Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sonoma Scent Studio- Champagne de Bois

Every compliment I've received on a perfume lately has been because of Champagne de Bois from Sonoma Scent Studio. Of course, it might also have something to do with wearing this fragrance very often (well, often for me), which is also an indication for a serious love and a really really good perfume.

A few years ago, when Champagne de Bois first appeared on the scene, I remember conversations with other fragonerds who compared it to  Chanel Bois des Iles. This comparison actually was the reason I wasn't in a hurry to get acquainted with Laurie Erickson's creation-- after all, I already had a bottle of Bois des Iles parfum. Silly me.

While Champagne de Bois and the Chanel classic share the idea of aldehydes that lift a heavier spicy woody base and make it sparkle, as well as the use of a beautiful sandalwood note. But while Bois des Iles is also cozy and foody with its gingerbread note, Champagne de Bois is decidedly ambery and somehow maintains an outdoorsy, living wood feel. Now, I'm an urban person and nature tends to freak me out, but I love the bottled feel of it in perfume; this is exactly what I get from this Sonoma Scent Studio fragrance: a hint of en enchanted forest, sparkling gems in an ancient treasure box and the creamy sweetness of a beautiful amber that stays on the skin forever and ever (12 hours easily, the sillage is noticeable for 6-8 hours).

Notes: aldehydes, jasmine, clove, sandalwood , labdanum absolute, vetiver, amber.

See more reviews by Abigail and Birgit, as well as Victoria's guide to champagne-like perfumes.

I just took a look at the Sonoma Scent Studio site and noticed that Champagne de Bois is temporarily out of stock. I hope it's back soon, so everyone can order samples. The 5 ml purse spray that I've been quickly depleting is priced somewhere round $16, if I remember correctly.

Art: Maples by Alexander Volkov.

Smashbox Sheer Focus Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15- Luminous

I've had this mini tube of Smashbox Sheer Focus Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15 in Luminous since last summer but never touched it, since Luminous seemed like the lightest shade (of five) for this product. Then this winter happened and somehow I've been going lighter and sheerer with my base products, so I started using Smashbox Luminous first to adjust the color of other foundations, and eventually on its own.

Smashbox Sheer Focus Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15 is, indeed, sheer. Luminous is not even that-- it's a tinted light-reflecting liquid that melds with the skin and gives a natural glow. Between the glow and the light moisturizing formula it is great for mixing with other products (as per Smashbox website) as well as to wear on its own over a primer. You can see in the swatch that it completely disappears once blended and doesn't leave any shimmer or particles behind. On the face it has the most subtle glow effect, so lately I've been using equal parts of Smashbox Luminous and a real tinted moisturizer for minimal coverage and an optimal skin texture, while supplementing with a good powder.

Bottom Line: nice to have.

Smashbox Sheer Focus Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15 ($30) is available from Nordstrom, Sephora, Ulta and The mini tube I have was a GWP, but I can't remember from whom or why.

Le Metier de Beaute Aurora Kaleidoscope Lip Kit Spring 2012 Northern Lights Collection

The beautiful Northern Lights rarely make their way down here to the NY Metro-area. I think I remember one instance in the last 12 years. On the other hand, we have access to some great makeup, so I will not complain. I usually take the marketing spiel about the inspiration for makeup collections with a good sized grain of salt, but when you see the Aurora Kaleidoscope Lip Kit from Le Metier de Beaute's Spring 2012 Northern Lights collection you can't miss the light effects and the play on the colors that appear in the northern skies. It's even more evident when you combine the colors from the Kaleidoscope to create your own effects.

One word about the concept of the Kaleidoscope. The key words are "lip kit". Each palette gives you four colors in different textures that allow you to make your own interpretations of the season's looks. Some of the colors in Le Metier Kaleidoscopes are warm and some are cool, which often scares those of us who internalized the warm-or-cool range color theory. The thing is that we're all somewhere on the spectrum, and look best when the balance is right. The Kaleidoscopes allow us to find several such sweet spots.

The Aurora Kaleidoscope Lip Kit has four options in Le Métier de Beauté’s Lip Crème lip gloss formula, some more glossy, others are more of a liquid lipstick:
Illuminate: a shimmering hot pink with a sheer finish.
Voltaic: a satin (almost cream) nude. It's somewhere between beige and mauve.
Dynamos: a high shimmer coral-tangerine.
Eos: an opaque texture, creamy very pink. It's a cool shade between Barbie pink and a very bright fuchsia.

