Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Marketing of Dior Sauvage- Cultural Appropriation, Johnny Depp, And Missing Rene Gruau

Christian Dior photographed by Lord Snowdon, Anthony Armstrong-Jones, for Vogue 1957. Just a bit of a cultural and memory reboot.

This has been on my mind for more than a month now, since reading this opinion piece by Sarah Marrs about Johnny Depp and the cultural appropriation in the marketing of Dior Sauvage, the modern men's cologne. Please don't confuse it with the classic 1966 Dior Eau Sauvage. Please). I don't usually comment on cultural appropriation. I recognize it when I see it, avoid it like the plague because it's not my place, but I'm also Jewish and have the attitude that y'all are welcome to use Yiddish vocabulary and help yourself to my bagel & lox, so what do I know?

I spent too much time over the last few days watching and rewatching the various commercials and marketing clips released by Dior for their Sauvage campaigns from the  2016 launch till this year's new Sauvage Eau de Parfum. I was trying to make up my mind regarding the level of offensiveness, irrelevant drivel, and general annoyingness. The original Johnny Depp poster for Sauvage happened to be released around the time the uglier details of his marriage and separation from Amber Heard. It was pre #metoo, so one wonders if the campaign would have been toned down or binned were it to occur eighteen months later. It was hard to reconcile the photos of Amber Heard's bruised face with the multiple ring cladded hands of her ex-husband, serving us the weird combination of Captain Jack Sparrow's eyeliner in the American Southwest desert. That scandal was enough at the time to eclipse the association between "savage", Johnny's heavy silver and turquoise jewelry, and the landscape.

Now, Mr. Depp has been claiming an affinity to Native American culture and tribes for many years. He's gone along with the story that he was of Native blood, and has done charity and awareness work for the Native cause, which can definitely use all the support it can get. Johnny has donated money to the Navajo nation and has always seems to lean towards their particular aesthetic and style. That's not any more cultural appropriation than any of us buying and wearing a squash blossom necklace with a black turtleneck sweater and a pair of denim. That's a look, not a costume. It was also quite nice when the Comanche Nation adopted Johnny Depp  in 2012 for his contribution to their image. His own heritage claim was actually neither Comanche nor Navajo, but either Cherokee or Creek, but it could have probably be given a pass had it not occur during the pre-campaign for Lone Ranger. Good intentions or cultural appropriation? Depp got the benefit of doubt from most people at the time, but not all.

Next came Ancestry.com's research into Depp's heritage. Their findings were fascinating, showing that while there's no base to the claim Johnny's maternal grandmother was all or mostly Cherokee, he was actually a direct descendant (eighth great-grandmother) of Elizabeth Key, the first African American female slave who sued and won her freedom in 1656. That's quite amazing, but apparently you can't use that to sell perfume.

Here's when things have gotten past the point of insufferable. A few months ago Dior has released  Sauvage Eau de Parfum and with it an onslaught of an a very expensive campaign capitalizing on what they claim is Navajo culture, but without any prominent Navajo people in the cast or crew (I've watched the credits for the commercial to many times). The whole thing is bizarre in itself as a standalone project, but as an actual commercial for a perfume from a French brand controlled by a French conglomerate it crosses the cultural appropriation line.

Does it make you want to buy Sauvage?

In my opinion, by the way, both Sauvage iterations (edt and edp) are incompatible with my personal space. I never wanted to review either one, because doing so meant I had had to spend several days of my life wearing it. Careful sampling was more than enough (and the thing is unscrubbable). The best review I've read of Sauvage is in the article that has started me on this path, the one by Sarah Marrs on Lainie Gossip. It's the best fragrance review I've come across on a non-perfume site, and I have a strong suspicion that Sarah is one of us. I want to send her a box of assorted samples just to read her reaction.

Let's get back to perfume marketing. I'm still trying to figure out what the bison and the coyote were trying to tell me about a Dior perfume. There's also a blonde woman, which is more on brand, even if she's depicted in the throes of finding her spirit animal or something. But what makes Sauvage so "sauvage"? Why was this the branding angle chosen for the scent? Am I overthinking it?

The original Dior Eau Sauvage campaign relied on illustrations by Rene Gruau. Gruau's work is classic, immediately recognizable, and quite sexy. In his later ads for Eau Sauvage there's also humor, and even a man who may not be white. It's fun. They make me smile, which I suspect was the main intention of the Dior people behind the campaign. Maybe we can go back to advertising perfume this way.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Summer Top Picks: Scented Body Powders

Summer is the season for perfumed body powders. Sometimes it's for physical comfort, for other people it's the preference to go with something lighter than an actual perfume (don't ask me. I use them together). I love a good lashing of fluffy puffy powder before bed. The problem is that there are fewer and fewer of these little luxuries. Once upon a time most perfume lines had a range of body products that included a body (or an "after bath") powder. It's a rarity nowadays, and I can't even blame millenials. I'm pretty sure it was gen X that killed this category, rejecting our mothers' powder puffs.

There are still good ones to be found at just about every price range. Here are my top picks for summer:

Acqua di Parma Colonia Talcum Powder Shaker ($56, at Barneys and Bloomingdale's). It's the obvious partner to their Acqua Colonia eau de cologne.

Maja. Lovers of this classic Spanish perfume probably don't need me to tell them. The bars of soaps still live in my drawers and perfume my loungewear (I'm a shower gel person), but the powder is out on top the dresser for frequent use. Available from various online retailers and local stores, usually for under $15.

Shalimar. You knew it was coming. One of the most consistent products by Guerlain where reformulations, civet level, and packaging don't really matter. The body powder ($72) can be picked everywhere from Ulta to Saks.

