Monthly Archives: August 2011

My Week in Beauty


Oooh, we’re going to experience a bit of a Weimar Republic vibe this autumn – thanks to Illamasqua, the cult makeup brand which champions alternative looks and cultures.. It’s highly appropriate, given how film noir – which gave us the femme fatale who is also a big inspiration for autumn/winter – grew out of German Expressionism of the same era as Berlin’s cabaret scene.

Which, of course, was famously immortalised in the 1972 Hollywood musical Cabaret, with the wonderful Liza Minnelli in her best-known role as Sally Bowles, an American singer who aspires to be as decadent as those around her.

Minnelli designed her iconic look for the film – the pudding bowl haircut with the widow’s peak and the Harlequinesque eye make-up – with the help of her director father, the great Vincente Minnelli. And it’s still a source of inspiration. I’m sure it’s played a part in the soon-to-be-launched Theatre of the Nameless collection from Illamasqua. Whether it inspired their new mascara, Illamasqua Masquara (£15; or not, who knows – but this fab separating, curling and lengthening mascara is just the job if you want to emulate Liza’s long lashes..


The prettiest package I received last week was from The Body Shop which this week launches three new ranges of handcare products. There’s the Hemp collection, for those of us with dry skin; the Almond range for all skin types and The Body Shop Wild Rose collection for, ahem, “mature skin”.

Not sure how I ended up with the rose range – did someone tip them off about my impending 40th (or is it showing on my mitts?) – but it is lovely to use. Even my boys are finding the Wild Rose Caring Hand Wash (£5; a luxurious alternative to the usual liquid soaps I offer them. I’ll let you know if the combined assault of the handwash, the Wild Rose Targeted Hand Oil (£7) and the Wild Rose Nourishing Hand Butter (£10) shave any years off the apparent age of my hands….


Wednesday was the day for my regular visit to the Clarins Spa in Frasers, Glasgow. Lindsay, my lovely therapist, really looks after me and is making it her mission to ensure that I continue to look as if I’m on this side of 40 – even after December, when the big day comes along. Last time I saw her, she focused the attention of the Tri-Active facial on anti-ageing for the first time and on Wednesday, she gave me some top tips on caring for the delicate skin around the eyes.

I’ve been diligently using eye cream at night and eye gel in the morning for the last few months and, as if they knew I was starting to get a bit fixated about this, Clarins has just brought out a new, improved version of its fab Clarins Eye Contour Gel (£26.50; which is a must for de-puffing the eye area. Lindsay also suggested I try a couple of new additions to the Clarins repertoire: Eye Revive Beauty Flash (£26.50) and Skin-Smoothing Eye Mask (£28.99) …. Watch this space! Oh, and the Clarins Spa in Frasers (0141 221 5760) is currently (until September 3) offering a free “mini” neck and shoulder massage, and 25% off any Clarins Treatment if you book and pay when you’re instore.


By coincidence, having tried out and loved their new mascara earlier in the week, I met Illamasqua’s PR Nicola in Glasgow on Thursday. Nicola is a walking testament to how wearable this apparently inaccessible brand’s cosmetics are. She looked stunning with her lilac-grey eye make-up, fanned-out lashes that would have made Bambi weep with envy, violet lips and matte purple nails. All of which worked a treat with her shock of short platinum blonde hair.

It was the nails that caught my eye most of all… Nicola was sporting one of the new Illamasqua Nail Varnishes (£13.50), four new shades with a rubbery matte finish which were inspired by the so-called Boot Girls of the Wittenberg Platz; prostitutes whose menu of services was indicated by the colour of their boot-laces… I’m not sure what Nicola’s Faux Pas shade (a dark purple) signifies (we probably don’t want to know!), but the one I’ve taken to is Vice (pictured, though it doesn’t look as maroon in this photo as it does in real life), a Rouge Noir-like dark cerise.


I didn’t go out on Friday night – though I would have liked to, as I wanted to give my trio of new Benefit Velvet Eyeshadows (£13.50; an outing.

Snow Job (a minty greeny-grey), Raining Men (a grey-ish greeny shade reminiscent of my favourite new eyeshadow from Chanel – the Illusion d’Ombre in Epatant) and Tickled Mink (a taupe shade) are the gorgeous new additions to Benefit’s range of beautifully blendable and long-lasting eyeshadows.

