Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you a delightful and peaceful holiday, full of loved ones and delicious treats.

Image: Louis J. Rhead for Harper's Bazzar, November 1894

Brush Storage- A Snail

It's been a while since I've found an interesting vintage flower frog to hold more brushes (there are always more brushes). I fell in love with this snail right away, and was delighted that the holes are perfectly sized and spaced for these brushes- it's mostly Paula Dorf, Hakuhodo Kokutan, Chikuhodo Z 10 and a couple of MAC and Laura Mercier.

I think I should name the snail. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Olivia Palermo x Ciaté London Smokey Suedes Eye Palette

Left side of the palette, Butler at the top, clockwise from top left: Shaken, Verde, Cocoa, Prosecco

Right side of the palette, Butler at the bottom, clockwise from top left: Glazed, Plumberry, Machiatto, Whoopie Pie

Olivia Palermo x Ciaté London Smokey Suedes Eye Palette is the biggest makeup surprises I've had in a very long time. I knew it was pretty and well-edited and I was already impressed by the high quality of Olivia Palermo x Ciaté London lipsticks. What I didn't expect is the spectacular texture of the eye shadows in this palette. Buttery is an understatement here, and something I couldn't tell just from looking at the pans. These Ciaté London eye shadows look quite ordinary until you touch them/dip a brush/get them on your eye lids. Then they become true magic, and I'm not exaggerating. I'm reminded of the very best among MUFE Artist eye shadows with extra butter.

Olivia Palermo's elegant style is is apparent in the choice of a plum, brown, or green smoky eye. There's no black or charcoal here, yet the eye shadows are very pigmented and as you blend them you get a beautiful smoky effect. The combination of matte and shimmer is also excellent and allows you to pick an choose areas to highlight, and create several striking looks from the many possible combinations the palette offers.

Here's what you get here:
Top row-
Shaken- dark gold shimmer
Verde- dill green (shimmer)
Whoopie Pie- matte mauve
Glazed- gold-infused mauve (reddish shimmer)
Butler- matte warm ivory
Bottom Row-
Prosecco- a peachy champagne (shimmer)
Cocoa- low-shimmer dark chocolate
Macchiato- matte, brown-based dark mauve
Plumberry- matte plum

The mauve colors can be difficult for me to wear straight, but I've tried them over darker cream shadow bases and they're spectacular. Laura Mercier Caviar sticks are excellent for this, as are MAC Paint Pots. The green color is stunning over a black base, and the shimmery colors are not just for highlighting, but can be carefully applied over other eye shadows and in the middle of the lids. The basic combinations are to look at each side as a quad, the way I swatched them (plus the matte middle color as a base and under the brow bone), or to use each row as a separate quad. But everything goes, and I've added a touch of Plumberry to my favorite Burberry singles. I will have to create two different looks from this palette to show you a couple of options, including a non-smoky eye.

Bottom Line: it's taking all my willpower not to buy the other Olivia Palermo x Ciaté London eye shadow palette (a.k.a the one with the blue eye shadow). My resolve is melting as we speak.

Olivia Palermo x Ciaté London Smokey Suedes Eye Palette ($39, made in Italy) is a Sephora exclusive. The product for this review was a press sample sent by PR.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Memo- Irish Leather

I've had a soft spot for Memo perfumes ever since visiting their (now closed) standalone Paris boutique in 2008, not long after the brand launched. Memo was not available in the US until this year when several stores finally picked up the line, making things a bit easier and wishlists that much longer. Irish Leather was a "like" turned into "love" turned into a bottle, and the only surprise here is that it was the only one of Memo's Cuir Nomades series the husband and I felt compelled to have (we still need to try the newest, African Leather). The green notes are what got to us.

The opening of Irish Leather is surprisingly bright and juicy. It feels like biting into a green stem and feeling your mouth with something similar to wood sorrel (the kind with yellow flowers).  No citrus is listed among the official notes, but I get that flinty facet of grapefruit, and it adds even more bright juicy bitterness to the incandescent herbal impression. Sometimes when I wear Irish Leather I expect the top notes to be followed by an inky or swampy vetiver, along the lines of Encre Noire or Lampblack. Instead, the green of this Memo fragrance is darker and slightly peppery, evergreens and juniper berries,  that complements the dry leather note (no hint of butter).