Aurora arrived yesterday, so while I'm wearing it today I only had a limited chance to test drive all the options of layering and mixing. Le Metier suggested that we apply the tiers from top to bottom (thin layers, use a flat brush such as Hakuhodo 270). So far I like all four blended together or using the colors in pairs (the ones that look best on me are the two top ones and the two bottom ones.

The glosses in  the Aurora Kaleidoscope are scented with the familiar delicious sweet caramel-vanilla with a hint of coconut milk of Le Metier's Lip Creme. I love it, and it doesn't last, but if you're sensitive take it into account. The glosses are not sticky and have a great lasting power for this kind of product, probably because of the creamy almost lipsticky texture.

Bottom Line: Adore.

Le Metier de Beaute Aurora Kaleidoscope Lip Kit Spring 2012 Northern Lights Collection ($95) will be arriving the counters (Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, select Nordstrom locations) in mid-March. It was sent to me free of charge by the company.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Neela Vermeire Creations- Mohur

One weekend after buying lottery tickets the husband and I were fantasizing about what we would do with the money we were sure to win (it was one of those hundreds of million dollar draws that we couldn't resist trying our luck). There's the real estate somewhere between Lazio and Tuscany, the little house in Santa Monica, a cat shelter or two. And then there's the perfume line: small, well-curated and commissioned from a our favorite perfumers. Why, of course.

Neela Vermeire already achieved a similar dream (no, not the lottery thing) when she transitioned from practicing law to founding a perfume house. She partnered with super-nose Bertrand Duchaufour and launched three perfumes based on her memories from her native India and her knowledge of the culture and history of that magical land.

According to Professor Wikipedia,
"The word 'Mohur' or 'Mohor' is derived from Sanskrit word 'Mudra' which means 'symbol', 'seal', as also 'ring'
...A Mohur is a gold coin that was formerly minted by several governments including British India (including the Princely States) and the Moghul Empire..."
Neela Vermeire's Mohur is a tribute to the most powerful empress of the Mughal dynasty, Noor Jahan (1577–1645) who minted her own coins. After her husband's death, Noor Jahan devoted some of her life to the making of perfume, particularly using falanja, an art form her mother had passed down.

Mohur is also meant to evoke the much later era of the British Raj, the one often romanticized in books and movies, probably because of the juxtaposed images of Victorian and Edwardian men and women against the exotic locales of India. Long lacy dresses, leather steam trunks, high tea, polo matches-- surrounded by the vibrant colors and spices. It's already proven irresistible.

Mohur is a spicy rose perfume, with so much more going on that it amazes me that it's actually contained in the bottle. I smell the cardamom and coriander right away and they take the rose and paint it orange and fuchsia.  The rose is also infused with some well-behaved oud and quite a bit of smooth well-worn leather, keeping it from making a gender statement. This is such a round, kaleidoscopic note and image you get the impression of going on a trip and perhaps traveling in time. Just close your eyes and you're there.

Mohur also has a very seductive gourmand facet. I love Indian desserts-- the puddings and sweets-- rice steamed in milk, a carrot confection decorated with blanched almonds, vanilla ice cream infused with rosewater. I find it all in Mohur and feel like I'm getting drunk on the milkiness and spice. It's that good.

Notes: cardamom, coriander, ambrette, carrot, black pepper, elemi, rose, jasmine, orris, aubepin flower, almond milk, violet, leather, sandalwood, amber, white woods, patchouli, oudh, benzoin, vanilla and tonka bean.

More reviews by Ines and Birgit.

Neela Vermeire Creations- Mohur ($250, 55 ml) is available from Luckyscent, but even better, you can do what my husband did when he was looking to buy me an unusual Valentine's Day gift.  He ordered the discovery set, 10 ml of all three Neela Vermeire perfumes (90 euro) directly from the perfumer's website, (samples also available).

Art: An illustrations for The Raj Quartet by Finn Campbell-Notman for the Folio Society edition.