I may have been all dressed-up, make-up wise, with nowhere to go – but I know which eyeshadows I’ll be turning to next time I do have somewhere …


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My Week in Beauty


I knew I could feel a femme fatale moment coming on …. Only a fortnight ago I was admiring Kim Basinger’s peek-a-boo, Veronica Lake-inspired, hair-do in LA Confidential; then on Monday, I was given a preview of the new make-up collection from Lancome. It’s entitled 29, Saint Honore (; available from September 1), but it was inspired by the femme fatale look of the 1940s (Lancome’s Global Make-up Director Aaron de Mey is clearly a fellow film noir fan!). With their slicked-back hair, models Elettra and Daria could equally be the stars of a remake of the Robert Palmer Addicted to Love video ..

I’ll be writing more about the individual items in the collection anon, but just wanted to give everyone a heads-up: start practising with the liquid eyeliners, and get ready for red lips and nails. Always a favourite for the winter, they are going to be massive this year …

Oh, and one other snippet of Lancome news: their exciting new serum, Lancome Visionnaire (£57) is going to be previewed at Frasers in Glasgow from August 24 – ahead of its nationwide launch on September 1.


I don’t go for ringing the eyes with heavy kohl, a la Kate Middleton, but I am addicted to eyeliner – and on Tuesday I tried Clarins Instant Liner (£19.50;, which looks identical to the new Estee Lauder Pure Color Liquid Eyeliner that I wrote about recently, but isn’t sticky. Liquid eyeliner has been my bag since I was a student – not just because I love the retro looks you can create with them but also because, generally, they don’t smudge as much on me.

I am terribly prone to panda eyes and recently resolved to only wear a new eyeliner or mascara out of the house if I’ve road-tested it indoors for a couple of days first. (Lancome’s new Hypnose Doll Eyes Mascara started out so promisingly…)

The Clarins one was fine – until I had a fit of the giggles at a Fringe show and my eyes started watering. So, perfect for femme fatales who seldom crack a smile.


I spent much of Wednesday getting ready for my trip down to London, where I was going to spend a night with my friend before heading to Mayfair to take part in a press trip – to be written up for a newspaper.

I always find the water in London plays havoc with my hair – it’s not as soft as our Scottish water – so I was very pleased to have travel sizes of some of my favourite haircare products in the Ojon Damage Reverse 4 Piece Starter Kit (£34.50;, notably the Ojon Restorative Hair Treatment.


Getting ready for an evening out with my London-based pal, Siobhan, I finally got round to experimenting with some new eyeshadow palettes which launched earlier in the summer.

Estee Lauder Pure Color Five Color Eyeshadow Palettes (£35; come in eight colourways – shown here are Velvet Orchids, Film Noir (are we sensing a theme yet?!) and Enchanted Berries.

I love the purples and taupes of the Velvet Orchid one for evening wear, and the Island Sands palette – beautiful peaches and browns – is a lovely one for everyday use.


Well, Friday was beauty a go-go in London.. After dumping my bags at my Mayfair hotel – the elegant Flemings on the whimsically named Half Moon Street – I checked into the Elemis Day Spa, a haven of calm and relaxation which I had not visited in almost a decade.

From there, with skin glowing thanks to the Visible Brilliance facial, I popped into the Chanel press office for a sneak preview of their Christmas make-up collection which had just arrived that morning…

I’m not at liberty to reveal much about it, except that it’s gorgeous (natch) and that you can expect to be co-ordinating your party outfits with red and gold make-up …

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An Audience With The Illusionist

Chanel’s Creative Director of Make-up Peter Philips is the Willy Wonka of the cosmetics world. On a hot summer’s day in Paris, journalists from across the globe descend on the upmarket suburb of Neuilly, just outside the French capital, to catch their first glimpse of the new autumn make-up collection, which goes on sale on Friday. It’s as if we’ve all won a golden ticket to the factory where our favourite cosmetic confections are produced.

