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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Penhaligons Portrait Collection Cocktails and The Coveted Duchess Rose Review

Last night I went to Plateau in Canary Wharf to sample the cocktails inspired by the Portraits collection as imagined by Penhaligons. A complicated but brilliant concept. Penhaligons have devised several cliche - but irresistably fun Agatha Christie/ Dickens like personas. Take The Coveted Duchess Rose - her "biography" reads:  "Daughter of Lady Blanche and Lord George, Rose married a Duke to escape the stifling rigidity of her family and to become the Coveted Duchess Rose. At first naively romantic, she has now become disillusioned and frustrated in an unsatisfactory marriage. Always looking for fun and frivolity (and perhaps love affairs), her fragrance is a not so innocent fresh rose." So in turn Plateau have designed a corresponding cocktail: "the desirous and seductive character of The Coveted Duchess Rose has a delicate and woody scent, with notes of mandarin, rose, and musky wood that are reflected in the Duchess Rose cocktail with Ketel One Vodka, La Diabada Pisco, Rose Syrup, and Peychaud Bitters."

Well cocktails and perfumes are two of my favourite things! The cocktails are served with a sample of the eponymous perfume. I didn't really enjoy my cocktail and my friend didn't enjoy his Lord George cocktail, combining Atlantico Rum, Chilli Truffle Tea, and Lapponica Lingonberry Liqueur. But I am very fussy about cocktails and my friend also is always harping on about the "balance" of cocktail ingredients. And when it came to the perfumes, knowing each full size 75ml bottle is a rather suitably grand (perhaps they took the theme too far?) £178, we were similarly underwhelmed. His perfume smelt very soapy, to the sacrifice of many of the underlying notes. "It smells like my dad", he intoned solemnly. Indeed it mentions having shaving soap as a note, but that is all that could be smelt! Like the cocktails, these seemed one very overwhelming flavour masking any delicate additional elements. For instance, the chilli in the cocktail was imperceptible...


 

 Yes, I always match my outfit to the decor - doesn't everyone?

 
 Now to my own sample, which I've worn today. The first thing to mention is that oddly for an EDP it doesn't seem to last that long. I've just had to re-spray to reassess my thoughts. Unless it's just something you get used to, but I don't think so, as it's a strong scent! It blasts out but then suddenly, at some point, it's gone. And now, it's chokingly strong as I type this. Now wait, I do believe every woman should have one rose perfume because roses are beautiful and feminine and whatever your taste, once in a while at least, it's nice to just smell like a lovely generic pleasing and feminine rose. My rose perfume is a limited edition but you can find it online, read about it here, Clarins Par Amour Toujours. But the reason the Clarins perfume won me around is that it did something unexpected. My everyday perfume is DKNY EDP (the tall, glass bottle in silver packaging.) The Clarins perfume combined grapefruit with rose. Almost like a rose version of my DKNY staple: The grapefruit takes the edge right off the cloying molded rose smell. This Penhaligons interpretation, combing woodiness and rose, just smells, as I initially observed in response to the above- related dad comment, "like my grandma". So we had before us, a dad perfume and a grandma perfume. This rose perfume smells like rose pot pourri. I can't smell any subversive elements to what one would disparagingly conjure up when imagining a "rose perfume". It's dupeable, and not in a good way. It doesn't smell expensive or unique or interesting.

Perhaps this review is skewed as my favourite scents are somewhat sharper. My favourite of all time is Hermes Un Jardin sur le Nil, and has been for years. However I do like my oriental or leather scents like Calvin Klein Euphoria, and I have a treasured vintage Donna Karan fragrance which now goes for hundreds of dollars online. It's just called Donna Karan. Described as "Fresh passions of apricot, bergamot, green notes, neroli, osmanthus, peach and pineapple burst out at the top, followed by a floral rhythm of carnation, cassia, heliotrope, jasmine, lily, orchid, rose and ylang-ylang at the heart of the fragrance. Bottom notes bring amber, benzoin, cedar, citruses, tonka bean, vanilla, vetiver, sandalwood, musk, suede, patchouli and incense." Unlike this Penhaligons fragrance, which in theory, claiming notes of mandarin, rose and musky wood, the Donna Karan smells like an enveloping and complex world of an emotionally-charged fragrance. Donna Karan claimed she wanted the fragrance to smell like her husband's neck! You get that authentic raw emotion and conviction. With this The Coveted Duchess Rose, you get the same phoney and unconvincing cliche scent as you do with the idea itself.

