Sunday, June 29, 2014

Currently- June 2014

Wait for Me!: Memoirs by Deborah Mitford Duchess of Devonshire . The youngest of the Mitford sisters writes a latter day Downton Abbey, only real.

Sharon Van Etten.

It's summer, so we're back to watching marathons of home-improvement shows.

I smelled something incredible today, Beyond incredible, really. Totally divine, but this story will have to wait a few months. In the meantime I can tell you that I've been enjoying the bottles I picked from the Henri Bendel clearance: Undergreen Black and Sideris by Maria Candida Gentile.

Even more eyeliner than usual.

Frequently worn Item/Outfit
A DVF shirt dress in the classic chain print. Goes with everything from heels to flip-flops.

Vanilla milkshake

Guilty Pleasure
That Henri Bendel sale. I love the bargains, especially on stuff I planned to buy anyway, but I do feel guilty to enjoy the demise of a NYC icon.

I'm going to take a page from my reader Eileen and shrug off any banes. What banes? It's summer, the world looks and feels glorious, there are so many joys, big and small, and so much love.

Real friends who inspire me, set me straight, and remind me how lucky I am.

I'll show and tell soon.

Home improvements. The guest bedroom is in a dire need of redecorating.

Avery Gilbert Avery Gilbert on Roja Dove.

How are you doing? Please share your loves, banes, recommendations, etc. in the comments.

Art: Charles BurchfieldC-  Cannas and Studio, 1931

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Midsummer Perfume Dream- Ten Perfume Picks For Her & For Him

Summertime. And even if the livin' isn't easy I promised myself that this year I'm not complaining. After a winter of so much discontent that everyone I know had elaborate fantasies about immigrating, relocating, or hibernating, summer is welcome. Humidity? haze? a stretch of 90 degree days? I'm in. Summer is beautiful. Summer is fragrant. White floral notes radiate like at no other time. The various nuances of taste, texture, and scents in fruit are incredibly sensual, and the colors are bright and lively like never before. In the spirit of embracing summer, here are five little summer daydreams and the perfumes I picked for each: one for her and one for him.

An afternoon nap in the garden
In my summer fantasy there are no insects, no car sounds from the road, and no lawnmowers to disturb the peaceful  bliss. All we can hear as both of us drift off is the light breeze in the grass, the leaves rustling in the trees, and the birds. The roses are in full bloom as is the rest of the garden.
She's wearing Secret Garden (Aftelier)
He's Wearing Cologne du Maghreb (Tauer)

A Southern belle and her beau
Sort of. Maybe not in a Gone With Wind way, but a lovely girl in a wide-brimmed hat sitting on the beautiful porch with a young man, drinking sweet iced tea, flirting and laughing. There are horses in the meadow behind, red geranium in hanging pots all around said porch, and the air is alight with anticipation.
She's wearing Wisteria Hysteria (Comme des Garcons x Stephen Jones)
He's Wearing Derby (Guerlain)

Under the boardwalk
Back on the Jersey shore. Everything is just a bit classier than the real thing. The lights blinking in the arcade game parlors, the ocean is clean and so wide, the vendor sell saltwater taffy and kettle corn, and the couple is walking hand-in-hand, feeling invincible and free as though this vacation will never end.
She's Wearing Love (By Kilian)
He's Wearing Aventus (Creed)

Tropical resort
Turquoise water, golden sand, pink drinks with little umbrellas, tan cabana boys, sultry nights dancing  until the wee hours. All my clothes are crisp, white, and nary a wrinkle in sight. Magically the sand doesn't get in my shoes or bikini, and my sarong is Hermes.
She's wearing Terracotta Le Parfum 2014 (Guerlain)
He's wearing The Afternoon Of A Faun (Etat Libre d'Orange)

On the Riviera with George Clooney
Amal who? Wearing a vintage Emilio Pucci halter-top, pristine white shorts, and huge sunglasses, George (not in a halter-top) and I are sitting at a corner table overlooking the Mediterranean, sipping champagne. Brad and Angie will join us soon, thankfully without the brats.
She's wearing Diamond Water (JAR)
George is wearing Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo - Ginepro di Sardegna

Please visit my friends at Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Now Smell This, and Perfume Posse for more perfume picks for summer.

For a dose of summer reality it's always fun to revisit my 2009 post I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Art: Charles Louis Hinton- A Summer Shower, 1898

My Hair Routine

What Routine?

Seriously, I know that many readers are interested in the care and maintenance of long hair, and I'm often asked to detail what exactly I "do" with my hair. The answer is embarrassingly simple. I keep it clean and moisturized, and that's it. I usually wear my hair down in public, keep it in a bun or a half-up/half-down and held with a strong barrette the rest of the time, and once in a very blue moon I take the time to straighten it (because every little girl with curly-wavy hair dreams of a stick-straight hair).

I even own a curling iron, which sounds ridiculous but comes in handy if I need a certain part to curl the opposite way than it wants (some people know how to achieve a similar effect with a straightening iron, but I never managed to do it right). The problem I have with my hair is that countless generations of genetic material from all over Europe (and originally the Middle-East) have all accumulated on my head, giving me hair that not only ranges in shades of brown but also in texture and type, from a silky straight lightest brown to very coarse and super curly so dark it's almost black. And there's a lot of it.