In small groups, the beauty writers are shown into a long penthouse room which is gleaming, glossy white from ceiling to (white patent) floor. There is nothing in this room – down both sides of which are continuous windows offering stunning views across Paris – apart from a series of TV screens on a wall at the bottom. In front of these screens, is a curved white bar with high stools on which we are all invited to sit. And behind the bar is Philips himself, Wonka-like (more Gene Wilder than Johnny Depp, thankfully) in his enthusiasm and sense of theatricality – but with a touch of the Wizard of Oz about him as well.

Once everyone is comfortably perched on the stools, a squad of assistants – all clad in black and sporting a slash of red lipstick – materialise holding glossy white coffrets which they set down in front of the journalists and open with great aplomb. To gasps of delight from the press corps, the new season colours are revealed – and everyone reaches for the first nail polish or eye shadow to catch their eye. And there’s certainly plenty of choice…

The Autumn 2011 collection is entitled Illusions d’Ombres de Chanel and was inspired by the precious materials used by the “Artistic Creation Houses” , the legendary houses which specialise in the traditional crafts used in couture: embroidery, decorative feathers and flowers, beading and so on, and which Chanel supports and celebrates in its annual Metiers and Arts show.

At the heart of the autumn range is a new eyeshadow, Illusion d’Ombre (£22.50), a creamy, silicone-based, sparkling formula which glides onto the eyelid (use the applicator brush or  your fingers) and can be used as sheer as you like, or built up and blended with another shade for a more dramatic, intense look. There are six colours to choose from, and while the paler shades are pretty, the ones that grab the attention are Ebloui (a reddish-brown), Illusoire (a taupe-grey) and my favourite, Epatant (a greeny-grey, pictured right, which looks great with blue eyes – at least I thought so, when I first wore it out, in May).

Peter Philips is clearly thrilled with his new eyeshadows – and by the journalists’ response to them. “If you are generous with it,” he says, demonstrating how to work the black shade, “it’s fireworks! You can create new and avant-garde looks.” Which is just what he did for the Fall-Winter Ready-to-Wear shows.

Chatting with Peter, I ask him how these new colours had come about – had Chanel’s Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld told him which colours he’d be working with? “The thing is,” he says, “my make-up calendar is a totally different calendar to the fashion one because I work two years ahead. I communicate a lot with Karl but I do my thing, and sometimes it matches and sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, and I don’t have, for example, an autumn collection which links with Karl’s autumn collection, then I can find colours in my main Chanel range… I don’t have to have a launch collection which matches his – but  in this case it was  a very lucky strike!”

So, does he feel that he and Karl are in tune with one another? “I don’t think we’re of the same mind but a lot of communication goes on – and that helps. I wouldn’t say that I influenced him – it’s more the other way round. I see a lot, I hear a lot, I know the future projects. I’ll run things I’m working on by him to see if they can link in with what he’s doing – for example, the Byzance palette. I showed it to him and told him that it was in the pipeline but could be speeded up if he wanted it. He looked at it and said: ‘It’s fantastic, I’d love to have it linked to the show.’ That put the pressure on, and we produced the limited edition. It was a good synergy.

“Karl mentioned to me once that he would love to do something with tattoos or fake tattoos. When the Marie-Antoinette show in the barn came along, I knew there would be a lot of skin showing, a lot of places for tattoos, so I thought: ‘Okay, let’s do something rebellious like tattoos, but elegant like Marie-Antoinette.’ So I did the jewels like the pearls, and the swallows in tattoo form.”

This season, Peter is proudest of the afore-mentioned Illusions d’Ombre eyeshadows.Why? “Well, I’m very proud of the formula itself – the fact that we can stretch from really intense pigment, colour-wise, like the pitch black , to the more subtle shades. I’m stretching it all the way back to a natural, almost luminous make-up finish. And that, in the same formula, is unusual and something I’m very proud of – the laboratory did an amazing job.”

Of course, the other items pounced upon by the press pack are the new nail varnishes – Le Vernis in Peridot, Quartz and Graphite (£17.50). Quartz is a satiny taupe while Graphite is a glittery silver. The Peridot, I tell him, reminds me of the chartreuse dress worn by the subject of the iconic art deco painting The Girl in Green With Gloves, by Tamara De Lempicka. “I wasn’t thinking of that – more of peacock feathers,” he says, “but yeah-yeah-yeah, you’re absolutely right. I’m very proud of that shade – but it’s kind of obvious because it’s unique.

