The celebrity beauty juggernaut show no signs of slowing down: the latest additions being Dita Von Teese perfume, Kate Moss lipsticks, Rachel Zoe lipsticks (in the US) and the rumour of a Coty created Madonna perfume.
Trust MAC to subvert it all by co-opting haute-eccentric-heiress and couture-buyer-extraordinaire Daphne Guinness to dream up some pre-Christmas make up products for them. Gaga perfume is apparently arriving next year and I can’t help wondering if she will live up to her image and make something along the lines of Commes Des Garcons Odeur 53 (the smell of dust and metal and glass) or if she will go for the bubblegum synthetic pop of her music (which I personally dislike in general) and fashion something saccharine and obvious.
Of the other new launches around I’m particularly enamoured of Biba make up – great palettes, bright colours – I’m a sucker for a dinky little box. What’s more it’s reasonably priced and I’m so over obscenely priced beauty products. Frankly I’d rather spend the money in Cos‘ new online store.
It’s actually the third time Biba have launched their make up. The first time, in the early seventies it was only available in the store and they were famously the first brand to provide testers – and they did wonderfully weird shades such as black lipstick. The brand made a brief reappearance in the mid Nineties – prompted by the seventies fetishism of that decade – but sadly fizzled out. And now it’s back again, accompanying the revived fashion line.
I do hope it survives but in all honesty I’m not sure what the identity of Biba is any more. I know what it stood for in the early Seventies, but I fear it has been so diluted and corrupted there’s not much of the original spirit left in terms of fashion or beauty.
Tom Ford’s new make up hits counters this autumn. Though I’ve seen nothing as yet apart from the lipsticks. Little samples or information has been made available. It’s typically Fordian to be so tightly controlling of the press coverage. Much as I love the existing lipstick range especially the white and gold packaging (very old Hollywood), I feel a little ambivalent about two things: the price point and the USP.
Firstly, the whole range is likely to be expensive considering the lipsticks alone are £35. For the same price you could buy a dress in New Look, Top Shop or Zara and even an outfit in Primark or Peacocks.
My second question mark here is: is there room for another cosmetics line in the marketplace? Burberry and D&G have both joined the melee in recent years which makes a lot of luxury make up lines out there. And how much of a market is there for this sort of ultra expensive product? Competitor-wise there’s Serge Lutens make up which is gorgeous but even more eye-wateringly expensive than Tom Ford and then Shiseido’s other superluxurious brand Cle De Peau which has been withdrawn from the UK – presumably due to lack of a market. Still, we wait with bated beauty breath.
As with gourmands (edible fragrances), I can now admit that I have been somewhat prejudiced towards celebrity fragrances. This wasn’t without reason; a lot of them genuinely were cheap, formulaic, derivative, overtly saccharine and obvious. Like gourmands, I reasoned they were often created with a young, uninformed, unsophisticated demographic in mind. There was very little artistry involved in the creation of these perfumes. But of course the minute you dismiss a genre of fragrance (or well anything in life really) something comes along and narkily disproves you. In this case it was Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely – which is really such a classy fragrance that it could be Chanel – and that’s a compliment indeed.
Anyway that was a few years ago now and hundreds of celebrity offerings have debuted since then. I can now admit there are one or two that I quite like – they are not all execrable. Namely Kate Moss’s Vintage Muse, which came out last winter. If you look at the notes on paper it does not bode well: plum, rhubarb and chocolate. It sounds like another sugary confection aimed at impressionable pre-teens. However when you actually smell it it’s really quite sophisticated – you get the tart, sour facets of rhubarb and plum rather than the juicy plumpness and it’s actually quite recherche.
It actually reminds me of how a stylist friend of mine used to smell – she blended her own oils – in other words not obvious and sweet but something a fashion insider might like. The other perfume that landed on my desk recently and that’s really okay, but maybe not great is Kim Kardashian’s debut. Now I had expected to hate this, not being afan of Kardashian herself (another fake tanned talentless wannabe famous for no reason) but it’s actually quite nice. What you get is a huge dose of tuberose – reminiscent of Frederic Malle’s Carnal Flower or Michael Kors’ eponymous offering. I love tuberose as much as the next person – what I’m slightly ambivalent about is the chocolate note used to underscore it which make it a very rich, dense sweet tuberose. I might have preferred a more translucent take on the tuberose, but then that might have been a bit too derivative or Kors and Malle.