Irish Leather is both crisp and warm, the latter impression is the result of the birchy leather that's laced with hey. I don't find it particularly barnyady or even very animalic. It's less horse and more the horse's natural habitat, an old saddle forgotten or tossed onto the grassy meadow. That grassy thing is actually very dominant, contributing to the phantom vetiver note. When The Blond got home tonight he asked which one of "his" vetivers I borrowed. It was Irish Leather, over ten hours after spritzing.Which brings us to the phenomenal longevity of this perfume. It has a strong presence and an actual sillage even after a full day. I've worn it in the dead of summer, when the green felt refreshing and the tarry leather fiery and dry (perfect on a humid NYC day). I wear it now for its warmth (Kafkaesque, on the other hand, can't stand it).

Notes: pink pepper, clary sage, juniper berry, green maté absolute, flouve, iris concrete, tonka bean absolute, leather, birch, amber accord.

Memo- Irish Leather ($250, 75 ml eau de parfum) is available from Luckyscent, Aedes, and Neiman Marcus. The latter also carries the travel size ($145, 3x10ml).

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Currently- November 2015

Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie. An Anglophile academic takes herself and her self pity to the UK. Exquisitely written.

I'm on a Django Django kick. Have been listening to this one every night.

We really need an option to stream all the episodes in every season of The Great British Baking Show (it's on PBS, for the uninitiated). And a delivery service of baked goods to go with it.

I'm constantly alternating between vintage Fidji and vintage Opium.

The items I bought from Guerlain Holiday collection have been seeing a lot of use. Also eyeliner. Lots of eyeliner in every form.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
A silk chiffon DVF top in a floral print with jeans. Add flats during the day and my most outrageous boots for night.

The panda cam at the National Zoo. You'll never get anything done, but you'll be very very happy.

Guilty Pleasure
Today I refuse to feel even an ounce of guilt. Besides, today's pleasure was installing a storage system and organizing the vanities in both bathrooms. It doesn't get more wholesome than this.

Fresh baked good from Balthazar. Another perk of living in North Jersey.

Can't have any banes when I feel so lucky living my little life among people and cats I love.

My sister is coming tomorrow for a quick visit.

Thanksgiving with friends.

To get every corner in every cabinet in the house efficient and organized. I might have been pursuing Pinterest a bit more than what's good for me.

Random Thought
During a week of extra obnoxious social media activity I felt very pleased for not having to unfriend or block a single person. My friends are awesome.

How are you doing? Please share your recommendations, loves, banes, and random thoughts!

Art: Paris at Night by Michael Flohr via Vinings Gallery

Cat(s) Of The Day




You might have seen Philip's photo on the cats' Facebook page, but the rest are brand new. I don't think Giselle was all that willing to pose; she was just looking for a warm spot, while Lizzy was deliberately taking a nap. Josephine was just waiting for tuna time.

And a bonus: This was happening in our back yard this morning between rain showers. The cats and us were fascinated.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Replica Collection by Maison Martin Margiela

I first came a cross the Replica Collection by Maison Martin Margiela when it appeared at Barneys. I think there were only five perfumes in the series at that point, and the SA was pushing them so aggressively I was instantly put off. I wasn't too impressed and later agreed wholeheartedly with my friend Jessica of Tinsel Creations when she raised an eyebrow at the entire concept and suspicious lack of originality. Considering the cerebral nature of Margiela's fashion line and the brilliance of the very first perfume from the brand, Untitled, a modern wicked green, I expected so much more. Then I promptly forgot about the whole thing, until the line was picked by Sephora and a couple of department stores, and samples started accumulating and multiplying. It was time to give them another go.

Beach Walk
I don't like it. I really really don't like it. I think it's supposed to be a tropical kind of thing, and I wish it were, but I get no gardenia, creamy coconut or sandy beaches. It's more like coconut water, with an emphasis on the watery aspect. Beach Walk feels very sterile, diluted, and extremely dull. I know taht it's often compared to Bobbi Brown Beach, but as someone who's gone through a bottle of Beach body oil despite an initial dislike I see no comparison (though I suspect the Bobbi has been reformulated and not for the best).

Flower Market
I tossed the sample after the second testing. It smelled more like the stale water left in the buckets after the flowers were sold. I can't deal, sorry.

