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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May 182011

While shopping in Paris, Colette included a sample of a Byredo fragrance in one of my bags (judge me, I went to Colette more than once).

When I tried the scent, I was knocked off my feet.  There was a gorgeous complexity to the perfume that left me both satisfied and wanting more.  These are edgy, incredible artworks of scent.  Well worth exploring.  I emailed Byredo (they are located in Sweden), to sample a few of their scents for review here.

Typically, their scents range from $135-200, depending on the size of the bottle.  The Byredo website features lines of candles and body care as well (which I have not tried). Here is my take on the fragrances that I tried:

  • Oud Immortel Eau de Parfum is a deep, spicy sweet incense fragrance.  There is a beautifully exotic warmth to this scent.  There is a very soft lemon high note, mixed with patchouli.  The smoke includes a hint of tobacco.  There is also something very amber and woodsy about this scent.  Just gorgeous.  Although I’ve heard that some Oud fragrances can be bitter or moldy, Byredo’s Oud Immortel is rich and deeply sweet.  Later in the day, the ambery spice notes predominated in this really gorgeous way.  This is extremely long-lasting–I could still smell slight traces after showering the next day.

  • Rose Noir is listed as a men’s fragrance on Barney’s website.  Please, we all know that no one cares about gender.  This is a very heady scent and extremely sensual.  The rose is very full and tempered with a pleasant, deep musk.  On my skin, the grapefruit and freesia are very delicate and barely perceptible, adding just a touch of topnote complexity.  Rose Noir is said to have a touch of moss, which is somewhat buried.  I would describe it as a dark honeyed rose–it’s grown-up sort of sweet, with depth and age.  This is a incredible Fall or Winter fragrance.  Or a hot August night.

  • M/Mink was a developed as a collaboration with two Parisian graphic designers and art directors, Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak. This scent was inspired by various objects that these collaborators gave to Byredo, including a block of solid ink, a photograph showing a Japanese master practising his daily calligraphy, and a large utopian formula.  True to these sources, the scent does start with a strong smell of ink and very peppery incense.  The clover honey base is tinged with patchouli and amber.  Despite my disinclination to classify scents by gender, M/Mink does smell distinctly masculine.  I’d love it on a man, but it is too edgy for me.  One of the inspirations for M/Mink:


Bottom line:  There’s an intelligent and emotional magic in this line; the complexity and quality are gorgeous.   Well worth exploring.

Byredo is available for sale on their website and at Barneys.  If you are interested in trying these without a large investment, I noticed that The Perfumed Court has samples of some Byredo fragrances.

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Mar 212011

While in Paris, I had the pleasure of visiting Les Salons du Palais Royale, conceived by the creative genius Serge Lutens (website here).  Lutens is one of those rare individuals who infuses everything with an extraordinary, magical and highly original touch–a film maker, makeup artist, perfume creator, photographer and fashion designer–his creations seem to affect one at an aesthetic and emotional level.  He adds to an already long history of excellence, having worked with Dior, Shiseido and photographed for Vogue.  He has a touch that is both other-worldly and intensely human.

If you are in or near Paris, go to Les Salons du Palais Royale. This is a “must.”  Go.

Lutens founded these Salons in 1992, establishing this colorful and universal space based on Féminité du Bois, a scent still available today.  As you can see from the above image, entering this space is a transformative experience–the atmosphere is warm and quiet, comfortable, foreign yet familiar, grounded in history and completely different from the real world.  Anything seems possible.  Les Salons du Palais Royale is a testament to the fact that there are some places that are magic in this world.

Sandrine, the manager, made herself available for my visit, assisted by her very pleasant and extremely knowledgeable staff.  Their multi-lingual capability is excellent, so if you are nervous about your French, let me put you at ease. It seems customary to be offered tea when one arrives for a longer visit, which was a treat.  I also went up the magnificently detailed metalwork staircase to the Morrocan-themed meeting room above.  Unlike the mauve and purple tones below, the upstairs is paneled with warm yellows and red accents, both exotic and welcoming at the same time.  There is a long, low conference table upstairs, populated with the Serge Lutens product line and surrounded by modern, diamond-backed wooden chairs.  Large windows upstairs look out onto the pleasant trees of the Palais Royale, reminding me that I had not left Paris (although I felt completely transported).