Soap is one of my grand obsessions. I generally shower once a day with a great block of it and have been known to take up to two baths in addition to my shower. I am a cleansaholic. And if I had a to choose just one item to take to a desert island (cliched though that thought may be), the one item would be soap (although mascara would come close!). My favourite destinations to shop for soap are Liberty‘s beauty hall and Fresh (I love their milk soaps). But a rather magical soap brand has recently come to my attention and it is called Dr Bronner. Dr Bronner is probably one of the only beauty gurus to have been locked up in a mental asylum and go on to found a beauty brand. This was just one of the things that endeared me to it! He’s long gone now but his soaps – liquid and solid- remain and they are rather fabulous too. Not only are they vegan and organic and free from the harsh detergent ingredient Sodium Laureth Sulphate but they smell delicious – almond and rose are my favourites. They are incredibly gentle with a sparse and soft lather that is not in the slightest synthetic and foamy. What’s more, the company gives between 30% and 70% of post-tax profits to various charities and donates 20p from the sale of every soap bottle in the UK to the charity War Child. It’s a truly ethical and caring enterprise, but equally importantly a really pleasurable product to use in the shower or bath. From Waitrose, Whole Foods, Planet Organic and Fresh and Wild.
What fragrance to wear with vintage clothing? This is a question I often ponder. Should one team a delicious piece of vintage with an equally arcane perfume – a Shalimar or a Miss Dior or an Arpege – and thus create a sort of double whammy of historically resonant cloaking. Or do you update a vintage outfit with a resolutely contemporary perfume and allow it to provide an olfactive update/contrast to your outfit? Well perhaps Dior have dreamed up the answer. Collection Privee is a wonderful edit of eight wonderfully uncommercial new fragrances. These are perfumes with integrity: rich with history and imagination yet completely contemporary. New Look 1947 is not only a fantastic name and idea for a perfume – a scent inspired by that timeless nipped-in silhouette – it is, in my humble opinion a great choice to team with that prized vintage dress. The constituent notes are tuberose, rose, jasmine and vanilla. It is a modern floral, not cloying and concentrated like the florals of yore. Nor has it been corrupted into one of those horrible ubiquitous cynically commercial fruity florals. Or rendered cologne like by the addition of too much citrus. No, it is ladylike and powdery and ideal if you want to feel feminine and precise without feeling blousy or saccharine.
It’s that time of year again when the majority of people think about tanning. However, I am not in that majority. I can count the number of times I have tanned in my life on one hand and I am fast approaching forty. Therefore, for a great number of years I have remained proudly milky pale. I think it’s an alternative/indie thing, in my teens, the eighties, red lipstick and pale skin were the apogee of underground style, as epitomised by Vivienne Westwood muse Sara Stockbridge and the androgyne model Jenny Howarth. Nowadays its indie queens like Gwen Stefani, Beth Ditto and Dita Von Teese who embody the pale look. And it’s these gals I’d want to be in a gang with, not orange hued WAGs or Katie Price. However this year I have to admit, for the first time in a lifetime I’m strangely drawn to the idea of tanning. Obviously it would be a very subtle golden tan, not the creosote hue once favoured by Victoria Beckham. But some kind of gentle olive tint, a Mediterranean sun kissed teint, might just be nice come summer sun. I have yet to explore the range of products on offer, but I’m thinking the St Tropez No Tan Tan might be the one for me. Or at least a touch of Johnsons Holiday Skin on my rather chalky legs. I’m not sure if this is a flirtation or a genuine commitment to the idea of a tan. After all my whole identity is bound up with being pale. Whatever, I will keep you posted.
In addendum to my post a few weeks ago about beauty shopping online there is another destination that I have only recently discovered that is absolutely amazing for beauty brands. Unexpectedly, it’s amazon.co.uk. It’s usually my number one stop for books – the marketplace for second hand books is excellent – the only place that rivals it is Abebooks for older, rarer titles. Anyway Amazon also happens to stock some fabuloulsy recherche French haircare that you could previously only find in Harrods. I’m talking about Leonor Greyl, which I know Chanel muse Lady Amanda Harlech used to rave about and disappeared from these shores several years ago. But who knew!? Amazon are now stocking it, and they produce some magical oils and treatments that are worth tracking down. They’re also home to another cult French haircare range called Rene Furterer which I discovered years ago in French pharmacies. It’s cheaper than Greyl – their shampoo is about £7.50 – and equally good for treatments and day-to-day haircare. I’m really surprised I didn’t know about Amazon‘s health and beauty department before – they also have French pharamcy staples such as Klorane and Biotherm – another two of my favourite brands – Klorane‘s dry shampoo is unsurpassed. Another shop to bookmark on your browser for competitively priced beauty shopping.