Lazy Sunday Morning
This one is so shockingly generic I have to laugh. All I get is a cheap laundry musk at its very worst. There's a hint of rose in the very late dry-down, which I had to bring myself to sit through. I wouldn't tolerate it from my laundry detergent, let alone a luxury perfume.

Jazz Club
I really like this one. A boozy leather and tobacco that's less sweet than Tobacco Vanille and less honeyed than Back to Black. It's also more linear than both, mellower, and probably very office-friendly. The dry-down has an attractive dirty musk-wood thing that is a bit masculine in a somewhat naughty way. It's miles above the other MMM Replicas I tried in this batch and comes from the perfumer behind the entire Memo line.

Maison Martin Margiela Replica Collection  ($125, 100ml each) is available at Barneys, Saks, Nordstrom, and Sephora. There are six more perfumes in the series (not including Untitled and Untitled L'Eau), but I think I'm done for a while.

Image: Maison Martin Margiela masks from its Fall 2012 haute couture collection via Bare Magazine.

Becca Mineral Blush- Nightingale

I'm finally ready to forgive Becca for discontinuing their old range of cream blushes. Almost. I still miss Turkish Rose, but let's face it: there's so much good blush in the world these days that it's pointless to focus on a long-gone color, as great as it was. I moved on, Becca has moved on, and today it's a much bigger brand and it's considerably easier to find. That's a good thing, as is the blush we're looking at today.

Nightingale couldn't be further removed from Turkish Rose. Obviously it's a powder product, a mineral pressed blush. It's also the most intensely pigmented blush I own. I was quite shocked the first time I encountered it. Holy Batman Color! Applying it requires a small soft brush and a light hand. I don't use it with anything other than Hakuhodo small round "purple" Yachiyo (the pointed one can deposit too much color at one spot) or even the fluffier G5540. A harder brush kicks up a storm of product that clings to cats and their whiskers (there's nothing like chasing Lizzy around the house with makeup wipes).

All swatched with the same brush, Kevyn Aucoin contour, which is far too stiff for such a heavily pigmented brush but was a good size for the photographing

To show you how concentrated Becca Nightingale is I rounded up a bunch of its reddish plummish peers. Few products are more intense than a NARS blush, but you can see how Becca is is deeper, darker and more opaque than the Holiday 2014 Almería. Nightingale isn't completely matte, by the way, but the light shimmer you see in the pan barely translates on skin, and ends up as the lightest glow when the blush is well blended. The other two deep plum colors I have are left far behind (I didn't include Lancome Aplum because it's much lighter and more pink than the ones above) . Chanel Plum Attraction has a finer texture and less red tone, while Urban Decay Rupture is more mauve and has a lot more micro shimmer. Nightingale is an equal to all these blushes in terms of longevity. It's a terrific color, and just like the others will probably last you a lifetime because so little is needed.

Bottom Line: for the brave.

Becca Mineral Blush- Nightingale ($32, made in the USA) is available at Ulta, Sephora, and Beautylish.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Jo Malone- Mimosa & Cardamom

Ettore Olivero Pistoletto- San Remo Mimose, 1934

I put quite a bit of time and thought (and sometimes money) to find the right artwork to accompany my perfume posts. Translating smell into words requires some bending and maneuvering* and the perfect image can help greatly. Sometimes, I find, it can actually help you write. Even the search for the image itself becomes part of the process, distilling the way I experience a scent into a clear picture. Case in point: the latest Jo Malone perfume, Mimosa & Cardamom.

It's a nice perfume. It's especially nice if you love mimosa. From the opening notes you get that old Jo Malone feeling of a really really well made soliflore (as described perfectly by Victoria of Bois de Jasmin). I should be completely in love with Mimosa & Cardamom but I'm not, and the best way for me to explain why is through the still life paintings I chose. The one at the top of the post is how I perceive this perfume from start to finish, my final impression of it: attractive, full of  mimosa sunshine (the opening is a touch citrusy), light and lightness, yet still offers a good amount of substance.

