Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Chanel lipsticks make you sexy.

The Chanel lipsticks came to me quite by accident. For all my elaborately-constructed prose about makeup and one's beauty coffret, I'd somehow managed to bypass owning any Chanel products until an accident one Christmas where I mistakenly bought my mother the same lipstick as the year before. I've owned Chanel foundations before, though, but owning a foundation is simply not in the same league as the flight of frivolity of owning a beautifully-packaged Chanel lipstick, is it? A foundation is just that: a sturdy base built to withstand the elements, but a lipstick from Chanel is something quite different, and something quite special.

She maintains I did it on purpose, in that sort of lo-fi expensively-wrapped schadenfreude way that I'd routinely pull everything from my drawers and cupboards when I was little and then gigglingly drag her by the hand up to my room with the promise that I'd tidied my room up as a surprise, only to push open the door and watch the horror creep in through the early smile lines on her face.

Actually, the first one was an accident, just to clear it up. I did that kind of 'boy' thing of blindly picking something I liked because I thought she would like it. And she does like it, just not two lipsticks' worth. So, I helpfully redistributed it into my own possession, and wore it nonstop for a couple of weeks, and her name is Gabrielle. Gabrielle is an elegant lady with a little shine and a soft, sweet red appeal, like that juicy apple offered to Snow White. She has bite, but she's not so overt.

L-R Dragon and Gabrielle.

The second Chanel I ever had came to me by way of an uncalculated purchase. My Boots Advantage Card points had been teetering, 46 mere points away, from something beautiful and shiny and much-coveted. It was never helpful that I always had Franky flaunting and flirting it and making me feel I couldn't live without it. On the way to a job interview a couple of weeks ago, it started to rain. I was wearing the most hole-ridden pair of flats in the whole world and water came in and it felt like the whole world was against me: rain, a job interview, soggy feet and rapidly curling hair which was recoiling from the deluge and leaving me with disturbing kiss-curls. I'd forgotten my umbrella too.

It was a bad day, but then it got better. Through the purchase of a pointless umbrella (another to add to my stash), my balance heaved itself, puffing, over the finishing line, and I bounced up the stairs to proudly present my card at the Chanel counter and demand my prize: Chanel Dragon. And even though I never got the job (what's one more rejection when you've applied for 15 part-time jobs in retail, after all?), I wore Dragon for the whole week after and walked tall, if slightly bitchily (because red gives you that kind of hair-tossing strut and you want to wear heels). Dragon, to me, is Gabrielle's sister, spiky, bitchy and would stare down a Honey Badger and win.

I'm in Dragon. Honey Badger doesn't stand a chance...

I think you know that with me, it's nearly always the story I have to tell you in a roundabout way, rather than succinctly telling you, 'Here is a product I like. Here is why I like it.' I like the way my little tubes of red have found their way to me by an unconventional route, and even more, how I remember exactly what that strange route was.

Has a beautiful product ever 'found' you in a weird and serendipitous way?

Monday, 5 September 2011

Illamasqua and the Theatre of the Nameless.

I so very often get caught up in my own swirling narrative that it's nice to sit down and be told a story myself for a change. Illamasqua handed me a syrupy cocktail in a dimly-lit bar on the first day of September and told me a new one about lusty ladies and a bawdy Berlin subculture of the 1920's where rusty-lipped fallen maidens slithered into a luridly codified underworld and lured twitchy men with borrowed names away from the grey-tinged gloom of Weimar Germany by the colour of their boots. They were called, as might seem obvious, the Boot Girls, and were dominatrices who chose a more semaphoric method to advertise their services to questing clients looking for specific debaucheries on a breathless no-names-exchanged basis.

No-names became stage-names in the next story we were to be told about the glittering world of Cabaret, a world where the corsetry was tightly-laced, yet the morals were undone. We were introduced to 20's anti-darling Anita Berber, whose proclivity for decadence, debauchery and drugs landed her notoriety along with her provocative nude dancing. Her carbon-eyed aesthetic provides one of the key pieces of imagery Illamasqua brought forward and updated into the new collection, a sinister cabaret of dulled candle-lit hues of dark corners in Cabaret bars and backstreet Berlin, lit with a sprinkling of feminine hues and embracing the art of the performance.

And so we entered the Theatre of the Nameless, a perfect name of two parts. The art of performance, in whatever guise it takes, versus the idea of anonymity, the dark corners, quick fumbles and dulled senses of Berlin's 20's underworld. If Illamasqua's tag-line has always been 'makeup for your alter-ego', then they've hit the nail on the head. It's all a performance: sit back and enjoy the show.

I like an intelligent brand, and I like a brand who tell me something new. Illamasqua is now firmly-established as both. Their new collection is, quite frankly, awesome, and their launch event was pretty great too. The look is heady, sooty, muted, with little flashes of high colour. The dim light made it near-impossible for my little point-and-shoot with minimal spangly settings to cope - so I'm going to point you to this comprehensive post by the fabulous Sinead for all the products swatched.

One of the hotly-tipped products for the new collection are the rubber-look nail polishes, accessorised with fetishistic rubber lids. I don't have a bottle to show you, but here are my nails freshly-painted by a lovely lady at the event:

Starting from the index finger: Vice, Faux Pas, Kink and Taint.

I really liked the finish of these, they are sort of matte and sort of not. Kind of a half-way house between two finishes. The greyish purple, Faux Pas, is a beautiful colour, and Vice is a lovely autumnal shade. I thought I was going to hate Kink and Taint, but they lack the yellowish tones I was fearing and I quite liked them in the end.

Some swatches from the new collection. From the top: Morale Powder Blusher, Berber Pure Pigment and Violate Sheer Lipgloss (doesn't look that sheer to me!)

Another product which caught my attention was introduction of shimmer blushes, which are smooth, pigmented and beautiful. I received Morale, a stunning rosy fuchsia pink, which applies beautifully (although I do have to be careful!) and wears surprisingly well for a powder blush.

3 new Pure Pigment shades were released: Berber, Beguile and Zeitgeist. Beguile is beautiful. David Horne (the director of New Product Development) described it as another member of the Static family, but described wanting it to look 'like water'. It is really, really beautiful and catches the light, and it's on my list. I received Berber to try, a rusty raspberry red. After shying at the colour, I gave it a go over a black base for some evil villain chic:

Berber Pure Pigment shown here over Chanel Illusion d'Ombre in Mirifique. Topshop Vamp lipstick on the lips, with Violate Sheer Lipgloss and Berber pigment patted in the centre. Morale Powder Blusher on cheeks.

When later questioned, Kiwi's answer to the question 'Do I look scary or sexy?' was 'unsure'. I was satisfied with that.

Berber is richly pigmented and works beautifully when mixed with a lipgloss or patted in the centre of the lips for a little extra vroom vroom. It's not a colour I would usually pick, but Illamasqua's ethos of alter-egos had me looking for mine for a bit, and practising my best RAWR! faces in front of the mirror.

I also received one of the new lipglosses on offer, and this was the one that made me slightly terrified. A forest green?! On me?! Luckily it goes really well over lipsticks like reds to deepen and smuttify the colour. Belladonna was another shade released - a gorgeous raspberry red. One of my picks.

My favourites from the whole collection were the more subtle products, because I'm a subtle girl, but I do like to feel like the anti-heroine every so often. My picks then: Ambition and Morale Powder Blushers, Androgen Cream Pigment, Beguile Pure Pigment, Belladonna Intense Lipgloss and Faux Pas Nail Polish.

All in all, Theatre of the Nameless is a fabulous, intelligent collection with well-conceived products and a bit of drama, which is the way Illamasqua seem to like things.


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