I'm all for a sense of humour, but for £178 it's just not that amusing. Anyway although I didn't much care for the cocktails, it is probably the cheapest way to get yourself a sample of the perfume and I daresay the cocktail and tiny perfume sample are pound for pound equal footing, the tiny perfume sample probably winning out. (N.B if you're in London, check out BRUMUS in Haymarket; my favourite ever cocktail is the Turkish Old Fashioned. Funnily enough it's a rose-based cocktail, which is why I was excited to try this rose one. However it's far more delicate and delicious)

But hurry! It ends tonight. The four new cocktails will be available at the Bar up to 30th November. Each will be served with a sample of the fragrance in addition to the cocktail.

Have you tried this perfume? Please comment below with any thoughts...

OH P.S I've just started an instagram please follow me if you like, my interests are art, working out, cocktails (yes somewhat conflicting, sigh) and obviously makeup :) I haven't uploaded much but I hope to post makeup collection and so on too. I'd love to have hints and tips as to who to follow - and of course any readers who have instagram just let me know so I can follow you! Search ooglemakeup or click https://www.instagram.com/ooglemakeup/

Monday, 10 October 2016

Public Service Announcement: MAC Whisper of Gilt really, genuinely IS coming back!!!

In case you haven't heard (and if you haven't, get to checking Trendmood1 on Instagram and you will never be out of the loop ever again) MAC Whisper of Gilt is coming back! Last time I blogged this, I was let down, admittedly beyond all reasonable and acceptable limits. But this time I've waited until the cold hard proof....


And doesn't it look so delicious? A delicious biscuit ready to be devoured. I think the whole nutcracker theme and packaging this year looks incredible, one of their best yet if you ask me. And despite having decided that Anastasia So Hollywood (which has also seemingly disappeared, hmm) is identical even in my fanatical mind, and notwithstanding the plethora of liquid look powders available now thanks to indie brands etc all providing what we want, forcing MAC into a position of putting down prices to be noticed - yes even with all that as disclaimer - when faced with the mythical Whisper of Gilt, sitting there alongside its ginger friend, I'm powerless - and it'll be elbows at the ready for this one! 

Get ready to pounce. (Probably November for my fellow UK and int'l friends; October US)

What do you use for highlighting, is MAC whisper of Gilt still worthy of the hype?



*Picture credit Trendmood1 and original owner as watermarked.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Random Haul and review time :)

Despite being slack with my blogging duties, I have not 'put down the makeup brush' - I am just as addicted to makeup as ever. Usually I buy in moderate quantities but I felt there were enough goodies this time to just about warrant a haul blog post.


The first thing was another Estee Lauder Lucidity powder (have I mentioned this before? If not I should have...) it's one of the best powders to use with Double Wear foundation. Then, more excitingly, I spotted the new and presumably limited edition "3 minute beauty" bag. The bag itself is probably my favourite ever "GWP" EL bag - and I have a fair few to choose between. It's patterned but transparent, and it's small and slimline with an elegant gold zip that opens it out wide. It contains a full size Illuminating BB Highlighter pen in Soft Pink (2.2ml); a ubiquitous 7ml size of everyone's fave, Advanced night Repair serum; a mini lipgloss in Discreet Nude (surely an oxymoron); and a mini 3.4g size of Bronze Goddess bronzer in Medium 02. The bronzer is slightly pink toned and I really like it. Guerlain Terracotta still reigns supreme but this is a very respectable runner up - and it's oil free so it might even prove better in the summer. The lipgloss is ok but feels a little heavy (I have a low tolerance for sticky or heavy lipgloss and - you guessed it - Guerlain maxi shine is my favourite lipgloss; this doesn't compete. The BB highlighter is great - very much like YSL Touche Eclat (most are never as reflective) but with a little more coverage. The case is a little bulky and I've not decided which I prefer, there is something too classic about YSL Touche Eclat, it feels rude to question its Top Dog status. Plus YSL Touche Eclat is nice and slim and contains more product (2.5ml) so the bulky pen is needlessly deceptive.