So, why L'Occitane? My scalp is very sensitive, as is the skin around my hairline. These products which I've been using for years have never let me down. They don't make me itch, break out in rashes, pimples, or angry red patches, and my hair remains consistently soft and manageable. This blog has many reviews of other hair products, some truly excellent, but I always come back to L'Occitane because it works. Often after testing a product too many I need to reboot my hair and scalp. That's when I borrow the husband's Head & Shoulders. It solves all the issues in one shampooing.

After washing my hair I use oils. From the almost ubiquitous Nuxe to the truly luxurious Arome M Camelia Oil and Aftelier Elixirs. I let it air dry (or car-dry) unless there's a good reason to use the blow dryer. Color-wise there's still nothing to report. I have a handful of grays (somewhere between 15-20) which I pluck every so often.

Dior Addict It-Line In It-Black

The new liquid eyeliner from Dior, Dior Addict It-Line, is somewhat of a diva. The formula is interesting:  it's gel-like with high color intensity (at least at first), and kind of glossy but not overly so. It's a very makeupy product, not really for the low-maintenance among us or for those in a hurry. There's a learning curve for dealing with the tiny brush, and one must overcome the natural tendency to use too much product. Which is a big part of the problem with Dior Addict It-Line. Use too much and it dries unevenly and flakes, use too little and the color is not as impressive and fades quickly.

It takes a steady hand (I don't have one) and a some patience (none, lately) to get it right with Dior Addict It-Line. It annoys me, considering all the great and easy (enough) to apply liquid eyeliners on the market. It's pretty, and It-Black is really really black, but in the end it's too fussy to really recommend it.

Bottom Line: nowhere near is enticing as the Dior shoes from the Bergdorf catalog.

Dior Addict It-Line ($31) comes in three other colors (including pink) and is available at the counters and from Sephora.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Parfumerie Generale- Tubereuse Couture

Revisiting a first love.

Maybe "first" is inaccurate. The first straight-up tuberose perfume I loved was the extrait de parfum of Michael by Michael Kors that I bought around the year 2000. But for the longest time I actually thought that this gorgeous white flower was not for me. I identified it (or rather the common pairing of tuberose and gardenia) with my mother and thought I should stay away. Then I discovered Parfumerie Generale #17 Tubereuse Couture.

The thing that got me back then and keeps this Parfumerie Genreale fragrance among my top picks to this day, is the contrast between the green medicinal accord and the sugary-tropical-almost gourmand facet. When I first tried Tubereuse Couture I had yet to sample Serge Luetn's Tubereuse Criminelle, so the funky medicinal opening was completely new to me. It's not that the shocking camphorous opening in Uncle Serge's masterpiece is similar to the witchy potion Pierre Guillaume cooked up here, but both are eye opening for anyone who thought that tuberose=pretty=Fracas.  The development of both perfumes is also very different. While Tubereuse Criminelle becomes more floral and takes its place among the most beautiful blends of tuberose, jasmine, and orange blossoms, Parfumerie Generale #17 goes tropic.

Back in 2007 I mentioned that I get a sweet coconut milk vibe from Tubereuse Couture. There's no real coconut here, but the perfume is definitely milky and the petals feel frosted with fine sugar. I'm guessing this doesn't thrill most white floral lovers, which is why Pierre Guillaume joked that I was the only one other than him who loves Tubereuse Couture. What can I say? I like my dessert and I adore this perfume.

Tubereuse Couture is still as fun and funky to me as it was seven years ago. I've learned to embrace tuberose perfumes and enjoy every aspect in them, from the sultry to the heady and buttery. In this case, the perfume is like an exotic creamy green pudding, garnished with flowers and leaves and

Notes: kalamanzi oil, green jasmine shoots, ylang-ylang, sugar cane, Indian tuberose, Sumatra benzoin, papyrus.

Parfumerie Generale- Tubereuse Couture ($125, 50ml eau de parfum) is available from Luckyscent and directly from Osswald seems to be out of stock at the moment, but you can always give them a call ( 212-625-3111) and pre-order, especially if you're after the larger 3.4 oz size.

Image: Indian tuberose bangles at a wedding via

Lancôme Jason Wu L’Absolu Rouge in Hibiscus Pink

Lancôme has a long tradition of collaborating with fashion designers on limited edition exclusive items (remember the legendary Behnaz lipstick*?). This season Lancome has collaborated with Jason Wu to bring us a full collection that includes eye, lip, cheek, and nail colors, beautifully packaged with a pre-fall vibe. Yes, I know it's mid-summer, but whatever. Pretty colors are pretty colors. I selected several items from the Jason Wu collection, so here's the first one: L’Absolu Rouge in Hibiscus Pink.

 L’Absolu Rouge is my favorite Lancome lipstick formula of all times. It's not just light and comfortable (the lipstick is enriched with vitamin E among other things), but it also glides and applies beautifully, has a perfect satiny finish, never dries my lips, and it's nearly transfer free, especially if you blot it (very) lightly-- no lipstick residue on my tea cup! Hibiscus Pink is a berry color, a red-based dark pink, the kind I consider almost part of my uniform. It's not necessarily the most original color ever, but it's a great lipstick in a beautiful color, so why not? I wish the tube itself had the Jason Wu pattern, but the box is so pretty I'm not complaining.

Bottom Line: Perfect for fall, pre-fall, and always.

Lancôme Jason Wu L’Absolu Rouge in Hibiscus Pink ($30) is available at the counters and from

*Yes, there were also the atrocious Proenza Pink and the lackluster Alber Elbaz collection, but I'm an optimist. Sometimes.

