Monday, March 12, 2018

Hubert de Givenchy (1927-2018)

Givenchy by Cecil Beaton, December 1971

Hubert de Givenchy quotes:
" In every moment you must be attentive and notice the little things to be creative. It's a fabulous thing, to give life to fabric, to make something move well, the harmony of color."
 " There's Balenciaga, and the good Lord."
 " You must, if it's possible, be born with a kind of elegance. It is a part of you, of yourself."
 "I think when you sell your company, and are no longer the master of driving it, it's quite difficult...I don't think I have any interest any more. It's better like that."
" Every epoch is different, and you must accept the reality. C'est la vie. Happily, for many years we had a wonderful time. Beautiful fabric, beautiful people, beautiful memories."

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018

Ten Perfume Picks For Winter

I will remember this winter as a time of searching for comfort as well as increased awareness. Two concepts that can be seen as contradicting. I prefer to think of them as complementing each other when one gains comfort from the hope brought on by awareness, compassion, and the change they can bring. The light and warmth that pushes consistently against the darkness, propelling us one step closer towards spring while relishing in the cozy comforts we love in winter. Those were the thoughts and mood that guided my ten perfume picks for this particular winter. New ones, modern classics, cult classics- they all fit my mood.

  • Bruno Fazzolari- Feu Secret. I love to wear iris perfumes in winter and this is a great addition to the theme of fire and ice. Whifs get caught up in my layers of cashmere and scarves, on the brim of hats, and in my cozy blankets. 
  • Sonoma Scent Studio- Bee's Bliss. This is probably the last perfume creation by Laurie Erickson before she sells her brand. And it's spectacular. Bee's Bliss actually smells like summer, a very specific summer from my childhood, and it's pure comfort and sunshine on the gloomiest, slushiest day. Smile, hug someone, pull back the drapes. Breathe in.
Winter roses (not the Westeros blue ones favored by Lyanna Stark, which should be a topic for a different post. Note to self) for me are dark, blood red, black-wearing goths. I'm usually not a big rose person, but something made me crave these lately and I've been luxuriating in their velvety fragrance.
  • Etat Libre d'Orange- Eau de Protection (Rossy de Palma). It took me eight or nine years to come around this one (I used to dislike Eau de Protection), which is the lightest rose in this bunch. The spicy zingy rose with the dry incense core is sophisticated and wearable like a very NYC black winter outfit. Who knew? (everyone but me, apparently). I bought an older bottle with Rossy's nae and the dragon illustration, and it smells the same as the juice in the new streamlined packaging you can get at Twisted Lily.
  • Memo- Lalibela. A creamy incense rose that wafts to heaven and back. Sometimes it's moody, sometimes cuddly and comforting. I've loved it from the first whiff on a rainy day in Paris and it remains a favorite. Now easily available from and select department stores.
  • Regina Harris- Frankincense - Myrrh - Rose Maroc. Here's a blast from our collective past. Back when the online perfume conversation was at its infancy and tiny micro-niche brands (the term didn't even exist at the time) were emerging, the two perfume oils from Regina Harris were sort of a secret for those in the know. I've moved from an instant dislike of the thick rose note to an absolute adoration of its mysterious gothic beauty. And, yes, it's still sold at exactly the same price as thirteen years ago, $125, which used to be rather steep and is now Sephora-level.
This leads me to the depths of my (and possibly your) perfume collection. A recurring theme in the beauty/makeup community these days is appreciating and enjoying items we've acquired long ago, examining why we loved them and taking a good look at the reasons we want more new things. It doesn't apply quite the same way to perfume, but I do love going back to old favorites such as the following ones with their rich gourmand notes and attached memories.
  • People of the Labyrinth- Luctor et Emergo. It was all the rage in the year or so before I started blogging. Almond, cherry, wood, Play-Doh, and incense- a composition people either adored or disliked on the spot. It's still weird, still wonderful, and thankfully- still available (at BeautyHabit and Luckyscent).
  • St. Barth- Lea. This one is sadly no longer available but I HAD to mention this other cult obsession, especially n the context of modern gourmand. Lea was a creamy almond-vanilla concoction with a phantom note of cocoa butter. Do you still have a bottle? Do you still wear it to bed while pulling the covers tightly around you? I do.
  • Serge Lutens- Chergui. Serge (the brand) is no longer what it used to be and I haven't bought a new release since L'Orpheline. But do you remember your first Chergui bottle? Hay and tobacco, honey and iris- it was part of my serge Lutens Midwinter series and I still crave its warmth and gender-ambiguity that feels like borrowing a boyfriend's jacket and wearing it over a flowy dress. Available at Aedes, Barneys, and wherever else they stock Serge Lutens these days.
Wearing the almond-laced perfumes mentioned above (as well as Uncle Serge's Louve) made me go back to the drier and darker side of this note:
  • Cartier- Le Baiser du Dragon. Officially discontinued but still available online (at the time I'm writing this), almond and amaretto, dark chocolate and patchouli come together to create a hot toddy for the soul. This perfume feels a bit baroque at times, but it's a season we do things to cheer up. I wear glitter eyeliner when going out in the evening these days, so why not a chocolate dragon?
  • Back to present days, while the holiday season is behind us I must include the stuff of twinkling lights and spices. I'm cheating here because it's two perfumes instead of one, with an honorable mention of their spiritual ancestor. Both MDCI Les Indes Galantes and Baccarat Rouge 540 from Maison Francis Kurkdjian are perfumes I love bringing out the day after Thanksgiving. One is a spicy orange while the other a spicy amber, and both help me control the use of the long-discontinued Theorema, because there's no such thing as a lifetime supply in this case.