 
 Estee Lauder 3 Minute beauty Bronze and Glow
 
Close up of Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Medium 

My local chemist has sold Guerlain for decades and I always enjoyed stopping by every (ahem) once in a while for a quick pick me up product. Hence I became a bona fide Guerlain addict. The way Guerlain font is, reminds me of the way I write my own name. Well, ok, it's very much a prettified version, but I always viewed Guerlain as my surrogate makeup line. Every item is so exquisitely packaged and balanced, and most of the time the product inside is every bit as good. Anyway, tragedy has struck: Guerlain is being wrenched off their shelves! I will still get my Guerlain fix, and the upcoming collection looks very tempting as always. But it won't be quite so convenient...

Mourning aside, my chemist did find some abandoned gems which I snapped up. The pressed Meteorites were replaced years ago by a non multi coloured powder (c'mon now Guerlain, you know we want to see that green popping) in fact it's now beige, not very luminous, and to be frank I find it can even get chalky. Something Meteorites balls themselves never do. But the Meteorites balls are very bulky and I pared down most of my collection, all except the Opera balls, which are my favourite release as they have a sumptuous golden beige glow that gives me that elusive "Bonne mine" look. But I digress. This Mythic is identical to the balls of Mythic but without quite so much bulk. I do prefer the packaging of the new pressed meteorites (this uses the same twist cap packaging as the Cruel Gardenia if anyone has that incredible piece.)
 
Guerlain Mythic pressed powder
 
Next my magpie gaze was arrested by the sight of the Guerlain maxi gloss Gloss D'Enfer in 902 which is wildy sparkly. Guerlain lipgloss used to be wonderful but too sticky, these are still wonderful and really do have what Guerlain promises, "bare lip sensation."

 
Guerlain maxi shine lipgloss 902

Next, another unearthed winning but limited edition wonder- the Terracotta Sun shimmer highlighting blusher called Sunny Pink. It's a peachy pink gleaming blusher but I shan't dwell on it as I fear it's impossible to find under normal circumstances. Hope they bring this one back!

 
Guerlain Terracotta blush Sunny Pink
 
My favourite ever liquid eyeliner is the Guerlain previously Divinora but now apparently merely called Guerlain eyeliner. The shade I adore is called Brun Cendre. It's a deep dark cool brown and the fine brush is easy to use while always giving a delicate crisp thin line. It's also very long wearing and never smudges, even during workouts.

 
 Guerlain eyeliner Brun Cendre
 
Finally, I just couldn't resist Guerlain's new foundation brush. I have several Guerlain brushes and I hate to admit it, but they are scratchy and not much cop. This one even looked flimsy in the Guerlain official Youtube videos - but it's peach, even the bristles are peach! I prefer my Real Techniques Expert Face brush for foundation. But! I've found I love this for a powerful highlight application. This brush is not scratchy, however despite claiming to be cut perfectly round for a seamless finish, mine has hairs splaying out. It's synthetic hair so it's overpriced, and the case is disappointingly cheap feeling and looks cheap too... But they know it's pretty enough that it will still win out. I love it anyway.

 

 Guerlain The foundation brush
 
 
 Cheapie pouch... Not like the Pucci of yore but I suppose better than nothing...

couple of splayed hairs upclose

I'm really thrilled with all my purchases, even the brush, as it's brilliant for applying highlighter and getting the full impact - it's small enough and gives a dense application.


...Please share any good hauls you've had recently!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Nails inc Neon nail polish REVIEW!

I was sent the new Nails inc collection last week and have been enjoying wearing a mix of Great Eastern Street and Claridge Gardens. Does anyone else check their Nails inc polish before setting out? As personally I like to feature at least one street I'll be passing on my nails. Just kidding but it's a good concept isn't it? Forget 'The knowledge' [London cabbie's street knowledge test] and build a Nails inc collection! OK that joke has worn rather thin now. But the point is, rather like Mavala who name their polishes after world cities, Nails inc name their polishes after London streets and attractions. It's rather charming and luckily the quality is good enough to not be an insult to Anglophiles.

This collection, I ♥ Neons, consists of 3 shades and a neon activator. I'm not 100% convinced that the neon activator is any different to a white base coat but the shades are:

Neon Activator Mini (£8) 5ml [this is the only size available] - a white base coat
Golden Lane Stay Bright Neon nail polish - neon highlighter yellow
Claridge Gardens Stay Bright Neon nail polish - neon highlighter pink
Great Eastern Street Stay Bright Neon nail polish - neon highlighter coral

The set available (£19) consists of 3 x 5ml bottles and in addition to the neon activator it contains the pink and coral shades. The yellow is only available as a single full size 14ml (£15)

In my opinion the weakest shades are the yellow and the white. Both can be somewhat streaky but especially the base Neon Activator. The good news is, once the jelly-like polishes go on they seem to mask the streakiness. You will need a high shine top coat as these dry very matte. Personally I find the pink and coral are more wearable against my skintone; the promo images use a dark skintone to showcase the yellow. These have lasted very well and lost none of the vibrancy and they have not chipped either. I used a Mavala base coat and Seche Vite top coat.

