Jul 192015

Paris Beauty CrawlHave you ever heard of a “pub crawl”? Or a “food crawl”? If you haven’t, these are little excursions where one can go from place to place, enjoying just a little bit from each, whether it’s drinking, eating, or what have you. I thought it might be fun to put together one possible Parisian beauty crawl  in case that you find yourself in the City of Light with some spare time on your hands. This is one of several possibilities.

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Jul 152015

buly 27After reading this recent review of Buly 1803 in The New York Times, I decided to stop by their shop at 6 rue Bonaparte, Paris, on my way to the Musee D’Orsay. It’s very easy to find, the tiny shop is just around the corner from Dries Von Noten’s shop. The shop is small, friendly, and offers a wonderfully unique and extremely worthwhile experience.

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May 272014

Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum01I love a beach fragrance. Among my favorites are CB I Hate Perfume At the Beach 1966 and Bobbi Brown’s Beach. This summer, I’m obsessed with Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum Edition Limitee 30 Ans Eau de Toilette ($73). This very sophisticated scent was formulated by Thierry Wasser, the “nose” of Guerlain, to celebrate the legendary powder scent. As Guerlain describes, “Bathed in sunlight, as an invitation to travel to distant lands. A sensual and irresistible fragrance, exotic and bright, inspired by the radiating world of Terracotta.”

Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum04

This perfume was incredibly difficult to locate, as I seemed to have missed a short window of availability. I was finally able to find it by calling Neiman’s, who had just placed a second order. I had heard a rumor that a Nordstrom in Hawaii might have a bottle or two, but I never called them.

Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum10

This beautiful fragrance unfolds cinematically, opening with a sophisticated floral notes, including bergamot and yang ylang. This phase is a bit overwhelming for me.  The overall feeling is walking through a floral area that is very near the beach. After about an hour, this floral scent recedes completely and does not reappear until my next, fresh application.

Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum09

After the initial floral phase, the scent mellows into a very sensual beach oil. Unlike Bobbi Brown’s and other beach fragrance, Guerlain’s sensual phase is far more exotic, rich, worldly and luxurious.  There’s no hint of Coppertone here–instead, there is a rich, deep, uniquely Terracottta vanilla oil that I find immediately relaxing and warm. I swear, on days that I wear it my pace is slower as this very elegant and complex scent occasionally makes a slight appearance. It’s gorgeous. 

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This very lovely scent is highly limited edition and hard to find. If you have any hints as to its availability, won’t you please share in the comments section?

Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum06

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Apr 062013

Dries Scent

Frederic Malle has recently released Dries van Noten par Frederic Malle ($185/50 ml.), the first of three in a series of “olfactory portraits of extraordinary individuals.” As the description goes, this is “a modern oriental evocative of classic perfumes which translate the distinctive sensuality of Dries van Noten’s world.”

Fashion Designer Dries Van Noten

Fashion Designer Dries van Noten

I find the mens and women’s clothing designed by Dries van Noten to be fascinating, beautifully made, and timeless. There is always a deeply human element to them, sometimes a quirk, sometimes something deeply evocative of culture, and extraordinarily well tailored. His shops are like a journey, I always feel like I’ve been to foreign land when I’m inside, and enjoying every step along the way. His research and originality in developing interesting and original fabrics is legendary. And, as his critics have pointed out, his clothes look modern but, due to some twist in the Dries-time continuum, it becomes impossible for them to look outdated. One could wear something made ten years ago, and still look completely up to date. A sketchbook of his work (click to enlarge):

Dries Van Noten Collage

When I learned that Frederic Malle was introducing the Dries van Noten fragrance, I was immediately curious. I obtained sample, and have been experimenting and gathering opinions about the scent.  The notes include sandalwood, vanilla, sacrasol, a refined patchouli, saffron and jasmine absolute.

As one might expect from a scent based on a designer of both mens and women’s clothing, the scent is appropriate for either gender. My first apray, which I shared with a friend, gave us both the same impression–this was easily one of the most complicated fragrances that we’d ever experienced. The notes were as separately defined, yet as harmonious, as Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. In that first moment, I had the experience of sensing a tapestry of individual spices, wrapped in a bit of vanilla and sandalwood. Unlike some scents which hit emotionally, Malle’s Dries van Noten strikes me as an intellectual scent, a Rubic’s cube that holds together but is unquestionably made of many individual moving parts. The sillage is robust, and the scent lasted easily all day. The dry-down was powdery and comforting, with a strong harmonious spice. After a few hours, the notes seemed to blend and blur into a pleasant, slightly sweet spiced fragrance.