“My favourite, the one that I really love and which I know a lot of women will adore, is Quartz, the most subtle one. It’s very beautiful. The other two are kind of ‘wow’; this is a bit of a sleeper. You’re not attracted to it in the first moment, because the other two are so bling-bling almost, but Quartz is a slow-burner.”

So there you have it: ladies, form an orderly queue ….

* The Illusions d’Ombres de Chanel collection for Autumn 2011 goes on sale on Friday, August 19. For stockists call 020-7493 3836.


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My Week in Beauty


I’m not ready for summer to be over but now that jazz festival season is finished – it’s time for me to look ahead to the autumn. And, frankly, the new season colours from Clarins and Chanel are making the idea a whole lot more palatable.

It’s all about the eyes with the Clarins Colour Definition autumn 2011 collection (available mid-August) – as the photo shows. The French company is introducing a new Clarins Eye Quartet Long Lasting Mineral Powder Palette (£30; in six gorgeous colourways. I’ve not been able to get past the Rosewood collection of pinky brown shades – a very easy-to-wear palette with colours that do indeed last extremely well – but this photo has persuaded me to try the Graphite quartet for my next night out. The model is wearing it with Instant Definition Mascara in Intense Black, Rouge Prodige Lipstick in Rosy Coral and new 3D Radiance Face Powder.


So apart from my coup de foudre for midnight blue nails, my other big beauty passion during last week’s jazz festival was for a nail colour that is being revived soon: Chanel Le Vernis in Pirate (£17.50; from late September).

The picture doesn’t do it justice. This is a gloriously vampy, pinky-red which fits in perfectly with the femme fatale feel of the new lipstick the company is launching in the autumn: Rouge Allure Velvet. You could easily imagine Lauren Bacall wearing this as she gets her claws into Bogie in The Big Sleep or To Have Or Have Not..

I’m pretty sure it’s part of the reason I found myself being approached by a 20-year-old girl in the street on Saturday.. There’s nothing like a compliment from another woman to give your spirits – and confidence – a lift: this student told me she loved my style..  Bizarrely, she too was wearing a long black dress, short denim jacket and had her blonde hair in a high ponytail. But she didn’t have the Pirate polish .. Perhaps if she had, then she too would have found herself sufficiently emboldened (though the two glasses of rose just prior to this may have helped) to run across the street, stop the American singing star Curtis Stigers, and tell him how much she loved his performance in Glasgow last year of The Heather on the Hill …


When I was a little girl – way before I could blame it on my hormones – I used to end up a sobbing emotional wreck after pretty much every episode of Little House on the Prairie. Each week my mum would say: “Why do you put yourself through it?”. But I always went back for more. It was a similar story on Wednesday, when I attended a press screening of Sarah’s Key, a new movie starring Kristin Scott Thomas as a journalist who discovers a personal link to a particularly shameful atrocity committed in Paris during the Second World War.

I sat in tears almost from the off. I kept going to leave but was pulled back into my seat by the story which is compelling both emotionally and intellectually. And they really nailed the obsessive feeling that you get when you start investigating an aspect of history that has a personal connection. My own quest for the story of my Hollywood ancestor took over my life for months.. The only bit that didn’t ring true was when Kristin didn’t either tear open a box containing many of the answers to her questions – or sit and stare at it for hours, savouring the anticipation. No, this being Paris, she went for dinner..

Anyway, it may seem fatuous to say it but Kristin ST looks radiant throughout the movie. Sadly, by the end I certainly didn’t: puffy eyes and mascara tracks right down to my chin. Not to mention the red nose. My new beauty hero, Clarins Advanced Extra-Firming Eye Contour Cream (£35.50) – a delightfully soothing, firming and moisturising balm – had to work extra hard on Wednesday night.


I am already a big fan of the Hypnose mascaras so really didn’t think Lancome could improve on perfection. But their new Lancome Hypnose Doll Eyes (£20.50; ) is a stunner.

Clearly, the French beauty company was determined not to rest on its lash laurels: they have spent seven years developing the conical brush which can get in to the smallest, trickiest lashes and which does a brilliant job of separating, lengthening, curling and volumising  – everything you could ask for, really. The formulation of the mascara is such that it holds the curl and gives the lashes a glossy sheen, while stretching them beyond belief.