I was also sent an adorable slogan bag (£12) "I'm outdoorsy... I drink my Prosecco on the patio". Although I instantly think of city wide boys at The Long Bar slurring for a Pross-eh-Oh, I appreciate the sentiment! I love the style of this bag, it reminds me of Anya Hindmarch or Rebecca Minkoff et al slogans and stickers. The inside is a soft pink. It's well made and looks designer and expensive.


My current manicure - No flash - I like the way the orange and pink are closely related, I think it gives a very cool effect and I'm hoping to set a trend...!
An interesting manicure - using the yellow as an accent! May try this...

 
Above: No flash

Above: With flash (and against my fluro stitch top!)
 With flash - yup, it's NEON
Streaky...
Work in progress: featuring Tweezerman nippers and Mavala nail file



Nails inc  neon collection is available here

*This is not an affiliate link; post not sponsored; items sent by Nails inc for review.*

I must say these colours on my nails are so joyful and they are not neon enough to feel unpleasantly out of my comfort zone!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

My favourite highlighters!

"Wow, you look great - Glowing!" I beamed with gratitude at this praise... but knew I was indebted to my Guerlain Sun in the City, which - despite it being a 2012 collection, had only just been unveiled at my local counter.

"Thank you, it's my new highlighter", I explained. A puzzled expression ensued; I had forgotten most people are not makeup addicts and think of stationery when told about highlighters...

The episode made me realise: I haven't shared my favourite highlighters!!!

Well as an Estee Lauder doublewear foundation addict, I have always had to put the glow back in. Doublewear is amazing for oily skin but it does make one look rather flat. My favourite highlighters are those which look dewy and moist and gleaming (as opposed to frosty or glittery).

My first encounter with a delightful, almost liquid finish, highlighter was Guerlain Cruel Gardenia. Apparently one can still find this at airport Duty Free so be on the lookout! This is probably my favourite... Well gosh, no all these are favourites. I have others, namely liquid ones and cream ones, but I've found that for longevity and that liquid effect, the gelee type formula AKA extra dimension (Estee Lauder and MAC terminology respectively) are the very very best.

 
 Guerlain Cruel Gardenia - a pale petal pink, almost a champagne rose

I don't like lilac pinks and purples, but a soft warm pink works well. I find lilac tones like NARS Luxor or Urban Decay Afterglow make my pale skin look like a gleaming corpse. I prefer looking like I have the angelic heavenly light of pure sunshine.

I sold my MAC Whisper of Gilt, I've spoken about this before - it was amazing - but I did get the latest evocation of MAC's delicious Extra Dimension skinfinish formula, Oh,Darling. It's a close cousin of Whisper of Gilt but not quite as wonderful. Having said that, once I got my hands on Anastasia So Hollywood, all mourning for Whisper of Gilt ceased. So Hollywood is paler than Oh,Darling and has that very slight murmer of pinky peach about it which I so loved in Whisper of Gilt. Oh,Darling is a gold with a burnt orange murmer rather than a pinky peach one. It almost gives a tan effect. The gleam on all these formulas makes them all exquisite regardless of shade tones.


MAC Oh,Darling beneath Guerlain Cruel Gardenia. Notice shade tones pink v gold

Anastasia So Hollywood (third swatch) - notice lighter than MAC Oh,Darling

As I was saying, I only just got my hands of this, and it's got to be the grandaddy of these wet look highlighters! I imagine Guerlain was the first to seize upon this formula. At any rate, look out for MADE IN ITALY and the ingredients: "GLYCERIN" and also often "SQUALENE". These two moisturising and skin-loving ingredients seem to be the secret to finding winning formulas.

Guerlain Sun in the City - the most true gold. Notice more clean gold than MAC Oh,Darling

I tried to swatch Guerlain Wulong powder next to the Sun in the City (5th swatch) but it's rather faint. On the face however, Guerlain Wulong; Guerlain meteorites and pressed meteorites; Laura Mercier Secret Brightening powder; Benefit Powderflage, and the Estee Lauder loose powder from the Cyberwhite range, all give soft glowing finishes and in photos as well as real life, they make a huge difference.

