Monthly Archives: May 2017

Undina in London at Last!

I started reading Undina’s Looking Glass when it first appeared on the blogosphere six years ago.  I’ve long been keen to meet Undina so I was extremely happy when she wrote to say she and her Very Significant Other would be visiting London from their home in San Francisco.  If only Rusty could have come too…

 

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Rusty: Have submarine, will travel?

 

We met outside Harrods just as it opened at 11.30 am on a sunny Sunday. Undina made me feel at ease immediately and her still jet-lagged vSO very accommodatingly wandered around the store as we hit the perfume trail.

Undina doesn’t publish her photograph online but you can see below what we got up to.

 

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First stop, the 6th floor and the rarefied atmosphere of the Salon de Parfum. Our timing was good because they had opened an additional six fragrance boutiques two weeks before, including Penhaligon’s, Armani Privé and Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums.

 

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Undina had wanted to check out the MDCI Parfums line while in London and already owns Chypre Palatin. Six fragrances are stocked in the Roja Dove perfumerie (three feminines and three masculines). We liked Un Coeur en Mai the most and when Undina said it reminded her of another perfume, I was very pleased with myself for spotting it resembled Chamade. Both are spring green florals with a pollen-y feel.

 

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Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie

 

Guerlain’s  Muguet 2017 is a gorgeous lily of valley with rose, jasmine and green notes. If it were not for the sky high price I’d have happily bought a bottle.

 

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The new addition to L’Art et la Matière collection, Joyeuse Tubéreuse, surprised us by being not very tuberose-like. It’s a pretty floral bouquet with just a hint of super fresh tuberose. When the description says ‘airy’ (below), it’s not kidding. After about an hour it was extremely quiet.

 

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Above is the very Kilian-esque SA modelling the new Black Phantom. A boozy, woody fragrance with notes of rum, coffee, vetiver, cyanide, sugar cane and sandalwood.

Below is the Harrods exclusive Midnight in London which is £15,000 for the whole case (no more will be available).  The fragrance is a very nice mimosa-led floral which Undina liked best out of everything we tried. Oh the burden of expensive taste.

 

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By Kilian’s Midnight in London

 

I was excited that Frederic Malle had come to the Salon de Parfums because since my visit to the Burlington Arcade store with Val the Cookie Queen, I’ve been a little obsessed with the line.

 

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Of course I had to try out what the SA called ‘The Time Machine’. It’s a temperature controlled space for trying out fragrances in a diffused way.  Undina suggested spraying En Passant into it as it is the most fleeting. Sadly the first time if was so fleeting we could smell nothing, but on a second try we picked it up and it was lovely.

Next I tried Iris Poudre in the machine as I’m considering a full bottle purchase. This novel perfume delivery system is a bit of fun and maybe you do get a better idea than when you stick your nose onto a scent strip.

Undina disliked Superstitious on the card but loved it on me so that’s okay then.

 

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At Armani Privé we tried the Harrods exclusive which I have sadly zero recollection of. The good news is, however, that the coveted Limited Edition lipstick iris, La Femme Bleue, is coming back and will be permanent, if not widely available.

 

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You could go just to look at the gorgeous interiors…

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Back on the ground floor we went into the Black Hall and made a bee-line for Ormonde Jayne as it’s a favourite line of Undina’s and I own a couple of their perfumes too.  We tried yet another Harrods exclusive. This one is called Amber Royal and is a very pleasant floral amber.

Montabaco is their best seller and the one the SA told me the brand is now most known for. It’s a wearable, unisex tobacco scent but is part of the pricey Four Corners collection so the 50ml is £195. 

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At the Amouage counter I was impressed with Bracken Woman which smells exactly as you would expect and hope. Quite a contrast with the pink bottle. The notes are wild berries, fern, lily, narcissus, chamomile, leather, patchouli, vetiver and birch.