**The background of the first photo is a Jason WU summer dress from the Bergdorf Goodman catalog.


It's been nearly two years since my previous Perfume Shopping Guide To NYC and a lot has changed. Stores have opened, closed, or changed their focus, while others have opened. The most notable is the transformation of Henri Bendel, which is getting rid of their beauty and perfume departments (among other things) as we speak*. Here's an updated list (I didn't include the obvious such as Sephora or the various drugstores, as my focus here is more on niche and luxury, or at least stuff you don't necessarily find at every mall across the country). Please comment if I've missed something:

The following perfume brands have their own boutiques:
  • Annick Goutal- 397 Bleeker street. Visiting a Goutal boutique in Paris has always been a treat. Now NYC has its own, so we finally get an easy access to the body products as well as the full range of perfumes.
  • By Killian-  804 Washington street in the Meatpacking District. The only place to get the exclusive Apple Brandy perfume.
  •  Jo Malone- 946 Madison Avenue and 330 Bleeker Street. 
  • Diptyque- 971 Madison Avenue and 377 Bleecker Street. Not just the full range of perfume, body, and home products, but also the limited distribution perfume such as Eau d'Elide and others.
  • Atelier Cologne- 247 Elizabeth St. (also see below for Brooklyn)
  • Le Labo- 233 Elizabeth Street. The perfumes will be bottled right in front of you and you'll get a personalized label. You can also find the Rose 31 laundry detergent here , the lotions, and the gel perfumes, as well as NYC exclusive Tuberose 40.
  • Creed- 794 Madison Avenue
  • Frederic Malle- 898 Madison Avenue and the new store on 94 Greenwich Avenue
  • Bond No. 9- 897 Madison Avenue and 9 Bond Street
  • Fresh- 872 Broadway
  • Krigler- Plaza Hotel 1 West 58th Street
  • Caron- 715 Lexington Avenue (second floor)
  • Hermes-691 Madison Avenue (the Hermessence collection is boutique exclusive)

Independent perfume stores and what you will find there:

  • Osswald (311 West Broadway)- An expert (and very friendly) team can help you navigate the gorgeous space that offers Parfumerie Generale, MPG, MDCI, Amouage,  Arquiste, Maison Francis Kurdjian, Profumum Roma,  Micallef,  Etro, Biehl, Carner Barcelona, Clive Christian, Roja Parfums, Stephan Humbert Lucas 777, Marly, LM Parfums.  Also: Kjaer Weis and Cle de Peau makeup and fabulous Swiss skincare.
  • Aedes de Venustas  (9 Christopher St)- Amouage, Byredo, Serge Lutens, L'Artisan, Frederic Malle, Arquiste, , Heeley, Agonist, Ambra di Venezia, Carthusia, By Killian, Costes, CdG, Eau d'Italie, Lubin, Rosine, The Different Company, Odin, Hors La Monde, Diptyque, Jovoy, and several others, including the store's own line which is highly acclaimed.
  • Lafco/Santa Maria Novella (285 Lafayette Street)- SMN and Lorenzo Villoresi, Eau d'Italie. Also an excellent line of home fragrances and Claus Porto soaps.
  • New London Pharmacy (246 eighth avenue)- Esteban, Etat Libre d'Orange, D.S. & Durga, Hilde Soliani, Balmain, Parfums de Nicolai, Molinard, MPG, Penhaligon's, CSP, Calypso Saint Barth, many more brands, lots of skin care and hair products. It might be called "New London" but it feels like a fabulous continental pharmacy.
  • C.O. Bigelow (414 Sixth Avenue )- Tallulah Jane, Six Scents, Robert Piguet, 06130, Nasomatto, Malin+Goetz, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Juliette Has A Gun, Jovoy, I Profumi di Firenze, Costes, Etat Libre d'Orange, Esteban, Diptyque, CSP, Carthusia, Bois 1920, Jacomo.

Department stores:

  • Bergdorf Goodman- JAR, Roja Parfums, Amouage, Ramon Monegal (including a store exclusive fragrance), Creed, Tom Ford Private Blend, Serge Lutens, Donna Karan Collection, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Guerlain, Chanel Les Exclusifs, By Killian, Christian Dior Collection Privee, Jean Patou, Chantecaille, Histoires de Parfums, Armani Prive, Jo Malone, YSL, Lancome (they stock the very limited La Collection, including the new oud).
  • Barneys- Serge Lutens (including the entire exclusive bell jar collection), Frederic Malle, L'Artisan, Byredo, Diptyque, Heeley, Le Labo (including Tubereuse 40, the NYC exclusive),  Rodin, Yosh, Apothia, Armani Prive, Arquiste, Balenciaga, Bois 1920, CdG, Nana de Bary, Naomatto, Maison Martin Margiela, The Different Company.
  • Saks Fifth Avenue- Guerlain (including all the exclusives), Chanel, Clive Christian, Tom Ford Private Blend, Bond No. 9, By Killian, Creed, Penhaligon's, Armani, classic Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Cartier.

Also of note:
  • Zitomer (969 Madison Avenue)- an old-style perfume and beauty store, mostly luxury brands, beauty and candles.
  • Chanel boutiques (for the Les Exclusifs and limited edition beauty)
  • Tom Ford (845 Madison Avenue). They stock the Private Blend line.

