Sunday, July 31, 2011
There are quite a few things that can make me fall terribly, desperately in love with a brand. As an enthusiastic consumer, there are a myriad of cosmetic and perfume brands at my disposal. All but the most expensive are within my reach, so it takes a lot for me to generate interest in a line. I have to be more than just merely infatuated with a product, or a texture, or a smell.
In this social media-engulfed age, the opportunites for brands to make themselves more appealing and more accessible via networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and (for bloggers) general PR outreach are near infinite. The potential for growth and attraction of new customers is incalculably valuable in a time where traditional modes of advertising (such as magazine ads and product placement) have proven vastly ineffective as compared to the oh-so-simple word of mouth (or, word of fingers?).
Nowhere is word of mouth and an understanding of the power of social media more important than in the realm of independent beauty lines. Whether someone focuses on perfume, or makeup, or bath and body products is irrelevant; what matters is that person’s ability to be friendly, make the right sort of friends, and make a product so good that those friends can’t shut up about it.
I’m not saying that indie lines need to suck up to bloggers or high-volume consumers; what I’m saying is that indie lines, because they are by nature smaller and have less man power and financial power to advertise the way bigger, more exposed lines do, have to know how to appeal to the underlying needs and desires of their potential consumers.
This brings me back to my original statement: what, then, makes me - someone who is by default completely over-saturated with all sorts of beauty products - fall in love with a line? It’s no secret that I’m totally indie-crazed right now, whether it be with indie perfumers or indie makeup lines. What are these small companies doing that makes me choose their product over, say, Chanel? What follows are my thoughts on the subject.
1) Indie retailers know how to work Twitter - and they work to develop personal relationships with their consumer base: I love that I can engage with a company’s owner online via Tweeting. I have developed real relationships with some of these people because of this (for example, it’s no small secret that I’m totally enamored with Becca of OHWTO and Marin of Linnaeus Cosmetics). Furthermore, even if I don't have a relationship with a given company's owner, just seeing him or her engage in friendly chatter with others on Twitter is enough to make me want to try the company because the owner seems like a genuinely good person.
2) Indie retailers embrace us nutty bloggers: While I’m sure that most indies get annoyed by constant emails of “Oh hi I blog, send me free stuff!”, they still manage to discern whose voice is worth cultivating. Nothing makes me happier than doing a review of an indie line and having the owner read it and thank me! I am happy to do them the service of advertising for them when I know that my efforts are appreciated. Retweets of reviews, or postings of reviews on a Facebook page or a company website are just incredibly nice gestures. I am impressed to see that a company’s owner takes the time to search out reviews, and thanks those who do them. About press samples: sending free samples to bloggers is always an appreciated gesture, but is not required (and should in NO WAY be forced upon a company by a blogger; there's nothing tackier than to beg for freebies) - what is most important is that there is a synergy between blogger and company. This is especially so when research has shown that consumers are more likely to listen to a blogger’s opinion than, say, the opinion of a celebrity or a magazine ad. I am attracted to intelligent marketing and gratitude. Furthermore, if I see a consistent string of positive reviews for a company and its product (especially from blogger friends I know and trust), I am helpless against ordering.
3) (In my experience) Indie retailers know the magic of personalized presentation: I know that there are some indie lines that don’t pay much attention to aesthetics, but good god, there is nothing better than ordering a package from an indie company and seeing a handwritten note of thanks, or samples that you know they carefully considered based on their knowledge of you and of your order(s), or a surprise treat like candy or stickers. Whenever I see reviews of a blogger’s haul and they take a picture of the presentation, I always look for the aforementioned additions to the purchase. In the same vein, I love personalized confirmation emails/Paypal notes. It’s the added touch of “I recognize you as a unique consumer and appreciate your business” that will suck me in.
If an indie company does all of this right, then they have me as a devoted fan fo’ life. I’ll order products just to try them, simply for the experience of having a little bit of cheer and happiness delivered to my mailbox. Retail therapy is a powerful agent of positivity, and even more so when a consumer feel strongly engaged by the brand from which she shops.
