Friday, September 24, 2010

Sample Winner Euterpe

Hey guys! The winner of last week's draw for the sample of Euterpe is Tarleisio! Apologies for not having the time to post a screenshot of the randomizer I always use with the results, or any post this week - it's been CRAZY! I started an assistanship in research next to my master and I have to understand the project. I also started Japanese classes. Will I have time to do everything? I hope so! Anyway, that's a quick note from me this week. Hopefully more next week as I have more things to review waiting in my samples bags!

Tarleisio please mail me your details and I'll get the sample out to you by Wednesday or so!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Euterpe by Herr von Eden : Perfume Review & Sample Draw

I promised you something special for today and I just know you will be as enthusiastic about this amazing perfume as I have been to discover it! Essenza Nobile surprises me with three different samples each month. If I like any of them, I review them, if I don't, I simply don't write about them. So far, since this relationship started, there've been some months when I haven't had anything to write about, once or twice when two of the perfumes grabbed my attention and some months when one of the three was the winner. Never so far however have I been so impressed with all three perfumes. While I hope to find the time to review all three of this month's perfumes soon, I am starting with my absolute favorite of the three, Euterpe by Herr von Eden.

It is easy to get disillusioned as a perfume reviewer: trying to keep up with the countless perfumes out there as well as the legions of new releases each year means that for every rose you dip your nose in, four dozen piles of trash make their way to the same olfactory receptors to get your spirits down. After a while you end up having to think twice even for perfumes that are actually worth something. Every once in a while however something comes your way that is so amazingly good that it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Something that electrifies you, something that makes you think "Yes, this is what perfume is all about, God yes, this is why I love smelling perfumes so much, this is why I chase after that high everywhere I go, every chance I get!". Sound familiar? These are the gems, and let's admit it while we're at it, these are the shining slivers of beauty that drive our addiction. Euterpe is one such beacon of beauty and hope for me.

I'd never heard of Herr von Eden, but a little search revealed that it is the brand of Hamburg-based Bent Angelo Jenson, a German who started his business not with perfume, but with clothes - suits in particular. Originally catering to men, his company has now extended to female clientele with modern women's collections, edgy eyewear and jewelry. The brand now includes three different perfumes in simple, chunky, masculine, slate-grey flacons bearing elegant Greek names: Euterpe, the muse of lyrical poetry, literally meaning "the pleasure giver", Eros, the son of Aphrodite and god of sexual love and beauty, and Eclipse, which aside from the obvious astronomical event it refers to, literally means "absence", a ceasing to exist.

Now, will you also, like me, find it thrilling if I tell you that Euterpe, with the delightfully feminine name smells like an archetypical masculine perfume? Yes, on the Essenza Nobile website it is listed as a unisex fragrance, while the Herr von Eden website itself assumes a Sphinx-like silence and refuses to comment on either a gender or scent description of the perfume. The Essenza Nobile website also lists it as a "true fougere". Believe none of it! Euterpe is the paragon of oriental masculinity and not even a modern one at that: it already smells like a classic. And it does a fantastic job of it too. Intensely, yes, intensely virile from the first moment you spray it courtesy of a strong, naughtily dirty animalic undertone that refuses to subside until the moment the perfume fully expires from the skin, Euterpe smells of retro brashness, hunger for sex and power. It smells of a man that'd make you feel like the world would come to an end (but who cares...) if he locked you in an erotic embrace. In other words, it smells totally unfashionable. And so very me.

The listing of the perfume as a fougere, if not correct, becomes comprehendible when one attends to the top notes: bergamot, lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, coriander and grapefruit, especially in combination with the patchouli in the basenotes draw a typical chypre canvas (even as there is no moss to be found). Yes, this is a strong impression, but not the only one. Let me explain - this side, the masculine side if you will, provides the sharp toothed, sexy bite of the perfume, something you can appreciate entirely when you consider exactly what the combination of rosemary, pissy coriander, dirty patchouli and animalic base do... They are the aggressive seducers. Add to this the oudh (yes!) which plays both fields from the base and you get a pretty good idea. But that's not all... The other side of Euterpe blossoms and seduces with a mouth drenched in sweetness, using orange blossom (honeyed, tender, in this instance) as a driving engine and carnation (a million kudos for respecting the past), ylang ylang (ditto), rose (again) and cinnamon as catalysts. But as powerful a composition as this already is, it would be nothing without its gooey, warm, nay, smoldering center: Tonka bean, sandalwood, Siam benzoin and vanilla kiss the perfume with soft sweetness from the base. As it dries down the now ambery, vanillic Euterpe smells more and more like a comforting cashmere hug. Imagine Ormonde Jayne's Tolu, but more complex and multifaceted. This comparison should also make clear that the intense masculine edge slowly dies down with the dry-down, even as the animalic edge doesn't. Finally, this amazing oriental gains its wings as a unisex. But who gives a damn about gender distinctions when a perfume is this good?

I know you'll want to have a whiff of this amazing, complex, involved gem so I'm holding a draw! Simply leaving a comment means you automatically enter. Winner will be announced in a week's time, next Friday.
Have a good weekend!

Official Notes:
Head: Bergamot, Lavender, Rosemary, Lemongrass, Coriander, Orange Blossom, Grapefruit
Heart: Rose of Palma, Cinnamon, Rose, Carnation, Ylang Ylang, Clyclamen
Base: Sandalwood, Bezoe Siam, Patchouli, Vetiver grass, Cedar wood, Tonkabean, Vanilla, Oud

Price: 119€ for 100ml or 89€ for 50ml via Essenza Nobile's webshop.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Smelly Facts: The First Celebrity Scent?

Hello everyone! I've been busy getting into my new program (I've just started my Research Master and it's full on statistics all the way to June!) but I am preparing a review for an AMAZING fragrance I'd never heard of before for Friday (including contest for a sample)! For today though, I present you with another installment of Fragrance Bouquet's Smelly Facts, this time with a story I've been wanting to share with you ever since I came back from my vacation.

Celebrity scents are currently so very ubiquitous that new ones have come to elicit no more than an eye-roll and perhaps a tired, snide comment (deservedly so, might I add). The Celebuscent Phenomenon might truly only have come into its own in the past decade, but at the same time perfume enthusiasts are well aware of the fact that it is, after all, nothing new. One point of contention however is which was the celebrity scent that started it all. Blogs as well as fashion glossies have attributed the honor (?!) to various celebrities over the years: was it Michael Jackson? No, no, it was Cher! Was it Deneuve? No, Sophia Loren came before that, didn't she? Well, I've come across a particular excerpt that indicates that the first celebrity scent might have come much, much earlier that we all imagined after all. The year would be 1932; the celebrity in question, Colette.

