Sunday, September 30, 2012

Diptyque- Volutes


Volutes, the new fragrance from Diptyque, has one of the nicest background/inspiration stories in recent memory and some of the most beautiful promotional art.  Volutes was inspired by childhood memories of Yves Coueslant, one of Diptyque's founders. Mr. Couselant sailed with his family from Marseilles to Saigon in the early part of the 20th century. The journey left him with golden images and olfactory memories of
"...foreign ports with enchanting names, Port Said, the Suez Canal, Djibouti, Colombo, Singapore… cities and coasts that smell of adventure and spices. There is also the mystery of the vessel; the holds and the hull, the labyrinth of waxed passageways and wood-panelled salons. Above all, there is life on-board, with its beautiful female passengers, whose sophistication is heightened by the journey. There are unforgettable images of elegance and freedom, in which people dance, flirt, and smoke in a hubbub of music, voices, and noise, from which the heady aroma of cigarettes and fragrances arise in concentric waves."

Volutes comes in two concentrations: EDT and EDP (Diptyque seems to have listened to many of us and is now also releasing the old favorites in an EDP). The EDT, which is what I'm reviewing here, has that evanescent quality of an old memory. It's lighter and more sheer, while the EDP has an actual bite and a thicker base. So, yes, I've been spraying Volutes EDT with a reckless abandon to get the full effect, but I'm not complaining. This thing is right up my alley with equal amounts of spice, smoke and sweetness.

The first thing I smell in Volutes is sweet tobacco and spiced wood. I can picture old and beautiful steamer trunks full of exquisite coats and dresses, scented with perfumes and sachets of spice. There's something almost Lutensian in the oriental arabesques that wafts here: the dried fruits and aromas of the local markets, saffron and myrrh steeped in honey, a touch of leather and tobacco-- it's all here. But Volutes is not Chergui or Arabie. It's not about any of these things and it doesn't try to immerse you in the exotic locations. I fully get the idea of a golden memory of faraway places and the passage of time. The wafts of smoke are almost mystical. You can gaze through them and see pictures of a world long gone.


One of the most attractive facets of Volutes is that the sweetness is very delicate. Diptyque didn't create an immortelle-honey bomb (not that I'd object, but there's something to be said for restraint), so it doesn't choke you with any of the notes elements, including the heaviest ones. It's kind of an oriental perfume but done in a very modern way, for better and for worse. By "for worse" I mean that as a die-hard Lutens fan I want the bigger and richer experience, something more tactile and tangible. I really like Volutes' dream world and I want to be able to really step into it. I want it to materialize in front of me, but the fragrance always remains just a little of reach.

Notes: iris flower, honey, tobacco, dried fruits, pink pepper, black pepper, saffron, hay, immortelle, opoponax, myrhh, styrax and benzoin.

Volutes by Diptyque ($62, 1.7oz  EDT and also $140 for 2.5 fl. oz EDP) is available from the many retailers who stock Diptyque products (Bigelow Chemist, Space NK, Luckyscent, Nordstrom, Barneys, and of course, Diptyque stores around the world). A press sample for this review was provided by PR.

Top photo: A Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes liner arrives to Saigon from Marseilles via messageries-maritimes.org. Other images from Volutes press release courtesy of Diptyque.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Shiseido- Inoui (Vintage Perfume)



Inoui, a long-gone 1976-born  Shiseido perfume, is a breathtaking green pine chypre. This alone should tell you a lot about what Inoui is like: green, chilly, possessing a certain 1970s crisp elegance (obviously not everyone was wearing bad pants and polyester shirts while disco dancing and smelling of drugstore musk). Inoui predates the reign of Serge Lutens over Shiseido, so don't expect the signature style of Uncle Serge.

Instead, Inoui is cool and almost aloof (but not quite). It opens up green and coniferous. There's a chill in the air, like an early morning or twilight hour by a lake surrounded by evergreens- Japanese pines, maybe. The outdoorsy feel becomes less apparent as the darker and more bitter green note of galbanum appears on the scene. It might be just my association of galbanum with the likes of Chanel No. 19 and its more urban connotations, but I do feel a change in the landscape as Inoui develops on skin.