Of course, the previous points are rendered invalid if a product is itself terrible. At that point, no amount of Twitter butt-kissing and surprise love packs of free samples can make up for a subpar eyeshadow or a terrible perfume. However, it’s been my experience that the indie brands I have shopped from or been approached by produce quality products. When one doesn’t have a brand name to hide behind, or millions of dollars to use towards effective advertising for bland products, he or she is forced to deliver (or should feel forced to deliver). I can tell when something is made with love and care, and I have yet to be disappointed by any of the indie brands I’ve tried. Furthermore, because these brands are so open and communicative with their consumer base, they take criticism heavily into account and strive to deliver better products with this criticism in mind. At the end of the day, they must produce what their customers want because they know in return they will receive support from their customers - and consequently gain new customers in the process.
And I, of course, end up placing numerous orders from these lines, taking my excitement and pleasure to Facebook, Twitter, and my blog. It’s like the consumer circle of life!
Anyway, why do I bring this all up? Well, this is a topic I feel strongly about. You’ll be seeing quite a bit of indie brand reviews here on this blog, mixed in with more well-known brands. I wanted to explain my reasoning for why I intend on shining such a strong spotlight on these brands.
To summarize, there are so many indie brands out there that deserve our attention, that deserve more attention. Every day I learn about a new brand that I feel I should have already known about. Every day I get tempted to spend another dollar (or I just go ahead and spend that damned dollar!) on an indie line. These men and women work hard, and good products deserve good support!
What do you think?
I just wanted to throw up a quick photo for some fun: on my poor, battered dresser lay overstuffed Sterilite drawers of makeup and a ridiculous amount of Indie makeup lines whose products I need to review.
Can you spot:
Here’s a spoiler: I love everything.
Also, how freakin’ cute are those Evil Shades clamshell samples!?
Which line should I review first? Let me know, and I’ll see what I can do =)
I’m terribly sorry for the lack of posting this weekend. I had too much of an adventurous two days off from work (oh, the stories I could tell!), and I spent yesterday evening after work trying to organize all of my purchases/press samples from the last six weeks or so.
I have a lot to write about; so much, actually, that I had a bit of an anxiety attack while cleaning that I had to sit down and try to calm myself down.
What, then, is a girl to do when she’s home on a Saturday night and stressed out?
GIVE HERSELF AN AT-HOME MINI FACIAL, OBVIOUSLY!!!!!
While I was cleaning last night, I found this improbably comprehensive collection of high-end skincare and fragrance samples hanging out under my bed. I apparently had been tossing all of the freebies I was getting while shopping into this bin, which I then promptly forgot existed. If you were on Twitter last night, then you probably witnessed my incredulous reactions to the things I was pulling out from underneath my bed.
I collected a couple of these samples, tied my hair back, and marched myself to my bathroom.
(picture courtesy of some website, oops!)
I started with washing off my makeup with St. Ives Naturally Clear Green Tea Cleanser, which I purchased at Target for $2.99USD. Ever since my skin went nutty about six weeks ago, I’ve been trying desperately to clear it up. I bought this on a whim and I have to say that it’s been a lifesaver. I use it twice a day, and it’s managed to seriously reduce my clogged pores and breakouts while calming the natural redness in my skin. Also, it’s not drying out my already parched skin. Total winner!
(picture courtesy of Sephora.com)
After carefully rinsing off, I broke out my deluxe sample of Amore Pacific Treatment Enzyme Peel (I couldn’t tell you where the heck I got this, but I’m assuming Bergdorf). This, in its full size, retails for $60USD. This was so awesome. It is a water-activated powder that is used to gently exfoliate the skin without abrasive, rough physical exfoliants or irritating chemical exfoliants. It has a unique plant-based enzyme complex that breaks down dead skin cells and other skin congestion. Instructions say to massage this on the skin for 30-45 seconds after activating the powder, but I did it for over a minute, concentrating on the areas of my face that are giving me the most hell.
After rinsing off, my skin looked noticeably clearer and radiant, which was amazing. I noted on Twitter that the effect was akin to having had my skin laser resurfaced (which I used to do). It’s that good. I plan to use up my sample and see how much of a serious difference it makes on my skin - but I already have a feeling I’m going to end up purchasing a full-size bottle. I’m usually not terribly wow-ed by skincare, but this was fabulous.