Judith Thurman's astoundingly detailed biography of Colette (which made for a fabulous summer companion by the way) devotes only a few pages to Colette's entrepreneurial venture into the beauty world. However short though, the piece allows us to draw powerful comparisons between then and now: was such a celebrity venture regarded differently back then? The answer is no. Would the primary admirers of the brand then, as now, be the hardcore fans? The answer is a definite yes. Colette did not just launch a single scent, she went the whole proverbial hog and created a brand which she installed into an elegant, Art Deco decorated shop on the rue de Miromesnil, all against the worries of her loved ones (such as those of her last husband, Maurice) that it would "tarnish her image" as Thurman eloquently describes (Thurman, 1999, p. 394). The first products to be ready were a perfume and two tonics. Make-up and creams followed. From Thurman's writing, it transpires that Colette's venture in turn was inspired by the duchess Sforza, who owned an "elegant apothecary" from where she sold perfumes using her name and the prestige of her title to attract clientele. Similar tactics were used by Colette: her own profile decorated the labels of her products while her signature was used as the brand's logo. What followed after the launch of her brand was eerily similar to what happens today: the press, eagerly lapping up the story generated "50.000 francs worth of publicity" (idem, p. 395) for the new entrepreneur, while fans flooded the shop for a chance to sit in her beautician's chair and, of course, to have one of their books signed. At the same time, there was an enormous backlash and outrage, both from the press as well as from fans: Had Colette sold out? Yet more parallels between then and now: Other celebrities of the time would endorse her makeovers, which would in turn lead to appreciation from Colette herself who knew her fortune depended highly on the publicity she would get were the pretty young things of Parisian society to be seen entering or emerging from her shop. Whether it was due to the economic depression however, the fact that you should stick to what you know, the fact that the famous author expanded too fast (she opened two more branches in the same year, one in Saint-Tropez and another in Nantes), or perhaps a combination of all of the above, the enterprise failed by the middle of 1933, ending the prolific writer's break from her books.

Thurman, J. (1999). Secrets of the flesh; A life of Colette. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Citrus Pixie in the Ionian

Once upon a time the smallest child of the large, noble citrus family set out on a trip across the seas. Its brothers and sisters were so grand, so revered around the world but the tiny, pixie-like child was hardly ever heard of. Oh sure, it was well loved -as the youngest and smallest often are - back home in China, where it was even considered a symbol of luck and given as a gift at the turn of each year. But the little child always heard of the grand tales its brothers and sisters lived around the world, bringing sun on each table, being adored for their health-giving properties and for their aroma fit to perfume kings and queens and it felt saddened to have to content with such a sheltered life in obscurity. Its potential was stifled, it decided, yes, so though it had no fame, it had craftiness and resilience and one day it found its way on a ship and never looked back. The Kumquat, for that was the little citrus pixie's name, reached Europe in the middle of the 19th century but it wasn't until the beginning of the 20th that it would find another place to call home. You see, adventuring is all well and good, but the youngest, littlest children of a family oft crave to be adored not simply loved and admired. So with this little one thus. One day it met a man called Merlin who promised it fame, glory and adoration for he knew just the right people to nurture it and help it lay roots and grow, grow grand and loved and adored and used every single day just like its brothers and sisters. And so the final trip begun. The destination was the beautiful island of Corfu and the people received the little golden fruit like an exalted miracle and planted it on the most fertile place they knew of on the island: the area of Nymphes. At the dawn of the 21st century, little Kumquat's name is still lost in obscurity in most places around the world, despite its very best efforts. But littlest of the citrus fruit doesn't mind! It got its wish granted: it changes hands every single day; every single day it is eaten and enjoyed, every single day it is drank and cared for. Nowadays, it's even used to perfume the skin. Just like it's brothers and sisters!

Okay, okay, so evidently I shouldn't give up my day job to become a published children's author! But really, isn't the kumquat fascinating? For our summer vacation this year the bf and I visited Mykonos and Thessaloniki, but we really wanted to visit a place where we'd never been before so we picked Corfu. I must admit I had a few reservations at first: People would say things like "Oh, you're gonna love it but I am warning you, it is HUMID. You're gonna be hot!!!" or "You''ll get bitten by mosquitoes! There are too many mosquitoes there!". I was reasonably apprehensive, but decided to not be put off. And boy was that ever the right decision. Corfu is AMAZING. One of the most beautiful islands I have visited ever, and that says a lot considering I make a point of visiting a different one each year. Okay before I say anything else let me dispel these rumors first: From the places I visited this summer Corfu was by far the coolest: I didn't turn on the airco in the hotel room even once in the evening when we were sleeping. Oh, and I got zero mosquito bites too. Now where were we? Oh yes, how amazingly beautiful the island is! First let us consider that several princes, princesses, queens and kings have decided to make summer homes there. Does that say something about how beautiful the island is? I hope so. Off the top of my head the Danish royal family vacationed there, the Greek royal family, Princess Sissy built the most amazing summer house there and Tito of Yugoslavia used to stay at the guest house of the Greek royal family too. Most of these residences have been converted into visitable museums that I cannot recommend enough for a visit if you go to Corfu.
The island itself is incredibly colorful and green, with stunning architecture of multicultural influences: Greek, Italian, French and British. The nature of the island, combined with the beautiful architecture of the main city and the picturesque beauty of the scattered villages set against the backdrop of the crystalline Ionian sea and bright blue Greek skies fills the soul with a feeling of restfulness, contentment and joy. We Greeks would describe the vistas and the island life as "balsamic" and while this might easily be lost in translation in most circles, I know the audience that reads this blog can fully understand the soothing nuances implied and the happy, heart-healing feelings inferred.

But back to the little citrus pixie, the little fruit which so wanted to be loved. Reader, you better believe it found love on the island of Corfu! It's impossible to visit the island and not feel its presence. After Merlin brought the fruit to the island the Corfiots did indeed plant it at the most fertile spot of the island, acres and acres of it in fact. They planted it, loved it and made it their own. They made it the island's symbol in fact. Today 90-180 tons of the fruit are picked each year and the Corfiots, aside from using it in their dishes (both sweet and savory) make it into just about everything imaginable: Marmalades and jellies, preserves, teas, kumquat-flavored rahat loukhoum, glacés and liquers. All of these products are extremely ubiquitous and make obligatory gifts. That is, if you are a Greek from another place and you visit Corfu, you'd better bring back some for your loved ones! Why? Well, Kumquat only grows in Corfu - it doesn't grow anywhere else in Greece. Outside Greece too Kumquat is extremely rare. Consider that in all the countries I've lived in and all those I've visited I've only ever seen the fruit make an appearance only once. While I am sure it is common in Asia which is after all its home, it seems that even after all this time the Kumquat remains a well-kept secret from most people.

While I have not tried every single product featuring the fruit the island has to offer, I want to help you experience this golden little treasure through the products I did try. The most ubiquitous and most-oft bought as gift is the Kumquat liquer, an aperitif that tastes very sweet, yet light and smooth with the unmistakable exotic citrus flavor of the fruit itself rising to the palate with each sip. I cannot recommend this enough as an accompaniment to coffee; if you can stand to drink the gritty Greek coffee, all the better. The combination can't be beat. The glacés on the other hand are probably the best way to taste Kumquat if you really want to experience its nuances. The fruit itself has a sweet peel, but a bitter-sour flesh and as such is not for everyone eaten raw. Candied and glazed however, just like the Corfiots love to eat it, it becomes an amazing delicacy. The fruit is tiny as I mentioned before (about the size of an olive) and thus can be picked with the fingers and popped in the mouth. Prepared this way, the fruit gives all it has to offer in terms of aroma. The aromatic oils from the peel burst in the mouth and the inside is soft and gooey. The flavor is bitter sweet and extremely flavorsome. The best thing about it is that it leaves a beautiful freshness in the mouth that is very long-lasting. Vendors keep offering them to passersby, so as you might imagine our strolls through the island streets felt very refreshing indeed, with this beautiful aroma lingering in our mouth and nose even after having consumed the fruit.