The aloofness I mentioned above is reversed in the heart notes. I couldn't put my finger (or nose) on the cause of the sudden soft luminosity until I found the actual notes: it's peach! Not a fruity juicy peach, but more as an impression. A watercolor drawing of peaches in a porcelain bowl by a window open to the green yard outside. Still, throughout the journey Inoui remains strongly  smelling of evergreen. The pine needles and the resinous tree bark are very dominant, and the dry-down is woody and mossy. It takes a  meditative quality, not so much of the actual forest but more of a Japanese tokonoma where a single tree branch is on display.

Shiseido discontinued Inoui many years ago, even before the restriction on the use of oakmoss in perfume.  It's become painfully hard to find and even more painful to pay for. If you come across it give Inoui a good sniff and sigh in regret.

Notes: Galbanum, Green Notes, Cypress fruits, Lemon, Peach, Jasmine, Freesia, Thyme, Pine Needles, Cedarwood, Myrrh, Civet, Oakmoss.

See also these reviews on Perfume Shrine and Yesterday's Perfume.

Art: Princesses Presenting Young Pines by Totoya Hokkei, 19th century.

Hakuhodo G5527 Eye Shadow Brush



Hakuhodo G5527 Eye Shadow Brush is shaped like any pointed pencil brush, but this Canada squirrel brush from Hakuhodo's G series is considerably bigger and thicker than the most; It is, in fact, more of a crease brush and is excellent for lightly applying a very dark color to the crease or lid without overdoing it. The size and softness of the Hakuhodo G5527 Eye Shadow Brush makes it an almost-blending brush and I use it to fix and soften dramatic situations.

The brush is densely packed and tightly shaped but extremely soft, making it as luxurious as it is effective. The photos bellow show you how the G5527 compares in size to a big blending brush (Edward Bess) as well as to a small precision domed brush (Hourglass #9). You can see that the G5527 is truly unique. Also, the comparison to its companion regular Hakuhodo crease brush, G5528, stresses the thickness and heft of the G5527. It feels wonderful in my hand and I think it will be easy to use even for beginners because the size ensures your hand can't go astray.



Bottom Line: Love.

Hakuhodo G5527 Eye Shadow Brush ($58) is available from Hakuhodousa.com. They ship worldwide.

Krysten Ritter In Dior



Krysten Ritter attended the 2012 Entertainment Weekly Pre-Emmy Party in West Hollywood wearing a pretty Dior Fall 2012 dress. The dress is very Dior, but the lack of a slip underneath is incredibly tacky and kills the look for me. Krysten Ritter is as beautiful as always, though. I like the pulled back hair and that her usually blunt bangs were styled in a more interesting way. I just want to smack her stylist.

Photo credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images North America via Zimbio

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Favorite Perfumes For Fall


In theory I'm not much into perfume seasons as I tell myself that I wear whatever I want all year round. It's kind of true, as I wear my Bandit, Shalimar and Mitsouko with the same enthusiasm in July as I do in January. The same goes with some modern favorites such as L'Air du Desert Marocain, MKK or Miel de Bois. But a good look through my fragrance wardrobe as well as my (nerd alert!) spreadsheet reveals that I really like vetiver and tuberose in the summer while preferring leather and smoke in winter. So here's a quick list of perfumes waiting for me to come back and indulge:

1. Chanel- Cuir de Russie, Bois des Iles, and Égoïste Cologne Concentrée. All are as satisfying as they're elegant, like a fantasy of fall fashion.
2. Guerlain Tonka Imperiale. Thick and sweet even for a Guerlain perfume, and just as addictive.
3. Mona di Orio Ambre, Cuir and Vanille. Simply some of the best perfumes around.
4. Ramon Monegal- Mon Cuir. A recent love that can be a bit overbearing in the heat but as perfect as a new fall jacket.
5. Maison Francis Kurkdjian- Absolue pour le Soir and also his Oud. I don't wear fur but the perfumer's fantasy of honey and animalics is the olfactory equivalent. His Oud is just gorgeous.
6. Serge Lutens- Boxeuses, Cuir Mauresque and Santal Majuscule. What's better than going to bed with Uncle Serge? (No, please don't answer that)
7. Vero Profumo- Onda. Perhaps my signature cold weather fragrance. And I had the honor to have Vero smell it on me last January. I want to be her when I grow up.
8. Aftelier- Parfum Prive. Mandy Aftel's very personal masterpiece.
9. CDG- Zagorsk. Smoke and incense over snowy rooftops.
10. Tom Ford Private Blend- Tuscan Leather, Purple Patchouli, and Tobacco Vanille. An abundance of riches.
11. L'Artisan- Traverse de Bosphore, Havana Vanille and Mechant Loup. Probably also the strange and wonderful Bois Farine.
12. Parfum d'Empire- Ambre Russe, Wazamba and Cuir Ottoman. Perfumes for cashmere jackets and sweaters.

What perfumes are you waiting to wear as the days and nights are getting colder?

Art: Autumn Branch by Marcia Baldwin.


Lancome Glamour Era Color Design Eye Shadow Quad Swatches: Drape, Style Section, The New Black, Grey Sparkle




This post is at the request of a reader, Cathy from NH, who found a forgotten unused compact of Lancome Glamour Era Color Design Eye Shadow Quad from a couple of years ago and was wondering if she should use it or pass it on. As it happened, I have the GWP version of this Lancome quad, so I was able to swatch it. Lancome Glamour Era Color Design Eye Shadow Quad is still available everywhere and three of the shades (Drape, Style Section, The New Black) can also be purchased as singles from the Color Design range.

As you can see, Glamour Era has a high sparkle cool-toned theme. These are more holiday/evening colors that aren't particularly easy to wear if your skin tone is warm. Drape is a satin white, Style Section is an icy silver, Grey Sparkle is a metallic grey with silver sparkle and New Black is an almost-black with silver glitter. In general I tend to like the dark Lancome Color Design colors better than the light ones because many of the latter appear quite chalky on my skin. Interestingly enough, over the long time I've had this quad I've found that Drape to be the most versatile of the four as I blend it with other colors or use it s a light white base. The sparkly shades, The New Black and Grey Sparkle have some fallout as do many Lancome sparkly eye shadows. A good primer usually helps, as does a damp narrow brush.

Bottom Line: Okay, I guess, but somewhat overpriced for the quality.

Lancome Glamour Era Color Design Eye Shadow Quad ($43) and Color Design singles ($18 each) are available at the counters and from Lancome.com. The product featured here was a GWP eons ago.


Estee Lauder Sumptuous Bold Volume Lifting Mascara



Once upon a time there were three options for a "good" mascara: Lancome, Estee Lauder and Clinique. Some of us were loyal to one brand (I was a Lancome girl for more than a decade), others have been bouncing between them. The market is so much different these days (hey, even Chanel learned to make an almost decent mascara!), but it's still nice to go back to the classics. Of course, formulas have changed and improved greatly since my late teens, but the overall quality of Estee Lauder mascaras remains consistent.

Estee Lauder Sumptuous Bold Volume™ Lifting Mascara feels and looks like a classic mascara that adds extra fibers to the lashes. The consistency is such that makes it look seamless yet bold enough in terms of length and volume. I also find Estee Lauder Sumptuous to be very sturdy and smudge resistant. The black color is rich and slightly glossy, lending itself to a classic polished thick lashed look. The brush is good at separating the lashes and I like the very tapered shape that's good for reaching corners and tiny lashes.

Bottom Line: remember the classics.

Estee Lauder Sumptuous Bold Volume Lifting Mascara ($22) is available from the counters as well as from Esteeluder.com. I've gotten several of these as gifts with purchase in recent months and I'm also on my second full size tube.

Puredistance- Opardu


My alter ego wears Opardu by Puredistance. She's just like me but her hair never gets wild and all over the place and she doesn't need to check herself out for cat hair on her clothes. Her handwriting is small, neat and perfect and she never overpacks her bags, no matter where and how long she's going to be away. Yes, Opardu is that kind of fragrance.