Moise Kisling, Vase of Mimose, 1952

A major part of Mimosa & Cardamom is just too clean. I love my mimosa heavier and honeyed. My favorite example is the limited edition Givenchy Harvest 2007 Amarige Mimosa (while I never liked Annick Goutal's Le Mimosa). It's obviously a matter of taste and expectations, born from my preference for heavier fragrances. There's a water infusion thread that runs through Jo Malone's mimosa (identified by Victoria in the review I linked above as cucumber and violet). It bothers me too much. The linearity of this stage makes it too boring for too long. Not bad, not incompetent, just a bit dull. The same goes for the lack of actual cardamom. Instead we get something warm and buttery that feels smooth and pleasant in the dry-down, but it's not enough. At least not until the late dry-down when the spice is more evident and there's a hint of holiday baked goods that I enjoy greatly.

Mimosa by Pierre Bonnard, 1915

Pierre Bonnard - L'atelier au mimosa, 1939

Back to the artwork. I wanted a perfume that feels more like these two Pierre Bonnard paintings, found myself with something closer to the Kisling one and settled for the Pistoletto. I think I'd like it better as a candle.

Jo Malone- Mimosa & Cardamom ($65, 30ml) is available from most department stores and at Jo Malone boutiques. The sample for this review came free with a Nordstrom order.

* I'm one of those who think you can "dance about architecture".

FOTD: Minimal(ish) Makeup Featuring Mostly Chanel

...and one without the glasses where you can see that I forgot to fill in my brows (or to comb them)

This one is from some time last week, a "running errands on a rainy day" kind of makeup. I picked Chanel as a theme for an understated look. It wasn't planned since I was simply trying to get ready and out of the door in time for my nail appointment, but decided to embrace it. It was the first time in weeks I reached for the Chanel foundation. Vitalumier used to be my holy grail and most-used product, but they've discontinued so many colors, tinkered with existing ones, and the last bottle I bought isn't as good a match as it should have been. Maybe I should try Cendre 30, but I think I'm happier with my usual go-to, Guerlain Lingerie de Peau.

Chanel Vitalumiere (the regular one) in Beige 40 mixed with their Le Blanc primer to lighten the color and make it slightly less yellow. I've repurchased Le Blanc a couple of times over the years, and have a feeling they reformulated it since I first reviewed this base all those years ago.
Cle de Peau concealer
NARS Light Reflecting Powder (loose)

NARS eye primer
Chanel Mystere Quad (discontinued)- only the two lightest shade, mostly mixed together, with a touch of the lightest one under the lower lashes, to counter any darkness from the glasses.
Chanel Santal (#100) Stylo Yeux Waterproof Eyeliner
Le Volume de Chanel mascara in 01 Noir (from a sample, still working through a pile of them)

Chanel blush in Rose Ecrin.

A light touch of Chanel Rouge Coco in Mademoiselle topped by some random nearly sheer Chantecaille gloss sample.

Nothing. I forgot.

Other stuff
J Crew white t-shirt, DVF long cardigan from who knows how many seasons ago, very vintage Jean Patou scarf. Scent of that day was vintage Opium (edt). Obviously, low-key makeup doesn't mean low-key fragrance.

Ten Best Perfumes You're Not Wearing- Part V

Wouldn't the limited edition Courvoisier above make a splendid perfume bottle? I found the ad when checking the availability of Courvoisier L’Edition Imperiale, a masculine perfume that appeared in 2008 or 2009, spawned a couple of flankers (including an inferior feminine version), was mostly ignored by the public, and got discontinued in the early '10s. It's still available online here and there, usually for under $50. I strongly suggest going for the spicy and rich eau de parfum, but the lighter EdT isn't half bad, even if more conventional.

Isabey, the classic French house, is more than its famous Gardenia. Between the elegant and kind of masculine L'Ambre de Carthage and the stunning floriental  La Route d’Emeraude they should have been a niche sensation. The gorgeous packaging of the latter doesn't hurt, either.

The names of some Etat Libre d'Orange perfumes haven't always been aiding their sales. Neither have the images (and I'm not talking about Secretion Magnifique. That one is completely on point, even if I can't stand the perfume itself). Je Suis Un Homme has suffered the consequences of both, and it's a real injustice for such a sexy fragrance.

It seems that almost every one of my previous lists included something by Parfumerie Generale. It's no wonder, I guess, since the line has grown so much over the last decade that some earlier perfumes have fallen off the radar while the best sellers are mentioned often. Yes, we all love Felanilla, but fig lovers and ambergris lovers would do well to dig out the Bois Naufrage samples and decants and give this salty gem another try.