Let's stay with the biggest classics for a second. Chanel body products go in and out of production, but the No.5 body powder (not to be confused with the bath powder) is alive and well. The most current version is even more finely milled than ever and comes with a powder puff ($72, Nordstrom, Macy's, and Chanel.com).

Thymes Goldleaf Dusting Powder. This is a heady scent, lush and floral in a style we know (and either love or hate) from the 80s. More Krystle Carrington than Alexis, perhaps, yet utterly fabulous, and in my case addictive ($45, thymes.com).

Woods of Windsor Lavender Dusting Powder. A classic cheap thrill that cost £6.66 in the UK and usually under $15 here. The powder also comes in other scents such as rose and jasmine, but for the Englishness of it and because I love lavender this is my favorite. Available on Amazon, from CVS stores, and other retailers. 

Estee Lauder offers body powders for a few of the brad's perfumes, including Youth Dew and White Linen. But my personal pick is Beautiful ($55, at Ulta, Macy's, esteelauder.com and other authorised sellers). It's another grand floral straight out of my youth, and I find that it gains a softer and cozier quality when worn as a powder.

I admit that Houbigant Quelques Fleurs was an acquired taste for me. It used to overwhelm me, but nowadays I keep a couple of vintage bottles stashed away. The current version, Quelques Fleurs L'Original is nice and comes in a couple of body products, including a stroke-inducing $300 Perfumed Body Powder. Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus both offer a $100 refill (5.2oz) that comes in a sachet. I'd find a gorgeous vintage container on eBay and dump it inside.

Lush Cosmetics really messed up the packaging of their powders. They're now sold in little bottles, like shampoo. At least they don't leak like earlier versions, but it looks... undignified. Still, Silky Underwear is kind of a modern classic by now with its brilliant jasmine-vetiver combination. The powder itself has the best feeling on skin (it somehow contains cocoa butter), and I use it all year ($10.95 fromlushusa.com).

I have a soft spot for Santa Maria Novella's Rose fragrance. It speaks of secret gardens behind ancient stone walls, and narrow path among fragrant bushes. Obviously I'm dreaming of Italy again. SNM currently offers their soliflores in dusting talc form ($45 from aedes.com and at Aedes Perfumery on Greenwich Avenue in NYC. Maybe I should try the one in Iris next. Have you?

For more fragrance picks for summer please visit Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, and Now Smell This

Monday, June 04, 2018

Chanel Première Eclosion 302 Eye Shadow Quad & Ombre Première 824 Verderame

This season has brought several Chanel eye shadow items that I've found irresistible. It doesn't always happen with their spring and summer collections, but these combinations of neutrals and rich greens are among the things they do best, and I'm all about the green lately.  First there's the Spring/Summer quad (not to be confused with Cruise Collection quad which we'll talk about in a few days and also look at alternatives), Première Eclosion 302.  It's a limited edition item (Chanel.com has sold out weeks ago but most department stores have it in stock right now). It's a classic Chanel combination of colors where you can almost see the tweed jacket with golden buttons emerging from the compact.

swatches done with a flat brush, one sheer coat over Lorac eye primer

Première Eclosion is the baked formula and offers the usual mid-level pigment saturation. The colors are semi sheer and can only be built u to a certain point. It's not Instagram makeup and isn't meant to be. I'm fine with that, since it works beautifully for a daytime real people look. The texture is pliable and blendable, and all the colors in the quad can be layered over a cream eye shadow base, either from Chane (see below) or from other brands, upscale or drugstore.

The colors in Première Eclosion are a pale mint green (applies best with a dense flat brush over a creamy base, needs little to no blending, a peach with a light sheen and more robust pigmentation, a light taupe with a silky sheen, and an almost matte dark chocolate brown. The texture of all four is smoother than I remember from other baked quads, and they can all be applied with fingers in a hurry. I've done the 30 seconds per eye with two colors in several combinations and they look just as sophisticated as a more elaborate placement, though the latter is of course more fun to create.

Bottom Line: mostly for Chanel fans, but not a bad place to start a habit. It's like a summertime version of Tisse Venitien.

Chanel Première Eclosion 302 Eye Shadow Quad ($61, limited edition, made in Italy) is in stock right now at Saks, Macy's, Bloomingdale's and probably other stores as well.

one swipe with the included brush, no primer.

Chanel Ombre Première 824 Verderame came out at the same time as Première Eclosion, the gorgeous Premiers Fleurs face palette, and a couple of lip colors. It's a permanent shade, though, which joins the improved cream shadow range, Ombre Première. Verderame is a stunning black-based cypress green right out of a Van Gogh painting. The soft texture is tempting to get one's fingers right in there and start painting. Brushes are optional and the one that comes in the box is quite adequate in laying down the color before diffusing the edges with your finger or with an old 217.

This cream shadow can also become a base for the mint green or the taupe from the Première Eclosion quad, or any trendy liquid glitter or sheer duochrome product you feel like layering on top. I've tried stuff from J Cat to Pat McGrath Astral White. It's all good.

Bottom Line: I can't keep my hands off this eye shadow.

Ombre Première 824 Verderame ($36, made in Italy) is available from Chanel.com and most department stores.

FotD: Dewy Skin, Stained Lips

Looking at the pictures now I see that they have an autumnal vibe, mostly because of the vintage necklace I chose and the black top.  Around here black is often a default,  though I often stand out for actually choosing a print . Not this time, hough, and the autumn leaf necklace made sense because of the dark green eyeliner I was wearing. Off season or not, it's supposed to be a light and dewy look with a punch of color and little to no drama. It's not a product-specific look, though of course I'm listing everything I used.