Perfumer Annie Buzantian of Puredistance has already proven herself as the Queen of Pretty. Her first creation for the line, Puredistance I, was a classic French little thing around a jasmine-muguet-rose theme. Antonia won me over with its beautiful greenery, and now we have Opardu, a musky floral to end them all. And not only that, the floral part is lilac-centric. I can count on one hand with fingers to spare the really good and expensive smelling lilac fragrances (and I can't wear most of them). So, yes, smelling and testing Opardu has been somewhat of a revelation. I've been mourning my depleting mini bottle of Jean Patou Vacances and I know I'm not the only one. While Opardu is not a clone or a spawn of Vacances it comes from the same school of classic perfumery where the flowers are gentle, the musk is a sheer silky veil and there's a light green thread delicately woven into the fragrance's fabric.

Lilac perfumes, including Patou's, tend to be a bit melancholy. However, Opardu is brighter and and sunnier. It's a fragrance that keeps a stiff upper lip and a straight back no matter what. The floral notes even give an impression that's more pink than pale purple, making it easy to wear and welcoming. There's no hint of sweetness and only a smidgen of powder from the heliotrope. Opardu doesn't try too hard to please-- it's confident enough in its beauty to know that it already does. There's just enough heft in the base to ground Opardu and make it unfold slowly and last well. I've only been dabbing the perfume from a sample (Puredistance samples are beautifully packaged), so I haven't experienced the effect of  happily spraying (and then spraying some more for good measure); I can only imagine the stunning effect.

Notes: violet, heliotrope, lilac, woody notes, musk and green notes.

Opardu by Puredistance is launching in November. It'll be available from puredistance.com. 17.5ml in a plain vial is priced at €165/$198 (samples are available). They also offer special limited edition crystal bottles if you're into that stuff and don't tend to faint at a four digit price tag. The sample for this review was sent by the company.

1950 Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Anastasia Lash Genius Waterproof Topcoat


I always get stuck without a waterproof mascara when I need it most. The reason is that I don't particularly like waterproof mascaras, or at least have yet to find The One, so once I'm done with whatever I have on hand I never repurchase, only to find myself needing one about once or twice a year. This is why I loved the idea behind Anastasia Lash Genius Waterproof Topcoat: you use your regular mascara and then apply a layer of this Anastasia top coat to make it waterproof. Genius. Lash Genius.

And it works. Anastasia Lash Genius Waterproof Topcoat has definitely made various mascaras survive downpours and 97% humidity over the summer. While the product still suffers from that stiffness of many waterproof mascaras it also helps with holding a curl. The only issue I've run into is that some mascaras look less bright and black when coated with Lash Genius, but that's a small price to pay.

The real problem? Just like any other mascara, you need to chuck the tube after three months. Pumping air into a tube of liquid/creamy substance is always an invitation for germs and cooties, so the same rule applies. Since even after an unusually cruel summer I barely made a dent in my Anastasia Lash Genius, it's not just wasteful but also leaves me again with no waterproof mascara. I wish that Lash Genius came in a packet of 10-12 mini tubes. This way you could just use them as needed, dispose of old open ones and always have a couple on hand and to stash in your purse. Now, that could be genius, right?

Bottom Line: works but doesn't solve the main problem.

Anastasia Lash Genius Waterproof Topcoat ($21) is available at Sephora. Mine was sent free of charge by PR.

Cat Of The Day


When Sophie photobombs a swatching session you get a camera full of cat and whiskers.

NARS Andy Warhol Kiss Mini Larger Than Life Lip Gloss Coffret- Swatches And Review







NARS Andy Warhol Kiss Mini Larger Than Life Lip Gloss Coffret raises an issue about packaging and substance. This is obviously a collector's item (and it's priced as such) and I was thrilled to be able to order the set in a Sephora VIB sneak peek before the official public release on October 1st.  However, this is also a piece of NARS makeup and I expect it to perform. If you read yesterday's review by CharlestonGirl on Best Things In Beauty you already have an idea where this is going.