For the rest of our wintery mix please visit my friends at Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Now Smell This, and Perfume Posse.

Art: Edmund Du Lac, Dreamer of Dreams, 1915

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Bruno Fazzolari- Feu Secret (Perfume Review)

I have an attitude when it comes to new perfume lines. It comes from a lifetime of sniffing and collecting fragrance, but mostly from blogging about it for eleven years and eight months. It's easy to dismiss new brands that keep popping up with their own version of an amber, an oud, a vetiver, a rose... We all know how it goes. Then I remind myself that if we're all very very lucky they might be as good as Bruno Fazzolari.

 Fazzolari had burst onto the scene in 2013 and quickly(ish) claimed a prime spot on the American indie perfume landscape. Here's how much I trust Bruno's blending hand: earlier this year just before Feu Secret launched he sent me a sample. However, the envelope reached my mailbox sealed yet empty. There was only the card with press materials. I checked, triple checked, looked suspiciously at the neighbors and cats, but no. Whoever filled the enveloped simply forgot to actually put a sample in mine.

Being me, I couldn't bring myself to email Mr. Fazzolari and request a do-over. I just don't do that. My plan was to visit Twisted Lily and give Feu Secret a good sniff. Or buy a sample online. I never got around to do either, but knowing that this Bruno Fazzolari perfume was out, and that it was an IRIS of all things haunted me. Especially since a couple of friends who've smelled it already told me I'd need a bottle. Because it's an iris. An iris!

I bought a bottle. Unsniffed. Which is not something I do often. I was already placing an order for Lampblack for my husband , so why not*?

It was a good decision. Putting aside the fact that when the husband tried Feu Secret on his own skin he announced that it needs to live in his cabinet and promptly placed it next to his Lampblack bottle. I don't mind, it's still on a shelf I can reach easily, which I do often. Feu Secret makes it necessary to amend and adjust my old list of favorite iris scents. It's that good and takes on iris (or orris) to the max in every direction this note can go. Perfumers seem to prefer concentrating on a single facet: earthy, carroty, a chilly fog marsh next to a cemetery (I've been thinking about Great Expectation lately. Must reread), or an opulent silk and dried violets, a perfumy boudoir, a buttery pastry, we can go on and on. Iris is all that.  However, Bruno Fazzolari's theme here is alchemy. Combining certain elements, often contrasting ones, and creating a new precious substance.

