Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Art box (present I made)

I love makeup and I love art. I enjoy the overlap, such as Chanel's gouaches artbox (L.E) and more recently, MAC's "Art Supplies" (those greasepaints are fun!) So, with that in mind, I am taking the liberty of showing you my latest art work. It was made for my mother, for a special birthday. Inspired by Tunisian tiles...

Musuems such as Victoria & Albert (currently hosting an exhibition on Grace Kelly which is well recommended btw) have a wide array of exquisite examples, if you like this type of intricate tile design. 

Please check my interpretation out below:

Monday, 26 April 2010

Makeup cleanliness and the testers trauma

Much has been made recently of Dr Elizabeth Brooks, a biological sciences professor at Jefferson Medical College in Pennsylvania, who reveals that makeup testers are riddled with germs, including e.coli: 'Wherever you can see e.coli, you should just think e.coli equals faeces."

Astonishingly, on a Saturday, 100% of the testers were contaminated with potentially hazardous germs.

I have been quite lackadaisical in my attitude towards makeup testers: a quick wipe, a dip in alcohol and I was perfectly satisfied. But, as the scientist continues, any attempts to sanitise makeup are limited: "They're not lab technicians and I'm not 100% sure about it. Viruses are so small in comparison to bacteria it's harder to get rid of a virus."

I think makeup tester packaging should be specifically designed: pumps in skincare testers should be mandatory; lipsticks and glosses should be sealed in individual tester packaging and requested on demand. I know it would be an added expense but it is nothing short of reckless to have this nest of potential disease, lurking. As consumers, especially in UK where we are unable to return beauty purchases, we should not lose our right to test a product - however, not at such great risk! In today's litigious society, where printing expiry dates on makeup is strictly adhered to, surely this is the next step?

What do you think? Do these results startle you, or was it obvious! - Or, is it exagerrated? After all, our bodies are designed to deal with germs on door handles and crowded tubes, so is a dip in alcohol perfectly adequate and no need to panic?!

Homely Beauty vs Movie star Glamour

Following on from my last post regarding the blurring of lines between fashion and beauty, I must now consider the distiction between pitching a makeup line to an "us" or a "them". On the one hand, beauty products, by their very nature, are designed to embellish and enhance; on the other hand, beautiful models can be very intimidating - even alienating. Where to balance oneself, as a makeup line??

Interestingly, taking the fashion route - such as MAC have done for years, collaborating with designers, and now with various fashion houses branching out into the beauty sector - eliminates the need to "define" a brand, as its collections become fluid and unfixed, liberated by a license to follow trends as desired.

But a makeup company aiming to attract sales otherwise has to align itself either with aspirational beauty, or with attainable beauty. NARS for instance, in their new collection (pictured above), take Catherine Deneuve's Belle du Jour film as inspiration - injecting the glory days movie star glamour. Conversely, Dove famously made it their mission to "campaign" for "real beauty" (just not too ugly). And recently Bobbi Brown has done the same, with "Pretty Powerful".

I found the Scott Barnes book, "About Face" somewhat patronising in its attempt to insist all the women were beautiful "inside" and all had great causes... I prefer not to make makeup be about empowerment and outdated concepts such as releasing inner beauty. We have come far enough to be able to treat makeup as a fun expression of our artistic taste, or an extension of our wardrobe, so why the need to bring pop psychology into it?

I am currently reading L'Oreal's marvellous 100,00 years of Beauty tome, (review to come!) which, with around 300 authors - including artists, historians, philosophers, anthropologists and other specialists of 35 different nationalities - reinforces that there is no need to dumb down beauty with simplistic and dogmatic promotions.

What do you think, do you prefer overt beauty, or subtle beauty, in your promo images?

Fashion taps into the Beauty market

The beauty industry, famously, can weather any recession. Be it the lipstick factor, or more recently ascribed to the foundation factor, we will always make sure there are funds for a quick pick me up. So perhaps that accounts for the influx of fashion houses turning to beauty for a more ready and willing clientele.

Most recently, Burberry have announced their beauty line. As WWD quipped, this brings a whole new meaning to "a coat of lipstick" haw haw. But indeed, quite seriously, Burberry insist that there is no makeup equivalent to the timeless, understated elegance and versatility of the famous Burberry trench coat. "When we were doing make-up, I felt like we weren't able to get the right attitude. It was either caked-on makeup or then just the wrong colours or tones. I wanted it to be this kind of effortless elegance," said Christopher Bailey, chief creative officer for Burberry. Of course this is clearly absurd, god only knows how many neutrals one could lay one's hands on - yet still, I am excited!