NARS Andy Warhol Kiss Mini Larger Than Life Lip Gloss Coffret includes five mini glosses. I like mini glosses but the applicator in this case, a teeny tiny thin brush, is atrocious. It's stiff and sharp, and I urge you to never ever try to apply it in a moving vehicle. Seriously, it's that bad. The formula is the usual one for Nars Larger Than Life glosses which I like: it's evening-appropriate shiny and it fills and plumps the lips with moisture that smooths them nicely. The problem here is with the colors.

Looking at the Andy Warhol print on the packaging one would hope that the people at NARS would be influenced by the bold and intense colors: red, fuchsia, purple. Instead we have one clear super shiny gloss with silver glitter (actually nice and very holidayish) and four almost milky colors that are completely sheer. The darkest one has a hint of pink that actually shows up, the others look clear on my lips and will not do much for you unless you have zombie lips the color of my arm. There's nothing wrong with clear glosses, but not in a super special much-anticipated limited edition context where the inspiration is Andy Warhol's art.

Bottom Line: for the stunning packaging only.

NARS Andy Warhol Kiss Mini Larger Than Life Lip Gloss Coffret ($55) will be available exclusively from Sephora in October.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Houbigant- Oranger en Fleurs


Houbigant, the classic perfume house dating back to 1775, has been slowly orchestrating a comeback to the luxury shelves. They started by severely tightening their distribution and continued by launching Oranger en Fleurs, currently exclusive to Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. The even more encouraging news is that Oranger en Fleurs is a great perfume.

As Victoria of Bois de Jasmin noted, the first thing you notice about Houbigant's Oranger en Fleurs is the striking resemblance to Fleurs de Oranger by Serge Lutens. The exuberant white flowers tinged with spice offer a very similar effect. The sunshine and elegance of jasmine and orange blossom stops a step before things get heady and narcotic but still show a little skin. However, where Uncle Serge allows us to touch warm cuminy skin, Houbigant is more reserved. Oranger en Fleurs is obviously cleaner, though in no way is it soapy. For better and for worse, Oranger en Fleurs is lighter and has a carefree lilt. It's also a bit flatter which keeps me from loving it with abandon. There's something to be said for good behavior and wearability, but a perfume with such an incredible tenacity (twelve hours minimum) and an assertive sillage should have a little secret here and there and develop a little more.

I would say that if the thing that keeps you from committing to Serge Lutens is the cumin note, there's a good chance that Houbigant just solved your orange blossom problem. If you never tried Fleurs de Oranger, Oranger en Fleurs is a safe place to start. It has the flowers, the gorgeous jasmine note that takes the orange blossom a step further, and the spice that keeps things interesting. This fragrance is just creamy enough, just clean enough and oh so very pretty.

Notes: orange blossom, jasmine, rose, tuberose, ylang-ylang, nutmeg, cedar, and musk.

Houbigant- Oranger en Fleurs is available from Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus ($180, 100ml EDP. There's also an extrait de parfum version at a whopping $600 for the same amount). The sample for this review was sent by the company's PR.

Art: Portrait of Queen Mary II by William Wissig, 1685.

Hakuhodo B507 Blush Brush



As far as classically shaped blush brushes go, Hakuhodo B507 (from the Basic series) is bigger and longer than most.  The flat paddle blush brush is a mix of blue squirrel and goat hair. It's a fabulous combination that ensures both performance and incredible softness. The feathery fluffiness of Hakuhodo B507 makes it great with intensely pigmented blushes. The brush will not pick too much products, and since the hair is so soft and not very densely packed, it will neither over-deposit nor will it create hard-to-blend streaks. On the contrary, it blends beautifully and creates a natural  flush even when working with very red or plummy blushes.





As you can see, Hakuhodo B507 is larger than its friends in my brush holder. Longer than Chanel No.4 (new version) and Shu Uemura #20, wider than Hakuhodo's own Kokutan S, this is still a flat paddle shaped brush, so you can use the narrow side for actual application and turning it for blending. Compared to the beautiful Kokutan Blush S, B507 is packed more lightly and has a lot more give, for better and for worse. It's a matter of preference as well as the color product you're using. Some require a slightly firmer hand while others do better with this kind of heavenly fluff. 