Swatched here (below and between MAC Oh,Darling and Anastasia So Hollywood) I've tried to show Becca loose pigment in Hyawatha (which I pressed into a pan) but it's rather hard to detect. These are in the category of all over brightening veil rather than strategic highlighters.


Staying with loose pigments, MAC pigment in Vanilla is another safe bet. It's a pale gold with a pinky duochrome reflect.

A guilty pleasure of mine is Illamasqua Beguile pigment. It's rather gritty and sandy textured, and let's face it it's essentially a loose glitter - but I love the way it looks like drops of water. It looks terrible in daylight and rather garish at the best of times, but for nights or evenings when you feel joyful and want to let the magpie spirit free - it's such wonderful stuff! It's white - but reflects blue and green and pink and purple and gold...!

Illamasqua Beguile; MAC Vanilla 

 A frustrating and futile exercise trying to capture the mesmerising glitter of Illamasqua Beguile - here in artificial light

I must mention - without veering into favourite glowy blushers of course - the beauty of Laura Geller Blush n Brighten. I have chosen Pink Grapefruit here. I threw away all my MAC mineralised blushers! I used to adore the likes of Daft Pink and Moon River (youth, sob) but now I can only bear the super refined powders. MAC mineralised blushers and, to a lesser extent, the Milani baked blushers, are not as flattering anymore. I also like the texture of Too Faced Pink Leopard which is a similar peachy shade. I often use these lightly with a fluffy brush, as all-over brighteners when I am especially pallid.

Second row shows Too Faced Pink Leopard, Becca Hyawatha, Laura Geller Blush n Brighten in Pink Grapefruit
Top row top to bottom: Guerlain Sun in the City, Anastasia So Hollywood, MAC Oh,Darling, Guerlain Cruel Gardenia. Second row top to bottom: Laura Geller Blush n Brighten in Pink Grapefruit, Becca Hyawatha, Too Faced Pink Leopard



Artficial light, L-R: Guerlain Cruel Gardenia, MAC Oh,Darling, Anastasia So Hollywood, Guerlain Sun in the City














Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Current Faves



Current Faves

Having become simultaneously disillusioned but also gratified by the way blogging has evolved (see my previous garbled post) i.e. I can't trust 'em like I used to; but I'm happy that companies, and people generally, don't disparage bloggers and Youtubers as just talentless and disposable non entities  - I still hold sacred that ubiquitous blogger classic, "Current Faves". So, here are mine!

- Guerlain Pressed Meteorites

Guerlain is probably my favourite makeup brand; the way they do highlighters and lipsticks - well, it sets the gold standard. Until recently the only way to get pressed meteorites was to cough up for the £180 compacts. I did get Wulong as a gift (and promptly dropped it on the floor into a thousand pieces... but I can't bear to relive that memory.) I managed to salvage Wulong and it is delightful. Aside from Wulong my only knowledge is of the legendary Meteorites in ball form (affectionately known on makeup forums everywhere as 'Ballz', with all the accompanying hilarity that moniker can provoke, especially when waxing lyrical about one's purple balls, blue balls, red balls - well, you get the picture. The balls are highly collectible and indeed I did build rather a collection. My favourite are the Opera balls. But in truth and as a rule, most balls look identical on the skin. What Guerlain Meteorites do is make you look amazing in photos, and in real life they give you an unmistakable glow that makes you look like you love life and wake up radiant every day. It has captured and gives you, the joie de vivre. This compact is thankfully permanent and also priced lower than expected (around £40) and there is as always, plenty in there. One of the best things about Guerlain is that whilst it is expensive, you generally get a lot of product and it lasts years! There's 10g in here - and just the merest pat gives that luminosity. Perhaps I will do a full post with pictures on this if anyone wants more info, though it has just been given a rather indulgent write up already here, oops!


- Ibiza G4 round brush

Any brush which is idiot-proof like this one, gets my vote! I'm lousy at hair but using this, it's so pleasantly lightweight - and its large barrel gives voluminous classic blow dry results every time. I use this with my Parlux hairdryer and after spraying my damp hair with Tresseme heat protector and Redken anti-snap. I think it was around £14 but well worth it!