Niod Photography Fluid Opacity 12%. I love the smooth canvas it creates but at this point I know I should never use it more than two consecutive days because on the third day I'll get a reaction inthe form of red bumps. It goes away after a night of BHA, but why even go there? Limited use is fine, though, and it is a beautiful primer.
It Cosmetics Illuminating CC Cream. I used the thinnest layer and kept most of it where I needed the coverage. There's definitely some flashback in the second photo, but it was meant to perform off-camera, and it did.
It Cosmetics Airbrush CC+ Perfecting Powder. I have it as part of the Je Ne Sais Quoi Complexion Perfection Face Palette, and to be honest I'm not sure it does all that much for me. Maybe I just prefer loose powders or NARS or whatever.

It was the last dregs of Edward Bess Illuminating Eye Base in Dune. I finished both Dune and Cashmere in the last few weeks, and will probably repurchase at some point after I use up more eye primers and eye primer samples. One EB eye base or another has always been in my collection since they launched.
Edward Bess single eye shadows in Nude, Intimate, and Mystery, plus the brown shade on the upper left of L'Oreal Colour Riche Pocket Palette #108 (Bleu Nuit). The Edward Bess singles are discontinued, but they're essentially basic neutrals so if you have any of his newer eye palettes they should work just as well. I didn't do anything special so any combination of medium to light neutrals can do the same thing as long as you use something light-reflecting on the inner third of the mobile lid.
Kiko Super Colour Eyeliner in 104 Dark Slate Green. It's very very dark, kind of a "black alternative" and brings just a hint of something extra to an otherwise standard neutral eye. These $9 Kiko eyeliners have fantastic longevity and they don't lose their vibrancy during the day.
Clinique mascaras: High Impact and Lower Lash mascara.

Clinique Just Browsing in 03 Deep Brown.
Tony Moly Auto Eye Brow in 02.
I used both with a very light hand. In hindsight I should have gone heavier. This look can definitely take more.

Edward Bess Blush Extraordinaire in Bed of Roses
Edward Bess All Over Seduction highlighter in Sunlight. I think it's considered a classic at this point, and with a good reason.

Edward Bess Defining Lip Liner in Natural. I used it to fill in the lips to create a base more than to define the perimeter.
Edward Bess lipstick in Betty (limited edition, discontinued) which I applied, blotted, reapplied, and blotted again until it was mostly a weightless stain. You can use any red, berry, or red berry in this way which is quite effective when there's a meal involved and you want to avoid being left with a ring of color around the lips. A natural liner keeps things in place without calling attention to itself, and a blotted down stain remains mostly intact unless confronted by an oily salad dressing.

Other Stuff
SotD: Edward Bess Spanish Veil
Top: Kenneth Cole (from many seasons ago. It's draped and tied with an annoying rope-like belt that I have to make sure is well-secured to avoid a first degree wardrobe malfunction).
Necklace: vintage Givenchy. A favorite eBay find.

Just to make it clear, especially if you're new here, this post was not sponsored by anyone. I don't do sponsored posts, and have no business relationship with brands, stores, websites, or the British royal family. While I know Edward Bess personally it's not like he's going to bring back the single eye shadow range or create a blue eye shadow just because I want him to.

Friday, June 01, 2018

My Most Worn Perfumes According To Basenotes- June 2018 Edition

It's been two since I checked my perfume wearing statistics on Basenotes.net where I try to keep a somewhat accurate log of my daily scents. I confess to not being diligent enough, but I make an effort most of the time. Still, I've probably skipped recording a Shalimar night here and there, but it wouldn't have changed a thing. Shalimar, mostly vintage and in any concentration (often layered), will always be the queen of everything.  You can have a look at my past stats here and here before we move on to the most recent version.

Shalimar aside, the top five is just a game of musical chairs. When I don't know what to wear it's either L'Orpheline or some version of Chanel No. 5. Basenotes doesn't account for concentrations let alone vintages, but I can tell you that I love layering very vintage eau de cologne with any of the extraits I have. No.5 used to be very be ubiquitous, but I can't remember the last time I smelled it on a random person anywhere (obviously my perfume friends don't count).

Bal a Versailles is my filthy friend while Philtre d'Amour is a favorite after-shower treat. My backup bottle might be called in for service sooner rather than later. Then I'll be scared.

My cheap thrill of Oro by Cavalli is still going strong. It's becoming harder to find other than in my basement and I'm not apologizing.

I have a feeling that I've worn Ilang Ivohibe many more times than this list may suggest. It's located strategically in my cabinet so I can and do reach for it often. It's also an evidence that I don't really understand people. Why isn't it the biggest Parfumerie Generale hit? This is such a delicious and warm floral I'd expect more perfume people to worship it.

I'm not sure why I've let No.5 Eau de Premiere slide down the list this way. I guess that whenever I feel like No.5 I go for the real thing, but EP deserves better, especially in light of the more recent No.5 L'Eau which I simply don't get.

Then there's No. 19. Again, I'm pretty sure that I've missed logging several wearings, especially of the very floral eau de parfum from about 15-20 years ago which I love dearly. Maybe I'll wear it tonight to erase the memory of a day spent in Chanel's Gabrielle.

Closing the list is La Fin du Monde. The end of the world. If we're all going down I'll be doing it in a big bang of buttered popcorn and iris.

Urban Decay Backtalk Palette & Lipstick

Urban Decay eye and face palette is another item I caught and released into the wild. Or rather got it in PR, tested and admired it, then gave it to a friend whose complexion suited it perfectly.