After my peel, I used a 12% Alpha Hydroxy Acid all over my face; the one I use is from a small, indie brand that unfortunately no longer exists (you can see my review of it here). Since my skin’s been acting all wonky, I’ve been relying on AHAs to help clear up and even out my skin tone. I am currently looking for a new one, and am interested in the Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Anti-Blemish Clear Skin Cream.
(picture courtesy of the Kanebo website)
To seal in my AHA, I used my deluxe sample of Kanebo Sensai Cellular Performance Hydrachange Cream (again, I’m assuming I got this from Bergdorf). I couldn’t find an exact price online, but it retails for somewhere over $150USD. The texture of this skin cream was divine: water-light but cushiony, it made the perfect seal for my AHA. I applied a light layer all over my face, neck, and decollete.
(Random note: Kanebo Sensai samples are darling to look at - they’re serious miniatures of the real products, and are weighty and substantial to handle.)
(picture courtesy of some website, oops)
Of course, no mini-facial is complete without taking care of the under eye area! For this, I turned to my sample of Chantecaille Stress Repair Concentrate for Eyes (again, thanks to Bergdorf for most likely supplying me with this). The full size of this product retails for $175. This is a lovely eye cream that I also used around my mouth. It had an instant tightening effect on my under eye area, and the fine lines I have around my eyes seemed lessened and a tad bit plumped up. This was right after application! Amazing, no?
I really enjoyed giving myself such a nice little treat. Little luxuries such as at-home facials with high-end samples are just the sort of thing I take for granted. Doing it was a treat for both my face and my mind, as I was able to calm down and get back to cleaning afterwards.
(all the samples on my desk at work!)
Oh, and the best part? I woke up this AM to skin that hasn’t looked this good in almost two months. What a blessing! I slapped on more of the Chantecaille eye cream, did my makeup, and happily headed off to work.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Today rings in the third part of my journey through the world of Aroma M perfumes. Once again, a hearty ‘thanks!’ to Maria McElroy for allowing me the opportunity to review her fragrances.
A recap for you lovely readers: my first Aroma M review was on Geisha Green, my favorite of the six scents I sampled; my second review was on Geisha Blue, my new alternative to Ambien.
So, which Aroma M scent do I have for you today?
(picture courtesy of the Aroma M website)
Meet Aroma M Geisha Noire, or as I’ve decided to rename it, Geisha Seduction (I wanted to say ‘sex bomb’ but after finishing my review, I went and looked up other reviews and saw that Gaia had staked earlier claim to calling Geisha Noire ‘sex bomb’ - I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking so!).
I’m sure most of you are familiar with Guerlain Shalimar. Shalimar is a true classic (regardless of any reformulations), and served as the benchmark for my earliest fragrance preferences. I subconsciously always look for perfumes that remind me of that gorgeous, almost overpowering Oriental. The easiest way for me to explain Geisha Noire is to say that Geisha Noire is a child of the legacy of Shalimar. Again, I am glad that 1) Gaia also agreed; and 2) my darling Ladyboss agreed as well - during a quiet moment at work I had her sniff my wrists and she exclaimed “Oh, that reminds me of Shalimar!”
Also, Geisha Noire reminded me very much of Avon Imari. Imari is what my mother would buy me as a child when I begged her for Shalimar. I’ve always thought that the two scents were similar. Imari might actually be closer to Geisha Noire than Shalimar is, because both Geisha Noire and Imari lack the rose that I find to be evident in Shalimar.
Ok, so now that I have that out of the way, you all should have some idea of what Geisha Noire is like. It truly is a good “after dark” sort of fragrance. I imagine myself in a pair of Louboutins and a daringly low cut shirt, in the streets of Manhattan on a noisy Saturday night, on my way to see my latest paramour. This is the complete opposite of Maria’s imagery: “ an exotic covered bazaar.”
Granted, I understand where that image comes from. The initial hit of Geisha Noire is entirely reminiscent of incense. I sat at my desk for a while sniffing myself in an attempt to discern what exactly I was smelling. Unfortunately, I’m not an expert (yet!) so here’s a list of everything I smelled - maybe someone can tell me if I’m correct or not!
- Patchouli - I think I’m imagining this but Geisha Noire has this skin-like drydown that’s very similar to the effect of patchouli on my skin.