Bottom Line: An excellent choice if you have too many dramatic blushes and an all-goat hair brush is too coarse for your skin.

Hakuhodo B507 Blush Brush ($72) is available from hakuhodousa.com. They ship all over the world.

Fall Purses- An Alternative Approach


The more time I spend browsing and inspecting purses and handbags at department stores the more disappointed I become. Other than the truly spectacular second mortgage brands at Bergdorf there's very little that rings my bell these days. So many designs are logo-driven, redundant and boring; and unless you buy a Valentino or a Hermes bag chances are that the craftsmanship will disappoint you. This brings me back to Etsy, where artisans still offer creative items*, such as the upcycled vintage carpet bag above. Both this and the black emerald leather bag below are by StacyLeigh from Missouri ($299 each).





Next we have the Rubinia bag by FERUTObags from Dusseldorf, Germany ($169). There's also a deep yellow version.


The tan floral bag above is by EightSeasons of Estonia ($278). I wish it were a darker and more fall-like color, but it's beautiful and the size is perfect (10.2x15.2x4.8").


The soft Lotus bag by OpelleCreative from Toronto, Canada, comes in several colors, including a practical black. But it's the one in Lilac that caught my eye because it's so unique ($328).

Another Toronto artisan, FuchstBags, is responsible for this dark brown satchel ($298). The line also offers diaper bags, if that's on your agenda.


Rut Meyburg from Berlin works with upcycled materials. This "Couch Bag" is exactly that-- made of a discarded sofa (and an old belt). It includes a detachable clutch inside and looks quite edgy ($218).

What do you think about the non-it bag issue? Have you bought an artisan bag? Any other recommendations?

*Etsy is a wonderful marketplace, but do be aware that not everything there is as it seems. Look at the country of origin and how many units of each items are offered.

As always, the links in this post are for your convenience only. I'm not affiliated with any of the designer or their stores.




Sunday, September 23, 2012

64th Emmy Awards- Live Blogging The Red Carpet


I was feeling incredibly uninspired and was about to give up on live blogging the Emmys red carpet. Then I saw some celebrities I genuinely like all looking incredible, so I decided to go with it. It's all Ginnifer Goodwin's fault. And her Monique Lhuillier dress.


Another orange dress was seen on Padma Lakshmi. The dress itself is a bit blah, but the color and Padma herself make all the difference:



Mayim Bialik was once the very deserving subject of What Not To Wear. Tonight she finally left Blossom at home and showed up in a Pamela Rowland as a beautiful and confident woman:



I'm crazy about Archie Punjabi. Not so much about her prom dress, but the color is spectacular on her.



Now, I'm sorry, but this is the very definition of "trying too hard". I like Heidi Klum and I get that this is her first major red carpet since ditching Seal, but Heidi is friends with Tim Gunn, for crying out loud. Couldn't she go shopping with him?


Speaking of trying too hard, let's have a look at Sofia Vergara and her Zuhair Murad dress and be done with it. Sofia  can't and shouldn't be that desperate for attention, but apparently she is.

A palate cleanser: Jessica Pare (in Jason Wu) and Jon Hamm. Zou Bisou Bisou:



Speaking of Mad Men, a print is always tricky on the red carpet and the Dolce & Gabbana dress Elisabeth Moss was wearing translated better on TV than it did in still photos. But even with questionable flowers and ruffles she looked radiant, which I can't say about January Jones (in Zac Posen) who scared the snot out of me:






Two of the biggest names on the Emmys red carpet tonight were Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore. Nicole can do this thing with her eyes closed, but she's still too frozen-faced for a real big smile. Her dress was interesting, somewhat art deco and every inch a movie star. Julianne Moore in Dior was a breath of fresh air. I do think that the bust line was about 1cm too high, but maybe it's just me.




Zooey Deschanel robbed a Disney princess who's one cup size smaller than herself:



And one last crop of gorgeous: Lady Mary Michelle Dockery (the dress was a mess but I love her), Tina Fey looking better than ever, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus who is the queen of sexy and age-appropriate.





All photos via Zimbio.

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