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Musical Make-up

Clinique Nutcracker SuiteOoooh, the Christmas make-up collection from Clinique – the beauty company that seems to do Christmas more stylishly than most – is not only extremely pretty to look at, but, with its frosted and candy colours, it looks good enough to eat. And since it was inspired by the definitive Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker, it’s impossible not to hear the wonderful sounds of Tchaikovsky’s score when you try out the products and read their names.

“The collection was inspired by the characters, costumes and scenery of the ballet,” says Janet Pardo, SeniorVice President Clinique Global Product Development. “The tulles and velvet fabrics in vivid pinks, glittering  whites and vibrant purples inspired us to develop a colour collection that brings to life the whimsical nature of The Nutcracker.”

Clinique’s Nutcracker Suite’s leading lady is a new powder, Clinique Blended Face Powder in Snowflake Dreams (£23), which brings a shimmering elegance – a touch of the Snow Queen – to your party look if dusted across the shoulders, neck and chest. Florrie White, Clinique’s UK Colour Artist, suggests using it to add “pops of soft pink shimmer to your temples, inner corners of your eyes, cupid’s bow and your collar bone to enhance your features, whilst adding a touch of festive sparkle”.

The other big stars of of the suite are the palettes – inspired by the Waltz of the Snowflakes, The Nutcracker Act I colour compact (£35) comprises a Snowflake Suite eye shadow quad in soft pinks and sultry tones, and a delicate Blushing Blush Powder Blush in Plié Pink. Meanwhile, The Nutcracker Act II  compact (£35 – and available only from Clinique online)  is made up of a Sugar Plum Suite eye shadow quad of plum shades with shimmering white and silver tones, along with a flushed pink Blushing Blush Powder Blush in Tutu Pink.

But you’d better glide gracefully down to your Clinique counter fast while stocks last.

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The Defence League

CLINIQUE_Superdefense_SPF_20_and_Superdefense_Eye_SPF_20_TRAVEL_RETAILWhile the rest of us were recovering from post-turkey stress on December 27, Clinique launched two new skincare products in readiness for our traditional New Year fixation with sorting out our skincare concerns.

Clinique Superdefense SPF20 Daily Defense Moisturizer (£39; boasts a cocktail of ingredients designed to help the skin defend itself against the early signs of ageing – while at the same time protecting it from future damage from the sun’s rays, and keeping it well hydrated. The cream is available in two different formulations to suit different skin types, and the textures are lovely and feel like a treat for the skin.

If ever an area cried out for extra protection it’s the particularly delicate skin around the eyes, so it makes sense that Clinique has also launched Superdefense SPF20 Age Defense Eye Cream (£30) which protects and hydrates the skin while preventing future damage. Additionally, it has a luminous tint to it to help brighten dull, tired-looking skin. Word of warning: if you like your eye creams to feel moist and malleable then this one is maybe not for you.

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A Touch of Class, A Clink of Glass

Cocktail night - margarita

The Women – the original, 1939, version of course (from which the Style Matters banner photo comes)– is one of my favourite films and it sort of came to life here, at my flat, last week when I hosted a ladies-only cocktail party.

I may have been the only person there who saw the connection with the glittering and stylish 1930s MGM comedy, but I was rather tickled by the similarities – all three of them. There was the pan-generational, all-female cast (excepting my two children and the barman), the classic cocktails being sipped, and the fact that we all had our nails painted by the Cocktail night - Mojitoslovely Margaret – though not the Jungle Red shade that links the ladies in the movie. (Thankfully, unlike the great movie – which I have often referred to as one of Hollywood’s best bitchfests – there was no catty behaviour..)

What made the night so memorable, however, was the presence (in my own hall!) of a well-stocked cocktail bar and a barman well-educated in the sophisticated science of mixology – both thanks to Social and Cocktail, the must-visit website for cocktail devotees, which recently branched out into events.

Cocktail night - Jean

A satisfied customer

For a very reasonable £25 per head, each guest can enjoy five cocktails – chosen by the host. Social and Cocktail offers an impressive and wide-ranging menu which is divided into different sections – dessert cocktails, rum cocktails, vodka cocktails, classic cocktails and non-alcoholic cocktails.

For my Cocktails ‘n’ Cosmetics night, I opted for one non-alcoholic cocktail – the Summer Berry Sling (pronounced “delicious” by all who drank it) – plus three old favourites: French Martinis, Mojitos and Margaritas. And, since I’d never tried them but associated them with black & white movies, Old-Fashioneds, a whisky and orange bitters concoction which was the perfect final cocktail of our soiree.