For us perfume lovers the most exciting perhaps would be the Kumquat's latest incarnation. Yes, Corfu has started making perfume from its star product and I've scoured the island to find the best one. A word of warning: I've tried several different ones and they are not of uniform quality, nor do they all really smell like Kumquat or retain the Kumquat's scent for a long time. The one I am presenting here is the best one I found and one that truly smells like Kumquat throughout. The name is simply "Kumquat for Woman" and it is produced by The Land of Corfu Natural Products. If you visit Corfu and are interested in acquiring it, you can find the shop that sells it on 25, Filarmonikis & St. Spiridon corner. The focus is on the Kumquat (flesh, leaves and blossoms) and little to no other distractions have been added to distract the wearer from the star attraction. That sounds bizarre perhaps: how does the construction hold without a noticeable solid base, such as wood for example? I do not know, but it does and it holds. Even hours after I apply, all I smell is the Kumquat itself. That is not to say it does not have other things in it of course; all it means is that to me at least, they are indiscernible. From this I am sure you've already garnered the progression is relatively linear, but it is not without its nuances. The opening is very intensely citrusy, almost abrasive and to me at least, not very pleasant. After five minutes however my patience is very much rewarded: Suddenly I can smell the almost green freshness of the peel as well as delicate, beautiful sweetness. With time, the fragrance turns more and more away from the citrusy freshness of the peel and towards the hypnotic beauty of the blossoms. If you love white blossom scents this is definitely something worthy of experiencing as it smells like a cross between orange, mandarin and gardenia flowers at once. The fragrance proceeds virtually unchanging from here one, but turns more and more honeyed as it fades, as though the blossoms are leaving their last gasps under a layer of lightweight flower nectar. If I'm honest, I'll say that I was more impressed with the perfume offerings of Zakynthos/Zante. (Longtime readers might remember that the family operated perfumery there makes six different perfumes one of which, made by an indigenous variety of jasmine which the locals call "bougarini" left me seriously impressed.) But this is absolutely unique as well not to mention something that is very hard to find and of good quality in its own right. Being so linear, I'll be using this in layering combinations with my other perfumes to lend them a "Kumquat kick", thus turning memories of my holiday into a beautiful, perfumed collage of interwoven scents.

Images: kumquats via Flickr by orphanjones, kumquat liquers via, images of Corfu by A. Alexiou, the blossoms of Fortunella Margarita (the species of kumquat grown in Corfu) via

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Smells Like Vacation!

Hey beauties!

Sorry for the out of the blue silence, but my friends suddenly dragged me (yeah, kickin' and screaming - as if!) along for an impromptu trip to Berlin. Returned last Thursday, washed clothes and left again for Greece. I am seeing my parents for a week, then I'm off with the BF to Mykonos and afterwards to Corfu, an island I'm visitting for the first time. Wonder if I'll find anything new there scent wise? I'll be sure to let you know once I'm back. Speaking of which, I'll be back on the 23rd or 24th of August, so check back with me then. Until then, I'm wishing you a beautiful, beautiful summer! I'll definitely try to finally relax! Did I mention I was cleaning the house for weeks after my last exam? Reader, can you imagine what a house that took more than a week to bring back to shape must have looked like? But there's nothing I could do about it before except the bar minimum, since graduating with good scores was all that was on my mind.... Oh gosh, I am chatting and chatting aren't I? :) I love you all, see you soon!!!


Monday, July 19, 2010

The Beautiful Mind Series Vol.1 - Intelligence & Fantasy : Perfume Review

Today I've got a special review for you guys, one that I'm very excited about for more than one reason. First and foremost, today's perfume is absolutely summery which is wonderful as I've had a hard time getting excited about new summer releases lately and goodness knows I've been on the lookout since the season definitely calls for it (are you also having a really hot summer?). Second, this is a perfume which despite the fact that it was released this past winter hasn't managed to generate almost any reviews so I feel lucky to be able to give you a detailed review here on Fragrance Bouquet. And finally, this is a fragrance with not only a soul but also a story, and I definitely love to tell those!

The perfume in question is Intelligence & Fantasy, Vol. 1 of the Beautiful Mind Series, a new series of fragrances created by Geza Schoen (known best for his Escentric Molecules series). The Beautiful Mind Series can be seen as an anti-establishment move against the flooding of the perfume market with celebrity fragrances. As the name of the series suggests, these perfumes aim at honoring the mind and establishing it as the new sex-appeal, instead of bowing to celebrity and appearance. As such, each of the volumes in the series will be developed in colaboration not with a celebrity, but with a prominent mind. The choice for the first fragrance, Intelligence & Fantasy, was memory prodigy Christiane Stegner, who became Grandmaster of Memory by the time she was 12 and who'd go ahead and become champion at the Junior World Memory Championships thrice by the time she was 18. The goal in this collaboration was to create a perfume that would speak to both mind and heart, using memory as its conduit. According to Essenza Nobile's website (where I received my sample from) the result is a perfume that captures the essence of summer by evoking "the feelings of luck from realizing that the summer arrives in big steps as far as to these beautiful melancholic memories of it, when it comes to the end of summer".

To me this wonderful summer fragrance is best worn at sunset as, in my opinion, its beautiful development will suit the transition from the warmth of the setting sun and its golden light to the coolness of the moonlit romantic evening. The opening is astoundingly fresh and utterly addictive, a perfect refreshment for skin that's parched for a cool delight after a day spent at the beach. Do you know that moment, when you step out of the shower, hair still wet, getting ready to go out for a sunset drink on a summer island? (Oh how I long for that by the way!) This seems to me like the perfect pick me up to wear at that moment, femine yet fresh, sexy and playful. The scent absolutely encapsulates that moment for me. This opening is all about the mandarin, juicy and succulent, citrucy fresh yet lightly sweet, like a golden drop of dew. And green too, as the scent slowly gains in the bitterness of the crushed mandarin leaves. In all honesty, even if the scent didn't change one bit after this grand opening, I would still probably be as excited by it as I am now, so gorgeous is it. But change it does, and this is one perfume that will keep your interest going for hours to come - that's a promise. Conversely, this sparkly, fresh opening might fool you into thinking you can spray deliberately like you would a cologne - don't. As time goes by the scent becomes all the more exotic and warm meaning that a few hours later an overapplication will seem rather regretful in summery weather. The sillage too begins moderate, but gains progressively as time goes by. As the juicy freshness of the mandarin subsides, a calmer facet of freshness emerges, spiced with a sexy, piquant helping of pink pepper that smells gently peppery and resinous at once. Magnolia lovers should rejoice as well, as this stage features a prominent and beautiful magnolia note that serves as a cushiony embrace for the piquancy of the pink pepper with its lemony-powdery softness. The heart notes are glorious - the floral appricot scent of osmanthus bathed in the warm glow of hedione. Around here is where you should start to become thankful that you didn't overapply during that delicious, fresh tangerine opening by the way! Through the light, effulgent, girlishly feminine notes of osmanthus begins to emerge a far more ravishing, heady scent. The exotic feel of the perfume is amped tenfold as the tiare absolute debutes, tinged (ironicaly!) with the most innocent of rose scents. I find myself amazed at the curious use of rose here, as it is light as a feather, stripped of any hint of experience or wisdom and smells sweet and drunken, like the purest rose petal liquer. The humor in this combination of notes strikes me as incredibly intelligent and amusingly incredulous. And now you know why I suggested you wear this at sunset, don't you? Isn't this a magnificent transition to live through? A wonderful freshness to enjoy in the last golden rays of warmth, a playful transition into feminity at dusk, an exotic debut as the stars and the moon come out to play... This is a very long-lasting perfume and the floral notes will continue to lure with their exotic whispers for hours and hours. The difference you will notice in the drydown is a softer kind of sultriness (curtesy of the heavy dose of cashmeran) and a woody backdrop that is at once dry (cedar) and sweet (sandalwood).