A complete stylist opposite is my favorite cheap thrill, Oro by Robert Cavalli (and Maurice Roucel). I know I keep mentioning it lately, but I can't help it. At the rate I've been using my bottle I'm considering a second back up.

Bruno Fazzolari has been getting quite a bit of well-deserved attention lately, and I'm thrilled to see the love for Au Dela and Seyrig, not to mention the cult of Lampblack. But there's also Jimmy, a seemingly easygoing floral with more substance than appears at first sniff, and an utterly delightful personality. It deserves a separate review, which I'll have to write soon.

At the opposite end of what we call "niche" stands Stephane Humbert Lucas with his eponymous line. But his first departure from the Middle Eastern-inspired 777 range, Mortal Skin, goes in a completely different direction. Despite the flashy bottle, Mortal Skin is a lot softer and more contemplative than the showy (and more expensive) 777 perfumes. I've said it before: if you love Dans tes Bras, this is right up your alley.

Nobile 1942 is an Italian brand that often gets eclipsed by its peers but deserves a lot more attention. They're known more for their excellent Patchouli Nobile and Pontevecchio (masculine and feminine, both I find kind of meh), but its Ambra Nobile and Anonimo Veneziano that captured my heart. They're a bit tricky to locate, since Luckyscent only carries part of the line, but the European ships to the US and also sells samples.

I started tonight's list with a perfume suggested by the husband and will close it the same way: the masculine perfumes from MPG (Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier). My first list of Best Perfumes You're Not Wearing included one of my all time favorites, MPG Iris Bleu Gris, and nothing has changed. This line is so good it boggles the mind how Parfum d'Habit, Route du Vetiver, Centaure, Santal Noble, Garrigue, and Racine don't have a place next to Serge Lutens on retail shelves and in personal collections. Not because of any similarity in style (quite the opposite, actually), but because they are that good.

In addition to the first list mentioned above, here are my other installments of BPYNW: Part 2, 3, and 4.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Photo: Francois Mori/Associated Press via WSJ, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2015

YSL- Black Opium (EDP)

Yesterday we talked about a perfume that is generally considered better than it should have been. Today we go the other way, to re-examine a popular fragrance the perfume community agrees is dreck. YSL Black Opium was released in 2014 (the eau de toilette followed earlier this year), and the response was generally hostile and usually used stronger words than Angela did in her NST review. And who can argue? A generic gourmand fruitchouli, sweeter than necessary, and completely redundant on a Sephora shelf that includes dozens of similar specimens. The fact that this YSL perfume dares use the name Opium has enraged just about everyone, and with a good reason. And to end the farce, four perfumers have signed on this thing, making Black Opium literally a perfume designed by a committee.

But I have something to say in its defense.

While I doubt I could have picked Black Opium from a lineup of its peers (pears?), I can actually wear a spray or two without jumping out of my skin. The husband has said that I project to high heaven, but in a nice cozy way that he kind of enjoys. I'm okay with that. After the generic opening of pink pepper and flowers that have never appeared in nature comes the sweet vanilla syrup. There's supposed to be a strong coffee note, but if Black Opium were a blended Starbucks drink the barista would have been fired for going crazy with the syrup on your grande pear latte. All the washed up patchouli can't make up for it. And yet...

It's pleasant. I've smelled worse. You smelled worse. YSL did worse (I hated Elle, Manifesto, Baby Doll, and their eleventy million flankers). This one is more vanillic, more fuzzy, and consciously aims to a demographic to which I don't belong. It doesn't deserve the Opium association nor a place on a shelf that also holds the great Yves Saint Laurent vintage perfumes (Rive Gauche, Y, Nu, and even Yvresse and Cinema, most of  them I own in several concentrations and regularly sacrifice virgins to their greatness), but this is not the reason to erect barricades in front of either YSL headquarters or L'Oreal who holds their perfume license. They've all given us bigger reasons to be cranky.

Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium eau de parfum ($25, 1/3 oz) can be found in every department store under the sun and at Sephora (the small size I mentioned above is a Sephora exclusive, elsewhere you can get regular bottles starting from around $67 per 1 oz).