 

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Undina noted the placement of Bond No. 9 by the toilets…

 

After lunch we met Vanessa of Bonkers about Perfume at Bloom in Covent Garden. It was so lovely to see her after she couldn’t join us for Val’s visit.

 

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Bloom looked quite a bit different. They have removed the glass cabinets which makes everything easily accessible now.  A good move.

 

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Vanessa and I enjoyed trying Hummingbird, a floral fragrance in the Zoologist line authored by Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes. My favourite is still the fur coat of Civet (also by Shelley).

 

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Vanessa tried quite a few from indie brand Imaginary Authors.

 

 

Undina has been trying to make her mind up as to which formulation of Mito by Vero Profumo to purchase. We all preferred the Voile in a side-by-side test.

 

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Bloom had a tiny bit left of a sample of the forthcoming tobacco perfume from Vero, Naja, for Undina to try. I can’t wait to own a bottle.

We had tea and cake at Patisserie Valerie (it seems to be the perfumistas cafe of choice) and then I said my farewells. I would have loved to stay longer with them all but the day and my cold were catching up on me. All the same it was wonderful to spend much of the day with Undina and her v.SO and to see Vanessa again.

I look forward to seeing Undina and her v.SO again one of these days, either in London or San Franciso (it’s on the list!)

 

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Superstitious by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Notes: Jasmine, Rose, Peach, Amber, Incense, Vetiver, Patchouli and Aldehydes.

 

I should know better by now than to buy even a travel sized bottle of perfume on the first sniff, but rules are made to be broken. Buying the recent Malle release, Superstitious, on the spot was a calculated risk though. Val the Cookie Queen already owned the 10ml bottle and I know if she says something is good, it’s good.

Superstitious was created in association with fashion designer Alber Elbaz and the perfumer is the great Dominique Ropion. It’s the second in the ‘par Frederic Malle’ collection; the first being Dries Van Noten.

 

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Superstitious with its evil eye

 

The main body of Superstitious is all about jasmine and aldehydes. Please don’t be put off (like me) by ‘The A Word’.  These aldehydes are of the fatty, waxy variety, not the fizzy, forceful kind. The effect feels like a glistening sheen on the skin.

I’ve long had a yearning for a jasmine perfume but until now I’ve always found them either too heady or too indolic. Here, the jasmine isn’t high-pitched or overly animalic. The combination of jasmine, aldehydes and a touch of almost creamy peach gives Superstitious an unfussy opulence; like a frothy mountain of tulle. Although superficially it appears spotless, there is a pinch of smutty spice just underneath those gauzy layers, which hints at things come…

The drydown of Superstitious is sensual in a lived-in, mussed up kind of way. The sales assistant told us that people are calling the scent “posh sex”, which is actually not a bad way of describing it – it’s pure refinement that’s been tempted to engage in pure debauchery.

The base is an incense-y, woody, vetiver that is attractive in an unconventional, broken down way. It’s as if you’ve been rolling around on the floor of an abandoned building, albeit in a ball gown.

For me, discovering a hidden filth scene can be much more exhilarating then a blatant show of carnality. Someone would have to wait until the end of the night to experience that unseemly side. Anything that is not quite what it seems at first look always intrigues me.

It’s a cleverly constructed composition, going from radiant and gleaming to earthy and deeply sensual. Be aware that it is a BIG perfume with day-into-night longevity.

Its floral aldehyde style may hark back to the grand perfumes of the first half of the twentieth century but Superstitious doesn’t read as vintage or even retro.  There’s an edge to this fragrance that makes it completely contemporary.

I’m normally not attracted to the large-scale perfumes like Carnal Flower for which Ropion is known for. However, I don’t find Superstitious overwhelming. It makes a statement but I apply it judiciously and it seems to meld with my skin. In fact, it possesses everything that draws me to a perfume: contrast, tension, mystery, sensuality, originality and unmistakable quality.

Superstitious is impossibly glamorous in the most undone, sexy way imaginable.