- Amber - I know for a fact there’s amber in this; in fact, the amber is blaringly obvious.
- Sandalwood - There has to be sandalwood. I’m not crazy; I smell a ton of it.
- Rose - This could just be me thinking about Shalimar.
- Clove - I’m pretty positive I’m not imagining this. This is very clove-y!
- Tonka bean - There’s a lovely warmth at the heart of this fragrance that is almost vanilla-nutmeg-y without actually being vanilla or nutmeg. Process of deduction tells me this is Tonka bean.
Taken together, the smorgasbord of notes result in a fragrance that is almost overwhelming, but in a sexy way. It’s reminiscent of when you’re with someone and they’re touching you and hitting all of your spots and it’s just almost too much. Yeah, I took it there, I went the sex route! Really though, Geisha Noire screams sex. It’s velvety, it’s powdery, it’s dark. It’s all of my best encounters rolled into one beautiful perfume.
The drydown of this fragrance is surprising: while still sexy, it’s considerably softer. The heavy incense morphs into a sweetened honeyed smell, while still maintaining the powdery amber tone of the scent at its start. There’s also still a bit of clove. Mmm, honeyed clove. Just lovely!
Oh, and when I wore this to work, everyone complimented me. Two of my female clients asked for Aroma M’s retail locations so they could buy a bottle, and my male clients winked at me.
Basically, $50USD (for a 8ml rollerball) is a small price to pay to be able to seduce everyone in sight.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Today I bring you the second part of my journey through the world of Aroma M perfumes. Another ‘thank you!’ must be sent to Maria McElroy for her generosity in gifting me with so many samples of her gorgeous fragrance oils.
Chapter one of my lovely journey brought me to the truly splendid Geisha Green: a gorgeous, perfect absinthe.
(picture courtesy of the Aroma M website)
Chapter two brings me to the first of the Aroma M fragrances I tried when I opened my package: Geisha Blue.
Geisha Blue is yet another example of my being surprised by a fragrance whose initial description turned me off. You would think that years of obsession would have taught me to not form such concrete judgments of a product, or of notes in a perfume. No, I haven’t learned a damned thing. I am staunch in my opinions, and in the things that I like and dislike.
Let me give you a quick rundown of Joey’s general perfumed preferences and pitfalls:
I like: animalic scents, fougéres, scents that smell like they could be mistaken for male body odor, scents that smell like someone bathed in patchouli or incense, heady gourmands, etc.
I do not like: aquatic scents, citrusy scents, heavy florals, scents that smell 'pretty' or typically feminine, overly sweet gourmands, overly green scents (and don’t go pointing out that patchouli is a grass, because I know it is, but patchouli does not smell “grassy”).
However, as I venture more into serious perfume obsession, the guidance of my fragranced friends and all of the reading I’ve been doing has shown me that there is a damned huge difference between what I think something smells like and what something actually smells like. A good example of this: buy a rose and smell it, then smell a rose perfume. The real thing smells different and better, always.
The takeaway lesson, boys and girls?: I need to be more open, because the notes I always thought I hated, I hated for all the wrong reasons. I hated them because I didn’t know what they were supposed to smell like, what they could smell like when used well. I only knew bad examples.
Once again, I’m digressing. Sorry, I can’t help but prattle on! Besides, this had a point.
When I opened Maria’s package, I went straight for the information packet she sent me. The description of Geisha Blue caught my eye, because Maria claimed that the scent was perfect for “giving balance and repose” to the psyche, and was the perfect thing to wear “to smooth out a busy work day” or “whenever you’re stressed out.” Good lord, was I stressed out and mentally exhausted that day. I figured something that would help me zone out and possibly sleep would be a good thing.
Then, I saw the notes: blue chamomile, green tea, grasses and other greens, jasmine.
I gagged. How could I wear something like that? A scent with those notes would be the total antithesis of my normal fragrances. I would never like it.
However, a blogger’s work is never easy and sometimes she or he must take risks for the sake of the audience at large and the company who so expectantly waits for reviews. So, I dabbed it on. I waited a few seconds, and brought my wrist up, hesitantly, to my terrified nose.
Oh wow. Joey was proven WRONG. DEAD WRONG. Geisha Blue was pretty, but pretty in a way suitable for my preferences.