Worth crossing the bridge:
  • Twisted Lily- 360 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn. One of the best perfume stores I've ever been to, both in terms of selection and customer service.  Tauer, Ramon Monegal, Serge Lutens, L'Artisan, Proveidence Perfume Company, Slumberhouse, Undergreen, Etat Libre d'Orange, Amouage, MFK, Mona do Orio, Tommi Sooni, Nicolai, Penhaligon's, Rouge Bunny Rouge (including the much-anticipated wonderful makeup line), Maria Candida Gentile, D.S. &Durga, Histoires de Parfums, Memoire Liquide, Arquiste, Charenton Macerations, A Lab On Fire, Carner Barcelona, Atelier de Geste, CB I Hate Perfume, Jardin d'Ecrivains, Parfums de Nicolai, Xerjoff, Smell Bent and more. 
  • Atelier Cologne- 357 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn. Right across the street from Twisted Lily. Very friendly service of the brand's friendly and well-constructed perfumes.
  • CB I Hate Perfume318 Maujer Street, 3rd floor (between Waterbury & Morgan), Brooklyn. The gallery has relocated to somewhere in the bowels of Bushwick and is now by appointment only. I left it here in the "worth crossing" section because the perfumes are as wonderful as they've ever been and it's the only place in the city you can get the absolutes (all the other retailers only stock the water perfumes), but honestly?  I'd just order online.
And one last note: Terminal 4 in JFK airport has a wonderful duty free area (newly renovated) that stocks several luxury lines  from Prada exclusive collection and Armani Privee to Hugo Boss Black Label. They also have Hermes, Guerlain (including some boutique exclusives), L'artisan, and The Different company.

*As of today most of Henri Bendel's third party stock is on clearance at 40%. They take phone orders.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Laura Mercier & ReVive Friends & Family Sale

What are you doing tomorrow?

Here's a fun indulgent that's less sinful than usual: Laura Mercier and ReVive Skincare are having a three day friends & family sale starting tomorrow. Here are the details:

  • 20% Off & free standard shipping on any $75 purchase on Wed., 6/25-Fri., 6/27. While supplies last. No offer code needed.
  • $50 off your $250 purchase. Plus, also select 2 deluxe samples and enjoy free shipping. 6/25-6/27. No offer code needed.
My recommendations from Laura Mercier are many (you can browse the archive for years worth of my Laura Mercier reviews here): all the primers are light and fabulous, as are the tinted moisturizers. Then there are the brand new stick blushes or the regular cream blushes. I'm a huge fan of the Caviar Sticks (cream eye shadow in a pencil format that makes them perfect on the go) and the entire range of eye shadows (Sable and Topaz for the taupe fiends), the cream and cake eyeliners, and don't forget the brushes. My standouts are the fan brush and the finishing eye brush.

ReVive is a bit more tricky. I'm a fan of the serums but they come just under the $250 cutoff so you'll have to purchase an extra item. However, they also offer some nice travel sets which always come in handy, and there's the Intensité Crème Suprême for body ($260) which sound beyond fabulous as it contains IGF (an Insulin-like growth factor that invigorates elasticity), anti-aging and brightening agents that enhance and even skin tone and texture, vitamin A (an anti-oxidant), and olive butter that reduces the appearance of stretch marks while nourishing the skin with intense hydration. Those of us suffering from a permanent cuir de crocodile might appreciate this deluxe treatment.

Hourglass Opaque Rouge Muse & Panoramic Lip Liner Raven

Here's another post that writes itself. I've been a fan of Hourglass Opaque Rouge Liquid Lipsticks since they were released a couple of years ago. Being on a coral kick lately it's no surprise that I enjoy this full-coverage high intensity liquid lipstick in Muse. Looking at Hourglass website I see that there's actually a matching Panoramic Lip Liner in Muse, but the one I was sent is in Raven, which is more of a tomato red yet goes well with Muse.

To recap: Hourglass Opaque Rouge liquid lipsticks are exactly what they say: densely pigmented, extremely long lasting, and have a beautiful velvet matte finish. They require healthy and smooth lips and can give a slightly dry feel (not all of them, from what I've experienced) until they're fully set on the lips and become rather weightless. They leave a stain behind even after a meal. Using an Opaque Rouge lipstick over a liner as terrific as their Panoramic range makes the color nearly indestructible.

Hourglass Panoramic Lip Liner is an excellent color base for lipsticks and glosses. They have a lip brush built-in which I dearly appreciate. I use Raven with a wide range of lipsticks and glosses, add a touch of it when I need to punch up a color (last weekend I used it to warm up a lipstick that was at first too pink against the dress I was wearing). The promise of longevity is true, which is another reason to love this pencil (and Hourglass in general). All in all-- this is another winner.

Bottom Line: who could ask for anything more?

Hourglass Opaque Rouge in Muse ($28) and Panoramic Lip Liner in Raven ($28) are available at Select department stores, Sephora, and The press samples for this review were sent by the company.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ramon Monegal- Very Private For Bergdorf Goodman

The two most recent perfumes from Spanish perfumer Ramon Monegal are store exclusives. One is Dubai Next To Me (review coming soon, I promise) which you can only buy in Bloomingdales Dubai, and the other one is Very Private for Bergdorf Goodman. Like everyone else, I tend to grumble and kvetch when a much-desired perfume is unattainable (see Le Labo city exclusives), right until I'm traveling and visiting somewhere nice where I want to shop for something unique that I can't get anywhere else. I was pretty disappointed last time I was in Paris and Guerlain's flagship store had nothing I couldn't get from Bergdorf, Saks, or the Las Vegas boutique. So, yes, grumpiness aside, it does make sense for Bergdorf Goodman to have a fragrance exclusive to the store.