Orris root, with the lengthy process extracting the actual raw material, its history in the fields of Tuscany, and the iris flower itself has that magical shape and enchanting colors that are perfect for this alchemy theme. It's ice and fire, a dark cavern full of secrets, light flickering from a pile of precious blue and purple gem, and the alchemist's smoky cauldron hanging over a green fire in the ancient alcove. It has all that, yet it's also a very modern perfume in the way the two main aspects, hot and cold, are sketched. Two lashing tongues bursting on a canvas, dueling in their starkness at first before the full power of the fire wins over the cold camphoric blue light and engulfs you with the powdery hug of spices, woods and plenty of orris. The dry-down is like falling down into the most comfortable and luxurious bed, outfitted with crisp sheets and the softest warmest comforters you can pull over your head while taking a deep breath.

Feu Secret has an all-day longevity on my skin, it dries down softer and fluffier with the hours, yet the impression is completely gender neutral and easy to wear for lovers of iris, spice, eucalyptus, and a good dose of quality cedar note.

*I can't claim I've never met an iris I didn't like, because I'm a bit ambivalent about Aedes Iris Nazarena, bored out of my skull with Prada's various Infusion d'Iris versions, and the highly acclaimed Penhaligon's Iris Prima smells like dill on my skin.

**I'm two Fazzolari's behind. Something will be done about this soon.

Bruno Fazzolari- Feu Secret ($125, 30ml) is available from Luckyscent, Twisted Lily (when they're not out of stock), and directly from the perfumer on (ditto).

Image: detail from The Peacock Stage, attributed to Jörg Breu the Elder, (German, ca. 1475–1537). Miniature from the illuminated manuscript Splendor solis oder Sonnenglanz.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a happy, warm, and peaceful holiday season.

Art:  Fairfield Porter; The Christmas Tree, 1971; Lithograph in colors. Via Rago Auction House in Lambertville, NJ.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

FotD: Shimmer Green Eye Shadow

I need a short break from the pile of NARS products and from reviews in general, so let's see what I've done when let loose with some green shimmery stuff. I've been doing variations on this look with different products, including a toned-down one that's darker yet significantly muted than what you see here using YSL Eye Duo Smoker in 02 Smoky Green, which is dual ended shadow stick (one side is a cream hunter green while the other is a shimmer sage green). What I've learned is that I get the best results (in my opinion) by using as few eye shadows as possible. One cream/stick shadow and a brighter powder one are my ideal combination. It's definitely a look and makes a statement, but still very much in my comfort zone.

Edward Bess Precious Pearl Black Sea Primer
La Mer Soft Fluid Foundation SPF 20 (20? why even bother?) in Neutral, which I think is a great match. Applied with a Beauty Blender.
No concealer
Guerlain Météorites Pearls in 03 as my finishing powder. Mine is the old version, Beige Chic, now called Medium.

Etude House Proof 10 Primer
Bobbi Brown Cream Shadow Stick in Forest. This color is now discontinued and I'm trying to finish the last dregs in mine, but Laura Mercier Caviar Stick in Jungle will do (it's more khaki), as will Kiko Milano in #10 if you want to go brighter. Or the YSL. In any case, I blended it all over the lid and into the crease, then reapplied a little more over the outer part of the lid.
Strobe Cosmetics Alchemy eye shadow applied with a dampened flat synthetic brush all over the outer 2/3rd of the mobile lid.
Clinique High Impact mascara.

Burberry Silk & Bloom blush from last year. Did you get this year's version? I'm sure it can do just as well. This blush has enough glow that I skipped highlighter in the name of getting out of the door on time.

Rimmel Exaggerate lip pencil in 070 Enchantment
I also made a messy mix of Kevyn Aucoin Bloodroses lipstick and MAC Cremesheen Glass in Deelight and applied it on with a brush when it looked right to me. These concoctions are why I take so long to get ready.