Vol. 1 - Intelligence & Fantasy can be bought from Essenza Nobile's webshop for 150 EUR per 100 ml. The bottle is essentially the same as the ones used for the Escentric Mollecules series, but wrapped in a lenticular foil on which Christian Stegner's face is printed. I must admit that I am not a fan of the bottle at all, however as you can surmise from my review the fragrance is top notch.

Images: Bottle - Essenza Nobile, Santorini Sunset - Flickr by . l i q u i d . b l u e . o c e a n, Rose Petals with string of water pearls - Flickr by audreyjm529

Friday, July 9, 2010

Miroir des Envies by Thierry Mugler : Perfume Review

When the Thierry Mugler's Miroir Miroir collection finally launched I could hardly contain my excitement; having read the pre-launch buzz online I was prepared to love every single one of the fragrances with seductive names. I prayed that Dis-moi Miroir would be my thing, just so I could wear the fragrance bearing that name. (Do you ever get that? Unfortunately I do, often. The fragrance mostly turns out to be something I don't actually fall in love with, darn it. Such is the case with Le Besair du Dragon as well - surely the most beautiful name EVER given to a perfume. The juice, while attractive enough, is just not special enough for me to buy although god knows I try every now and again.) Anyway, back to the Miroir Miroir collection. As you have probably guessed by now, Dis-moi Miroir was decidedly not for me, in fact none of the perfumes were, hence the laaaate review, ages after the launch in fact. Most of the perfumes in the collection are loud, shrieking in fact. The fact that they are also mostly linear in nature adds insult to injury: This deadly combination - loud, bombastic nature and linear progression - make them appear like brainless bimbos (I'm so sorry Thiery), too much make-up, too little cerebration between the ears. Thankfully it's not all bad. One perfumes in particular, Miroir des Envies, stands out among the rest. This are still rather linear and quite loud as well, but it does bear a certain attraction that has made me return to my sample time and time again throughout the past year so today I am finally giving it a review.

Miroir des Envies (my favorite of the two, and yes, I fell for the one with the worst name out of the WHOLE collection. Wonderful.) is a bittersweet gourmand with an old-fashioned nature, completely unbefitting the current mainstream market, which if you know me, you know is not meant as a derision. In fact Miroir des Envies smells like an '80s perfume through and through which is a quite impressive feat considering it presents notes that weren't to be found on any perfume shelf in the actual decade itself. The opening is sueded and soft, presenting a gorgeous hazelnut note. This nutty impression is followed by a brief dash of cream. I would hesitate to say that these two beautiful notes disappear - for they actually don't - but unfortunately all too soon they are both overpowered by an emerging green note that seems quite dissonant. This greenness in turn brings with it a fresh impression. While my next remark is possibly misleading (for it ain't all that bad as it'll undoubtedly sound), it has to be said: this freshness is rather aqueous in nature, a salty freshness of almost marine quality. Such fresh notes have always troubled me personally, and are one of the reasons why I have not yet managed to take the plunge and spring for a bottle of Chanel's Allure Sensuelle. I bring this up right now for I think that while the two perfumes are nothing like each other in terms of smell, it can help illustrate what I mean with the dissonance I perceive here. As with Allure Sensuelle I am at a loss as to whether I should proclaim the combination of such dissonant notes as novel and genius or as cowardice - that is, why not commit to making a gourmand? Regardless, this whole conversation might be moot, for five minutes later (I jest not) everything has melded into one whole and the perfume proceeds in a linear fashion from there on. Fortunately, what you are left with cannot be called boring because it's so darn interesting. The salty freshness subsides enough for everything else to gain a voice and then it's all cuddly confidence, curves and sex-appeal. It is bittersweet and green and there's that sueded, bizarre softness in the background, like the green casing of a young, unripe almond. It is gourmand without being the least bit foody. It is sexy and daringly retro, unafraid to be different. It is definitely the most perfect miror of the Miroir Miroir collection. Most importantly perhaps, it is deeply unique.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Smelly Facts: The Making of a Best-Seller

Have you ever wondered what it takes to make a best-selling perfume? The obvious answer should be a combination of quality (first and foremost one would argue), capturing the zeitgeist of the period of release and of course some sort of universal appeal. But of course as we perfume lovers well know, far from all best-selling perfumes comply with these or similar criteria. In fact, most of the time it is marketing that drives a best-seller, with unfortunate, deleterious consequences for the sensitive noses and sensibilities of connoiseurs who end up disparaging the mainstream market as a result. For me one such perfume whose continuing success leaves me rather bewildered is Dior's J'Adore, a veritable golden goose for the company. Countless women profess their adoration (ugh, forgive the accidental pun) for J'Adore, much to my dismay and confusion. Well, I seem to have come across an (at least partial) explanation for its success while studying for Consumer Psychology, one of my elective courses this year, and now that I've more time I finally get to share it with you. According to Hoyer & MacInnis (2008, p. 34) it is not uncommon for modern marketing efforts to be driven by neuroscience:

Neuroscientists are seeking to understand consumer behavior by looking at brain activity using functional resonance imaging (fMRI). To do this, they examine which parts of the brain become activated when consumers are engaging in activities such as making a decision, viewing an ad, or selecting an investment. For instance, Christian Dior used fMRI research to test consumer's reactions to music, colors, and ad placement when planning its highly successful introductory campaign for J'Adore perfume. Although neuroscience research raises concerns about manipulation, one advertising executive notes: "Observing brain activity and setting up models for behavior is not the same as forcing a brain into making a consumption decision."

Although I cannot with certaintly refute the validity of this claim without further information, one has to question the extent of its truthfulness. Specifically, in the event that marketing is heavily based on automatic brain responses, what sort of defense is left for us against it? What do you think? Considering that not every household currently contains a bottle of J'Adore it is clear that freedom of choice still remains secure, but with more technological advances in the future I foresee this ethical debate heating up.

To briefly return to one of my initial points regarding universal appeal in perfume, I found another interesting little tidbit elsewhere in the book (idem, p. 84). According to the authors "Only one smell is universally regarded as pleasant. No, it's not vanilla... It's cola! Considering this, I am surprised we've yet to come across a perfume with cola notes! Or have I missed something?

References: Hoyer, D. W. & MacInnis, D. J., 2008. Consumer Behavior. North Way: GB, South-Western, Cengage Learning

Emphasis in original text added by author.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Champagne, Recovery and a Sabon Review

Hello, hello, hello everyone! Before I say anything else, please let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for your beautiful, encouraging messages these past few weeks! They really filled me with warmth and lifted my spirits. I have now recovered almost completely. I can now go during the day without the nose cast (still have to wear it at night) and my ribs are hurting less and less. The most important was the head trauma of course, but it seems that no damage was done. I was really worried at first cause the pupil of my right eye was enlarged for some hours after the trauma but soon things returned to normal. My memory, reflexes and everything else were all great, and the doctors found absolutely no cause for worry at all. I managed to start studying for my last exam two days after the incident itself (out of sheer will-power probably)! I mainly stayed in bed to combat my burnout but studied hard and passed my last exam with excellent results: I got a 9.5! Moreover, I got a 9 for my thesis, which is absolutely unbelievable, since thesis results rarely surpass an 8 at our old fashioned university where the motto of most professors is “10 is for God, 9 for the professor, 8 for the student, if, that is the end-result is amazing” ugh! I am happy, can you tell?! Break open the champagne I say, I got my degree! I am hoping I’ll be accepted into the research program next year, fingers crossed. I’ve sent my application and I’m waiting for the reply with baited breath. I haven’t even applied to any other universities, my heart is so set on this one. The Social Psy program here is amazing… Anyway! I could go on about how amazing the people that work there are and how much I want to learn from them but I am sure with the good news out of the way, there’s something you and I both have missed much more than personal news huh? Yes, I am talking about a review!