- Clinique Mild Clarifying lotion

Yes this is already a known favourite so nothing new here... I had been using the famous P50 Lotion for quite a while, I'd bought 3 or 4 bottles. It was always a purchase I'd make by ordering it from a beauty parlour and it was around £60 a pop. The bottle lasted ages so it wasn't unjustified, but I decided to try this Clinique lotion out to see if I'd miss the P50. In short, I don't. The P50 is glycolic acid and this is a lot milder (4%) and Salicylic acid, but it still exfoliates and I'm really liking it so far.


- Illamasqua Neutral palette

If you only get one thing from Illamasqua...

Illamasqua have lost Alex Box, and with it, the initial identity of Illamasqua as a goth's fave, has fairly well vanished. Nowadays Illamasqua are all about neutrals and contouring and flesh toned lipsticks. They are very successful in the UAE and they've adapted to the crowd-pleasing neutrals. But you know what, they are brilliant at neutrals. And although they might still throw out a token and symbolic blue lipstick, it's clear that their heart is now well away from those roots. This palette is flawless and highly recommended. I have so many neutral palettes (as we all do I suppose) but this one is utterly prefect. Wolf, the brown shade, is permanent and available separately. It's a soft and blendable minky brown. The white is like MAC's Blanc Type in shade and texture, the black is a true, pigmented black, the gold is a divine antique gold but without any greenish cast. It's a little like MAC Tempting but a far better texture and a prettier gold. I adore this palette!


- Anastasia So Hollywood highlighter

I'd mourned selling my MAC Whisper of Gilt for so long; my heart skipped a beat, then skipped another, when I heard it was coming back, then not really coming back... I did buy the cousin of Whisper of Gilt, Oh Darling. But it's only thanks to Anastasia So Hollywood that my tragedy was assuaged. It has the same merest hint of pink which Whisper of Gilt had. And the texture is identical, that Guerlain-like texture which I've discovered always includes Glycerine in the ingredients and is made in Italy. I only bought one (it's 9g so the same size as MAC and should last a while) but I'm confused whether it's limited edition or permanent? Cult Beauty has ceased stocking it... Well, this will last until the next release; I've learnt not to panic anymore about running out of supposedly unique things. I use this everyday.


- Nubar Purple Love

This is my favourite colour! I am always looking for tops and dresses and bags in this colour. It's a beautiful balance between hot pink and purple. It truly is Purple Love for me! Surprisingly, it's hard to find this exact shade. I've tried. This formula is wonderful: a creamy shiny finish, and the brush is just the right size, wide and easy to achieve streak-free and glossy results.




- L'Oreal Double Extension Tubing mascara

I am most indebted to this favourite. It has allowed me to continue to enjoy my beloved Lancome  Hypnose mascara. For some reason, it had started to smudge on me. I tried everything and finally discovered that just using the white (primer) side of this magic stuff, no more smudging! And not only that, but it lengthens my lashes and I get the wonderful thickening that Hypnose does so well, amplified by the lengthening of this primer. *New HG alert!*

p.s
At the risk of seeming too positive, let me complain now! My erstwhile HG, Estee Lauder Perfectly Clean, is just not the same. It was reformulated a while back but I continued to use it and I even have a stockpile. But it's just not half as good as it was. I like the caffeine in it, and the reassuringly tortuous pain when it gets in your eyes, but that's all that's left. I'm also severely unimpressed with their choice to collaborate with Kendall Jenner. I just watched the interview with her and Fleur de Force and, well, it confirmed by initial judgement. I still love Estee Lauder but it feels distinctly like an insult to bring that kind of teenage vibe into a brand which has established itself as grown up and dependable; it reminds me of M&S's doomed attempts to be trendy and youthful.

... I'd love to know your faves too?








Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Beauty Dupe




Thanks to a throwaway comment on a blog I follow, I learned of the recent mumsnet furore. Off I went to read it (naturally.) I don't spend much time on mumsnet, indeed my mumsnet knowledge thus far had been limited to the historic "penis beaker" episode. I found the thread fascinating (ahem, talking about the beauty thread now...) it was originally titled something regarding Caroline Hirons as the whole chat had been triggered by an innocent reader asking whether the blog posts had been sponsored or not. A character named Iamnina had proceeded to spill the beans. Allegedly, this Nina works in PR and had an axe to grind. Soon enough the bloggers being discredited got wind of this mumsnet thread, and in addition to the usual outrage and denial, they have apparently managed to get mumsnet to not only edit the title of the thread, but also completely delete every post by Iamnina and no doubt ban her. I find these draconian tactics really repellent and as I had been toying with the idea of writing a post, this made my mind up.