Other Stuff
Denim jacket is my trusty and soft snap jacket from Current/Elliott. They still make it and it looks the same online, just beware that the jacket runs small if you're busty. I had to size up significantly.
Brooch- vintage Kenzo
Earrings- another vintage find.
SotD- Memo Italian Leather from a sample. I think I prefer Irish Leather because it's punchier, but this one is interesting for the tomato leaf note.

Monday, December 04, 2017

NARS Man Ray Collection Holiday 2017- Eyes (Swatches & reviews)

NARS Man Ray Collection for  Holiday 2017 includes two limited edition eye shadow palettes,  Glass Tears (in the photos above), and Love Game, which is only available in the UK and several European countries. The specific shades in the Glass Tears palettes are also limited, even though you can find similar ones in the permanent collection. The point here is the set as an artistic choice and the various looks you can expect to get from them. There's something very NARS about the Glass Tears palette. Just like in this collection duos see below) as well as in the large permanent NARS line, it does not shy away from pairing strong dark colors together. It can go editorial or tame, bright or soft, and you don't need to use more than 2-3 colors for your eye look, no matter what statement you're making.

Glass Tears offers two matte colors and four satins. They're generally softer in texture than many NARS duos which are usually best applied by  patting them on the lid with goat or pony hair brushes before blending them softly. The shadows are somewhat powdery but not messy  (I didn't clean up the swatches above, done with my trusty old Paula Dorf flat eye brush). 

The shades are (top row, l-r):
 Cry Baby, an ivory creamy matte. On my skin it's more like a soft and very fine face powder. It shows no pigment even on the darkest part of my lid (no chalkiness, either), so I use it lightly over a primer to perfect the base, and it definitely helps in blending.
 Heartbreaker, a blackened teal green. It's the star of this palette, naturally, and can be used by itself easily, or paired with gold. You can also create a smoky eye worthy of a silent film star.
 Loverboy, a matte black. Does anyone need another black matte eye shadow? No. But the artistry of this palette and the looks it's meant to create would be incomplete without it.
(bottom row, l-r):
 Tryst, a shimmer gold that leans somewhat green on an olive-toned skin. A lid or inner corner color, a great companion to most  eye shadows in the palette.
 One & Only, a shimmery olive. Tryst might be its natural partner, but using it along with the teal color is very very NARS.
 Vengeance, a classic warm medium brown with a low shimmer finish. Perhaps the most versatile but it would be a shame to stick with neutral combination. So again, go teal.

The image used on the palette's cover is Man Ray's Les Larmes from 1932 (or 1934, depending on the source). While the model was unnamed and I could not find any information about her other than that she was probably a can-can dancer, the theme of the palette seems to be the breaking of Man Ray's relationship with fellow artist Lee Miller. The need for revenge and vengeance was behind many Man Ray works that cut and frame the model (often Miller herself) in a violent way.

NARS Glass Tears Palette ($49, made in US) is a limited edition item for Holiday 2017. available at most NARS retail points. I bought mine at Ulta.

Left: Montparnasse, right: Debauched





The two eye shadow duos from the NARS Man Ray collection are Montparnasse and Debauched. They could not be more different. Montparnasse is a classic combination of a shimmery very pale gold (the left side) and a pearlescent very brown plummy color with somewhat of a reddish base. The colors are easy to work with, and my favorite way to wear them is by blending the dark shade obnoxiously all over the lid and beyond, topping it with the gold in the middle of the lid. No transition shade, no seven layers of crease colors. I've also used the gold under the lower lashes, where people whose eyes aren't sunken halfway into the skull would use the plum.

