very appropriate for Une Voix Noire (imagine the bottle on Billie Holiday's dressing table below).

Serge Lutens- Un Voix Noire (75ml EDP for 130 euro or horribly marked up at  $300) can be found in the Serge Lutens Palais Royal boutique in Paris, Barneys New York and

Photos of Billie Holiday with and without her dog, Mister, via

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Black Friday!

Happy Black Friday! If you're hitting the malls today please be safe and shop responsibly (I'll be here, hiding under the bed). Let us know if you find anything fabulous!

Photo via

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Image: The New Yorker, November 1952.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Van Cleef & Arpels- Orchidée Vanille (Collection Extraordinaire)

I wasn't supposed to like Orchidée Vanille from Van Cleef & Arpels' exclusive Collection Extraordinaire. Vanilla aside, there's a litchi note listed there, and I have a general aversion to floral vanillas (I never even enjoyed L'Artisan Vanillia) because they often become very shrill and artificial on my skin. That's why I never bothered to actually test Orchidée Vanille on my skin beyond a quick bottle sniff at the Van Cleef & Arpels counter until a dear friend sent me a decant. By the time the dry-down arrived I was a goner.

The thing about perfumer Randa Hammami's creation for Van Cleef & Arpels is that it's not as floral and airy as I feared. As a matter of fact, Orchidee Vanille has an almost Guerlain-like heft. Hammami is the nose behind Guerlain's Cruel Gardenia and L'Instant Magique, but if I were to classify and label, I'd say that this fragrance is actually a distant cousin of Aqua Allegoria Ylang & Vanille. The non-foody vanilla and complementary creamy flowers create a similar smooth sensation. The orchid image comes from the very opulent violet note. It's interesting how one flower creates the illusion of another, while not trying to fully deceive - you're aware that it's violet, yet you see an orchid. Quite clever, really.

Flowers aside,  it's the musk, almond and bitter chocolate note that rule Orchidée Vanille. This reminds me a little of Guerlain's Boise Torride, that also has some cedar in its backbone to keep the non-gourmand balance. While Orchidee Vanille keeps flirting with the edible side, the overall impression is of skin: the nape of the neck, the scalp of a second day hair. That's what makes this Van Cleef & Arpels so incredibly intimate and warm, as well as worth the time of those who aren't necessarily vanilla fiends.

Notes: Mandarin orange, litchi, bitter almond, dark chocolate, Bulgarian rose, violet, vanilla pod, cedar, tonka, and white musk.

Van Cleef & Arpels- Orchidée Vanille ($185, 75ml)  and the rest of the Collection Extraordinaire is available from Luckyscent, select Neiman Marcus locations and Bergdorf Goodman.

Van Cleef & Arpels Orchid jewelry at the VC&A Timeless Beauty exhibit from
Solve Sundsbo for Vogue Japan, November 2011 via Trendland.

Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Window Unveiling

I must be missing something crucial here because none of this makes sense to me. Once upon a time (2007, for example), the unveiling of Saks 5th Avenue's Holiday windows was a truly festive event, full of holiday spirit and real stars (Anne Hathaway, Marlo Thomas). That's sounds fitting for this NYC landmark, right?

Now, I know that I tend to kvetch about Saks: from the badly managed ghost town that is my local store to the piranha SAs in the NYC flagship (not just on the beauty floor). Still, this is Saks Fifth Avenue and I expect more than seeing Jill Zarin from The Real Housewives of NYC as the biggest celeb in attendance. Then I had to Google Trace Adkins who provided the entertainment: apparently, he's a country singer who recently signed a deal to become the new spokesperson of truck stop chain Pilot Flying J. I'm sure he's a great performer, but not exactly what I associate with one of my (still) favorite retailers.

Is it Saks or is it me?

Photo credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images North America via Zimbio.

YSL Eyeliner Effet Faux Cils Ashy Black 02

By now I've probably made the point that I really really like these YSL cream eyeliners, Effet Faux Cils. The creamy texture, superb longevity, and intense pigmentation are the reason I haven't bought or repurchased my previous favorites, Bobbi Brown's longwear gel liners in over a year. YSL is just that good.

Ashy Black (No. 02) is more or less what the name implies- a dirty, coal-like black; however, it has a somewhat brighter finish than the sooty Deep Black (01). I wouldn't call it exactly shimmery, nor is it metallic, but it offers a little sheen that brings some light to the eyes.

Bottom Line: Do I also need No. 3, Bronze Black?

YSL Eyeliner Effet Faux Cils Ashy Black 02 ($25) is available at the counters and online from

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What Makes You Hate A Perfume?

Patty and Anita from Perfume Posse posted a hilarious list of what they consider the Worst Perfumes Ever Made. This, of course, is a very personal subject. I can clutch my pearls as much as I want, but to Patty's nose Shalimar is an abomination and no one can argue with that. Reading and chuckling ("The official perfume of Mordor") made me ask myself what makes me and others react so badly to certain perfumes.