I actually had high hopes because when I first opened the package it was late in the evening and the light made the colors lean murky mauve. It was still very pretty the next day as I swatched it the next day, even if there was some weirdness (see below), but it was the final test of getting the colors on my eyes that made me realize that we were not meant to be.

The Backtalk palette was inspired by one of Urban Decay's best selling Backtalk lipstick. The lipstick is nude rosy mauve in the Comfort Matte formula, and despite its name it's an accommodating and unassuming color that fits everywhere. I wear it as my "nude" color (while Hideaway is my usual pick for a more distinct look). In any case, Back talk is an awesome color and a palette centred around it is a great idea.

There were quite a few unfavorable reviews of the Backtalk palette around the web. People didn't like the packaging design with the removable mirror in the middle. I thought it was a nice touch, actually. The palette lies flat in front of you and you can place the mirror exactly where you want it. The fact you cannot close it back without returning the mirror to it slot seemed to me quite clever as it prevents you from forgetting it in hotel rooms and such.

The other issue people complained about was pigmentation, and here I have to object. The swatches you see below were done with a basic stiff eye shadow brush, not with fingers. When testing makeup looks on my eyes I've used even softer brushes and had no issues at all. The very soft texture might blend into oblivion if one spends a long time fluffing them into the crease, but that's not the mandatory method to do makeup. I will say that a good eye primer is a must. Urban Decay's own Anti-Aging Primer Potion was my obvious choice and it worked.

I had one serious issue with the eye colors in Backtalk. A couple of them changed when applied. The most obvious example is Backtalk itself, that's supposed to be a pink mauve and ended up oxidizing into a coral during the few minutes between swatching and taking the photo below. It was even more pronounced on my lid which is significantly darker than my arm.

Here's a list of the eye shadows and my impressions:

3 Sheets- a silky soft matte in a doll skin pink.
Bare- a shimmer pinky beige, applies better than swatches.
Curve- a harder texture shimmer mauve.
Backtalk- see above. I don't even know what to say.
Shade- a satin berry. I'd take a blush n this color.
Attitude- a gleaming warm pink that's almost coral.
WTF- matte milk chocolate.
180- satin rich plummy brown.

I've managed to create three very distinct looks with the palette. Unfortunately none of them was flattering on me, which is why I let it go. My guess would be that those with blue or green eyes/porcelain skin/ undertone that isn't an ashy olive would be able to wear these eye shadow beautifully.  They really are pretty and there's enough contrast and distinction between the offered shades.

We've already established that I'm a sucker for blush palettes. I wish the face part of Backtalk was released separately, because I would have gotten it for the various layering and mixing options as well as for the Cheap Shot blush, which is a satin rhododendron color. The other shades are Double Take, another warm mauve that becomes coral terracotta on my skin (really nice in a blush, satin gleam finish),  Low Key, a shimmery peach that would work as a highlighter on deep skin tones and is a nice blush or blush companion for me, and last: Party Foul, a beige pink shimmer highlighter for me, or a blush for very fair skin.

I think there's a slight disconnect between the face and the eye portions of the palette. The blushes and highlighters would work for a much wider range of skin tones, while the distinct pink tones of the eye shadows require that one can really rock them. Or maybe I'm just jealous of those who can.

Some people griped that the formula is not on par with other Urban Decay shadows. I don't know. at this point there are so many UD eye shadows in various configurations that I'm not sure which ones are considered iconic. I have a handful of singles, mostly duochromes, which are gorgeous yet overpriced in my opinion, a Naked 2 and Naked Basics 2 palettes that are I love for their ease of use and blendability (many disagree), and a few limited edition colorful palettes, each offering eye shadows in multiple finishes and formulas. Backtalk is somewhere in the middle with its soft colors and even softer texture. I was happy to let it go to a better home, but 'm not over Urban Decay quite yet (which explains why I'm seriously eyeing the new Beached palette).

Bottom Line:
If the colors are your thing it's worth swatching them when you're at Sephora. Or just wait until it's on sale, because you know it's going to happen.

Urban Decay Backtalk Palette (limited edition, $46, made in the US with US &/or imported ingredients) is an urbandecay.com and Sephora exclusive). Backtalk Lipstick ($18, made in USA) is permanent and also available from Ulta.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Currently- May 2018

I finished George's Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo, which I refused to read during the massive hype that surrounded it last year. I liked it a lot, though,  probably because all the reviews and discussions have prepared me to better understand the structure and literary technique. The story has stayed with me for a while now. Not just the grief-stricken Lincoln and his moral dilemmas  but also the assorted fleeting (literally) supporting characters with their fears and little victories clinging to their humanity.
I've now started Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss, downloaded the Australian classic Picnic at the Hanging Rock, as well as Futureface by Alex Wagner (after watching her being interviewed by Trevor Noah), then there's the newest novel by Julian Barnes, and a book my husband highly recommended,The Door by Magda Szabo. All these reading pleasures a click away on my iPad. I wish I could show it to my ten year old self who was always worried of having nothing to read.

Shadow Relief by Loma. The entire album is worth listening, actually, but this song is my favorite right now.

Streaming assorted design, antique, and home improvement shows from the UK, as well as a few American ones. There's something incredibly soul-soothing in seeing people build and create living spaces with love and dedication to their craft. I'm so over the Property Brothers and the extreme sponsored content they create. On the other hand, why can't Tom Silva from This Old House be my uncle?

Usually this time of year is all about green perfumes with daffodil, violet, and hyacinth notes that reflect the going ons in my yard. It's not that I haven't been wearing Tocadilly, Lauren, or Grand Amour, but true love lately has been Civet from Zoologist. It's the joined the little circle of "why do I bother with anything else?" perfumes.