Ramon Monegal has most certainly delivered on the promise of an Upper East Side atmosphere. The inspiration is supposed to be Central Park in the spring, which at its best smells fresh and full of life, and its worst (as a very dear friend, a NYC native, commented the other day) smells like hot dogs. But a stroll in Central Park is often a part of leisurely shopping at Bergdorf (does anyone still leisurely shop at any of the 5th Avenue department stores? but that's a different rant). Delicate florals, crisp and tailored spring suits, ladies-who-lunch, the Bergdorf Blonde myth-- it's all here, and it's far out of my comfort zone.

The most dominant note in the opening of Ramon Monegal's Very Private is a watery lilac. It's sailing on the lake in Central Park, a cool breeze bringing the scent of a thousand trees and bushes blossoming all at once and hitting you in the face. This can be a problem because I can smell the cucumbery-melony facet of this light and fresh note, and normally I have a major problem with it. But here, despite the fact that I'm out of my element, I can appreciate the picture Mr. Monegal is painting. I get it. It's pretty. But considering what my skin is doing to the lilac, violet, and tea rose I'm not entirely sure I should be wearing it. But I do, because I can't stay away. Melon, lake water and all- I'm attracted to the image and to the fantasy. I might be wearing a perfume meant for someone else, so what? For a while I'm hiding my true self in this periwinkle-colored costume.

I recently acquired a bottle of 1960s Casaque by Jean d'Albret. It's a cool hyacinth and muguet little thing with a blonde vibe (and I'm really not into a "perfume for blondes/perfume for brunette" theory. It's just the kind of mental impression I get from certain fragrances, like they were composed with Grace Kelly in mind). Very Private smells nothing like Casaque, but they have that cool spring day on the Upper East Side thing in common, a certain daintiness that I enjoy despite myself, like borrowing someone else's life for the day.

The dry-down of Very Private makes it easier for me to settle for a picnic on the fresh green grass. It's a barely sweetened musk that still carries traces of purple blossoms and tender leaves. It sits rather nicely on my skin, and eventually gets a surprisingly sensual warmth. An hour into wearing the perfume I smell less like a curiosity and more like myself. I can finally relax into my own skin and truly enjoy the ride. This is not the first time Ramon Monegal takes a problematic concept and turns it on its head: Monegal's Pure Mariposa for Neiman Marcus, an ozonic floral could have been my worst nightmare and instead became a summery delight. Who needs a comfort zone, really?

Notes: citrus, fruity notes, tea rose, violet, lilac, orange blossom, oak moss, licorice, vanilla and musk.

Ramon Monegal- Very Private For Bergdorf Goodman ($270, 50ml EDP) is exclusive to the store but can also be ordered online. The press sample for this review was provided by the company.

Art: Central Park Spring by Peter Max, 2010.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Houbigant- Quelques Fleurs (Vintage Perfume)

About seven years ago I spent a week or so getting to know Houbigant's 2004 flanker, Quelques Fleurs Royale. It didn't work out, as my old (and somewhat embarrassing review shows).  I wish I had a sample now to see how I'd feel about Royale after all these years. At the time I wasn't familiar with other Houbigant perfumes (back then I attributed Chantilly to Dana), and it was a while before I smelled several versions of the original Quelques Fleurs and realized I actually do enjoy the real thing. I was on a search for a while until I finally came across a pristine vintage bottle in an estate sale. It was still in its blue box with the basket of flowers, exactly like the one you see in the top picture. The ads above date from 1948 and 1951, but I'm pretty sure my bottle can't be quite as old- it's most like from the 60s, which is still impressive considering how alive and lively the juice smells.

Quelques Fleurs was created and launched in 1912 (you can read about the fascinating history of Houbigant and its perfumes on Ca Fleure Bon). This predates most of the classic floral perfumes I've ever known and was obviously an influence on just about all of them. Think of it: Chanel No.5 (1921) is credited as one of the very first abstract floral fragrances- a scent that is not a soliflore and is not specific, but as Gabrielle Chanel intended- it smells man-made and not like something plucked right out of the garden. But Quelques Fleurs with its assorted floral notes was among the very first to use synthetic molecules that recreate notes such as muguet, orchid, and lilac which are extremely hard to produce naturally for commercial use.

And they're all there. Every small and delicate flower in imaginary cottage garden in the early spring, with swarms of white and yellow butterflies that flutter all over the place. It's a thing of beauty, nostalgic, innocent, yet just womanly enough not to be boring. I no longer remember why I was so annoyed with the modern flanker of Quelques Fleurs, but I'm pretty sure it didn't smell anything like this, because the sweet lilac, hyacinth, and honeysuckle here are heartbreaking in their fragile beauty. It's like finding small, extremely pretty and completely genuine little bits and pieces at an antique market: handmade lace, a perfect delicate china cup with a long forgotten pattern, a turn-of-the century photo of a nameless beautiful family. The beauty of the ordinary items touches you through the decades as it does in this classic Houbigant perfume. We don't live like that anymore, but we can smell the part, at least for a day.