So, the first review after my absence is probably a little unexpected (I mean, Sabon?), but yes, I’ve been playing with the brand for a while now and I want to get the thoughts I have in my head on ‘paper’ so to speak and out of the way, to make room for some other reviews/projects I’ve lined up. For those of you that are not familiar with the brand, Sabon is an Israel-based company whose boutiques are popping up all over the place, with obvious locations in Israel and the US, but also in Japan, Romania, Canada, Poland, Italy and of course the Netherlands, where the boutiques are currently mushrooming exponentially, with even student-city Leiden getting its own branch. I first got acquainted with the brand about three years ago, but never managed to give the brand proper consideration due to the overbearing attentiveness of the staff. I am sure you are all familiar with the type of customer service I am referring to, whether you’ve ever set foot in a Sabon shop or not. Basically, the moment you’d step in you’d be accosted by an overenthusiastic associate who bent over backwards to give you a hand-treatment. Oh dear. And then of course the all too familiar ‘shadowing the customer’ technique, even after you’ve made perfectly clear that you would like to look. And the yet even more familiar ‘voice an octave higher’ explanation of every product that incidentally caught your eye. No, that kind of customer service just won’t do. I ran away. Several times. Yes, I am persistent. I guess the fact that I am persistent also explains that three years later I had the opportunity to discover that they’ve managed to tone down their tactics considerably. They still watch and are ready to pounce if given the opportunity, but hand-treatments are no longer instantly offered and they seem to have grasped the meaning of “I’d like to look around please”.

So far so good. But what about the content? Considering that the company reports that its roots lie with soap-making and even goes so far as describing the first bars as mouthwatering, you’d expect that their soap bars at the very least smell good, but they don’t. I am not even going to bother saying much about them, they just smell bad, muddy, iffy and altogether unpleasant. Moving on to the second point of criticism: Sabon (at least here in the Netherlands, but most likely also internationally if their website promo is anything to go by) makes a big song and dance about how natural their products are. While the company does produce a range of products with a high concentration of organic ingredients, the vast majority of their products are made the good old fashioned way, with all that entails. Take a look at their body lotions for example and note in particular the ingredients triethanolamine and methylparaben. While I am most certainly NOT someone who requires that everything I put on my body is organic or natural (I buy what I like regardless and when it comes to facial skin-care especially I am all for the latest technology and lab results), I do mind it when I feel that a company tries to present itself as something it is not. The US website for example speaks of “time-honored remedies based on the finest natural ingredients” while the Dutch website describes the products as “Puur natuur kwaliteitsproducten”. All it takes to realize the lack of truthfulness in these claims is to look at the ingredients of the body lotions. At best what might be natural in there are certain palm oils and perhaps some essentials oils in the fragrance?

Oh man, this is turning into a rant. That was not my plan. I’d better get to the good part. The good part, dear readers is that they have a couple of really nice scents. You realize, we are not talking about masterful perfume compositions here of course. We are talking about bath and body products that smell really (really) addictive and are fun and delightful to use simply because they smell like something you crave. Disregard their tropical, marine and green products (shrieking), their musk (murky) and their violet (plain) and head straight for the gourmands. A possible exception is the Ginger Orange line which is very uplifting and natural smelling and is very energizing, especially in the scrub products. Nice to use as ancillary products when planning to perfume yourself with an orange blossom scent afterwards, and perfect for the summer. My personal suggestions are the Fig Coco line (very yummy and unique, not to mention undeniably perfect for summer), the Vanilla Coconut line (also perfect for summer and more importantly one of the very few times I’ve encountered this ubiquitous combo done with such balance, meaning that the coconut does not overtake the vanilla after five minutes) and finally the Patchouli Lavender Vanilla (aka PLV) line on which I’d like to throw a brief spotlight and of which I’ve ended up purchasing several products.

I’ll admit it, I am currently going through a slight addiction phase with the PLV range of products. They got me one day about a month and a half ago when I tried the hand cream just for fun. I couldn’t stop smelling my hands and yet I immediately disregarded any thoughts of buying it since one, I didn’t need it and two, wasn’t the smell rather childish? Well forget it, I splurged for the hand cream, the lotion, the shower gel and body dew a week later. Have been wearing them since. I guess a crave is a crave after all, childish scent or not. But why did the scent seem childish? I’ll get to that in a second. First let me tell you that this note combination is absolutely delicious. I guess loving this scent does take a love for lavender as it definitely has a large presence but it is an absolutely necessary presence as well. It makes the scent if you will, by tempering the sweetness of the vanilla and the deep sensuality of the patchouli. The vanilla too is very pleasant, avoiding the usual candy-floss/cupcake connotations despite not smelling natural. The patch is subdued and soft, meaning these are gourmand products you can enjoy in the summer as well (I know I am) especially since the lavender adds its fresh resonance throughout. All the products in the range I’ve tried so far produce the same linear scent, so if you like it you can build your own little collection of things to layer and enjoy. I have to say that I most enjoy the shower gel and the body dew. The former because it makes shower time such fun with its delightful scent which I love and the latter because it is my first non-alcohol based spray perfume and I am enjoying the delights of misting my hair without fear of drying. As for the reason why the scent smelled childish to me - I finally figured it out some days ago after being puzzled for so long. Bizarrely, as you certainly wouldn’t expect it from this scent, when the notes of PLV merge together and are perceived as a whole they somehow manage to produce the scent of pistachio ice cream - my favorite flavor when I was a child. Or maybe I’m just imagining things - I haven’t had ice cream in four years and pistachio ice cream in at least a decade!!

Finally, would I repurchase? Well, to be honest, I think it’s just a phase I’m going through. Well, maybe not when it comes to the shower gel, I currently can’t contemplate showering with anything else. Okay, no, that’s a lie, I would exchange it for a tube of Ormonde Jayne’s Tolu shower gel in a heartbeat. But I AM seriously attached to this shower gel. In all honesty though I am very disappointed in the ingredients of the body lotion - triethanolamine and methylparaben are not ingredients I want to be putting on my skin on a regular basis. So no, I would not repurchase this ever again unless the company changed the formula. And you know how it goes, when one product goes the chain breaks. Once the lotion is gone the shower/lotion ritual loses a big chunk of its allure. Without the lotion the body dew too loses out as alone it lasts, oh, about five minutes. A disappointment, n'est-ce pas? But it’s summer, and summer is all about summer flings you know. So forgive me this little one a while longer!

Images: Flickr by (A3R) angelrravelor (A3R),,

Friday, June 11, 2010

When things are better....