"Hate" is a strong word. I smell a lot of dreck on a regular basis, and my tolerance and willingness to sniff and resniff have actually increased. There are many perfumes I wouldn't mind not to wear ever again, but I usually stop caring after a good shower. Thus, I wouldn't classify my reluctance to wear them as hatred. The fragrances I do despise, though, make me react in a very different way, bordering on anger. So, what makes one hate a perfume?

It can be an unpleasant association. A painful memory, a person from the past who used to wear a certain perfume. I'm thankful that the worst boss I ever had didn't wear perfume (as a matter of fact, all I remember from this mini-Satan is her sharp B.O.). Now that I think of it, this particular category of hated perfumes is completely empty in my case. Somehow, the truly evil in my life went scentless.

Then there are the perfumes that simply smell bad (to me). It's not anything in particular; they just do. Smelling someone wearing Angel makes me want to throttle her. No, Dear, you don't smell yummy. You stink. The same goes for Giorgio Beverly Hills. Another total stinker is Secretion Magnifique.  I never met anyone who wore it and I hope to keep it that way, as blood and dirty laundry water do nothing for my disposition.

Another category is the Evil Note. I have a dear friend who hates patchouli in almost every form. The husband is ultra-sensitive to cumin (hello, Serge Noire and L'Artisan Oud), my sister cringes when I wear anything with lots of oakmoss, and I abhor melon notes and 99.9% of anything aquatic. This includes Hermes Un Jardin Apres la Mousson, Parfums DelRae Emotionelle, L'Eau d'Issey, Calvin Klein Escape, and the majority of the men's counters at Macy's.

And Diorissimo. There, I said it. It's that particular muguet note that gets to me in the worst possible way.

The smell and feel of cheap low-quality materials is another reason I may hate a perfume. I get angry every time I pass by a Victoria's Secret fragrance/body product display. I know the brand is not really responsible to all that's wrong with the American market, at least not singlehandedly, but it's a glaring reminder. Of course, what screams "cheap!" to me is not a universal thing. Some people, my mother included, will tell you that my beloved animalic notes on their dirty facets smell cheap to them. There's a reason Tabu got its reputation (personally I love it with all my heart), and many will probably list it in their "hate" column.

I save a special place in perfume hell to modern thin and generic fragrances that have a pretentious label and/or an utterly undeserving price tag that reflects  the cost of advertising, marketing, and over-the-top packaging. Some of By Kilian's most recent offering fall into this category (Asian Tales, Garden of Good and Evil). Just as infuriating to me are major fashion designers who slap their labels on inferior juice. Michael Kors Very Hollywood is just one bad example of many. I'm sure you can all come up with more.

Those were the main reasons that make me deeply dislike a perfume. What are yours?

Photo from Flash Gordon, 1940.

Want: RootsJewelry Stacked Rings

I've been quite infatuated lately with stacked rings. Or rather with the idea of stacked rings, as none of the pieces I've tried was quite right. I've been looking for something a bit different than the popular stack of colorful gemstones when I found RootsJewelry by Cathryn from Florida on Etsy. Cathryn's work offers a raw and somewhat rustic finish while still looking sophisticated and carefully designed. Some of the sets are labeled as wedding/engagement rings, but I'll happily wear any of them on my right hand. The rings are sized to order, price range is $121-$161.

All photos by Cathryn from RootsJewelry. I'm not affiliated with the store and have no commercial interest. Link is provided for your convenience only.

YSL Dare to Glow Luminizer- Tempting Gold (01)

YSL Dare to Glow Luminizer looks like a liquid metal as you squeeze it out of the tube. It appears very pigmented and intense, but once applied and blended you realize that YSL Dare to Glow is actually a very sheer highlighter. You can apply it straight on top of your foundation or mix them together in whatever ratio that suits you. In both cases, the effect will be incredibly subtle and will only appear when a strong light hits it directly (see bottom swatch photo).

YSL Dare to Glow Luminizer comes in three shades. When I got mine at the counter two months ago there were only two: Tempting Gold (01) and Fatal Red (02). The latter was rather scary, but swatched like a a rose gold and had a pink cast. I chose Tempting Gold, which is visibly yellow. So much so that I have to be careful not to use too much of it, because my olive skin is far less yellow than one would expect (click on the top swatch to see what I mean). The pigment is more subtle when mixed with foundation prior to application, and works well with YSL Touche Eclat foundation. The light texture of both products is very modern and wearable. I have to say, though, that I've seen and tested more effective liquid highlighters, such as the ones from Rouge Bunny Rouge and Becca (though I don't like any of the colors Becca offers).

Bottom Line: nice but not really necessary.

YSL Dare to Glow Luminize ($28) is a limited edition product for Fall 2012. It's still available at the counters  and from