Frederick Malle

Frederic Malle

Dries van Noten is a fragrance is office friendly for either gender. As an interesting and pleasing scent, the effect is strong but far from overpowering. There’s a level of sophistication in the works, clearly the work of someone who is operating at the height of his craft. This is an eminently gift-able fragrance to someone who has a library of excellent books and a very high taste level.

The sample that I have is generous enough to last me for several weeks, particularly as I’m trying out several others at the same time. For now, this is on my “maybe” list, but I haven’t placed any orders yet and there are a few others above it. Perhaps this has more to do with my mood for a more feminine, emotional scents at present, rather than a reflection of the superb craft of this fragrance.

Available at Barneys (also available in 100 ml. size)

Other reviews:

  • Bois de Jasmine is here.
  • Grain de Musc is here.
  • Now Smell This is here.



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Mar 102013

Chanel 19321

Chanel has just released another Exclusif fragrance, 1932 ($130/ 2.5 fl. oz./ $230/ 6.8 fl. oz.) The fragrance is available online at Chanel.com, Chanel boutiques which carry fragrances, and Chanel Studios within department stores. I received this small sample from Nordstrom Seattle, a designated Chanel Studio which carries the Exclusif line, when I placed my phone order for some other products.

This fragrance release commemorates Chanel’s new 1932 Fine Jewelry collection. Like Gabrielle Chanel’s original 1932 jewelry exhibition, this latest fine jewelry line is based on the beauty and purity of the diamond.

Chanel 1932 jewelry

Rather than coldness, the fragrance seeks to evoke comets, stars and ribbons–the shapes used in the original collection. According to Chanel:

1932 evokes a dazzling array of diamond stars and comets. Created petal by petal, the soft,woody fragrance expresses an enveloping heart of White Jasmine.

Chanel 1932a1

Jasmine is the strongest note that I pick up when first applied, a note that I do not typically like. In 1932, the white jasmine the note is so soft and refined that I actually do like this as it is blended. The jasmine plays with the other floral notes and woods, and lacks the unpleasantness that jasmine often has.  It’s a diamond jasmine, if you will, in the sophisticated sense of the term. I’m picking up other bright, soft notes of rose, ylang-ylang, and the slightest touch of carnation. The base is a very soft wood, perhaps with a bit of vanilla. A full list of all of the notes appears here at Basenotes.

Chanel 19325

Chanel 1932 has a floral feminine delicacy. There is something a bit formal and light about it, like dress worn in a proper French garden. It is soft as silk jersey. It does transform one back in time. Although I find the jewelry design quite modern, the fragrance does seem to derive from 1932 as appropriate for  teas, weddings, and other daytime social events of the era.

Chanel 19324

Chanel 1932 is quite gentle in its sillage and lasting power. If you shy about strong fragrances, you will love Chanel 1932. I applied several dabs and found that it was not at all strong. In truth, I had to work to find the scent after about six hours of wear. As my skin warmed during a late afternoon walk, the scent re-awakened again for a few more hours. However, those who love strong scents should note that 1932 is perhaps the most subtle fragrance that I’ve ever worn. It’s quite pleasant, it will go on my “gift list” for future occasions.

Bottom line:  This is a lovely, polished floral that will appeal to those who love a soft, feminine, traditional fragrance.