I wish I'd copied and pasted every post by Iamnina. I had actually thought at the time that I should do it, but I decided: I don't blog anymore - what's the point? If anyone reading this has a copy then do please get in touch and I'll incorporate her points here, hopefully blogger is a safe platform (cue MI5 suspenseful music.) And, reader I know you guessed it, as this is such a hackneyed tale, but one of the reasons I stopped blogging was because it had started as a hobby and then it became a duty. I was beginning to get sent products. Getting what feels like "presents" tumbling through your letter box every day is very different to documenting what you spend your own clutched pennies on. Knowing your blog post will be read by the PR who sent you the "present" and might get angry or upset, or told off by their boss, all because of your post... It's nothing like a blog anymore. Not that getting samples was unpleasant, far be it for me to imply, as I have read many times - that getting samples is a chore/ or a workload/ tiring - or anything like that. But all the same, it does constrain you; it gives the whole enterprise a different spin. My relationship to beauty (I am a dinosaur for saying this) was ambling over to the beauty counters, chatting to my friends (erm, I mean, the beauty counter staff) and seeing the posters and the shiny new display cases and picking out the delectable new treats. Then testing them, either loving my new purchases, or feeling angry that I'd wasted my money. And the blog would be the channel within which to record these innocuous findings.

This is what beauty blogs and YouTube channels were in those days... I'm harking back to 2007 or so. Now the popular channels and blogs are to be viewed with suspicion and there is an 'us' and a 'them' which didn't exist at the outset. I remember Zoella's blog when she wrote about working in a post office. Every entry was her little Superdrug haul or her Primark haul, or so it seemed to me (I was not a regular follower but such was the gist at the time.) Incidentally, I find it amusing that bloggers and youtubers call their PR spoils a "haul". Although far nearer the mark than they intended, the general understanding of a haul is that which they have bought themselves. But this is a side note. Of course the legacy of these humble beginnings is mercilessly and unnaturally sustained, and naive youngsters do still think of the content as independent. But a long time ago, the puppet masters arrived to take the reins. The only bloggers and YouTube popular channels who can afford to be truly independent, well, that's the word: afford. They have to be rich (£200 serums and £35 lipsticks do take their toll) either from their own pockets or from the adverts on their sites which pay by the sheer scale of readership or viewing figures and not by the content as such. As Iamnina put it, ironically these adverts allow the content maker to be independent.

But the real money comes from the euphemistic "consultancy fees". What is it that the brands consult bloggers about, what mystery? As with all Law ('the Law is an ass') there follows a loophole. And here is the loophole to the FTC. As the mumsnet discussion made clear, to any untainted mind, 'reviewing' a product and taking a consultancy fee for, mais bien sur, a wholly unrelated consultation, is quite clearly a conflict of interest. There isn't any need to expand on such an obvious point.

When the FTC first came to upset the party, many blogs and youtubers (I would say the very ones who are now at worst fault) would put resentful, falsely jesting disclaimers. Something along the lines of: 'These were sent to me by little fairy elves at X brand towers but they didn't put a gun to my head, I just happen to absolutely love these products and I wouldn't lie to you my lovely cherry buns as you're the ones I answer to not them!' Occasionally they would adopt a more hostile jokey demeanour, well how can I pastiche or better the eponymous Caroline Hirons who was criticised on the mumsnet thread for her advice after just such a disclaimer, to "chill your tits." Making light of the product being sent for free, to my mind, was never a solution. There is nothing inherently wrong with getting samples, but trivialising the disclaimer is almost akin to an admission of guilt. Misplaced guilt, but still guilt - aggressively defensive.

Iamnina's posts laid bare all the agency business dealings.Blogger and YouTube stars know their worth and will not allow brands a free ride (and hurrah for that!) but to keep their audience on side, they have to pretend to not know their worth. They have to apologise for new houses, new handbags, new noses and breasts. They have to pretend or at least force friendships in line with who belongs to their agency. British Beauty Blogger piped up with characteristic journalistic nous, why don't you write a few posts on my site and see what it's really like! Iamnina scathingly told her that she was not referring to mid tier but to what were the select few bona fide "influencers": Bloggers and YouTube stars who can merely allude to a product for it to sell out instantly. I think she also meant by implication, blogs with less discerning readership. In other words, young impressionable minds who are made to feel that if they don't buy this then they have forfeited their allegiance.