This boutique sells both Serge Lutens perfume and makeup. Because of the wide range of products, I’ll discuss perfume today and makeup tomorrow.

If you have not visited this location before, you should know that there are two series of perfumes offered here.

First, the Exclusives are sold only in this boutique and to a limited number of locations within Europe online.  Period.  There are currently 28 or so perfumes in this series, sold in this beautiful bell jar.  If your time allows, you will be able to have the jar personally engraved (if you go early during your stay, it may give you enough time to have the engraving done).  The range is deep, gorgeous and every one more life-changing than the last.

There are paper swatches of the scents out for you to review, which I suggest you use to narrow your choices.  As you become interested in a certain scents, then apply them.  I suppose if you have enough skin area you can try them all.  You can also ask to be directed to particular kinds of scent (I was interested in leather and smoke, for example).  Prepare to spend some time, the range is vast and each scent is complex and gorgeous in its own way.

A word about the beautiful bell-jar-A few years ago, I bought Fumerie turque and hand-carried it home at the time before airline liquid restrictions began.  Today, of course, the world has changed.  The boutique cannot assure you that these bell jars travel perfectly well in packed luggage because the bell jar is closed with a glass stopper only.  (you didn’t hear it from me, there are some places on the Internet which can give you a few pointers about how to get a bell jar home in packed luggage). Right now, I’m very tempted to go back for Boxeuses (referring to a female boxers), it’s gorgeous and I’m finding it difficult to put out of my mind.

The boutique also displays one of the custom bottles created every year around the holidays.  Each is thematically engraved to coordinate with an Exclusive fragrance chosen for the series, and only thirty are made each year.  As one example, the year that Fumerie turque was featured, the bottle was engraved with swirling smoke shapes.  There are several of them featured on Serge Lutens Facebook pages.

Here is the most recent bottle, for Boxeuses:

I love how it reminds me of both stars, and boxer punches at the same time.  Serge Lutens plays the edges of light and dark beautifully.

Second, are the Serge Lutens spray bottles are sold here and are also carried elsewhere in Paris and throughout the world (sometimes referred to as the “export line”).  You can buy these in the U.S. at Barney’s, and I’ve noticed them on Beauty Habit and Luckyscent as well.

I fell head over heels for Jeux de Peau (‘skin game’), a scent inspired by Serge Lutens childhood memories of visiting a bakery in his childhood.  From an interview (from the Serge Lutens Facebook page):

I was often distracted: “Don’t forget to get the bread!”

If I described the bakery as a “golden place”, it’s because that’s how I saw it. Part of its bright aura was due to the amber loaves of French bread – bâtards, ficelles and baguettes – waiting in fragrant rows.

When I got to the bakery, I woke up from my day-dreaming to enjoy the sight of the bread. “Bread opens your eyes” just as surely as it whets your appetite. The crowning touch was the whiff of freshly baked bread, still warm, coming through the basement window.

At first glance, there was nothing but good humour on the face of the lady at the bakery. Her make- up gave her face a jolly look, yet one suspected that it was a mask concealing bitterness.

What could she have been suffering from that would, at busy times of day, make her purse her lips sharply and suddenly? The fact that it was barely perceptible made it even more obvious. Obeying a suspicious mind, her mouth, like the seal affixed to a judicial document, passed judgment on all comers. The smile that she gave when returning change had infinite variations: it could be suspicious, jaded, resigned, disdainful, stiff or disillusioned….

Something about Serge Lutens fragrances are so honest and centering–the impact on me is hard to describe.  Jeux de Peau has a bready, milky sweetness, but there is also a sandalwood, as well as some deeper incense notes that Lutens seems to love.  It’s insanely beautiful, and I’m sure that my description is not doing it justice.  It’s comforting and edgy, and has an undeniable ability to affect my metabolism.

I purchased a full sized bottle (and may return to the boutique to get Daim Blonde as well).  The lovely boutique gave me a sample Jeux de Peau which I’ve been using up since the day I obtained it, together with a much lighter sample L’Eau Serge Lutens, which I haven’t yet opened (but hope to as the weather warms).

Sample Jeux de Peau

L’eau Serge Lutens:

Sample L’Eau Serge Lutens

The boutique provided me with a book of perfume samples of the Serge Lutens range:

According to Sandrine, Serge Lutens has never discontinued a fragrance, and has no current plans to do so.  Although different fragrances float in and out of the export line, they all appear to be here to stay.