Last season’s vogue for minimalism wasn’t something I could buy into wholeheartedly. To eschew brights and patterns from my wardrobe, and colour from my make-up palette would make me very sad and disheartened indeed. Minimalism was something I quite liked to buy into on occassional days – days when I felt rigour and understatement were called for – a visit to my therapist for example! So there is the odd day when I find that natural make up, nay a dearth of make-up and clothes in camel and black are appropriate. These are like detox days in a sense, a holiday from the rabid sartorial mayhem that usually makes my heart sing. I wash my face, scrape my hair back and apply the bare minimum of maquillage – usually Givenchy Phenomen’eyes mascara in black, eyebrow pencil by Laura Mercier and if I’m feeling particularly lavish some Clinique Chubby Stick in Richer Raisin. The latter is Clinique‘s latest innovation for lips and its rather wonderful. A fat, waxy little stick that you stroke on lips and that imparts nourishing balm and a veil of colour. Richer Raisin reminds me of a cult lip colour that Clinique used to make in the Nineties called Black Honey. Everyone wore it for that slightly enhanced nude look that so epitomised the nineties.
Anyway, those are my tips for a reductive make up routine. I’m loathe to say less is more because in general I don’t really agree with the aphorism, but there are occassional days when it feels like it really is.
Despite the on-going globalisation of beauty – Estee Lauder is expanding rapidly in India and China – not everything is now American. I still believe that the French and the Japanese are the go-to cultures for skincare. The French for reasonably priced pharmacy brands such as Biotherm, La Roche Posay, Nuxe, Caudalie, Darphin and Decleor – with these products you really can afford to do as chic French women do and stock up on every item in the range.
The Japanese excel in hi-tech anti-ageing (as they do with technology generally) and in creating ultra-light gossamer textures packed with nutrients and advanced scientific ingredients. Perhaps my favourite Japanese skincare brand of all (and I’m a huge fan of Shiseido, Kanebo and especially Shu Uemura) is SKII, a wonderfully futuristic skincare brand that is heavily used by superstar make up artist Pat McGrath when she’s making up models backstage at the shows. A caveat: these products are expensive and only available online at harrods.com. But they do really work. The narrative of how the brand started is also rather lovely. Some scientists were visiting a Saki brewerey in Japan and noticed that although the workers faces were wrinkled, their hands were incredibly soft, pale and line free. Investigations and experiments followed to identify what was causing the workers to have such youthful hands and the scientists found out it was Pitera, a by product of yeast and the brewing process. Thus is 1980, over 30 years ago, SKII was born, a skincare regime based upon the active ingredient Pitera. It was subsequently bought by the US beauty giant Proctor and Gamble, so it’s perhaps not quite as authentically Japanese as it once was. Best products to sample are the Skin Signature Moisture Cream, an excellent anti-ageing moisturiser with a nice light texture. Out this month are Cellumination Mask-In-Lotion and Brightening Derm Specialist – the former helps lock in moisture and even out skin tone pre-hydration and the latter is a dark spot and pigmentation eraser.
Hot Oil hair treatments really remind me of the Seventies. Back then Vo5′s Hot Oil was one of those local chemist staples you might occasionally use to give your hair a treat. it seems old fashioned now, a hair product from another era, especially when you consider the gels, waxes mousses and now serums that are the latest formulations for hair. However I have to report, from the cutting edge of hairdressing, oils are back!
The latest hairstyling and treatment phenomenon (from Israel no less) is Morrocanoil, based on the precious Moroccan ingredient Argan oil which is high in antioxidants and incredibly nourishing. I had my hair blow dried with this product the last time I had my hair done in Toni and Guy and the effect was luxuriant, thick shiny hair – and my hair had been quite drastically bleached and colour treated to-boot.
Another sumptuous oil treatment that’s new is Kerastase’s Elixir Ultime, a blend of four oils including Argan that you can use in a number of ways. I’ve been using it at home to smooth through just washed hair as a pre-blow drying conditioner – resulting blow dried hair is incredibly silky and malleable. You can also use it pre-shampoo as a thirty minute treatment or even after blow drying as a finishing product. Other companies that do new generation oils for hair include Leonor Greyl (available on amazon.co.uk) and Nuxe Huile Prodigeuse (availble from spacenk.co.uk).
An oil is a lovely oleaginous, old school way of lending hair a lucient glow. But you don’t have to resort to Vo5 any longer.