How can I not respond when I get your messages wondering where I am.
It all started with me trying my best to graduate this month. I thought, okay, no biggie, I will be back by the first week of June. I couldn't post, I was studying until 5.30 in the morning each day.. Finished my thesis, passed my exams... Then I failed one. Unknown feeling. I freaked out. That was some days ago. The next morning I got up and made my way to the kitchen.. fainted and woke up in a pool of blood asking my bf for help. He helped me up at which point I fainted again and fell on the floor. I'd fractured my nose and hit my head in the falls. Covered in bruises and little cuts. Ended up at the hospital. Did I mention I also got an ear infection? I guess I overworked myself. I really miss you and you can COUNT on me returning honeys. Really, I promise. I just have to get better again, okay? I have one more exam to go and I can only study a little bit per day cause I got to be resting most of the time. I won't be studying till 5.30 in the morning and going with 3 hours of sleep per day any more. I learned my lesson. To be honest... I got really scared. I'm still scared, which I shouldn't be. I should just relax.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fun in the Tub: Double Duty Shower Gels

I’ll have to admit, I’m not one to easily spend my cash on shower gels. It goes without saying that the difference between a 3€, a 15€ or even a 20€ shower gel is vast and considering the fleeting, ephemeral nature of the scent in most (whether expensive or cheap), it is no wonder most of us decide to save on shower gels and splurge on something lasting (like a real perfume!). Not all shower gels deserve to be sniffed at however. In fact, once you fall for a couple of good ones, it’s quite easy to become addicted. So what is the definition of a good shower gel? One that cleanses without leaving the skin dry obviously, but what’s important for the definition in a perfume blog after all is the next part: one that manages to scent skin for long periods of time, leaving a beautiful perceptible layer of perfume on the body. We all know that most (if not all) drugstore shower gels manage to scent the skin for, oh, about three seconds, but the problem is that a lot of high-end gels don’t show any improvement in performance either. And that’s cause to get angry: Noone (bar those who’ve money to burn perhaps) wants to spend upwards of 10€ (or dollars) to have their steam smell nice for five minutes.

Fortunately, I’ve weeded out some of those that definitely do work double duty, cleaning and perfuming the skin at once, and that’s what this post is about. Hopefully there can be a part 2 and part 3 in the future as I discover more gems like that. Before I give you my picks, a question: Do you shower in the a.m. or in the p.m. darlings? Because these little beauties are definitely worth a shower after dark, preferably just before donning your nightdress (or do you sleep in the buff, you naughty thing?). I’m saying this cause one of the biggest pleasures I’ve found with these is that not only do they offer me a softer, lower in volume fragrance as I am ready to drift off than a normal spray perfume would, but most importantly, that they saturate the fabric of my PJs, babydolls etc., so that I wake up in the morning cocooned in a light cloud of perfume and soft, warm sleep-scent. Not to mention that the following night when I pick up my nightdress it still smells heavenly! An added bonus is that having showered in the evening you can start the day with a new perfume without worrying about them clashing.

Arpege: Probably the softest of the picks, but oh-so-pleasurable! In the shower gel, Arpege’s aldehydic, fizzy blur is washed away and the white floral notes are downplayed. Their song becomes improbably soft, allowing the woody base notes to take over. The result on the skin is the most beautiful sheer layer of creeeeeeeaaaamy (yes, sorry, it is wonderful and it makes me quite exclamatory) sandalwood tinged with woody vetiver and soft, barely-there touches of white blooms that feel sexy, like satin.

Aromatics Elixir: This chypre floral makes for a shower gel that transforms the steam in your bathroom into a perfumed cloud fit for the steam bath of an exotic queen. Revel in its spicy, thorny rose scent and be prepared to have other household members be magnetized towards the bathroom as the scent attempts to lure everyone close: it rises up and fills the air like magic. Once dry, your skin will exude the beautiful signature scent for hours and hours. Simply unbeatable in terms of intensity and true-to-the-scent form.

Prada pour Homme: This is the one that started it all for me, the one that was so good it put me on the quest for good shower gels that linger. Forget about the “pour homme” tag if you’re a woman and go out and buy this if you enjoy clean musky scents. You can’t get a better shower gel than this in the clean musk category, and that’s a promise. Prada pour Homme is like a tender embrace that keeps blooming, infusing fabrics that come into contact with the skin with beautiful perfume. Although it is very true to the perfume itself, I find that the shower gel is sweeter and warmer and yet far more lightweight it terms of presence. It is one of my favorites.

Neonatura Cocoon: Will you think I’m a heathen if I say I much prefer the scent of the shower gel to the real perfume? This one is a beauty, readers. Well, if you like patchouli that is! Rest assured, if you do, this one will be a winner. And it is cheap as well! While the perfume presents coffee and patchouli in a pas de deux of equals, blending them perfectly so that both are ‘heard’ just as loud, the shower gel silences the coffee note down to a whisper and allows the vanilla/tonka-tinged patchouli to do its solo. Lovers of the original fear not, the coffee note will still assert its presence here too, but it is soft and muted. In my eyes that’s a good thing: I don’t really want to smell like coffee in certain places. Aherm, what was your dirty mind thinking? I was talking about the armpits! This one gives and gives by the way. You’ll still be able to smell it for a few hours still the next morning. I use this very often, so often in fact my boyfriend thinks it is my natural smell, bless his innocent heart. He once came upstairs while I was showering and exclaimed: “What is this beautiful smell? It smells like you!”. It just goes to show, how long-lasting it is and how it perfumes the skin.

Opium: The smell that rises in the steam of your shower might be quite true to the scent, but what lingers on the skin is a far more innocent, soft rendition of this classic. You might be surprised, but this one is just perfect for summer nights when the perfume would be too heavy, but you’d still crave its luxurious oriental eroticism. The heat makes it bloom from the skin. Don’t wear this before bed - wear it before going out on a sweltering night instead, with just a light shift on top. Mmmm. The creamy floral notes of dreams tinged with spices under a luster of cleanliness. Perfect.

Touch me Not: The rotten vegetable of choice awards for shower gels go to Philosophy. I splurged on their Pumpkin Spice (just to feed my pumpkin obsession, you know the one that’s been going strong for the past three years or so?) and was sorely disappointed. I’ll tell you what: H&M shower gel scents last longer on my skin and they don’t cost 19€ (or 16$, take your pick, they’re both bad). Zero lasting power for a hefty price tag. Beware.

Images: Flickr by Steve Jurvetson, Clearly Ambiguous and superfem

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Vanilla Lemon Pie, Vanilla Pom d’Amour & Vanilla Fruit Sorbet by Crazylibellule and the Poppies : Perfume Reviews

Wow, darlings, it’s been two weeks since my last post! Are you still here? I hope so! Me, oh my… You know this has been a super-crazy-busy year for me what with my thesis and everything. Well, it’s all going a little smoother now and by the end of June I should be done. We’ve finished recruiting participants for our experiment and tomorrow we’re going in the lab. I am tremendously excited - my first ever research. The hard part is still to come when I’ll have to statistically analyze the data (tremble, shiver, shake) but more than anything else, I’m excited! Anyway, I’m not going to bore you anymore with talk about the experiment, I’m just gonna dive into this review that I’ve been meaning to write for a while now.

If you’ve read my review of the Garçonnes Collection by Crazy Libellule and the Poppies, then you probably already know how I feel about this brand. I’m not gonna reiterate everything I’ve said before since it’s just a click away with the link above, but for those not in the mood to go back and look, suffice to say that in my opinion this is a super-innovative, super-fun brand that makes me happy. Each collection the brand releases seems to offer a coffret containing three popular solids of the collection, each dubbed “The Classic Set” followed by the collection’s name. At the height of my vanilla obsession last year, I got the Classic Set from the Poule de Luxe Collection, a series devoted to vanilla. Each perfume focuses on vanilla as the main theme, combining the delicious note with various gourmandise delights. The coffret in the Poule de Luxe Collection contains Vanilla Lemon Pie, Vanilla Pom d’Amour and Vanilla Fruit Sorbet. I am not sure if the company uses the same box as they did when I got them, but mine looks amazing: The darling box is decorated simply in black and soft pastel pink and looks utterly boudoir-appropriate - in fact it looks as delightful and sexy as an Agent Provocateur balm coffret. The sticks themselves feature the unabashedly pretty striped pattern that all Poule de Luxe sticks come in. I love this pattern - it makes me think of the awning of a small, treasure-like gelato shop on a sparkling, sunny promenade, which is of course utterly fitting with the gourmand theme of this collection.