Milan Fashion Week - Vogue Event: Three Train Wrecks

Lindsay Lohan, Pixie Geldof and Courtney Love went to a fashion event...  Roberto Cavalli was there, too.
It sounds as bad as some of these photos look. Of interest (well, sort of) is that Lindsay got rid of the godawful platinum color in favor of this equally questionable mahogany shade.

All photos from the Vogue event for Milan Fashion Week: Zimbio.

Dior Bleu de Paris 5 Couleurs - New Look Eyeshadow Palette

I fell in love with Dior Bleu de Paris eye shadow palette from the moment I saw Lisa Eldridge using it to create a navy blue smoky eye. I pre-ordered it the minute I could (for some reason, the other palettes in the New Look series arrived before Bleu de Paris), and have been ridiculously completely taken with it since.

Bleu de Paris (254) is one of four palettes that were released recently as part of Dior's New Look line (an homage to Christian Dior's 1947 iconic collection). I won't try to analyze the palettes within this context, though, because it's more of a marketing thing than a lesson in fashion history. I'm happy enough that the palettes are pretty and offer a bunch of great colors and finishes. I also got the more neutral Grege quint and will show and review it soon.

Bleu de Paris has one truly matte shade (the navy blue), while the other ones offer various degrees of shimmer. Just like with other Dior palettes, you really don't have to use all (or even most) colors at once, but they give you options and help elevate simple looks. I've found that the bolder blues in this palette can be easily paired with the mostly matte shades from Grege, or you can follow Lisa Eldridge's tutorial for a stunning evening look. I'm darker than her model, so a little toned down version of the same idea works for me during the day.

Bottom Line: a must-have for fans of blue eye shadow.

Dior Bleu de Paris 5 Couleurs - New Look Eyeshadow Palette ($59) is available at the counters.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Perfumes To Fight Ennui

Or: Top Perfumes to Beat The Blahs

Call it whatever you want, but the tail end of February is the dreariest time of the year. I always thought there's a good reason why it's the shortest month: how many days of this can we stand? Of course, 2012 is a leap year, so we're slapped with one extra day of winter ennui. It calls for some serious olfactory measures to shake things up, improve the mood and deal with the Februariness of it all. Here's my list of ten perfumes to brighten our days:

Balmain-Vent Vert
Any formula will do, really, though obviously I'm partial to the vintage. Bracing, sharp and oh so wonderfully green.

Tauer- Incense Rosé
I called it effulgent when I first reviewed this 2008 perfume by Andy Tauer, and I stand behind this adjective. Incense and sunshine.

Vero Profume- Rubj
White flowers were never happier to meet you.

Givenchy- Amarige Mimosa (The Harvest Series)
There were several limited editions from these series. Mine is the 2007 but any will do if you can find them. Honey and violets without the abrasive attitude of the original Amarige.

Neela Vermeire Creations- Bombay Bling
AKA The One With The Mango. A Bollywood movie in a bottle, colors, dancing and fun guaranteed.

Mona di Orio- Jabu
Jabu means "joy" in Zulu, a floriental means "joy" in my private language.

Madini- Ambargris
A very cheap thrill, sweet and animalic. Ambargris will distract you and everyone in your vicinity and put an end to any ennui and stupid thoughts.

CB I Hate Perfume- Various Accords
What will make you happy? Banana Foster? Clean sheets? A doll's head? new shoes or a birthday cake? CB has them all. So many accords, so much fun. It will be spring before you notice.

Frederic Malle- Le Parfum de Thérèse
Reminding us that about the beauty that's everywhere around us. A heart-stirring classic masterpiece.

Aftelier- Cacao
Because chocolate truffles with an orange center make everything better.

What do you wear to fight the blahs?

Image: model Snejana Onopka as photographed by Andreas Ohlund for Cover magazine, January 2011.

Zoya Codie Nail Polish

Codie was released as part of Zoya Smoke & Mirror collection for fall 2011. It's the darkest and most sinister shade of the bunch (most of them play with a lavender blue theme). It caught my eye a couple of months ago at Ulta, because the light there showed made it look like a very dark espresso shade. Of course, store lights lie, and Codie has a surprising khaki/olive undertone (you'll have to click on the photos and see the full size).