The initial hit is definitely all jasmine, but not a heady, heated jasmine. This is soft, this is powdery. I can smell the chamomile as well, but not as strongly. It works well to compliment the jasmine, lending it the subdued nature I picked up on. I’m not sure if this makes sense, but I imagined a dried tea, ready to be brewed. A fresher chamomile would have given this a greener feel; there’s sort of a browned, mellow tone to Geisha Blue in the first hour of wear.
Geisha Blue, as I wear it, does actually become greener. Again, this is not a bright green, but something quiet. I need to stop using the word ‘green’ - ok, let’s start this over again: as the fragrance blossoms on the skin, it becomes more reminiscent of a brewed mug of herbal tea. The jasmine becomes almost non-existent on me; instead I have calm, I have softness, I have the slightest hint of powder. It’s just cozy.
I fell asleep within two hours of putting this on. It sounds like a long time, but I have suffered from chronic insomnia for over a decade. It usually takes me 4-5 hours to fall asleep, if I even fall asleep. Geisha Blue is better than a sleeping pill.
But don’t worry, it won’t give you narcolepsy; I wore it the next day to work, and it kept me relaxed and happy - and I stayed awake.
I’m pretty much throwing out my sleeping pills and investing in a full-sized (8ml rollerball, $50USD) bottle. I’m also throwing away my perfumed preconceptions.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
I am blessed to have been approached by Aroma M’s Maria McElroy with an offer to sample her line of beautiful perfume oils. Maria is an artist and a perfumer whose seven years in Japan shaped her creative aesthetic and led her to start Aroma M.
For well over fifteen years, she’s been creating her lovely line of perfume oils (there are eight) and her EDPs (there are four). The Japanese influence is present both in the design of the bottles (Yuzen paper from Kyoto wrapped around glass bottles) and in the the notes with which she experiments.
What drew me to Aroma M was the concept of gender-neutral, therapeutic, color-coordinated scent. For one, I never stick to the feminine-masculine fragrance binary (as I’m sure you’re well aware that I tend towards scents that are ‘manly’). Also, I wear perfume as much to lift my spirits and color my day as I do to just smell good.
With this all in mind, I sent Maria a list of the scents that appealed to me the most, and a day or two later I received a beautifully presented little love pack of six oil samples, a lovely handwritten note from Maria, and some well-written information on the line.
(A FYI: Lovely presentation and personalized touches make reviewing - and shopping, of course - a much more pleasant experience. There is nothing worse than a company, small or large, that does not know how to treat its customer. I say this as someone who is a consumer first and a blogger second.)
I’m going to start my series on Aroma M with my favorite of the scents I tried. When I received my love pack, I eagerly read the fragrance descriptions. Had I guessed at the outset which scent would be my favorite, I would have been utterly wrong. There’s no way I could have accurately predicted my favorite. This just goes to show you that with fragrance, you must wear a scent before you make a judgment. Fragrance addicts cannot survive on descriptions alone! It’s funny, though; the lovely Victoria of EauMG (and lovely she is - have you seen those lips?!) tweeted at me that her favorite Aroma M fragrance oil was in fact the very one that would end up being my favorite as well.
At this point, you must be dying for me to cut to the chase. Sorry! Ok, I present to you Aroma M Geisha Green, one of the most sensational smells I have had the pleasure of encountering in a long, long time.
(picture from Aroma M's website)
Upon my first application of Geisha Green, my eyes widened and I really immediately wrote the word “SENSATIONAL” in capital letters on my press notes (yes, I take notes on press releases so that I can refer to them when I do my reviews). I’m not sure if any of you dear readers have ever had the opportunity to drink absinthe before. I love absinthe, since I am a licorice freak. Anyway, I’m sure that you know that the proper way to drink absinthe is with a special slotted spoon with a sugar cube; the sugar helps to sweeten the tarty strength of the liqueur: the play of tart, sweet, strong, and heady makes for a drink that was famed for causing hallucinations.
(awesome picture of an absinthe fountain from uncrate.com)
Well, I damn near hallucinated from joy while wearing this. The best way to describe Geisha Green is to imagine an exquisite absinthe strained through a violet sieve. The first hour or so is this incredible and dizzyingly warm licorice-violet combination. I credit this warmth to the amber and tonka bean base notes; there is a powdery feel which the amber lends, and the coziness of the tonka bean keeps the licorice from being too sharp. It’s genius.