I cannot imagine going to Paris without visiting this treasure.  Les Salons du Palais Royale is a one-of-kind experience that evokes history, the senses, imagination and a full range of emotion.  You. Must. Go.

Note:  One of the best ways to keep up with Serge Lutens is to “like” them on Facebook, and follow them in English on Twitter.

Tomorrow’s post:  Serge Lutens makeup at Les Salons du Palais Royale.  Non-watermarked images are from Serge Lutens.  Any typos are mine (let me know if you see any in the comments, pls!)

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Mar 122011

Wandering through the Marais today, I found myself in front of one of the L’Artisan Parfumeur stores.  L’Artisan Parfumeur was founded in Paris in 1976 by perfumer-chemist Jean Laporte.  Aside from casually sniffing and loving their scents, I’m not familiar with their line.  I’m very tempted to take one of their 3-hour classes as their main locations–do you think it is worth the time for the experience?

I’ve noticed that many parfumeurs are very thoughtful about finding ways for customers to experience the scent without getting their spritzer out (no, that’s not a euphamism).  Many place out long pre-sprayed paper testers.  It helps keep the air clear if you aren’t sure that you want to apply the scent, plus the pre-sprayed paper seems to have burned off that initial hit that happens with a fresh spray.  Here at L’Artisan, there are small candleholders stuffed with paper that has been scented with the bottle behind it.

If you wish to test those that interest you most, then go ahead and spray.  One thing I have learned–it’s best to ask before you spray.  I learned that little nugget from doing it wrong in the Serge Lutens boutique. Ooops!

Rows of candles.  If you are feeling diffident, you can buy mini versions for 15 euros each:

This set intrigued me–it was a set of five oils (on the left) and diffuser system (the box in the middle):

I left a little overwhelmed with all of the choices.  Do you have a favorite L’Artisan perfume or candle scent?  Do you think the 3-hour parfumeur class is worth pursuing?  Your comments appreciated.  For now, à bientôt!

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Six Scents Series 3- Artistic Collaborations

 Perfume  Comments Off on Six Scents Series 3- Artistic Collaborations
Dec 152010

I recently became curious about the perfume series Six Scents, which annually releases a collection created by pairs of clothing designers and perfumers united around a common theme.  The current collection, called Series Three, centers on the nature of childhood memories and the influence of adolescence on identity.  A portion of the perfume sales goes to War Child International.

This sounded ambitious and therefore interesting, I became very curious about how these diverse influences could be expressed in a perfume.  I love collaborative projects–they can bring out the best of both, and fascinating mixes inbetween.  Some of these scents–and the designers who worked on them–include a focus on both male and female, although sometimes with scents the lines can become quite blurred.  I ordered samples of the series (from Luckyscent) to try them out.  I’ll run through them below, although I’m as not as facile at describing scents as The NonBlonde (few are!), I thought the lines was interesting enough to present despite my limitations.  I’ve also chosen some pictures to showcase some of the clothing designer’s work.  I believe that each perfume sells for $80, and there is a list of retailers on the Six Scents site.

No. 1:  Beau Bow by Alexis Mabille and Roger Flores-Roux Incredible.  At first, I thought of the original Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche.  A very sophisticated floral, like walking into a dream garden.  There’s a hint of citrus among the woods and florals–a rich orange without any hint of shrillness.  There’s a grassy quality that reminds me of a Parisian park–manicured, centered, yet still exciting.  According to Rodrigo Flores-Roux, who formulated the scent, the scent is “elegantly modern, but strangely, still romantic, a bit hazy” and that the two collaborators “imagined the fresh and elegant Eau Fraiche structure so popular in France in the ’70’s, and gave it a jolt and a twist.”

Alexis Mabille Dress

Top notes:  Luminous hesperides: Sicilian cedrat, juicy mandarin, Calabrese bergamot and tart bigarade orange from Andalusia.  Playful herbal and green accents:  Provencal lavender, grand vert basil, garden mint, violet leaf absolute, Persian galbanum, lentisque resin.  Heart notes:  Egyptian jasmine, sambac from India, Magnolia grandiflora, rose attar from Bulgaria, wild Alpine cylamen and white honeysuckle.  Bottom notes:  vetyverte from Reunion, mossy nuances, iris absolute from Florence and the sheer woodiness of Kephalis.

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