What made me a blogger, and I dare say all the original early bloggers and YouTube hosts, at that point all ignorant of the freebies - let alone wealth and fame and privilege that now can be reached (I nearly said 'achieve', but frankly some of those terribly written blogs and some YouTube channels which have to lay bare every tiny detail, and to my mind are mind numbing, I don't consider enviable or worthy of the term...) - well what made us want to engage with an audience, was a camaraderie. For its own sake. Sharing favourite makeup purchases and saying why other makeup was horrid. Now nothing is without repercussion. The makeup has a PR person who is a new friend. What would happen to her if I slate the product? Will she be blamed and I'll have ruined her day? Or more accurately perhaps, it's the agency PR who is the friend, or more than friend, the employer? We, the audience, become the gift to this new friend. We are the currency for the friend who can open doors, doors not only to new makeup and dresses and plastic surgery and anything in between ("pah! chicken feed!") but holidays and all sorts of bonuses which lead to real opportunities.

One of the accusations which this Iamnina levelled, was that charities have big budgets. She added a wink face emoji to intensify this point. This must have touched a nerve because some bloggers at this point became incensed. (Sali Hughes I believe, but I didn't read her rebuttal which she linked to on mumsnet, because I found her tone very patronising and unduly harsh.) I know charities do have budgets and pay huge salaries (but this is another tirade entirely which I shall not fall into) so it's not incredible to assume some blogger charity posts are indeed paid for. It's not very nice to think of a post which talks about losing friends or family members and beseeches the reader to go and donate generously, all whilst the post has been paid for. But such is the world and it's become a case where unless expressly written "I waived a fee for this post and I have never consulted with their company or affiliated brands" we can't be chastised for assuming they have! Anyhow, this is the way the world works - if you think celebrities advising us where to put our meagre pennies aren't being paid themselves, or benefiting from the exposure for their own ends, then that's something you should really wake up to. It might be sad or cynical but that's capitalism for ya. In fact these people truly believe that their fee is merely a token, and they are still being very charitable... Later posts came and said perhaps this Iamnina was a charlatan. But each Iamnina post had had the unmistakeable ring of truth. Not only that, but she predicted every blogger retaliation; every move just as if these bloggers were robots. 

Successful bloggers and YouTube channels need to start representing themselves as what they really are: a business. No longer, a girl next door. This doesn't mean they lose their value. Although to an extent, that is what happens in that they dissociate. But in theory they could continue to be useful. Instead of being a like minded consumer, they could become a reference library and you choose the voice you feel resonates with you. The trouble is, with everyone's pay packet at risk, they all inevitably sing from the same hymn sheet at the same time, so pick one you've picked them all. Their original voice has been quashed. In this agency led tribe war system, the only way to be independent is to have faith to just allow the ad revenue to fund you and continue your own purchasing and reviewing, and hope the brands in turn feel that regardless of bad reviews they might get, not to be featured on your blog is an unimaginable offence. But for a real millionaire lifestyle, I suspect that only a seasoned agency with all the right contacts can get you there. Bloggers and YouTube hosts have become amazingly proficient at social media so who knows how long a middleman will be needed? Although every PR seems to be interconnected; one wrong move can provoke a domino effect. Presumably an agency limits such blunders. And there is always the thinly veiled suspicion that your appeal can be obliterated overnight, so better to invest via a puppet master who can keep you on the leash and avoid any ill advised opinions or photos and such.

I remember buying a highlighting powder on the recommendation of a YouTube video. It had been sent to them for free and I realised that implicitly, but I didn't think that had to compromise them. Well, the powder was horrible and chalky. The betrayal was genuinely upsetting. A pleasure in reading blogs and watching videos, is the unbridled contempt for a poor performing product. With freebies, or even more deceptively, gift vouchers, if a product isn't good, and if the blogger is 'honest', we just won't hear about it. It won't do to criticise a freebie after all. And arguably, it isn't quite right to criticise something if you didn't suffer paying for it. Reading a very measured criticism which hastily recommends another same brand product, is almost as bad as not having mentioned it. It's this guarded, measured and bland reporting which we'd celebrated blogs for avoiding. No more shall I buy magazines, we had all chanted jubilantly. Well, as the adage goes, the revolution eats its own children.