Zoya's Codie looks like it belongs in StrangeBeautiful Camo Library as far as complexity goes. Surprisingly, non of the Camo nail lacquers is even remotely a twin-- they're either more brown or more khaki. The closest shade I have is Essie Little Brown Dress, but that one is more straightforward brown (you can't really tell the difference in the shade, though). The Chanel colors you see here, Imperial and Khaki Brun, show how far Codie is from both extremes:warm brown and khaki.

The quality of the nail polish is great, as is usually the case with Zoya. Easy to apply, creamy and withstand the usual abuse I inflict on my nails.

Bottom Line: elegant and just edgy enough to be fun.

Zoya nail polish ($8) can be found at Ulta stores.

Beauty Is Life Balina 03C Multi-Touch Powder

Beauty Is Life is a German makeup brand that was created by stage makeup artist Beatrix Isabel Lied (I'd go out on a limb and say she used her initials to come up with the name of her line). Beauty Is Life made its first appearance at Barneys nearly two years ago, offering a full range of color products, as well as brushes. The display always looks bright and inviting, so I've been playing with the items at every visit to Barneys, but kept coming back to one product: Multi-Touch Powder in Balina (03C). No matter who mans the counter at any given time, they always give my face the finishing touch of Balina. I can take a hint.

This Multi-Touch Powder from Beauty Is Life is somewhere between a finishing powder and a light bronzer. It's a similar idea to Smashbox Soft Lights, but with less glow. Balina adds life to my face, gives a finished and polished look and appears more natural than many colors in this category. It's a golden beige shade with a healthy rosiness that keeps the color from being too warm. You're supposed to apply it all over or to the high points of the face using a fluffy brush. Beauty Is Life have a huge fan brush for this purpose ($70), but I played with it enough to know that I prefer its equivalent Louise Young Super Fan brush (LY20) (around $42). I also tried several powder and bronzer brushes, but the fan is ideal for this purpose.

I swatched Balina very heavily, just to give you a better idea of the color. The correct application is lighter and  you can adjust it to look either more like a flush or like a soft tan. This  Multi-Touch Powder comes in several other shades from porcelain (Pale 01C) to the golden brown of Sable d’Or (02W), but Balina was the only one that suited me. It's interesting to note that according to Beauty Is Life's 9R Typology color system, my skin tone falls closer to the cool color range. It explains a lot about my weird coloring (it's not easy being green).

Bottom Line: Balina found a permanent place in my heart and color arsenal.

Beauty Is Life Multi-Touch Powder ($50) is exclusive to Barneys, in store and online.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscars 2012 - Live Blogging The Academy Awards Red Carpet

The first minutes of red carpet arrivals can be awkward. Sometimes even Ryan Seacrest has to consult his notes on the celeb status of some people. Thankfully, tonight opened with some serious glam from Penelope Ann Miller in Badgely Mischka (all I ever envied about blondes) and Milla Jovovich in Elie Saab (one for the non-blondes). Maybe not the most original looks, but oh so stunning:

Berenice Bejo. I don't mind the dress, but the red hair is borderline atrocious. It's nearly the same shade as her face and looks home-dyed. Badly:

Jessica Chastain's dress is probably going to have lovers and haters. Yes, it's a bit costumy, maybe a little over the top, but you know what? It's the Oscars. And at least it's not another sequined blush thingy.

Now, someone needs to say this: George Clooney can and should do much better than Stacy Kiebler. And better than her Las Vegas dress, and better than the rosette on her hip. There, I said it. Call me, George.

Viola Davies in emerald green and her own hair is lovely. I wish we'll see more natural hair on red carpets.

Michelle Williams gets extra points for wearing red and being lovely.

Rooney Mara. I don't know what I think of her (other than too much sternum), I just want to stare. You can join me.

Am I the only one who thinks Busy Phillips' earrings were tacky and looked like cheap 80s baubles?

Another lovely one in red: Emma Stone. I loved the dress, the husband didn't. In any case, Emma wins. Always.

Now, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I liked (most of) J Lo's dress and loved her makeup. Jennifer's makeup was never as subtle. It works.

Doesn't work: Sandra Bullock's dress. Is the fit wrong? Was it a last minute choice? Sandra doesn't look very  happy.

More to love: Natalie Portman in a vintage 1954 haute couture Christian Dior gown, Gwynwth Paltrow in a white cape, and Penelope Cruz doing the princess thing successfully.

All photos: Zimbio

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