 

 

kate

 

I understand Superstitious has been polarising people. What’s your take on it?

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Fun in London with Val the Cookie Queen

After looking forward to their visit for weeks, fellow blogger and dear friend Val the Cookie Queen and her wonderful daughter landed in London on Tuesday afternoon. I met them straight off the train from Stansted, so they hit the ground running.

Following a curry pit stop at Dosa World just off Brick Lance, we made for the DECIEM store in Spitalfields. I recently wrote about budget skincare brand The Ordinary and  Val and Hannah were just as eager to check out the products.

 

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I picked up the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% to help balance out my combination skin. I also wanted the Marula Oil but it was sold out. I have patches of dry skin at the moment so opted for the Multi Molecular Hyaluronic Complex from NIOD (also a DECIEM brand) because it has twelve different molecules of hyaluronic acid, as opposed to The Ordinary’s three.

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Hannah & Val checking out The Ordinary’s make-up which has a huge waiting list.

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After this, we headed to Debenhams on Oxford Street because I wanted to show Hannah the make-up line by tattooist, Kat Von D. The Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks are particularly popular and I purchased Double Dare, a rosy nude, for my holiday in Italy next month.

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Don’t bother with Kat Von D make-up if you’re going for the natural look.

 

In the lanes around Carnaby Street we stopped at MAC and visited roll n’roll jewellery store The Great Frog . This was a very cool store which Val had bought a couple of rings from in her youth. We were rather taken with the skull and crossbones stud earrings.

 

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After a M&S hummus run we called it a day.

 

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Day 1 haul

 

The next morning we met at the perfume department (obvs) in Fortnum & Mason. This was with the sole purpose of checking out the Ormonde Jayne Exclusive, Jardin d’Ombre. It’s a dusty iris in a garden of soft florals which our pal Pia of Love To Smell is mad about.  We both committed it to skin because at £195 for a 125ml bottle, you have to love it from beginning to end.

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Next we stepped into Santa Maria Novella, also on Piccadilly. It’s a tiny store but packed with the Italian pharmacy’s gorgeous bath and body products.  I was rather overwhelmed and should have done some research beforehand. I tried Iris eau de cologne, which was lovely, but it’s £90 for 100ml so I had to go away and give it some thought. It did actually last on the paper strip for a good while, so not bad value for a cologne.

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When Hannah mentioned she liked the smell of petrol, the SA brought out Nostalgia. It’s a chewy birch tar leather with bergamot, rubber, sytrax and amber. Unfortunately It became more like aftershave when it settled.

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Across the road at the Burlington Arcade, we went into the Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle stand-alone store. The lovely Pawel was incredibly helpful and even tried to get us to go away and think about our prospective purchases. He failed. I bought the brilliant 10ml travel bottles of Iris Poudre and the latest release, Superstitious (review to follow next week).

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The Carnal Flower Hair Mist was amazing on Hannah

 

Pawel showed us the Coffret with 10ml bottles of each of the fragrances. It’s £450 which is actually good value for the number and quality of the perfume you’re getting. Frederic Malle is an exemplary line. Whether I would wear them all or not, I admire every single creation and as a niche collection, it’s hard to beat.

 

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Superstitious by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

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Val had kindly booked us onto the Highgate Cemetery tour, for which Vanessa of Bonkers About Perfume was going to join us, but was poorly sadly. While the East Cemetery is open to the public for a fee at the gate, the West Cemetery can only be accessed via the tours, which are booked up weeks in advance.

This Victorian gothic Wast Cemetery has a really special atmosphere and you can see why a lot of famous people are buried here (most recently George Michael). The tour was a long wander around the pathways among the woods, which are packed with elegantly decaying graves. Highly recommended.

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East Cemetery above, West Cemetery below.

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The Sleeping Angel, my favourite.

Our last destination was Camden Market. It mainly appeals to younger people like Hannah, but I still enjoyed having a nose around and picked up a snake ring inspired by Undina.