For more about Chanel’s 1932 jewelry collection, please enjoy this video:

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Mar 032013


At Cafe Makeup, we must admit to adoring deep, relaxing fragrances. Maison Francis Kurkdjian has a collection of three based on the oud note– Cashmere Mood, Silk Mood, and Velvet Mood ($375 each/ 2.4 fl. oz. extrait de parfum spray, available online).  This trio was imagined by parfumier Francis Kurkdjian “as feelings, sensations, rather like those one would have when wrapped in a fragrant stole. The play on shimmer, comfort and warmth. They are precious, intense and concentrated.” We received samples of all three:

Maison Francis Kurkdjian1a

Our samples

As you likely know, “oud” is a fragrance note that derives from the resin that is formed in the heartwood of Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees (beautifully explained here at Blogdorf Goodman). We found that each shared the soft emotion and a touch of spice. All had a lovely lasting quality, as you would expect from an extrait de parfum. They were rather strong at the first spray. After some time, they became part of the skin in a more subtle way but continued to project a sillage. I notice the scents later in the day seemed to have mellowed, they were not overpowering but continued to remind me of their deliciousness. Each has a completely different character.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud trio3

Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Silk Mood was my favorite. This is the lightest, with a very slight touch of floral and spice that is absolutely appropriate for either gender. According to Kurkdjian, it is “airy reminiscent of the soft touch of a petal,” although there are woodsy and warm notes  that ground the overall impression. According to Kurkdjian, Silk Mood’s notes are Bulgarian rose, Moroccan blue chamomile and papyrus. This is an extraordinarily complicated and mysterious fragrance for one that is so soft. I strongly dislike shrill florals, and Silk Mood had none of that. The wood and rose notes are the strongest, particularly at the first spray, although I sensed some green and spice (although not nearly as green as Serge Lutens De Profundis). I had the impression of being inside Silk Mood, the blend was very comforting and natural, yet very refined.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian3

Kurkdjian Cashmere Mood is perhaps the most classic oud of the three, although there is a softness that best fits the parfumier’s vision of a comforting wrap. Certainly a universal scent, this oud has Moroccan labdanum, Loatian benzoin and vanilla. This is beautifully harmonized and slightly addictive. Like Silk Mood, this is both very complex and very refined. There seems to be a bit of smoke, a fair amount of spice, and masculinity in this (I feel as though I’ve borrowed Cary Grant’s cashmere blazer and “forgot” to return it). I agree with Kurkdjian that this gives a “second skin” effect, there is nothing distant about this fragrance. Rather, this perfume holds you in its center and creates a world of deep, warm comfort.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian2

There cannot be any question that Velvet Mood is the strongest, and most long-lasting, of the three. This combines cinnamon, saffron, and Brazilian copahu balm. It has a resiny quality that brings out the fullest scent of the oud. Velvet Mood has a very assertive quality that gives it some muscle. This is a very full, strong, almost heavy fragrance that in intended to cast you into its spell. It cannot be just my imagination that this lasted longer than a day on me, as the Scentrist noted the same quality in its review. Although Velvet Mood can be worn by either gender (I would certainly wear it), the style is more tailored and masculine.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian4

Maison Francis Kurkdjian is carried worldwide at these retailers (including Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus in the U.S.). Please call before going to a store to ensure that stock is available as these are just now slated to release in March 2013.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud trio1a

Bottom line: Intense, incredibly unique, and well worth exploring.

Cafe Makeup was provided with these sample bottles without charge for consideration for review.

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Jan 052013

Edward Bess Eau La La

Lauren at the Edward Bess counter at Bergdorf Goodman, New York City, was kind enough to send me a small sample of the new Edward Bess fragrance, Eau La La ($125/0.25 oz.). The fragrance was inspired by Cafe Makeup’s favorite city in the world, Paris.

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Edward Bess Eau La La is infused with frankincense, fresh gardenia, and amber. The scent is complex and harmonious. I love incense notes in fragrances. What is unusual about Eau La La is that the incense is filled with light and florals. The amber grounds the scent, which keeps the impression very sophisticated. The inspiration (click to enlarge):

Edward Bess Eau La La 1

Other incense fragrances can be a bit dark, and not particularly fitting for a social event or romantic evening. Unlike those, there is something a tiny bit sweet about Eau La La that is optimistic, warm, and beautiful. The scent remained balanced throughout the day, without an overly aggressive silage. Overall, this was a beautiful first step into fragrancy by Edward Bess. This is well worth obtaining a sample, or a spritz at your nearest counter.

edward bess eau la la1

 It’s available at Bergdorf Goodman (Lauren is so helpful!), Edward Bess online, and Sephora online. The image on Sephora shows a set with a purse container, a large crystal bottle for your makeup table, and a funnel to transfer:

Edward Bess Eau La La set

Along with my little sample, Lauren sent the following description of the perfume: (click to enlarge):


Cafe Makeup reviewed Edward Bess Eau La La  from a sample sent free of charge from Bergdorfs

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Nov 172012

 I hope you accompany us as we look at the new Christian Dior beauty area at Neiman Marcus San Francisco. Liz and I went to the Union Square store last week to see the new larger, Dior-exclusive area.  Come inside with us!