Sheer sparkle over a cream black base on the lid. The easiest way to go is by using a shadow stick (Bobbi Brown, Laura Mercier or Kiko. I have all three and use them interchangeably), blending a little to create the desired shape, maybe layering a bit more, then topping it with a powder (pressed or loose) shimmery eye shadow. I've been collecting duochrome colors from indie brands, but anything that's not fully opaque but is high in shimmer looks fantastic. Or just use Stila liquid glitters. Nothing is more simple or as a bigger impact.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
A black cashmere camisole by Tibi. It's the perfect layering piece even in spring, considering the wacky weather. I wear it under light silk dresses with an extra button open, flowy blouses, or light cardigans.

My mom's candied orange peels. She's found a new old recipe that she says is exactly as she remembers it from her childhood. I'm all in.

The combination of severe allergies and various antihistamines just to be able not to suffocate are a brain circus. I know that yesterday happened, but I can't prove it.

I'm still smiling when thinking of the royal wedding. Harry and Meghan gave us not just what we wanted but also something we didn't know we needed.

Binge watching The Americans this weekend.

A better system to sort and store my lipsticks.

I was genuinely shocked the first time I've heard a guy say that he can't stand reading books with a female narrator because it bothered him to have a women's voice in his mind. In the years since I've learned that it's a real thing.  Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett explains in The Guardian why it's so very wrong.

Random Thought
It suddenly occurred to me that the word "Influencer" is exactly what I've been looking for all those years so we can make the distinction between people who write blogs to share experiences and tell stories and those whose job is to create marketing content to help brands increase their sales.

How are you? What's on your list of loves and banes? Any wishes and recommendations?

Image by Edward Penfield for Harper's, May 1897

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Chanel Premieres Fleurs Harmony Of Powders & Rouge Coco Glossimer Bourgeoisie

I promised you more spring/summer 2018 Chanel stuff and this is part of it. The brand might have been overdoing it a bit with new mini collections and minor releases every few weeks (since when is cruise makeup collection a thing?) , but it's all very pretty and far less pastel-toned than usual so instead of complaining I just bought all of it. Almost.

The Premieres Fleurs Harmony Of Powders is this season's limited edition collector's item. I don't buy these often, but when I do I put them to good use despite the urge to save them untouched and unspoilt. I'm a makeup user, not a collector, and I want to enjoy and get the luxury experience of applying this beauty to my face. I do have to side-eye Chanel for only ever releasing (please correct me if I'm forgetting something) these items in fair-to-light color combinations. I'm of a neutral ashy olive complexion and can wear some of them but not all (other than as a glowy finishing powder, I guess). I wish Chanel was more inclusive here.

The new(ish) Premieres Fleurs Harmony Of Powders is a combination of a pale warm rose blush and a whit moonlightish highlighter. The compact (about the size of a Chanel regular blush) is wide enough so you can go in with your brush and pick the blush and highlighter separately, or just swirl them together. Both methods give a very pretty radiant look. The blush shows up on my cheeks much better than it swatches, which happens to me with many Chanel makeup items. That's their beauty, really, the complexity of the pigment translates very well to the face; the very fine texture delivers a veil of color that never cakes or look patchy, yet can be built to some degree. I have no issue with pigment intensity in Premieres Fleurs Harmony Of Powders, but I suspect anyone darker than an NC 37-40 would find it just a glorified peachy finishing powder, and that's a shame.

There's a bit of a silver overspray in the Asian-inspired embossing. It goes away after the first brush swipe. I understand why they did it, but overspray annoys the everloving bejeesus out of me on principle. Don't put makeup on my makeup. That's my job.Other than that it's a classic Chanel face color, in the usual packaging with the familiar velveteen pouch and a brush that works in a pinch (I used it for the swatches and it didn't slash or irritate my skin). I like using relatively small domed or tapered blush brushes with a good snap and density, but just about anything that fits the compact and my face works very well. I've experimented with angled flat duo-fiber brushes (Hakuhodo G5552), small Yachiyo, candle-shaped highlighter brushes, and just about everything that isn't a massive super fluffy powder brush has performed well.

Bottom Line: for Chanel lovers who blush and highlight responsibly.

Chanel Premieres Fleurs Harmony Of Powders ($70, made in Italy) is a limited edition item. Available from most Chanel counters, Chanel boutiques that sell their beauty line, and chanel.com.

Chanel Glossimers were probably the very first Chanel makeup item I've bought decades ago. All the old colors have been gone for ages (how many Giggle or Unity Glossimer have you repurchased?), and the formula has been tweaked for the better more than once. The current version is actually called Rouge Coco Gloss Moisturizing Glossimer, but the packaging is the same as ever. It's a lip gloss with a typical fuzzy doe foot applicator and a very hydrating and comfortable formula. It's old school in the very best way,  not goopy, doesn't smear everywhere, and has just enough pigment to be worn by itself on a casual lip day. The color I chose this time, Bourgeoisie 119, came out with the other summer items and matches the color story (I'll show you the quad, Premiere Eclosion, in an upcoming post) but it's part of the permanent collection. The color is a warm(ish) true rose with a shimmery finish, the texture is smooth gel-like that's not gritty, and has a very faint makeupy smell that goes away immediately.

Bottom Line: It's Chanel, it's a Glossimer, you know what you're getting (hint: for better and for worse, not an Anastasia Beverly Hills lip gloss).

Rouge Coco Glossimer in 119 Bourgeoisie ($30, made in France) is sold wherever Chanel makeup is available.