 

On the way back to the station we stopped in at MAC again. Hannah works for the store in Salzburg and so I was able to benefit from her advice. She recommended the Cremeblend Blush in So Sweet So Easy and for a nude lip, Twig paired with Soar lip liner. I also took advantage of her youth to help me find a pair of trainers for spring/summer.

It was a fantastic day and a half. Happily, it felt much longer than that. We packed a lot in and it felt great to be in the company of these two fabulous females. I hope to visit them in Austria one year.

Keep an eye out for Val’s post covering her time in London on Australian Perfume Junkies in the near future.

 

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Day 2 haul

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Hannah, Val and I on our way to Highgate Cemetery

 

Have you tried any of the perfumes mentioned above? Do you have any recommendations for what to buy from Santa Maria Novella?

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London, Istanbul, Tel Aviv and Brooklyn by Gallivant

For the last few years I’ve taken holidays exclusively in cities and while not exactly restful, I’ve loved every minute of it. There’s something exhilarating about exploring a metropolis and seeing how you slot into it.

British indie perfume house Gallivant has recently launched with four fragrances that intend to capture this free-wheeling feeling. Founder Nick Steward has worked in the industry for many years, most recently as product and creative director of L’Artisan Parfumeur. He created the collection with two independent perfumers, namely Karine Chevallier and Giorgia Navarra (the latter being the Italian protégée of Bertrand Duchaufour).

 

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London

Notes: Cucumber, Rose de Mai Absolute and Leather

Being a born and bred Londoner, of course I was curious to try a perfume inspired by my city. Cucumber is a note I struggle with but I don’t notice it specifically. Instead the opening is generally very fresh, green and water-filled, but with something almost skanky just beneath the surface.  Once it dries down, the leather comes across as raw and a little musty, like the leather jackets on the vintage clothes stalls in Camden Market, turning lightly rosy over time. London is an unconventional shape-shifter, morphing from a green aquatic into a floral leather. Like its fragrant namesake, London is full of eccentric contrasts; a place where you can be your own strange self.

 

Istanbul

Notes: Cardamom, Geranium, Patchouli, Vanilla and Amber

I fear the city of Istanbul might rather overwhelm me but I bet it’s a fascinating place to visit with its coming together of east and west, ancient and modern. There is certainly a novel opening to the fragrance of the same name.  The combination of cardamom and herbs makes for an unusually fresh, almost mentholated, spice accord. The aromatics continue into the heart with geranium and lavender backed by spiced amber. It has the texture of suede and gets progressively drier and dustier in the base. Istanbul takes a few unexpected turns on this well-trodden oriental path.

 

Tel Aviv

Notes: Clementine, Jasmine Sambac Absolute, Musks and Deertongue Absolute

It’s nice to see a city represented in scent that is not one of the usual suspects. Tel Aviv brings the laid-back beach vibe into the heart of the city. It’s an easy-to-like tropical floral with a relaxed feel. After a brief burst of clementine, the clean jasmine and fruity ylang-ylang combine to give that luscious, languorous effect so typical of this much-loved genre. You can almost see the bright white light reflecting off the buildings and feel a refreshing airiness among the flowers. I’ve heard Tel Aviv is a hedonistic city and Gallivant were aiming for “lingering 1970s glamour”.  The warm, lightly musky base gives us a taste of that.

 

Brooklyn

Notes: Lemon and Orange Juice, Magnolia, Transparent Flowers and Musks.

I stuck to Manhattan when I visited New York but this feels like a good fit with how I imagine Brooklyn to be. The fragrance is bright and fizzy which chimes with what I assume is the buzzy and hip borough of the city. It reflects the intellectual, creative types you’d expect to find hanging out on the sidewalks.  They probably wouldn’t wear anything fussy so this citrus with substance seems to hit the mark. Fuzzy musks and cardamom massively extend the life of the sherbet-y citrus into the soft, white floral heart and beyond. Somehow Brooklyn manages to feel lively and breezy at the same time.