As the time passes (and if you haven’t fainted from the sheer joy of initial application), there is this beautifully mellow fruitiness that appears to play with the amber and tonka bean. The licorice and violet take a backstage to this delicious jam that only increases the overall warmth of the scent. Officially, this jam is mandarin and black currant; I smell just an overall fruitiness, although I can discern the currant more. I’d call the mix of the two notes “fruit punch for adults”. I normally cannot stand overly fruity fragrances but this is so truly well done. In my notes I wrote that the drydown is “exquisite: warm, fruity, and melds to the skin." This is exactly right.
Geisha Green is sexy, but not in a specifically feminine or masculine way. It’s just so...all-encompassing. This would smell as good on me as it would on one of my guy friends. I love it. I also notice that when I wear it, I feel decidedly more comfortable in my own skin.
Basically, this will be purchased in a full-size bottle (8ml rollerball, $50USD) as soon as my sample runs out...which will be very soon.
Aroma M fragrances can be found at www. Aromam.com and at these retailers.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
I meant to post this last night, but when you see the pictures you’ll understand why I didn’t. I went to dinner last night with my girl friend Emily, and we ended up so full that we actually cried the entire train ride back uptown. I basically dragged myself into my bed and wept salty tears of faux-remorse over my gluttony.
You see, Emily and I had dinner at my favorite restaurant in NYC, Cafeteria (17th and 7th, 212-414-1717). Cafeteria’s been open since, oh 1999 I believe - definitely since I was in late middle school - and since my very first visit there, its nouveau American dishes have won the coveted #1 place in my fatty, fatty heart. Not to mention, Cafeteria’s location in Chelsea makes it a prime people-watching place. All of the cutest boys and girls go there, so it’s fun to check out how stylish and downtown everyone looks.
Oh - and Cafeteria makes some of the best cocktails ever!
Granted, I know this isn’t makeup porn but sometimes, a girl just has to post food porn. We can’t all survive on lipgloss alone! Besides, I did rename this blog “Beauty, Bacon, Bunnies”! Now, onto the pictures!
Here’s my drink, the Wildberry Mojito (one of the summer cocktails). This tasted like a Jolly Rancher (and Emily agreed), sweet but tart. I could have had a few of these.
Emily ordered a...oh hell, what was it called? A Cucumber Cooler or something? It was another one of the summer cocktail options. It was gin based, and it was just so light and refreshing. I’m all about cucumber in my cocktails during the summer, but I wanted to get something different from Emily.
We both split Cafeteria’s infamous Mac Attack. Cafeteria is known for their truffle oil mac and cheese, but they also make two other flavors: gouda and bacon, and fontina and cheddar. In the picture below, the gouda and bacon is on the left, the truffle oil is in the middle, and the fontina and cheddar is on the right. This appetizer (which is a meal in itself, really) is seriously sinful.
Despite the heaviness of the Mac Attack, Emily and I decided to more food. Clearly, we’re masochists (and gluttons). In the picture below, Emily’s Baja Fish Tacos are in the background, and her grilled asparagus with cheese is in the middle. The foreground...well, that’s obvious: my chicken and waffles! That’s a half a chicken right there, perfectly fried in a buttermilk batter. The waffle was crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and divinely buttermilk-y. Both the chicken and the waffle ended up drenched in maple syrup.
We couldn’t finish our meals, although we tried! I ate 99% of mine. Somehow, we managed to pay the bill (which wasn’t terrible - what I love about Cafeteria is that the food is well-priced for the amount and quality: dinner for two with a drink each and an appetizer will run you on average $70-80) and waddle to the train.
If you’re ever in Chelsea and in the mood for something gluttonous and delicious, definitely check out Cafeteria! Follow the restaurant on Twitter at @CAFETERIAnyc for fun updates.
PS: Makeup-wise, I wasn't wearing much because this NYC heat is ridiculous! This weekend I've just been wearing my Le Metier de Beaute Peau Vierge, one of my assortment of NARS Illuminators, mascara, brow pencil (Le Metier de Beaute, of course), and a lip color.