But I bet you’re rather more interested in the scents themselves, aren’t you? Well, I have good news and bad news, although I fear the bad outweigh the good. The smell fabulous... In the box. That is, they smell amazing when you sniff the stick itself, but after a short while on the skin, disaster strikes. Let’s check them out one by one.

Vanilla Fruit Sorbet: This one features notes of Vanilla, Rose, Iris, Raspberry and Musk and is my least favorite of the three. Sniffing the stick itself, I get an innocent, soft floral scent (barely-there powdery soft rose, peony) tinged with vanilla. Once on the skin, as if by magic the scent changes completely and becomes full on raspberry on a bed of dry, dusky rose petals. Still not unpleasant, although certainly not me. Half an hour later and I want to scrub the tiny patch where I’d applied this “perfume caress” (as the company likes to call the sticks) raw: Unexpectedly the scent has turned utterly synthetic smelling and any tenderness and innocence is long gone. Despite careful application, it always turns bad and always, always seems penetrating and harsh. Unbelievable, as you wouldn’t expect a perfume solid to have such power!

Pom d’ Amour: The official notes for this one are Red Fruits, Hawthorn, Musk, Rhum, Peach, Tangerine, Vanilla and Liquorice. Smelling the stick the vanilla is almost unapparent: Instead, I get clean, citrusy-crisp apple and plenty of white musk. The scent is very spring-like and calm. On the skin the apple loses its crispness, becoming rounder, while the vanilla intensifies, gaining in warmth. Despite the abundance of notes I can’t say I smell much else other than that, nor do I find it very complex. As time wears on the peach becomes more apparent, but I wouldn’t consider that a good thing (it’s very Body Shop type of peach, if you know what I mean). The longer it stays on the skin the more candy-like it becomes - I can’t imagine wearing this myself unless I was feeling particularly coy and playful (ugh, that is, never): it is the smell of a little girl gorging on candy. It soon suffers almost the same fate as sister Vanilla Fruit Sorbet: the intensity and the chemical, synthetic smell kills all pleasantness.

Vanilla Lemon Pie: This is my favorite of the three, which is not hard, considering the other two turn so bad in the end. The good news is, this one doesn’t. Official notes are: Neroli, Lemon, Orange, Vanilla, Heliotrope, Almond and Caramel. I’ve been lusting after Laura Mercier’s Tarte au Citron for AGES, but it is impossible to get here and I haven’t had much luck trying to swap a bottle for it either. While this is not a perfect substitute by any stretch of the imagination, it does serve to satisfy my sweet gourmand-lemon cravings from time to time. The stick itself smells absolutely delicious, exactly like lemon cookies, complete with the buttery sweet smell that accompanies them. It makes me want to eat it! Just like the other two perfumes, this one loses part of its charm once on the skin, but unlike the other two, this one remains delightful throughout. The smell doesn’t significantly change - it just becomes slightly less ‘edible’ in terms of smell when on the skin. The only drawback is its longevity: Vanilla Lemon Pie quiets down pretty fast, unlike the other two.

So can one out of three still be considered a success story? You be the judge. The Poule de Luxe collection has two relatively new offerings as well: Vanilla Ganache and Vanilla Orangette. On the flip side however, they seem to have discontinued Vanilla Moka, Vanilla Macarons and Vanilla Pralines - just the ones I wanted to try next. It figures huh? Vanilla Pralines especially with its notes of hazelnuts and pecans sounded very, very interesting. Well, for those of you that got them while they still were around: enjoy them in good health! For the rest of you wanting to have a little vanilla on a stick, I heartily recommend Vanilla Lemon Pie.

And… If you have a bottle of Laura Mercier’s Tarte au Citron you’re interested in swapping or selling, do let me know! That was a desperate plea up there, in case it wasn’t clear! Hahahah!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fragrance Bouquet Loves: Natural Berry Lips

It’s been a while since we’ve had a “Fragrance Bouquet Loves…” feature, but now that the spring seems to have finally come, I can’t resist writing about one of my favorite makeup looks. The bright glare of the sun and its warmth is not only reflected in our collective moods, but also in our looks: Gone are the heavy clothes and fabrics, gone are the sensible shoes, gone the strict up-dos. Importantly, gone also are the make-up styles we’ve favored all winter: It’s bye-bye to Chanel’s Noirs Obscurs (did you buy into these LE’s? I went for Maniac), bye-bye to serious browns and bye-bye to anything that looks heavy and overly done. It’s spring and fresh is the word.

Fragrance Bouquet Looooves natural lips for spring and summer. What do you think of when you hear the words ‘natural lips’? The past decade beauty magazines have conditioned us to mentally associate natural lips with nude lips, but even publications fiercely devoted to the nude lip look are starting to revoke: The word is finally out that what looks good on camera and on the catwalk simply doesn’t translate as successfully in real life, with most faces ending up looking washed-out and pale. Let’s face it: Natural has more to do with shades of pink than with shades of beige!

My own personal favorites when it comes to natural looking lips are the shades mimicking soft, yet vibrant berry colors. The idea should be your lips but better, as trite and overused as that phrase might sound. Still, that’s easier said than done. A shade that looks perfectly natural in the tube might end up looking gaudy on the lips (and as one who refuses to test used lipsticks on the make-up counter, I can tell you that my lipstick drawer is filled with such failed purchases). Okay, so we are looking for that elusive “your lips but better” look, but where can we find it and what exactly does it look like? Let’s take a look at the perfect embodiment of the look, modeled by the woman who champions and wears the look best, Giselle Bündchen. In fact, this whole post is inspired by her: I was mesmerized by her effortless look a couple of years ago and have been copying it ever since.

As you see, Giselle ROCKS this look, seemingly having found the perfect shade that accentuates her lips by flatteringly enhancing the color, yet appearing completely effortless, as though she is not wearing any lipstick at all. Aside from finding the all-important shade, the other key in achieving this look is texture: Lipgloss can look goopy and even the finest layer will attract too much attention due to its glassy shine. Anything matte or overly opaque on the other hand will ruin the natural effect of your own lips showing through, precisely what we want to avoid. The texture needs to be lightly sheer yet offer enough pigment to give that erotic flush of color that will enhance your own. Well, look no further than MAC’s Lustre finish line of lipsticks for both the perfect shade and texture. The absolute best one is Rue d’Bois - a supremely natural looking sheer midtone pink. It contains pearlized pigment, but it is so finely milled that the result on the lips is just beautiful natural-looking shine without a single hint of flashy glitter. Seriously this is the best natural looking, your-lips-but-better berry-pink that I’ve ever laid my hands on! It is HIGHLY recommended. Moreover the pearlized pigment is multidimensional and should suit all skin tones. Unfortunately this perfect shade was (at least until two years ago) only available in Europe, Middle East, Africa and India. I am not sure if it is now available in the USA as well. In the event that it is not, please give the second best choice a try: Naked Paris - another sheer lustre with finely milled pearlized pigment. This one is also a beautiful pink tone but contains slightly darker brown-pink undertones so it is not my first choice. Fair-skinned beauties who can’t find Rue d’Bois in the USA might also want to give Radiccio a try (my third choice). This is a sheer mauve-y berry color which will work best for those who have really fair skin with blue undertones as its tone is blue-based. Beauties with fair skin which has yellow undertones (or olive-skinned beauties) might also want to check out Avon’s Frozen Rose. This is an amazingly beautiful conditioning sheer with enough pigment to give that desired ‘oomph’! It is rather more flashy and thus a little less barely-there than the MACs, but it still very natural looking. It has a beautiful, subtle gold sheen.