I think the packaging and pitch looks great: quintessially British (groan) and, as the Harrods buyers explain “Whereas other brands are screaming out for Hollywood glamour, Burberry Beauty has created a colour palette that is aspirational yet stunningly wearable”. The models will be wearing the Burberry trenchcoat in the promotional images and it's shot by Mario Testino. The line will accordingly take a natural approach, so will include sheer foundation, blush, pressed powder, bronzer, liquid foundation, eye shadow, eyeliner, lip gloss, lipstick and mascara. The products will be a permanent fixture and the line will expand “when we feel it needs a new pop of something, we will start adding things and that will all flow with fashion, as well."

Using the same approach, Topshop have suddenly retrieved their age-old makeup sideline. Yet this time around, it will be utterly associated with the great bastion of British High Street value, and its own renowned and cultivated fashion-forward attitude. The kudos bestowed upon its collections (not least by me, I spend thousands there!) is set to be refracted through the forthcoming makeup line.

Like Burberry, the core collection will be sheer foundations, or "tints", and seasonal collections - which from promotional images (there was an embargo on any info until magazines got exclusives so here are Grazia and Elle with some) looks quite interesting. I like the instantly Topshop black and white doodle packaging, and the limited edition gold 'YSL' like packaging looks cute too. It's been designed by a Topshop designer and created by a makeup artist, so it's pulling out all the stops.

The price points seem assuringly realistic, so I imagine this will do well. Again, we are told this is a niche product: the makeup artist Hannah Murray explains, "Usually you’ve got to go to specialist shops to find the kind of makeup girls wear at festivals". I reckon I could get the essentials courtesy of Collection 2000 actually, but nevertheless I am looking forward to seeing Topshop's makeup.

Some fashion led companies leave me cold however. D&G's relatively recent colonisation, in spite of Scarlett Johansson's best Marilyn Monroe impression, never lured me in. And similarly, Tom Ford's new lipsticks, £35 a piece, will not be on my birthday wishlist. I would need an elusive promise of plumping, anti-ageing, cosmic and life altering, to contemplate £35 on a lipstick. £20 is already pushing it but I can accept.

This is at the crux of the change. I assumed beauty was moving in a direction where the all-important link between organic, healthy, science filled world of cosmetics was paramount, yet here we are faced with a beauty landscape where fashion and colours are the basis. In Topshop/ H&M/ High street makeup, this equates to an impulse makeup purchase to match your shoes and fringe cardigan; in D&G/ Burberry/ Tom Ford et al, it is to attain a pinch of the label's luxury and designer status - with packaging a deliberate echo of the brand's eponynymous hero product.

Then there is the dreaded feeling that the beauty buyers are being exploited, sold something we already have ...

It is too easy to get embroiled in the Lime Crime fiasco, but in a similar pattern, the founder started out in fashion and settled on makeup - and there is yet another example of the creator insisiting she "couldn’t find makeup bright enough for her tastes and so Lime Crime was born... The line fills the voids in the makeup universe where 'whimsical' and 'high quality' are rarely found together." This review belies that. I would certainly never be tempted to buy any of Doe Deer's products, I find her constant references to unicorns and such rather grating. And her infamous (yes everyone INFAMOUS means notorious, it is not just 'famous' with 'in' there for emphasis get it straight aargghh please!!!) anyway yes her infamous attitude, coupled with a premium priced yet inadequate product, makes me hope that cosmetics are not being seen as a soft touch in today's fraught economic climate.

I want makeup to be constantly evolving, with an emphasis on new formulations, new colours, ok even exciting new packaging. Seeing it being absorbed into fashion seems to undermine the essense of my beauty fixation, and compromises its unique appeal. What do you think??

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Collection 2010 Review

Every summer, Estee Lauder's Bronze Goddess collection is a highlight of my makeup calender. And this year's edition positively sizzles. The promo image defies anyone to call Estee Lauder old ladyish! (an unfair assertion in any case, by the way.) This is surely the collection that will put an end to any stereotypes. The inspiration is "exotic", and there's the Exotic Coral look and the Exotic Orchid look to choose from.

The packaging on the stalwart items,namely the bronzing gel and the hotly anticipated bronzing blusher, is a burnished orange (like last year).

In addition there are the elegant slender, gold tipped liquid eyeshadows. I actually can't think of any other brand or collection where liquid eyeshadows, as if in lipgloss form, have been seen? These innovative eyeshadows are arguably the standout piece. After testing out different techniques, I found the best way is to pretend you are a makeup novice - and literally apply it straight from the wand, as if drawing on your shadow! It is so wonderfully simple to use, and instantly gives electric pure colour. It lasts all day,  it's even waterproof. Indeed, what I love most about the collection is that there is logic to it: products are designed for a true summer - in that the colours are vibrant and best worn with a tan, but equally, that they are purposefully durable. These products would easily last straight through a sweltering day.