Monday, May 28, 2018

5 Products I’m not supposed to like but I do

In which we all clutch our pearls- A makeup comedy in five parts

Sometimes I manage to surprise myself. I know better than to ever say never and my makeup collection is a mammoth proof of that. It includes a bright yellow eye pencil, after all. And I know how to use it. Still, I am biased in certain ways. There are trends, people, techniques, and products that don’t sit well with me for one reason or another. This is what we’re discussing today.

Here are the elephants in my room:

  • Morphe 35F eye shadow palette.
    I generally stay away from Morphe because of the brand’s uneven private label quality control issues. And their marketing, and the YouTube personalities that are busy hard-selling them. I could have claimed innocence about this purchase because it happened during what my friend Josie and I call our lost weekend, though no drugs or alcohol were involved (only kittens, ridiculous pajamas, mounting anxiety, and a scary amount of takeout food). But I bought the 35F palette and there was no one more surprised than me when it appeared on my doorstep and it didn’t suck. At all. As a matter of fact, this combination of rich shimmers and a handful of chiffon-like mattes in neutral to warm shades is often a starting point in my makeup looks and can be paired with practically anything to great results. Have I bought any other Morphe product since? No. But I’m perfectly happy with this one. ($23 at Ulta)
  • Kat Von D foundation and concealer brushes.
    This one’s a doozy. I’ve avoided everything and anything that has to do with Miss Von D since the launch of her makeup brand ten years ago. It’s for personal reasons and that’s all I’m going to say about it, though it was never a secret since I have expressed my distaste for her several times on this blog. Imagine my reaction when I opened an unmarked package with no return label that has arrived by USPS, and contained two newly launched (at the time. It must have been over two years ago) Kat Von D foundation and concealer brushes. There was no note or indication of who sent it; I’ve never been on their PR list even for press releases. It was a complete mystery.

    To this day I have no idea who mailed me these brushes. Was it a KVD fn trying to make a point? A regular reader who was hoping to cure me by exposure? An innocent gift? Or, as I used to joke, a wordless message from Von D and co., subtly telling me “we know where you live “. In any case, after some trepidation I decided to test the brushes and loved them right away. They apply and blend cream and liquid products like the best of them, and the pinched shape of the brush heads gives them flexibility and movement you rarely find in brushes as dense as these. I’d still like to know where they came from. ($34 and $24 on sephora.com)
  • MAC Rollerwheel Liquid Liner AKA the pizza cutter eyeliner.
    My makeup collection has no room for gimmicks and I have little patience for nonsense launches. Makeup should do its job and perform well, especially in these times of countless options and possibilities. For every useless product there are thirty good ones from every corner of the globe. For some reason, though, I was adamant to buy this MAC eyeliner and figure it out or die trying. The learning curve was on par with Calculus III, except that one usually isn’t at risk of losing an eye doing math.

    My first attempts using a x10 magnifying mirror went comically wrong. I’d rather see a ghost than zoom on my eye area for as long as it took me to wonkily draw my shaky line. I've since that I can use my regular x5 Simple Human lighted mirror while looking straight ahead, or utilize a small triptych mirror I got years ago as a GWP from Hakuhodo and also has a magnifying panel; I place the mirror on my dresser (also leaning my right elbow against it), look down into the mirror and roll the wheel gently as all the weight is on my elbow and dresser and not in my wrist. The trick is using absolutely no pressure on the wand and eyelid, and breathing normally while doing it. The result is very precise, thin, and graphic, and the wheel actually gives a lot of control, perhaps even more than a brush. Once you figured it all out and stopped getting shiny black lines all over your face, that is. ($21, maccosmetics.com)
  • Lipstick Queen Mornin' Sunshine Lipstick
    Here's another silly gimmick: a yellow lipstick that's supposed to turn peachy coral on one's lips. This comes from a brand that has been steadily declining in recent years and leaning more on shticks for YouTubers than on elegant cosmetics.  I haven't bought any Lipstick Queen products in two years and I wouldn't have bought Mornin' Sunshine either (I found few redeeming qualities in their yellow gloss in a pot I tried years ago). However, a couple of minis and a full size of this yellow cuteness found their way into various GWPs bags from Barneys and from Ulta. I tried one of the minis, intending to donate the other ones, and somehow got hooked.

    The color-changing thing is not really a thing on my lips. They're too dark and too purple-mauve to allow a sheer peach to show up. There's a hint of juicy color added, though, which is really really nice when I'm not looking to make a lip statement. Even more than that, the formula of Mornin' Sunshine is balmy and rich with no goopiness, thickness, and no extra shine. I used up the first mini without even thinking about it, and the other two now live in various purses and get ample of use. It's still too expensive for a tinted balm, but it sure is lovely. ($25 at Ulta)
  • Kiko cosmetics Pure Clean Scrub & Peel
    We're ending this with what might be the most ridiculous product of all. Consider this: I tend to reject manual face exfoliation (body is a different ballgame) unless it's the most delicate brush head Clarisonic has to offer or a very soft microfiber washcloth. I  use acids and chemical peels, thank you very much, so anything abrasive is like going House Bolton* on my face. Add to that the fact I don't use wipes in my regular cleansing routine (I do a triple cleanse, first taking off most of my eye makeup, than oil, and wash it all off with a cream or foaming product, with or without the clarisonic). So what gives?

    Kiko Scrub & Peel wipes have two sides. One is kind of wavy, the other can sad off your wood floors. A package only has 20 wipes, making the $9 price somewhat steep. However, I've found enough uses for these things to justify stockpiling every time Kiko has a 30% off sale. The sandpaper side is useful to give lips a good exfoliating and prep (as long as they're not actually bleeding). I removes glittery swatches, gunk and goop, over-sticky body products from behind the knees, and scrub my hands with them in an emergency. Thick masks that don't sink in and require washing off usually benefit from a good wipe-down before rinsing.  Then there are all kinds of travel situations, dripping of who-knows-what, taking off some makeup in the afternoon before doing a completely different evening look, especially if I've layered and reapplied SPF during the day.  I have packets upon packets of these everywhere. ($9 from kikocosmetics.com).
Are you shocked? Horrified? Do you have products you like against all odds?