Finish the Look: Flushed cheeks are the perfect compliment for this look. Use a cream blush, as this will suit the look best, by allowing your skin to show through and keeping the natural appearance intact (powder blush can diminish the dewy appearance we’re looking for). Do as Giselle and subtly flush the arc that passes over the nose as well, mimicking the look you’d get if you’d spent the day in the sun. Load the lashes with mascara and you’re done! If you must use coverage for your skin, go for a tinted cream and only apply on areas that truly need it, allowing your natural skin beauty to show through.

Full Lips: If you’re missing your lipliner then I’ve one last tip for you. Enhance the cupid’s mound (the slightly plumper fine area lining your cupid’s bow and whole upper lip) with some shimmer. This enhances the plumpness of that area which is a sign of youth and as such sends an erotic signal. You need to be very discreet and careful when doing this however. For daytime I suggest carefully lining just outside your lips with a very fine layer of pearly-white lip-balm and then proceeding with the application of your lipstick (Labello’s Pearl & Shine works well, as do many of the white pearl conditioning lipsticks sold by many of the major cosmetics brands). If you are going to be indoors or in the afternoon and evening you can use something slightly more daring. Take a fine lip-brush (I like Shu Uemura’s 6M Sable), and dip it in a pearly-white shadow. Then carefully draw a very fine line outside your upper lip. The most pigment should be applied on the center and above the cupid’s bow, simply drawing out into a fading thinner line outwards. Finish may be cream or powder. Do not draw into your actual lips at all, as this will make them smaller instead of bigger!

Images:, (Photograph: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images),

Monday, March 8, 2010

Happy International Women’s Day

“Take a good look around you” the professor’s voice boomed in the cavernous amphitheater, awash with 700 faces expectantly looking back at him. “No, look around you”, he persisted. Hesitantly we looked at each other, not knowing what to expect. “Most of you are women”, he continued. “Psychology is a study favored by women. And yet, when the time comes for a PhD, statistics will be against you. Based on your numbers, most PhD positions should be acquired by women. But when the time comes, they will be given to your few fellow male students remaining.” The professor was not trying to crush our dreams and hopes; he was just talking numbers.

Today we celebrate women’s day. But what have we really achieved? For this topic, so close to my heart, I wish I could write a thoughtful article to express all that I want today. Yet with a deadline for yet another draft for my thesis looming for tomorrow, all I can do is to offer a few short thoughts, or rather pleas, lacking in eloquence but heartfelt nonetheless.

Please remember today, that even though we have achieved a spot in the workplace, we’ve only managed to climb only as high as middle-management while upper middle-management and high management positions are still dominated by men. The glass ceiling is still there, as impenetrable as ever. Please remember, that even though we’ve managed to narrow the pay gap, we haven’t even come close to bridging it, with pay differences ranging from 10 to more than 40 percent. And yes, these statistics refer to Western societies. Please remember that when a woman does manage to attain a managerial position, she will often be demonized and hated, not only by her male but also her female colleagues. Inciting hatred, she will be labeled anything from “Dragon” to “Iron-Lady”. Please remember that women are still passed over for promotions and partnerships, even when they have equal or better skills and work history than men.

Lastly, perhaps most importantly, please remember to be kind. Be kind to the woman next to you. If we continue to be divided, we’ll always be conquered. I am proud to be studying under the team of researchers who showed, in 2004, that in our struggle to stand out, in our desperate fight to claim a better future for ourselves as individuals, we tend to try to dissociate and differentiate ourselves so much from our fellow women that we actually end up stereotyping and encumbering our fellow women even more than men do. Don’t let this be yet another weapon that will be used against us. If you take anything from this rushed, yet heartfelt post of mine, please take this with you: Be kind to your fellow woman. Help her achieve her goals. Please remember, that true change is yet to come. We’ve got to achieve it together.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Kabuki by Tokyo Milk : Perfume Review

Tokyo Milk, just like Bloom Essentials Archive and Lollia is a line created by Margot Elena Wells. Although Lollia, with its romantic feminine appeal already found considerable success (it made it twice in the list of Oprah’s favorite things and was claimed to be one of her favorite gift ideas), it was with her latest line, Tokyo Milk, that Margot Elena piqued the interest and won the hearts of perfume lovers. And that’s no surprise: unlike the dainty, accessible image of Lolia and its focus on floral and fruity notes, Tokyo Milk’s image is edgy and esoteric, a niche curiosity. The scents too have turned quirkier, with notes such as tobacco, woods, teas and spices enhancing the modern blends with an idiosyncratic charm that’s most definitely hard to resist for those of us always on the lookout for something new and fresh to smell.

I’ve smelled about half of the line’s fragrances and they have all, without exception, been extremely gregarious and brash, bringing their message across at full steam. Subtlety and balance is clearly not something that is being aimed for with this line, but while this might sound like harsh critique, it is actually not meant that way: Tokyo Milk’s perfumes have a particular kind of charm and these characteristics seem intended, an attitude that seems to say “I don’t take myself too seriously, but I am terribly charming, aren’t I? Go on then, buy me for a bit of fun, won’t you?”. Given their character, their image and their cheeky charisma, I get the feeling that while many of these have the potential to be hits with older perfume lovers as well (e.g., Poe’s Tobacco for tobacco lovers/collectors), the line will, as a general rule, be more popular with the younger crowd.

Unfortunately, while these are relatively cheap in the USA (either in boutiques where they are sold or via e-tailers), they are quite hard to find here in Europe and more extravagantly priced to boot. I was lucky enough to come across a big sale while in London this past summer, where all of the brand’s perfumes were being sold for about 7 GBP instead of the usual 35 (!! - about 53 USD). The line features many gourmands and since I was at the peak of my vanilla love-affair at the time I had great fun playing around trying to choose one. In the end I went for Kabuki, an exceptionally unique, playful and (perhaps too) youthful scent. The longevity isn’t great (about 3 hours) but the scent makes up for it with its upbeat personality. Kabuki is a rather linear scent featuring a soft, velvety vanilla backdrop full of innocence upon which the other notes seemingly explode. The opening is very citrusy, smelling like an overdose of crunchy white sugar drenched with lemon juice and decorated with the aromatic shavings of the rind. It might seem bizarre that I list the white sugar as a note and even more so that I call it ‘crunchy’ of all things, but yes, Kabuki does smell like sugar and manages to translate the texture as well. Having been a mischievous child who used to cut a lemon in half, dip it in sugar and suck on it until my lips were puckered and red to my parents’ amusement, I feel justified to attest to the realism of this interpretation! Cutting down the sugary-sweet feel of the scent, the addition of bitter grapefruit notes bring a modicum of balance, as well as bringing a sense of maturity to the otherwise playful appeal of the perfume. While I can’t quite make out the purported jasmine notes, Kabuki truly has a very pronounced lychee note and an extremely realistic one at that. I can’t help but think of spring when I smell this scent, perhaps because its happy, exuberant personality is so efficient in bringing across that ‘not a care in the world’ feel the optimistic air of spring always brings in my heart. While this is completely unsuitable for those that don’t like sweet scents (it is very sugary) those that enjoy gourmands should definitely give it a try. While it is undoubtedly sweet in the most toothsome manner, it is quite light and not heavy or overbearing. Wear without fear, even when the weather is warm.

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