I adore the Bronzing gel (30ml, £24), it feels light and cooling on the skin, and even contains caffeine so it actually does feel like it lifts the skin! It gives sallow sun-starved faces a gentle glow. On darker skins I bet this would really make you look otherworldly, as it has a delicate shimmer that would highlight warm dark skin to perfection.


Left to right: Aqua Flash, Sand Shimmer (liquid eyeshadows) and Bronzing gel.

I found that using the bronzing gel as a blusher (rather than all over the face) worked best, especially as it made my Exotic Bronzing blusher really stay on for hours. As a huge fan of last year's equivalent offering - the immensely popular SunBlush Illuminator - I wondered how this year's blusher would compare. And once again, Estee Lauder have struck the ideal balance between blusher and bronzer! Where last year's was more peach, this year's Exotic version, replete with animal print, is more of a pinky brown. As with the SunBlush before it, this gives instant warmth, and a very soft amber shimmer, which pale skins in particular will benefit from.

The best thing is that it's versatile: one swipe, it can be used all over as a bronzer, then a few swipes, and it becomes a deep blusher. The compact (£26) is huge, 13g, so it will last a very long time (just as well, as this is sadly limited edition too.)

The Bronze Goddess colours all capture a pure tropical zest, with bold lips compulsory. The Wild Coral gloss (£15) has a pointy firm wand, allowing for more sober individuals to simply dot it on as a accent, or even to line lips with. It is sticky, which goes against my preferences, but is super long lasting. MAC fans will appreciate the vanilla flavour, it didn't seem like the usual EL fig...? Again, there is a lot of product and this will last a while. This looks breathtakingly stunning in the tube: a bright reddish orange, glowing with gold specks! Irresistable.

The liquid eyeshadows in the coral collection are Sand Shimmer, which is exactly the colour of holiday beaches: a cool toned gold (it's like MAC's discontinued 'Gold Dusk' pigment). And then, of course, there's THAT BLUE! Already appreciated within the blogging world, Aqua Flash is surely the item that will sell out first.

It instantly applies a shock of bold turquoise blue - just like a clear, holiday sky. These set quickly and don't budge. Yet, they don't feel stodgy and heavy, and they come off without a fight once you want them to. They cost £15 and will last the whole summer: a single dab is enough to saturate your lids. You can even use an angled brush and keep these as eyeliners - unsurprisingly, they work excellently as a durable liquid liner.

With British weather still harbouring a cold snap, I used the Sand Shimmer as a base, then the bright Aqua Flash as a thick liner, the Bronzing gel along my cheeks topped off with Exotic Bronzing blusher. Defying the weather I started out with bold Wild Coral lipgloss... but quickly realised that combination must be reserved for a heatwave. Instead, I toned the look down with nude lips (MAC Brave New Bronze). This was worn to the gym, with Estee Lauder Double Wear (naturally) as my foundation and eyeshadow base. And it held up remarkably during an enthusiastic training session!

I'd recommend you check this amazing collection out for yourselves. There are several other items aside from those mentioned, have a browse here. Bronze Goddess range is out in House of Fraser, and will be available nationwide from 26th April.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Beauty 10 Commandments: Advice for desperate addicts

 As a makeup and beauty addict (say it with me) I have fallen into various traps, driven by a desperate hyteria that can only be quenched by the next big purchase. However as advancing age looms, the wizened and critical force to objectify the mania wavers falteringly before me.

I hereby collect up the ten tips that may help us all.

1. If it's Limited Edition, don't panic!

Yes, buy a backup if you love it. I know, we should fight against the company's wicked manipulation to trigger the wartime rations impulse of hoarding before it's too late - but it's only makeup and we enjoy the collecting as much as they enjoy the profit margins. If you love it, buy two. But, don't do what I do, and buy six or however many you calculate will last your lifespan. It will be repromoted, either explicitly or anonymously, in the company's future offerings. And if it isn't, let's face it: with all the billions of different brands and products open to us, is any colour truly unique? I want to say yes too, but rationally? Don't panic when it's limited edition, sold out, or "rare".

2. Don't get blinded by hype.

Like fashion, don't forget what suits you before you get swept up in the latest new must-haves. Trends are great, but being a fashion victim is excruciating. That new lilac lipstick/ bubblegum pink might not look good to anyone outside of the beauty community vacuum. We all love it but the man on the street thinks what the hell is she thinking. F** them it's my life, etc. Yes, but dearie you should stick with pinky coral lips and a rosy coral blusher. The purple blusher and lilac lips simply don't look pretty once out of their packaging, OK? Think about the hyped up trends: (a)Does the colour suit YOU; (b) Do you have dupes already? (c) Will you look back at the photos and squirm? Let this be your sacred checklist and you will be fine.