Those crying for transition shades would not find their relief in Debauched. Here the left side is a browned out purple and the right is made of scattered red micro-glitter in a dark off-black (or charcoal) base. I'm guessing it's an inferno reference. I can wear dark color on my eyes but I don't always want to go that deep. It's a welcome challenge for those of us who think they've seen and worn it all. Of course, one can always use either one to jazz up a neutral palette, but I think it's meant to evoke looks such as these ones of actress Theda Bara (nothing to do with Man Ray):

If you're trying to decide between the duos my suggestion is Debauched. You can easily find approximations and equivalents for Montparnasse in most makeup collections, but Debauched is unique. Is it a must have? I'd go out on a limb and say that nothing that contains red glitter is a necessity. But it's a look.

NARS Debauched and Montparnasse ($36 each, made in Canada) are available from all NARS sellers. While the website labels them as limited to the Man Ray collection, I understand from the press materials that they'll join the permanent line. Both were sent for my consideration by PR (for consideration=no obligation to endorse or even mention).

Artwork in the photos: Untitled, 1936, and The Witness, 1947.

The last eye products in the collection are two velvet eyeliners in Nagoya (straightforward purple violet) and Santiago (a coppery brown). They're a different formula than the much-beloved Larger Than Life eyeliners, softer, smudgier, and not quite as long lasting, but the don't migrate as much as a kohl would move around. They seem to have been designed to go with the eye shadow duos and are definitely great for expanding the range of looks they create. Neither one has the Man Ray lips logo or any indication that they're part of a limited collection, but the site clearly states that they're limited

NARS Velvet Eyeliners ($24 each, made in Germany) are available from and most other retailers.  Both were sent for consideration by PR.

Artwork used: Man Ray, Barbette Making Up, 1926.

NARS Man Ray Makeup Collection For Holiday 1917- A Quick Overview

Man Ray, 1932

As you probably know by now, NARS released a Man Ray-themed collection for holiday 2017. NARs usually goes big and impressive on holiday collections, especially when Francois Nars chooses a personal favorite as the inspiration (remember the Andy Warhol collection?). I was extremely excited about this one because while surrealism is not necessarily my thing Man Ray's fashion photography and portraits have been part of my mental landscape for many years.

The PR box I received found me doing a not so flattering jaw-meet-floor because everything in it was so beautiful and right, doing justice to both artist and customer. It was definitely the cure for my cynicism towards makeup collections (and brands) of late; the artwork was good for the soul. While I was sent most items from the Man Ray collection it was not everything, so I promptly hopped online to get a couple more that I knew I wanted. Like many other American NARS fans I was deeply disappointed to learn that one of the jewels of the collection, the Love Game eye shadow palette was exclusive to Space NK UK and the countries they serve. US Space NK was not included. I was examining the hoops necessary to jump in order to get it anyway, but eventually decided that it was a bit much, considering the number of palettes I have in general and NARS eye shadows in particular. I still sulked.

Why, Francois, why?

My original intention was to drop the swatches and reviews gradually,  but it's too much and we're getting closer to the holidays. So I'll do it in large consecutive batches, mostly by function. What you need to know is that in NARS usually splits big collections to Gifting collection (sets and other jaw-droppers) and Color collection (smaller and usually cheaper items). It doesn't really matter (try asking a store employee that wasn't trained by NARS and you'll see what I mean), so I did not make the distinction. One of the great things about NARS limited items is that they make enough of them. They don't completely sell out for quite a while. However, a few items are supposedly exclusive to certain retail doors. It only partially true, as looking in the press material and online has proven to me. I bought one of the NARS stores/online exclusives from Sephora weeks after it was labeled unavailable on My advice: look online for whatever it is you want, and if you don't see it call your local stores directly (that includes but not limited to Sephora, Ulta, Nordstrom, and other department stores, as well as the brand's regional standalone locations).

So let's start unpacking the collection.

Bonus: recommended reading for art and fashion photography enthusiasts. 

I've used two books for research and as background  in my photographs:
Man Ray, Lee Miller- Partners in Surrealism by Phillip Prodger, Lynda Roscoe Harigan, Antony Penrose,  2011, Merrell
Man Ray in Paris by Eric Garcia, 2011, Getty Museum

See Also

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