Image: Forbidden Fruit- Pear by Kyle Bean and Aaron Tilley, 2014.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

FotD Minimal Makeup Featuring UD Naked 2 And Other No Brainer Stuff

This is from Saturday, a day for running errands with the husband, having a Jersey diner late lunch, and getting stuck in pre-holiday traffic and parking situations (see above: Jersey). Since one of the errands was an eye exam and trying on many frames I wanted to keep the makeup to a sane and stable minimum. The frame testing was just for entertainment, actually. I already new exactly what I wanted, down to the special order color, so I brought my iPad to show the catalog number and everything. But I still love to try on stuff, the crazier the better.

Got an idea for a new pair of sunglasses that made the Blond laugh (I wish the logo was smaller, but I'm so getting them), and tried to maintain my patience and temper through some red tape. But all ended well, my makeup remained on my face and not on various frames and equipment, so I declared the day a success.

Minimal(ish) look requires foolproof, no planning needed stuff that always always work and blends without extra work or need to correct stuff. It's not minimal number of product, just stuff that doesn't demand attention. Hence some old and new staples

Youngblood Mineral Primer. It's a silicone thing that works like cement.
Guerlain Lingerie de Peau foundation. It fits, it sits, it covers. I'm happy. Color is #3 Beige Natural. Applied with Bare Minerals brush, perhaps the best product this company has ever made.
Concealer: Cle de Peau, applied with my pinky finger and set with a Laura Mercier powder. No surprises here.
I avoided under eye brighteners. You can tell.
Setting and illuminating was achieved by NARS LRP and that Charlotte Tilbury x Norman Parkinson gorgeous powder.

Wet'n'Wild Fergie primer. You may pick up your jaws gently from the floor. I may dislike Fergie but this eye primer is made of awesome. The kind of awesome that bonds to the lids and the shadows.
Eye shadows: From Urban Decay Naked 2 palette I used Foxy, Tease, and Suspect mixed with Pistol. I was distracted at the time so just did a basic blended with a couple of Hakuhodo brushes and gave it a final onceover with Edward Bess eye brush.
Eyeliner: Black Lancome Artliner pushed into the lases and not winged or exaggerated in any way.
Mascara: gave another go to Guerlain Maxilash Cils d'Enfer, which convinced me to take advantage of the Nordstrom buy 2 get 1 free to stock up.


Shiseido Trio in RD1

I mixed NARS Mandore with Rikugien (Lip Satin Pencils) and sheered them out a bit with a brush.

Other Stuff
Top: DVF from a couple of seasons ago
Necklace: a quite old Cecile Jeanne necklace (I also have the matching bracelet. Must be at least from ten years ago, maybe more). Remember when they had a store on Madison Ave. right next to the L'Artisan boutique? I love their stuff.

Elizabeth & James- Nirvana Black

The general consensus among perfume people regarding Nirvana Black is that for a mainstream celebrity brand this is Not A Bad Perfume. People were surprised because the Olsen Twins' previous foray into perfume resembled their movie career and aimed exactly as high. Somehow this self aware fake sandalwood(ish) fragrance managed to appear on many "If you had to buy a perfume at Sephora" lists. It was on mine. It's taken me about two years, since Nirvana Black was first released until this week to put my finger on the reason why. People I know kept comparing this Elizabeth & James 2013 release to a flatter, simplified Tam Dao (post-reformulation, I assume). I get it, but to me Nirvana Black is actually a purple-hued Douce Amere.

I just reread my old Douce Amere review and realized that I made a kind of joking suggestion to layer the classic Serge Lutens (now only in the exclusive bell jar format, I think) with Tam Dao to get a massive dose of sweet woods, comfort and disquiet. I haven't tried it in years, but I think I know what I'm doing tomorrow. Will the result be Nirvana Black? I doubt it. The older perfumes are nuanced where Elizabeth & James goes straight to the point. There's also the painful issue of some ingredients, though thankfully Nirvana Black smells more expensive than what it is.

Sweet woody perfume are often the mainstream interpretation of edgy (as opposed to cupcake, I presume). I can live with that, as well as with the plastic violets that crowd much of Nirvana Black's opening. It's kind of cute, actually, and the violets have some volume and longevity that a more refined and ethereal would have lacked. Then things become milky and opaque, a familiar not-really-cedar note that aims to imitate a not-really-sandalwood, and does it in a very pleasant way. You can't get grumpy with that any more than you can be angry with Michelle Tanner. After all, she liked cookies and velcro shoes.