Houbigant in its current incarnation still makes Quelques Fleurs ($100, 1 oz EDP at Neiman Marcus). I'm not sure how close it is to the vintage perfume reviewed here.

Pixi Bronze Beam Endless Silky Eye Pen

Bronze Beam (or BronzeBeam?) is the newest color from Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pen range. If you're not familiar with this excellent waterproof eyeliner pencils (no, they're not actually pens) have a look at my swatches and check out the specific reviews linked from there.

Obviously, we needed to compare Bronze Beam to Cafe Gold and Copper Glow, Pixi's other medium brown colors. As you can see, Copper Glow is deeper and has the expected (though very minimal) red tinge, Cafe Gold is visibly paler and warmer. However, on my lid some of the distinction between Copper Glow and Bronze Beam disappear (my lids are darker than the rest of my face). My guess is that on the palest cool toned among you the differences would stand out a lot more.

As always, Pixi Endless Silky Eye Pens do not budge. It takes quite a bit of dual-phase eye makeup remover to get it off. One nore about sharpening: Pixi have their own sharpener which I don't think I own. I've been using the Urban Decay one, but recently realized that it's really not a good match (lots of product waste and the shape is a bit off). I tried a Laura Mercier sharpener and heard the angels sing. Just an FYI.

Pixi Bronze Beam Endless Silky Eye Pen ($12) is available from as well as (in theory) at Target, though good luck finding an unopened unsullied box there (not to mention a non-broken or stolen tester).

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Serge Lutens- Bois de Violette

There's a cute scene in "Shadow of Night", Deborah Harkness' (much improved) sequel of "A Discovery of Witchess", where the male protagonist (a vampire, among other things) chides an aging Queen Elizabeth (as in Elizabeth I. Not the current one we know as "Granny") for her overindulgence in candied violets that have rotted her teeth. The author mentions smells and scents of the Elizabethan court and the world around it, not all of them as nice as the Queen's favorite treats, but there's enough there to satisfy a curious nose, from herbs, various natural remedies, church incense, heavy imported spices, cedar chests holding fine linens and family treasures. And some unwashed bodies here and there.

When Serge Lutens released Bois de Violette (composed by Christopher Sheldrake) in 1992 I'm pretty sure he wasn't aiming for 16th century England, but he could have had. The thick and dark forest with its carpet of green violet leaves sees little sunshine, but a bubbling brook somewhere in the background keeps the air cool and fresh. The scent of wood, peppery cedar, damp bark, dry logs is impregnated by the sweet violet syrup, creating a temptation that is yet not quite edible. If you're familiar with Lutens' Bois series, I'd place Bois de Violette between the jammy wood of the original Feminite de Bois and the Holiday fruitcake of Bois et Fruits. Bois de Violette has a bit more frivolity to it-- it dances around on skin and smiles coyly; it's the way I perceive violets, most likely.

Bois de Violette is a typical Serge Lutens, no doubt about it. It might be one of the most accessible of the Bois series because even though it does go strong on the cedar and adds a touch of cuminy sweat, it's still friendly, sweet, and purple, with far less hamster cage than you'd find elsewhere. I find that I need to spray myself good and well to get the perfume to stick for a full day, but once again, it might have something to do with the relationship between my skin and violet notes. And it's worth every hefty spritz.

Other reviews of Bois de Violette can be found on Kafkaesque and Bois de Jasmin.

Serge Lutens- Bois de Violette ($200, 50ml EDP) is available from Luckyscent, Twisted Lily, Aedes, and Barneys. If you don't mind dealing with the gray market for a better price Google is your friend.

Image by Serge Lutens.

DHC Premium Lipstick GE

Here's a fun treat that looks much more expensive than it actually is. Japanese brand DHC had released several new makeup items (see the blush/highlighter palettes) in pretty packaging, updated formulas, and great colors. The new Premium Lipstick GE are enriched with  olive oil, macademia oil, oat kernel extract, vitamin A, and light-reflecting micro-pigments to make lips feel as good as they look, and they are, indeed, comfortable and pleasant to wear. A quick look at the ingredient list reveals that they also contain peanut oil, so that can be a major issue for some. On the other hand, these DHC lipsticks are fragrance and taste free, so that's a plus.

Wear time is average- the lipsticks are soft and hydrating, so eating or drinking a hot beverage make them fade quickly, but they survive several hours outdoors, and the darkest shades leave a stain behind. There's no shimmer and little to none glossiness, the finish is satiny and the overall look is pretty  and effortless. As far as I can tell coverage varies between shades, with the darker ones  appearing slightly more opaque, though none gives a full coverage.

The colors I tested are RS105 (semi-sheer rose) which looks natural and effortless in a barely-there way for pigmented lips, RS107, a luscious raspberry, and RD109, a red with berry leanings. These are pretty and classic colors with a wide appeal (there are three more colors in this line: a light pink, a beige, and an orange shade). These are everyday colors for me and would delight rose/red fans. The cute tubes don't hurt, either.

Bottom Line: more colors can make this lipstick range a real hit.

DHC Premium Lipstick GE ($19 each) can be ordered from The products for this review were sent by PR.

NARS Dual-Intensity Eyeshadow- Giove & Callisto

The new Dual Intensity single eye shadows from NARS almost made me squee. A new texture, a wet-dry formula, intense colors... It's all good. Really really good. And also tenacious.