The area is beautiful, fully renovated and exclusively dedicated to Christian Dior makeup and perfume. The area is a new construction, creating a calm and elegant enclave featuring Dior’s entire makeup and skincare line. The crowning jewel of the space is in-person access to Dior’s La Collection Privée series of fragrances. Aside from this Neiman Marcus location, the only other locations where this line is sold is Bergdorf Goodman in New York City, and the Dior Las Vegas Boutique.  For anyone visiting or near the beautify City by the Bay, this is a delightful place to stop and browse.

This new space reminds me very much of Dior’s studio inside the Le Bon Marché in Paris.  As this press event, Dior’s La Collection Privée was elegantly displayed in two locations throughout the studio.

Liz and I were treated to a tour of the line by Dior fragrance consultant Michael Gizinski.

At the event, hors d’oeuvres were elegantly displayed and Liz was able to have nip of champagne as we sampled the fragrances. In the background, a stylized image of La Maison Dior in Paris reminds me of the line’s heritage. As you may know, Monsieur Dior returned from the war wishing to infuse life back into Parisian fashion.  He developed The New Look, with tiny waists, large elegant skirts and adorable jackets with stylish lapels and pockets placed to emphasize a woman’s form. Together with a number of other signature looks, Christian Dior ensured that Paris dominated couture for the next decades.

La Collection Privée evokes an elegant balance of the line’s heritage. For example, the Neiman Marcus Dior space features  a display of extrait de parfum versions of its fragrances. Below, an image of one named after Dior’s 1947 New Look , which I understand are not for sale but for on-site experience only.

One of the favorites that captured Liz and I was Milly-La-Forêt, which is named for Christian Dior’s garden retreat, with a beautifully balanced combination of mandarin, neroli and white musk. The medium 4.25 ounce spray in $155, and the large 8.5 ounce spray is $230. I love that both size bottles are rather large and generous for the excellently executed fragrances.

There is so much to learn in this space, I feel as though we only touched the very top level of information. For example, the space had a sample of the rare Diorama, formulated by Monsieur Dior in his Paris studio (not for sale in the U.S., although there is some possibility that it might be ordered). This subtle and beautiful combination reminded me quite strongly of the city of Paris–complicated, floral, and oh-so-interesting.

Also is Christian Dior Jules, which has a beautiful combination of leather and wood.

Of course, the space is designed for beautiful makeovers as well, with Dior’s amazing line of foundations, eyeshadows, brushes, powders and nail polishes. Each station has a lighted mirror, seating area so that several clients can be assisted at the same time.

As the event moved to makeovers, Liz and I decided to come back for more investigation. 

In the meantime, you owe yourself a trip to Neiman Marcus San Francisco to investigate Dior’s La Collection Privée.


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Jun 032012

Chanel has recently released a limited edition nail polish, Chanel Beige ($26/#565 Chanel Le Vernis Beige), which echoes the name of Chanel Beige, one of Chanel’s Les Exclusives Perfumes (sample pictured above). I thought it might be fun to do a review of these together, given that both have a subtle, sophisticated theme that resonates within both.

First, Chanel Beige Nail Polish is a softly colored warm neutral. There is a subtle pink shimmer in the mix. A bit like bubbles in a glass of champagne, these little pink shimmers provide only a very subtle interest when applied on the nail. I found these shimmers only visible in sunlight. In shade and indoor lighting, they add a little glow and life but the pink shimmers aren’t individually visible.

I prefer two coats of Chanel Beige–it leaves a touch of visible nail line showing, but that is part of its subtle charm (and well, three coats becomes a bit too thick-looking at least for me). Unquestionably, Chanel Beige is a subtle polish that wouldn’t mind being taken out to a white-tablecloth lunch with some lovely china plates. The color is a whisper, a little sophistication.