 

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The focus on top quality materials is clear and I can imagine the streamlined approach appealing to the urban explorers Gallivant is aimed at.  While sleek and accessible, each composition still has a quirk of its own.

It’s also good to see a new brand in the indie/niche sector enter at a sensible price point with the “nomad sized” 30ml EdPs coming in at £65. Individual samples are available as well as a Discovery Set, via the website.

 

Let me know your thoughts about the sound of this new brand in the comments. Do any of the cities appeal to you?

 

 

 

 

 

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What Do You Think of The Ordinary?

There’s been a buzz around skincare brand The Ordinary since it launched last year. They offer no frills “clinical technologies” at low cost, with the aim of improving price integrity in skincare. You can get most products for under a tenner and last week I finally jumped on the beauty bandwagon and placed an order.

The very first time I checked out The Ordinary website, I was so baffled by the long chemical names of the products, I clicked away pretty sharpish. I’ve only upgraded from a basic three-step routine relatively recently, so all the jargon was a mystery to me. Even the explanations of each product were as clear as mud. Unless you’re a beauty geek, you really need to research the ingredients and find the ones that are right for your skin type. Luckily there are lots of reviews around.

Thanks to a hugely helpful post by Victoria on Bois de Jasmin, I felt a little more confident. I did a bit more reading and tried again. This time I purchased Buffet, Natural Moisturizing Factors +HA, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F (see what I mean about the names?) and 100% Plant Derived Squalane. All of these seemed suitable for my combination skin with dry patches.

 

My Routine

AM

‘Buffet’ is a serum containing a number of peptides which I apply in the morning after cleansing, in the hope it will increase my skin’s collagen. I love it and find it a dream to apply.

I follow this with Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F, which is a Vitamin C serum for brightening the skin. The Ordinary offer four different Vitamin C serums and this is what confused me the most. They do have a guide but it still uses a lot of technical language. In the end I plumped for Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F because it combines high potency with a very low risk of stinging.

The consistency turned out to be quite watery even though it’s a light oil. Next time I’ll go for the Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate which is a light cream formulation with a very low risk of stinging and medium potency.

Next is a couple of drops from my Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster. In time I’ll be replacing it with The Ordinary’s version seeing as it’s  a whopping £38 cheaper!

Everywhere except my t-zone, I apply the Natural Moisturizing Factors +HA which is a non-greasy, easily absorbed moisturiser with added hyaluronic acid which has a comforting feel.

For sunscreen and its make-up priming properties, I finish with Paula’s Choice RESIST Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense SPF 30.

PM

In the evening after cleansing and toning, I use the Buffet serum again followed by Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster and Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment. But again, once the Paula’s Choice product runs out I’ll switch to The Ordinary’s Advanced Retinoid 2%.

Lastly, I apply the 100% Plant Derived Squalane to try and combat the patches of lizard skin on my cheek and neck which I’m thoroughly fed-up with. When I’ve used it up I’ll try one of the number of plant oils (probably the 100% Cold Pressed Virgin Marula) to see if that gives a better result. I finish my evening routine with Natural Moisturizing Factors +HA.

 

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The Ordinary’s “apothecary chic” packaging.

 

I want to try the Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% as a weekly exfoliating treatment but feel nervous about the fact it’s described a “peeling formulation”. If you’ve tried this direct acid, please let me know in the comments.

Apart from the Vitamin C Suspension 23% and the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, you can use any combination of products as long as you apply the water based formulas before the oil based formulas (there is a table that tells you which are which). However, they recommend using no more than 3 serums at any one time.

Obviously I haven’t used the products long enough to review them, but overall I’m impressed with those I’ve tried so far. They are easy to apply and I’ve had no adverse reactions. What I’d love to hear about is your experience.

Have you tried anything from The Ordinary? Do you have advice to offer? If possible, please share how you combine your products.

 

 

 

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