Giove is navy, darker on skin than it appears in the pan with an iridescent finish. Callisto is a mauve-pink silvery thing with a very metallic finish. Neither one actually needs an extra oomph of wet application- both are already very pigmented and opaque. Callisto is a great lid color that needs little else to support it, while Giove is an excellent contour eye shadow. Using the latter with a fine damp brush is as good an eyeliner as any, as long as you like the iridescent effect. NARS also offers a new brush, #49, to go with this range, but I've used several I already own from other brands and they all do a mighty fine job.

Looking at the other colors of NARS Dual-Intensity Eyeshadow (release date is July 1st) I already know that I want Subra, Himalia, Dione, and Desdemona. Each one can be the focal point of an eye look and I'm eager to play with the different finishes. Giove and Callisto have already proven to be wearable and very pretty with a multi-season appeal. The other shades NARS is about to offer are just as classic with some interesting edge.

Bottom Line: July 1st can't come soon enough.

NARS Dual-Intensity Eyeshadows ($29 each) will be available soon at NARS boutiques and from The products for this review were sent by the company.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Guerlain- Eau de Guerlain

Eau de Guerlain, one of the house's four summer eaux (see also Eau de Cologne du Coq and Eau de Cologne Imperiale). Each one of them has a small twist, a certain characteristic that separates them from the masses and gives the wearer an extra pleasure. In Eau de Guerlain's case it's the flow, the lack of sharpness in what is otherwise a lemon with a side of lemon and a garnish of lemon verbena. And if you're lucky enough to have an older version-- also a nice  hit of oakmoss.

Released in 1974, an era when "sport" fragrances were green, herbal, and really really good, Eau de Guerlain is another great example. There's no mistaking that this is a "lemon cologne" it really is- pulpy, leafy, rindy- it's all lemon. But you won't be making a "just bit into a lemon" face when you wear it. The floral-herbal facet makes it smoother, more transparent, and somehow incredibly pretty. Luca Turin called Eau de Guerlain "nostalgic", and I think he's spot-on about it. If you've read "Gone With The Wind" you may remember that one of Scarlett O'Hara cherished memories of her mother was her scent, lemon verbena. More than a century after Ellen O'Hara's fictional death I think Jean-Paul Guerlain was on to something. Mrs. O'Hara's lemon verbena sachets, her immaculate clothes, her prim lace-- it's all there.

But Eau de Guerlain is not a Southern Lady. The floral part develops rather quickly and becomes more about stems, crunchy leaves, and moss. The bright yellow turns more dry, slightly brown, and the green is more velvety. You can still smell the lemon, but from farther away, as the scent fades and dissipates into the summer air.

Eau de Guerlain ($102, 3.4 oz) is available from select department stores.

Image by Dennis Wojtkiewicz.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Want: Maison Martin Margiela Embellished Iridescent Belt

 This Maison Martin Margiela belt ($695, net-a-porter) ties at the back and is adjustable so you can wear it high or low on your waist. But the really cool thing about it is the iridescent  mosaic:  it's made of recycled CD pieces, making each individual belt slightly different. And it's oh so shiny. There's also a similarly made clutch (below, $2500), but I think that the belt is more interesting and would give a new life to any old and tired LBD.

Dear You

Dear You,

Dear Lady Gaga, what in the world?

Dear JLo, Beyonce, and other celebrities, posting your overprocessed "no makeup" photos on Instagram doesn't make you look natural and down-to-earth. It makes you appear even more narcissistic than ever.

Dear NARS, you're stepping up your game more than ever. I'm impressed.

Dear Chanel, I don't remember the last time I was truly excited about anything from you, beauty, fragrance, or fashion-wise. And having music auto-playing on your homepage? So 1999.

Dear Barneys flagship store, a refined luxurious atmosphere is more than a store redesign. Keep harassing me in store and I'll continue online shopping. From Bergdorf.

Dear face, developing all these sensitivities and allergies in my fifth decade is not cool. Enough already.

Dear me, FIFTH decade?

Dear freaked out me, it's better than the alternative.

Photo credit: Beyonce.

Perfume: My Current Rotation

Eight years ago, very early in my blogging journey, I attempted to make a list of my most most worn perfumes that summer,  fragrances that were on a relatively tight rotation. It  was a pretty extensive list even back then, but I could still narrow it down somewhat. I still love all of them. I still wear them. Several have been discontinued or badly reformulated. I have more backups than I ever considered wise. I still adore massive florientals and I learned to embrace my love for gourmands. But I don't have a rotation. How can I, with a testing schedule, a rather big collection, a continuing quest for vintage perfumes, and the onslaught of new releases?

But somehow I do have a list of staples that have become a true part of my perfume life. Some of them, such as Tiffany, Panthere de Cartier (the original. Though I've spent far too much time wearing and testing the reboot), and Grand Amour are still an important part of it. Panthere and Tiffany are nostalgic date night perfumes, Grand Amour is an harbinger of spring. But there are also other perfumes that I wear with the same ease as a wrap dress or an old cashmere cardigan. Here's what I've been consistently wearing over the last month or two:

Robert Piguet- Bandit. From "whoa!" to love to "can't live without".
Shalimar, Shalimar Light, Shalimar Ode a la Vanille. If you're even a semi-regular reader you could have predicted it.
More Guerlain: Philtre d'Amour, Nahema, Parure, Derby.
Chanel No. 19. Even more than No. 5 lately.
Miss Dior. Vintage. Recently the EDT, just because I can spray and spray and spray.
Serge Lutens- Miel de Bois, Bas de Soie.
Mona di Orio- Musc. Someone at Whole Foods gave me a look. I think it was Musc and not my taste in yogurt.
Ramon Monegal- Impossible Iris. I just emptied another decant. It might be a sign
Aroma M- Geisha Noire.
Cacharel- Anais Anais. A true blast from the past.
Etat Libre d'Orange- La Fin du Monde, Tom of Finland.