3. Don't get swayed by celebrity endorsements.

"Angelina Jolie uses this lipstick." The magic words that will have a million women flooding the counters. I hate to be mean, but Angelina Jolie could probably make your Barry M chalky lipstick look great too. But without making it personal, one woman's natural lip pigmentation makes a lipstick look pink, another makes it look mauve, and the difference is drastic - so just hold on before you attribute a celebrity's beauty with their favourite product. I love knowing what makeup a celebrity is using, especially ones who you can tell revel in beauty as much as we do (i.e Kim Kardashian) but aside from the fact that one woman's winning formula is another's disaster zone, celebrities are not above corruption and might sometimes promote without true conviction. Allow yourself to be inspired, but just exercise caution on all counts.

4. Don't buy makeup for the wrong reasons.

If it's for charity, who would be so callous as to say that's a bad reason? It's a great reason. Try to remember about what colour suits you as you buy it, but anyway, charity is always to be encouraged. I am referring rather to the danger of buying a product for its scientific claims. Organic; Anti-Ageing; Smoothing; Moisturising. These buzz words should all probably be ignored, as they are usually arbitrary. I want to like organic stuff but often they simply don't perform as well. I want my makeup to last, or my deodorant to work. Unfortunately limiting ingredients often limits the effectiveness of a product. Obviously ethical concerns, (as with charity) remains a justified reason for purchases. Just don't be unduly influenced by the words on the box.

5. Update and assess your makeup habits.

Put simply: What suited you a few years ago looks like mutton dressed as lamb now. Your makeup and the way you dress unfortunately has to be age appropriate. Pressures of society mean that neon green eyeshadow looks cute on a 16 year old and embarrassing on a 30 year old. I wish it weren't so but it is. Hair colour changes also can make your once perfect makeup staples look dated or off. Don't get stuck in a makeup rut. Conversely, that taupe eyeshadow you are addicted to, have you ever thought plummy purple might look great instead? Don't be worried that adding colour will make you look like a clown. A shot of colour might be just the boost your face needs.

6. Don't match your makeup to your outfit.

This is a personal pet peeve I suppose, but to my mind, matching makeup to your outfit always looks like you are trying too hard. Makeup is best when it gives the impression that it was just thrown on absently, and you would look great with it on or off. When it draws attention for matching your dress, you are edging closer to admitting that makeup is a deliberate crutch. It also looks old-fashoned, unimaginative and twee. Matching your nail varnish can be cute, and red lipstick to a red dress is fine, but matching pink lipstick to a pink dress, or worse - matching eyeshadow to an outifit... cringeworthy.

7. Makeup rules are there to be broken. But anarchy is overrated.

Yes they say dark eyes and bold lips are a no-go. Yes they say lipstick is for lips. But this eyeshadow makes a great blusher. Innovation and defiance in the face of prescribed makeup rules is all well and good. But just think: clich├ęs and stereotypes and rules are usually borne out of elements of truth. "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" after all, as that most famous and enigmatic quote goes. Remember that makeup has been around for a LONG time, the quest for beauty is never-ending, and certain "rules" that have come about, cannot be written off: they have probably been tried, tested, failed, and thus crystallized as a rule.

8. Makeup has a shelf-life, a stale collection is worthless.

Makeup is not going to last forever, so break into that deluxe compact and enjoy it whilst you can. Rotten makeup is smelly and ugly, even the packaging will look dated if you give it time, so it won't make you happy to collect it and leave it untouched. Take a photo for posterity if you must.

9. Turn that frown upside down, etc.

Can anything rival the delight of shoe shopping? Here are my brand new Victorian style booties for reference:
Perhaps nothing can beat that high. But, an incredible tonic for depression is to put your face on. If you're upset, put on your mascara and blush. Instant lift guaranteed. Don't go barefaced because you feel you don't have the stamina or happiness to put on some jolly colour. Go extra glam if you're feeling glum, it will always help. 

10. Respect your makeup addiction if it makes you happy.

Enjoy your makeup shopping and don't get jaded. Respect your tried and trusted HGs and don't compulsively go searching for their new rival. Well, unless you feel you've outgrown the old standby. Hype can blind you to override your own personal faves. Take time out to 'shop your stash' before you unwittingly buy a million dupes. Build up a flattering colour identity that you know works. Enjoy new product launches, but not at the expense of your true love products. Don't let your collection get out of hand (see Commandment No.8) and don't buy too often, or the glamour of new makeup gets trite. Check out drugstore products if you really get a makeup craving. And if you have a sanctified allegiance to a high end brand, indulge your habit, but be aware, and be sure to enjoy it.

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

Oh wait I am getting carried away now.

... What would your 10 Commandments be???