 I'm not sure what's "black" about the perfume except its being the opposite of Nirvana White, which I find quite insufferable. It's not dark or mysterious, but it's smooth and well-tailored. There's that wormwood note that adds a hint of spice and bark and connects Nirvana Black to Douce Amere, and I can almost smell a hint anise in the mix even if it doesn't go as far. Instead the space is filled with more faux wood, which at times becomes annoying, especially if you know better. Using the roller ball (it was a Sephora GWP, I think) prevents an overdose that I get when I spray straight from a sample. Would I ever bother with a full bottle? At one time I thought I might, but looking at my shelves I think I'm all set. I have a backup of the Lutens.

Elizabeth & James- Nirvana Black ($25, 1/3 oz) is available from Sephora.

Photo: Mary-Kate Olsen for Marie Claire US, September 2010.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner In Indigo

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner pens come in fifteen colors. That alone is a thrilling fact. Five of these shades are blue, if I'm not mistaken, which is absolutely delightful. There's a blue for everyone, and Indigo is my favorite. Stila's own description as a "royal blue" is spot-on. It's a color I've been looking for everywhere and there it's been all the time, at my local Ulta. A blue that is decidedly not navy, has an almost touch of teal but not quite, and possesses the  richness and magic I seem to remember from several childhood books.  And also a superb performance.

The pen definitely stays put all day and doesn't budge. It's more water-resistant than completely waterproof, but that can also be the result of the base one uses underneath (eye cream and primer in various combinations). what matters is that this Stila eyeliner does survive the day, looks beautiful, and is easy to remove with any eye cleanser I've tried so far, including makeup wipes.

Usage is as simple as it goes: give the pen a good shake (important for flow), and draw the line, as thin or as thick as needed. The tip on Stila's pen is slim, but it doesn't require much pressure to get a thicker line. The quality of the pen itself is obvious from the first use, and the even flow is among the best I know.

Bottom Line: an essential.

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner ($22, made in Japan) is available at Sephora, Ulta, and

(the pens pictured in the background  are regular fountain pens, not makeup)

Papillon Artisan Perfumery- Salome

Salome doesn't waste any time before letting you know why she's here. She's also not shy about her origins, where she comes from. She's here from the past, bringing with her a suitcase of memories.  She's a woman who gets dressed up for dinner, owns hats, gloves, and silk stockings, and knows how to use all of them to her advantage. Yet she will not remain fully clothed for too long. I told you, she's pretty clear about what she wants.

Salome, the fourth perfume by Liz Moores of Papillon Artisan Perfumery, is the lovechild of Femme de Rochas and Bal a Versailles. The Femme connection is rather interesting: Salome has elements from various incarnation of the Rochas classic, including the more pronounced raw cumin of latter years, together with the unmistakable animalic skank. Ms. Moore's treatment of cumin in this perfume is actually one of the most elegant I've smelled and can help make the connection for those new to the genre between the spice and the raunchy side without actually going all the way to BO. It's a similar idea to the dirty charm of two other incredible perfumes from the recent years, Montecristo by Masque Milano and Maai from Bogue (why haven't I written about that one yet?).

The problem with truly vintage perfumes is that by the time they reach our trembling hands and obsessed nose they've often lost some of their sparkle. The top notes fade and sometimes spoil, the floral notes gain a general "vintage perfume" aura into which you stick your nose with a Joey Tribbiani expression asking yourself and your partners-in-crime "carnation? jonquil? muguet?"  trying to find the rosy cheeks of what used to be a cheerful daytime perfume and now is mostly civet (not that there's anything wrong with it...). In Salome you get to see smell the entire package, like those antique photographs that have been recently colored to show the reality of life back in the day. This reality that takes shape at our noses is vivid and bright, slightly bitter and fills your mouth with anticipation.

Once upon a time that's what perfume smelled like. Can you imagine?

Salome was created in the image of the great chypres of yore. From the bite of the bergamot in its opening that leads to a nicely messy indolic floral heart. I particularly love the combination of jasmine and carnation that makes me think of vintage Caron during their golden age. The dry-down is all the oakmoss, castoreum, and civet one could ever hope for, lined with plush leather and infused with smoke and hay. It's spectacular in the same way a handcrafted Art Nouveau artifact that was used and loved can be when it stands on your dresser now in 2015, appreciated and used again. Salome needs to be sprayed and worn, enjoyed to the max for all that it gives us, all the emotions it stirs. This is a Perfume with a P, the kind that is remembered and longed for after many years. I couldn't have asked for anything more*.