*A Game of Thrones joke. I highly advise NOT Googling if you're not familiar. It ain't pretty.

NARS NARSissist Wanted Cheek Palettes & Lip Kit Swatches & Review

George was auditioning for a NARS mascot role

Unlike the NARSissist Wanted Eye palette that I got, admired, and promptly gave to a friend who rocks these colors far better than I could have ever hoped to do, the two Wanted Cheek palettes were something I knew I'd use and enjoy for a very long time. And I do. Because: blush, highlighters, NARS, no brainer.  It was a huge privilege to get both palettes (they were sent by PR) that saved me endless vacillation before picking out just one, since each palette offers several colors I really really wanted. If I have any criticism at all of the Wanted Cheek palettes is that I suspect I'm not the only person who would have loved to be able to pick the singles myself and put them in the (very pretty) packaging. However, the palettes are edited thoughtfully, well-balanced, and offer five new limited shades each and only one that's part of the permanent collection. This means the value is there and the attention to detail is impressive: the packaging reflects the shades inside, so if like me you own both it's easy to tell which is which without opening the palette.

Palette I
Palette I. The purple at the top right required a bit of building up on my skin so you can see the true shade. 
Palette I is the lighter color story, and it swatches and applies a lot more impressively than the colors appear when resting in their pans. The finishes go from matte to shimmery highlighter, and can be used alone or mixed. That's the reason I adore palettes: they give my inner kindergartener the means to go hog wild with my brushes and blend colors together and create something new and fun.

Top to bottom, left to right: Unlimited (shimmering pale pink champagne, a highlighter that's actually lighter and shinier than in the pan.), Buzzed (matte warm nude-to-orange), Notorious (matte lavender, not my usual color by any mean but mixes well with the warm colors for my own Frankenblush), Kingpin (matte warm rose), Bumpy Ride (permanent. shimmering ethereal pink with a hint of warmth. I love it mixed or on top of Notorious), Crave (matte bright coral, a more muted and less take on the magnificent and long gone Boys Don't Cry).

Palette II

Palette II

Now get your softest most delicate blush brushes for Palette II, because Holy Pigment.  Not that Wanted I is lacking in intensity, but the colors themselves are lighter. Number II is yet another reminder that NARS has always been the go-to brand for colors that show up on every skin tone.

Top to bottom, left to right: PYT (after the Michael Jackson song? metallic warm rose highlighter, rich enough in pigment to wear as a blush alternative on my skin ), Ambition (matte tangerine), Taos (permanent, soft red with a golden pink sheen), Exposed (matte dusty rose, not to be confused with Tarte Exposed blush ), Penthouse (matte raspberry, straight out of the 80s), Queen (matte pink-base red).

All the blushes and highlighters in both palettes are very soft and will kick up some powder especially if you use a stiffer brush (which I wouldn't). You only need a light dip to pick up a good amount, and you'll notice how easily they apply and blend. Blending is key, of course, but that's not exactly news. I like to use a small or medium Yachiyo brush (the NARS one is too large for this, in my opinion) for Wanted I, while Wanted II looks fabulous if you pat the color gently with the flat side of a very soft paddle brush blush and then blend (Korean makeup artist Jung Saem Mool uses this technique in many of her YouTube videos).

Bottom Line: my happy place.

Last, we have NARSissist Wanted Power Pack Lip Kit in Warm Nudes (there are a couple of other kits in Cool Nudes and Hot Reds). These are minis of the Powermatte Lip Pigments, an interesting and wearable but not perfect version of a matte liquid lipstick. I've reviewed the entire line, formula, application, and longevity so I won't repeat it. The Warm Nudes kit includes one permanent color, Get It On, which I've described as a " J Lo beige" and promptly rehomed, and the new Hot Blooded, a terracotta shade that I like much better.

Bottom Line: a decent way to try the formula before investing in a full size.

NARS NARSissist Wanted Cheek Palettes ($59 each, made in Canada) are a limited edition item. Currently available at every store and counter that sells NARS (Ulta, Sephora, department stores, narscosmetics.com, and I'm probably forgetting a few).

NARSissist Wanted Power Pack Lip Kits ($22, while a full size single is $26) are also limited. It looks like not all stores have all the colors in stock, but Ulta does (yay, points!).

All products in this review were sent for consideration by the brand's PR.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Guerlain- Black Perfecto La Petite Robe Noire- Perfume Review

I've been stuck writing this review for weeks. Many weeks. I bought my bottle of Guerlain Black Perfecto La Petite Robe Noire in Italy back in early March because I fell for it on the spot and the husband had his "this is good stuff" face on. I've been wearing Black Perfecto often and in serious quantities (more on that later) and it's great. Is it Guerlain Great? Is there any perfume in Guerlain's current lineup that's that amazing? Why do I make things so complicated?

I'm writing the last part of this review while wearing a good dab of vintage Madame Rochas. Guerlain Black Perfecto has  absolutely nothing in common with Madame Rochas beyond the vague definition of "perfume". However, I wanted to remind myself of what I used to identify and analyze as a perfume vs. the stuff we buy these days. In that light, do I still like Black Perfecto? Is it a good perfume?

Yes, and yes.