Because the color tends toward yellow, some may find it makes some wearer’s fingers go too red or pink. Others wil find it pretty, and bit unusual, in its simplicity. The formula takes a bit of care–you want to aim for even coverage because adding slightly too much (or too little) makes a tremendous difference in the polish’s opacity. To be clear, Chanel Beige is not streaky, but if you create streaks they will easily show.

The theme of a sophisticated, almost formal, whisper is also evident in Chanel Beige Eau de Toilette ($110 for 2.5 oz.). This fragrance Beige is “a blend of new white petals and yellow gold flowers are highlighted by hints of honey that reveal its discreet sensuality”–in a word, gorgeous.

Chanel Beige is soft, sweet and with a strong floral scent (a touch of freesia is evident, and the honey predominates). It allows me to envision a luxurious, highly feminine atmosphere. Although I don’t tend to like florals, the mix with honey softens the strong floral scent. I can picture this being worn with a Chanel suit. It’s not a wild or sexy scent, unless you find restrained florals sexy. Rather, it’s a perfect for an office or to attend a social event. I can see why some women are on their second bottle.

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Aug 222011

Serge Lutens has just released Vitriol D’Oeillet in Europe, due in the U.S. in September. Although a rough translation might be “anger of a carnation,” this rather literal treatment underplays the meaning of the word “vitriol,” which refers to a caustic, damaging rage. Before I tried the scent, I suspected that I would like the rage more than the carnation.

Carnations scents are difficult, in the U.S. this is a very common funeral flower. Of course, Serge Lutens plays off dark references easily, his description of the scent is quite dark:

…Yet the carnation is an obsessive and intrepid flower.  When it doesn’t bloom on market stalls and in open fields in southern France,  the carnation – blood red, as if bitten by a dapper criminal with a fox-like smile – perishes.  North, across the English Channel, London gentlemen wear white carnations in the buttonholes of their silk lapels.  In the crimson velvet interior of a cinema, a girl in a film is being used as bait. She  stumbles in the eerie flicker of a street light. As usual, she’s poor and her hair is  dishevelled. The street corner suddenly goes dark. Unable to see, the poor thing  braces herself for the worst. And one fears (and hopes) that it will happen. And  it will, unless the projector providentially overheats and the film catches fire,  plunging the room into inky blackness. Yes, things look very bad for our heroine.  We hear her shriek – «No!» – and read the French subtitle: «Non!»

Vitriol D’Oeillet mixes spice with cream. Serge Lutens’ interpretation pares out many of the unpleasant notes from the flower to create a polished, creamy clear fresh note.  The spices include cayenne pepper, pink pepper and black pepper and clove.  There is a slightly woody base, but it is very subtle and very soft.

The scent was extremely strong on first application, a rush of intense flower, creamy carnation and very strong dark spice.  The scent is refined and complex, and takes over the senses.  As the scent dries down, the spice predominates although the creamy flower never recedes entirely.   I found the combination so intriguing that I missed the scent when I wasn’t wearing it.  The scent is uncompromising without being sharp or overpowering.

I have read that Vitriol D’Oeillet dries down to a gentle scent, with a sillage that remains steady and subtle hours after application.  This was my experience on my quieter days.   The scent’s lasting power was at least 24 hours, although at far lower volume than the initial hour.  In that sense, its office-appropriate (although edgy).  I find myself holding my wrist up occassionally, as its does recede quite significantly to a subtle spice.  To be clear, it did not fade gradually to nothing–rather, it dropped down after the first hour and then remained at approximately the same level of subtlety for at least a day.

However, even a dozen hours after application I found Vitriol D’Oeillet extremely responsive to my body temperature.  On days when I became very warm late into the evening, the deeper, spicier notes of the scent came back very strong– and perhaps even stronger than when I first applied it–like a secret released under very strong heat.  I’ve concluded that Vitriol D’Oeillet perhaps does not dry down, but rather it rests a bit until awakened.

Vitriol D’Oeillet works beautifully on both men and women.

Gorgeous.  Highly recommended.

U.S. buyers can look for Vitriol D’Oeillet at Aedes, Beautyhabit, Luckyscent, Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, and from some Neiman Marcus locations. Scents are also sold on Serge Lutens website. This sample-size was sent from the Serge Lutens Palais Royale Boutique/Paris without charge to Cafe Makeup for review.

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