* Social and Cocktail is currently offering its cocktail evening services in Glasgow and the surrounding areas, but it will soon be available in Edinburgh too. Contact them at

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Passport to Paradise

le_monde_interiors_&_hotel_rooms_selection-1104I’m behind with my blog, having put my back out last Thursday, the morning after my elegant dinner at The Caledonian to mark the launch of the AERIN range by Aerin Lauder. I wasn’t staying in the Caley (that’s still on my to-do list) but a hop, skip and a stagger away at the opulent but contemporary Le Monde hotel.

It may have been only my second overnight stay at this luxurious boutique hotel – but there is a white leather, high booth in the downstairs bar that I have regarded as my Edinburgh office since the city’s jazz festival in July so I do feel very at home there.

At Le Monde, every room is a destination. On checking in, guests are presented with their “passport” and details of the city to which they’re being sent for the night. Last time, I was in Milan, a chic, spacious,  dark-walled room with striking, wall-length photos of supermodels – opposite, rather disconcertingly, a full-length mirror! And it had a bathroom, with waterfall shower, to die for.

Last week at Le Monde, I found myself in another city I’ve never visited before: Los Angeles.  This suite had a wall of black and white photos of movie star portraits, a Hollywood mirror with lightbulbs down each side – the kind Miss Piggy had in her dressing room – and a TV viewing area with a comfy white leather settee that would have made the perfect casting couch (had I had company). All that was missing was an Oscar statuette or two. The vibe was, as I saw it, 1970s LA. I could imagine Faye Dunaway lounging around in one of the white towelling robes a la her iconic Terry O’Neill “morning after” portrait.

And as for the bathroom, well, it made me feel wholly inadequate. Why? Because it was wasted on the solo bather … The circular bath had insets for three people – was it designed for one of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy parties, I wondered? – and a TV screen (one of three in the suite) on the wall beside it, at eye level. Still, at least I didn’t have to share the gorgeous-smelling Temple Spa goodies with anyone else ..

* Le Monde, 16 George Street, Edinburgh (0131 270 3900)

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My City of (Stylish) Stars Exhibition

Judy Garland in Balmain, Empire Theatre, Glasgow, 1951 (c) The Herald and Times Group

I’m afraid I’ve been a bit of an absent blogger these last couple of weeks because I’ve been completely immersed in a last-minute commission to put together an exhibition based on a book I was trying to get off the ground – about the stars who passed through Scotland from the 1930s onwards.

Gene Kelly on Gordon St, Glasgow, April 1953 (c) The Herald and Times Group

The idea came up in a conversation with the director of music of the concert halls in Glasgow. We were chatting about the Glasgow Film Festival (currently underway) and the fact that Gene Kelly was to be the subject of its retrospective. I told him that Gene Kelly had come to Glasgow on a flying visit in 1953, to seek inspiration for the forthcoming MGM film version of the Broadway show Brigadoon. And that I had researched his visit – along with those of other great stars.  And, most crucially, that there were beautiful, rarely seen, photographs of the occasion in the photo archive of The Herald and Times.

Back in the 1950s, and earlier, Glasgow was the often the first port of call for big entertainment stars performing in Scotland. Indeed, it was often their only port of call north of the border – and some venues, notably the Empire Theatre, were viewed as the testing ground for acts. If you could survive the Empire, you could make it anywhere – that was the philosophy.

Hollywood stars would come to Glasgow to publicise their films with personal appearances (as Cary Grant did no fewer than three times at the peak of his career), to appear onstage (as Mae West and Marlene Dietrich did) and for social reasons (as Elizabeth Taylor and Danny Kaye did).

One thing that struck me, while sifting through the pictures I’d selected, was that two of the biggest female stars I was featuring were wearing gowns by Balmain when they were photographed in Glasgow – and, of course, Balmain is a fashion house that is very much back in vogue. Here’s Katharine Hepburn looking gorgeous in one of the dresses designed by Monsieur B for her character in The Millionairess. Check this picture – and 22 others – out at the City of Stars exhibition at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall from Saturday, February 25 until September…

Katharine Hepburn, King's Theatre, Glasgow, May 1952 (c) The Herald and Times Group


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2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 150,000 times in 2011. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Coco’s Last Head-turner

The bottle is iconic. Square with slightly curved shoulders, it is the embodiment of elegance and simplicity. The label is unfussy, with the perfume’s name laid out in black type. The lid sits raised off the shoulders – a glass rectangle resting on a neck around which, like a bow tie, is a band with the most coveted logo in the world in the centre: the two interlocking C’s. This could be a description of the world’s most famous perfume bottle, that of Chanel No.5, but it’s also a description of the bottle of one of the world’s most cultish fragrances – Chanel No.19.