I went to get my hair colour seen to on Friday – and turned out a bit blonder than expected. No matter what I say to my hairdresser, I never know how it’s going to turn out.. why is that?

Luckily, I think I like it – consequently, I have decided that, since it coincides with the return of scarlet nails and matte red lips, my beauty icons for the next wee while  (or as soon as it’s appropriate to ditch the summery wardrobe) are the femmes fatales of film noir, particularly Kim Basinger in LA Confidential (a colour version of noir heroine Veronica Lake) who could have stepped straight out of the ad campaign for Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet.

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My Week in Beauty


I spent last week with my jazz critic’s hat on (though it was a bit warm for a beret..), as I was covering the Edinburgh Jazz Festival for Scotland’s two quality broadsheets.

However, the week got off to a glamorous start when I attended my friend Merle’s royal-themed 40th birthday party. A couple of months ago she suggested that I come as Grace Kelly and the more I thought about it, the better an idea it seemed – especially when I remembered that I have a floral-patterned, full-skirted, calf-length  Zara dress which always reminds me of the frock Grace was wearing when she was introduced to Prince Rainier. The bonus was that I could wear this to my gigs (the second of which, appropriately, was a tribute to Louis Armstrong, Grace’s co-star in High Society) and not look ridiculous. I just stuck on fancy headband as I was leaving the concert, and, voila, my Kelly look was complete.

Of course, channelling Grace Kelly in the 1950s was easy – as it’s completely inkeeping with one of my favourite looks: a natural-looking eye make-up and coral-red lips. Luckily, my favourite coral of this summer,  Estee Lauder Pure Color Longlasting Lipstick in Coral Sun  (£18;, hadn’t yet melted on Saturday. By Thursday, it had come a cropper in the Edinburgh heatwave, and it’s now un-usable. Here’s a pic of me in character; my friend, the singer and concert promoter Todd Gordon, plays the part of Frank Sinatra rather well!


Beige is boring, pink is too/ Only navy nails will do … (apologies to Kay Thompson’s Think Pink song from Funny Face).

I fell in love on Tuesday, in Edinburgh …. with midnight blue nail varnish, two in particular: Dior Vernis in Tuxedo (£17.50, from August 16) and an old one that I discovered I’d never tried – Chanel Le Vernis in Blue Satin (£17.50;  for stockists call 020-7493 3836). They both look fantastic with my colouring (much better than the brownish metallic shades which are also going to be big for autumn) – and, I think, a lot more chic than black or grey. I am definitely a convert.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering who the fabulous-looking woman is in the photo – that’s an American singer by the name of Clairdee, with whom I bonded over beauty tips and style secrets (when we were supposed to be discussing jazz!). She’s got THE most amazing skin, so watch out for her recommendations and advice on this blog over the next few weeks.


Oooh, it’s not too late – I hope – to get your mitts on the exquisite eyeshadow quartet which Chanel brought out about six weeks ago, as part of its limited edition Byzance de Chanel collection which is exclusive to its make-up studios in Frasers, Glasgow; Fenwicks, Newcastle and Selfridges, London.

Chanel Quadra Eye Shadow in Topkapi (£37) is a thing of beauty; very easy to wear and to adapt to either a low-key look or full-on glamour. Though it does seem a shame to muss up the quilted boules of colour..

I got hooked on the top two shades last week for daily wear – and plan to wear them instead of some of the (frankly, rather disappointing) autumn shades I’ve been sent …


As if by magic, the perfect companion to the Topkapi quartet was also in my make-up bag for the jazz festival: the limited edition Estee Lauder Pure Color Liquid Eyeliner (£19), from its new Modern Mercury collection, is a wonder: a liquid eyeliner which is as soft as a child’s crayon, and glides across the eyelid without dragging. In fact, you barely feel it making its mark.

I’ve been using the Black Quartz shade (can’t wait to try Graphic) which has a subtle sparkle through it and provides a considerably less harsh line than the average pure black liner. Of course, you can build it up for a dramatic look, or play it down for a softer one. The only drawback is it feels a little sticky once applied – on me, anyway.

And, speaking of makeup bags: I finally broke my bad habit of finding myself with my business cards because I’ve changed handbag. My new tip? I’m keeping my business cards in my make-up bag. After all, I never leave home without it!


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