Art: Aubrey Beardsley- The Toilet of Salome, 1894

*Insert a severed head joke.

Salome by Papillon Artisan Perfumery ($160, 50 ml EDP) are available from, and Luckyscent.

Friday, November 06, 2015

FOTD Featuring Guerlain Holiday 2015 Winter Fairytale Collection

I can't even say that this was against my better judgment because when it comes to Guerlain my judgment conjures up pompoms and starts doing a a cheer routine chanting "Get it! Buy it! Get it! Buy it!". I was aware, though, that at least half of the charm of Guerlain Holiday 2015 Winter Fairytale Collection came from the packaging. I tried to resist but the pompoms (and snowflakes! and stars!) won. I chose three items (skipped the eye&face palette, the bronzer, and the nail polish): Météorites Perle des Neiges, Rouge G lipstick in 867 Merveilleux Rose and Maxi Velvet liquid lipstick in M72 Fleur de Givre.

This makeup look is almost 100% Guerlain. I went with this luminous theme of the holiday collection, emphasizing all that's light and bright (and used the barest minimum amount of eyeliner). I tried to avoid discontinued products and almost succeeded, except with the blush. I wanted the most natural and neutral, and the only Guerlain option I had around was Caresee de L'Aube 07 . In hindsight, I could have used a barely there application of Terracotta Bayadére Face & Eyes Contour Palette (which is a limited edition for fall but still widely available).

My skin was having a questionable day, so I started with Valmont Prime Renewing Pack-Mask as a moisturizer and a first-aid treatment. It made me feel better, if nothing else (seriously, this is an incredible non-rinse mask for those not bothered by strong fragrance. It has an aromatherapy feel, very relaxing with that good-for-you/spa atmosphere. Available at Osswald NYC which supplied the sample).
Primer- Guerlain Météorites Light-Diffusing Perfecting Primer. Still one of the best on the market and continuing that luxurious therapeutic feel.
Foundation- Guerlain Lingerie de Peau in Beige Natural #3
Concealer- the tiniest smidge of Kevun Aucoin SSE in SX10 on a damp Beauty Blender, pushed over a couple of unsightlies, and set with a hint of Laura Mercier powder.
Under eye brightener- Guerlain Precious Light (which all of a sudden has started creasing on me lately. Has the formula changed between my previous pen and the current? More likely it's my shriveling skin. I'm going back to By Terry).
Finishing powder- the glorious Météorites Perle des Neiges applied with Hakuhodo Kokutan Finishing brush , and then a little extra highlighting on the high points of the face with Hakuhodo S114.

Laura Mercier eye base in Wheat
Guerlain Les Perles 08 Écrin 4 Couleurs quad. I used the color on the left all over the lid (brush: Shu Uemura N10), a touch of the pink thing in the tear duct, just because, and the darkest shade along the lash line with a random smudge brush, even going under the lower lashes for the sake of the photos (I avoid it most of the time, as to not add darkness to an area that's already sunken too deep). I like this quad well enough, but must admit that's it's lacking in a medium blending or transition shade, so I supplemented with Viseart Paris Nude palette: I combined the two colors on the bottom right of the palette (the ones I numbered 11 and 12), and used them to create the shape and blend the crease (Paula Dorf Sheer Crease brush). Then I blended some more.
I tightlined very lightly with a black pencil (the discontinued Hourglass Film Noir Kohl, because it was the first thing I grabbed), and let it migrate to the lower waterline just enough for extra definition.
Mascara: Guerlain Maxilash Volumizing and Curling Mascara. It's brilliant, by the way.

Boy Brow by Glossier, applied to the tails and combed through.

Guerlain Caresse de L'Aube 07 (Fall 2015, discontinued) applied with Hakuhodo S103

 Rouge G lipstick in 867 Merveilleux Rose. I love it. Such a bright and effortless color, and the texture of Rouge G is among my top favorites ever,

Other Stuff
Book in the background of the product shots is Guerlain by Colette Fellous
Faux leather jacket from Joyus (I also have it in black)
Vintage earrings

Bottom Line: One day I'll contour my nose.