As mentioned above I've been struggling with this review. I'm guessing that for the average La Petite Robe Noire customer this flanker is supposed to be a sexier evening fragrance, which should make sense from a a marketing perspective. Personally I'm rather annoyed  with thw La Petite Robe Noire range (twenty two flankers after the 2009 initial release which I disliked so much I left the Guerlain counter at Bergdorf without purchasing Les Secrets de Sophie, a perfume I truly wanted and have been kicking myself for missing out on ever since. It's the one that got away that I will forever remember). However, I own and love the 2011 La Petite Robe Noire 2  (that's the cherry marshmallow one), and somehow Black Perfecto seems more related to this happy place in a bottle than to generic original LPRN. Or it might just be my skewed perception. Laurel, Yanni, all that.

Guerlain's Black perfecto offers an added light, summer-weight leather note to the cherry. It's tasteful in a way that certain popular leather-cherry tobacco perfumes usually aren't, but it's also sheerer and far less long-lasting than I'd like. If a typical Tom Ford perfume is a commitment until the next shower do us part (or tries to), Guerlain doesn't go there. Instead they use an airy variation on their classic theme of a sweet heliotropish almond and spice (L'Heure Bleue has the more aromatic anise seed in its good versions, Black Perfecto has a slightly stickier yet nice sweet licorice). In this sense it's more Guerlain-like than Mon Guerlain, and I'm all for it, hence the black bottle in the Guerlain section of my cabinet.

Lest there be any doubt, Guerlain Black Perfecto La Petite Robe Noire is a modern perfume, more easy-going and light than what we usually consider a "leather perfume".  For longevity I spray myself with a brow and hair-raising amount and then than add one last  spritz under my clothes for good luck. Sometimes I just layer Black Perfecto with LPRN2 and that does the trick as well. It's nice. Good, even, so why not?

Because for some reason Guerlain has decided the American consumer is not the target market. While I hear it's everywhere in Europe, from Douglas Parfumeries (their occasional 20% off discounts apply) to Duty Free stores , here in the US you can only buy it from third party sellers of varying reputations. A 30ml bottle is £43.20 in the UK (or £66 for the 50ml). At Parfumerie Douglas the 50ml goes for € 83.00.

Top image:  model Karlie Kloss photographed by Angelo Pennetta, may 2012, styling by Francesca Burns for Vogue UK.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

CHANEL LES 9 OMBRES Multi-Effects Eyeshadow Palette Spring-Summer 2018- Swatches & Review

This one was a gamble. It was an online exclusive when I first saw and bought the Chanel Les 9 Ombres Multi-Effects Eyeshadow Palette from the spring/summer 2018 collection (since then it's been distributed to all the usual suspects- Bloomingdale's, Saks, Nordstrom, etc.  and is available at the counters), so I had to get over my bias against Chanel's larger palettes that for the most part are inferior to their quads, in my opinion. The colors, however, sang an irresistible siren song, and the many combination they offered made me want to get creative and dip my brushes into them asap. I won the gamble big time.

There are nine eye shadows in the Les 9 Ombres Multi-Effects palette (duh. Thank you, Captain Obvious), arranged in trios that suggest three distinct looks: neutral warm (left), neutral cool (right), and a tropical vacation (middle). They can also be used in any combination, as a single wash of color, and everything in between. The finishes go from matte to satin, the formula is the classic pressed one (unlike the season's eye quad, Premier Eclosion, which I'll show you soon and is the baked formula. Chanel powder eye shadows are often on the sheer side, designed to allow for building up the color if desired. This isn't the case here. The swatches above (done with my trusty old Paula Dorf paddle shaped Eye Glimmer brush) show 1-2 brush strokes, unblended. The texture is very very soft, though, and you can over-blend easily, so my suggestion is to use flat brushes of various widths to pat down the colors and only blend the edges. You don't need more than that. Wear time (over various eye primers) exceeds 8-10 hours and has withheld through a short walk in the rain. The colors remain vibrant, especially the bright blue and green.

Here's what you get in this palette other than the two silly little sponge applicators: 
matte peach (opaque and creamy)
matte warm tobacco/medium brown (very opaque, blends perfectly)
matte espresso brown with a hint of gray khaki (dryer texture,  requires a small dense precision brush)
satin peacock teal that can lean a bit green, depending on the primer underneath (opaque and rich in texture, requires a heavy-duty eye cleanser for complete removal)
satin medium green with a hint of gold (almost opaque, very soft)
shimmer yellow gold (opaque, a bit crumbly)
satin glimmery warm beige (semi-sheer, barely shows on my arm but makes a perfect luminous lid color and layers beautifully)
satin warm cocoa brown (opaque, creamy with a glimmer finish)
satin complex cool toned gray/green/brown (dryish but buildable from the one gray swipe you see above to a very dark brown)

My personal preference is to use the eyeshadows in pairs, but I've also done three and four at a time. The most fun ones were the peach+green and the teal+gold. Layering the Chanel shadows over cream bases can give them extra vibrancy and a twelve hour hold. But the greatness of the palette is in the way you can use it for the most chic tonal Parisian looks just as quickly and easily as a hot party look, a one color intense smoky eye, a bright beachy summer eye or a an autumnal rust and gold one. It's an exquisite palette that encourages creativity in a way we usually get from indie brands, without compromising on the delicate touch and finish Chanel fans expect. Those who don't like this style might not fully convert but would probably be surprised by the green/blue/rust/gold options, so I encourage you to at least swatch them at the counter.

Bottom Line: Every day brings a new look.

CHANEL LES 9 OMBRES Multi-Effects Eyeshadow Palette Spring-Summer 2018 (limited edition, $70, made in Italy) is available from most department stores and on chanel.com.