What have you been wearing lately? Has it changed much from eight years ago?

Photo by Olivia Da Cota for Please Magazine, March 2013.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

What is Prince Harry Smelling?

Fragonerds know this nose-to-wrist move very well. We do it several times a day. Is Prince Harry one of us? Was he getting a fix of his new fragrance? What was he wearing?  And why is Duchess Kate so amused?

Aventus? Something with oud? Secretion Magnifique?

Go ahead, caption this photo of Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for the RAF's flypast.

Photo credit: Getty via The Daily Mail.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Amouage Journey Man

The masculine half of the new Amouage Journey duo, Journey Man, continues the Asian trip (see my review of Journey Woman). But this time creative director Christopher Chong uses the familiar Amouage language of incense and spice to take us there, and creates a darker and moodier scene.

Amouage Journey Man reads to me like a tobacco perfume more than anything else. The burning sensation, though, comes from spice- lots and lots of spice, especially fiery pepper. The first image in Kafkaesque's review of the fragrance is of a fire-breathing Chinese dragon. It's very fitting as Journey's opening is seriously crackling and lashing at you before it welcomes you with enveloping warmth. The softening effect is accompanied with booze and leather as you're seated in a comfortable corner to take it all in.

There's a distinct Asian feel here, probably through the various spices used to create the special atmosphere (no cumin, though, to the husband's relief). The cardamom note unfolds beautifully, foody yet not, and the low-to-moderate sweetness provides the cushiony layer just under the tobacco and incense smoke that provide the larger part of body and dry-down of Journey Man. I know that this doesn't sound especially original for the incense perfume fiend, and perhaps it's really not, but the extra spiciness and meticulous execution of the unfolding process manage to hold my interest and give me jolts of delight as I burry my face in my shirt to get a warmer, more intimate feel of the scent.

Longevity is as expected from a rich Amouage, but sillage is surprisingly low after the first half an hour or so. Journey is noticeable, of course, and clings nicely to fabric, but there's a polite or refined feel to the way it wears and asserts itself only in one's personal space. It's a good one wearable for both men and women who favor this style, and beyond the initial meeting with the dragon, Journey is actually effortless and easy to wear. I suspect it's more of a cold weather scent; I can almost olfactively see the person, man or woman, in a long and dark winter coat steeped in this perfume. Whoever he or she may be, they're irresistible.

Notes: Sichuan pepper, bergamot, cardamom, neroli bigarade, juniper berry, incense, pure geraniol, tobacco leaf, tonka bean, cypriol, leather, ambrox.

Amouage Journey Woman will be available within a couple of months at all the usual suspect retail locations. The product for this review was sent for consideration by the company.

Photo: a scene from Spring In a Small Town, a 1948 Chinese movie, starring Wei Wei, Shi Yu, and Li Wei.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

NARS #44 Precision Contour Brush

Back when NARS first released the original line of makeup brush they were among the most special tools you could buy outside of Japan. As far as I know it was the first Western line to offer "real" traditional Japanese brush shapes (such as a yachiyo and an itabake. Do note that the links go to my reviews of the old versions, not the new Artistry Brushes) along with basic staples. That was a long time ago and as the years went by the makeup brush market caught up and several luxury brands started creating and selling top-of-the-line makeup brushes. While there was never any fault in the shape and design of NARS brushes, many of them fell behind in hair quality. But NARS did exactly what was in order: a reboot and redesign of the brush range with excellent results. The new brushes are exactly what one would expect from this brand.

I started by purchasing the  #44 Precision Contour Brush. It's one of my favorite shapes and the old NARS brush in this category, the #14 Eye Contour, has been one of my workhorses for many years. You can see that it still looks almost new and has retained its shape phenomenally. Which is perhaps where the problem lies: the #14 is very dense and firm, and compared to other crease/contour/blending brushes is quite hard and coarse. The new #44 is not identical in shape (the head is rounder) but it serves the same purpose of applying color to the crease and lid, smoking it out and/or defining the lashline and outer V (usage depends on eye shape and lid size). And it does all of that while feeling much softer. The hair is of better quality than the old pony or goat hair used in the past and my lids are happier. The brush is still firm enough to pick up all the color that I need and performs beautifully.

From top to bottom: Suqqu M, NARS #44, Hakuhodo Kokutan T, Paula Dorf Smokie Lid (old)

Left to right: Paula Dorf Smokie Lid, Hakuhodo Kokutan T, NARS #44, Suqqu M
The new design of NARS Artistry Brushes is modern and elegant. The handle and ferrule are matte black. The blunt end is red lacquered and overall feel is as luxurious as they come. The #44 brush is an equal member in my most exclusive club of Big Loves, next to Paula Dorf Smokie Lid, Hakuhodo Kokutan T,  and Suqqu M (I don't have the much-lamented S).

Bottom Line: Yes, please.

NARS #44 Precision Contour Brush ($28) is available at the counters and from