Everyone knows Chanel No.5. It was the first fragrance launched by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, back in 1921 – and it became famous the world over as her signature perfume. Most people don’t know Chanel No.19, however. It was the last fragrance she created, and probably the last one she wore. Launched 40 years ago – half a century after No.5 – No.19 is about to become a whole lot better known now, thanks to the creation of No.19 Poudre (Powdered), a new and softer variation on its fresh, green, floral theme.

With Coco Chanel still a source of fascination as well as inspiration 40 years after her death, it’s surprising that her final fragrance – the last Chanel perfume made with her involvement, the last perfume she loved and the perfume which sums up the second half  of her career (complementing No.5 as the fragrance of the first half) – is still a such cultish phenomenon.

Like many of the great classical perfumes, it makes a statement. It’s not a fragrance that everyone “gets” or can pull off – and it’s certainly not the easiest fragrance to love, unless you have a fairly sophisticated palette. In the acclaimed book Perfume – The Guide, Tania Sanchez describes it as a “cruel” fragrance, “angular, unkind, tough and cold”, adding that: “For a fragrance with so many spring-time references, all white blossoms and leafy greenery, No.19 never lands you in any Sound of Music meadows. It keeps you in the boardroom, in three-inch stilettos and a pencil-skirt suit.”

Apart from the three-inch stilettos, the description could easily apply to Mademoiselle Chanel herself – in the two decades running up to the launch of No.19. Or, at least, the public’s perception of her. She certainly appeared to be a tough old bird, quite ruthless – and arguably cruel – in her brutally expressed opinions, and physically she was wiry and angular. She’s immediately recognisable in the minimalist sketches drawn by Karl Lagerfeld for Justine Picardie’s recent biography: you only need to draw the jawline, the cheek bones, the sharp elbows at 45 degrees to her body – and the Chanel form is identifiable.

So how did No.19 come about? Well, the story of No.19 is interwoven with the story of Coco Chanel’s miraculous comeback in the last 17 years of her life. She had quit Paris during the Occupation, her reputation damaged by her affair with a Nazi officer, and had taken up a sort of self-imposed exile in Switzerland. Her 1954 comeback collection was her first since she shut up her couture shop in 1939. What triggered her comeback was her rage at the New Look that was sweeping Paris and beyond: Christian Dior’s landmark 1947 collection, with its new silhouette of the tight bodice, nipped-in waist and full skirt, was the antithesis of the aesthetic with which Chanel had revolutionised fashion a quarter of a century earlier. She had done away with the restrictive corsets and given women the freedom of movement thanks to her loose-fitting, comfortable clothes. She was incensed by the New Look – and, especially, by the fact that a man had dared to put women back in corsets, that a man was undoing what she had done for women.

Opening with a navy blue and white collarless jersey suit, Chanel’s 1954 collection harked back to her 1920s successes – fluid lines, comfortable fabrics, and all modelled by girls with the gamine figures that had been in vogue in the days when flappers flattened their breasts, and hid their hips and waists. The French and British press hated it, dismissing it as backwards-looking, a pathetic attempt by an old lady (Chanel was by now 71) to relive her earlier successes. Le Combat newspaper said: “From the first dress, we knew that the Chanel style belonged the past.” The Daily Express labelled the collection “a fiasco”.

Support came from an unlikely source: the United States. The Americans loved the collection. Vogue and Life magazine both ran big features on Chanel and her comeback, with no mention of the war or her personal errors of judgement. Orders flooded in from across the Atlantic from women who appreciated what Life called “evening dresses that have plenty of elegant dash, and easy-fitting suits that are refreshing after the ‘poured-on’ look of some styles.”

It took five years for the French to cotton on to what the Americans appreciated about the born-again Chanel style. And in the interim, Chanel had devised all the elements of what remains the quintessential Chanel look – to the collarless tweed jacket she added the quilted, chain-strapped bag (the “2.55”, launched in February 1955) and the two-tone slingback pumps (1957).

Finally, in 1959, French Vogue proclaimed: “The heady idea that a woman should be more important than her clothes, and that it takes superb design to keep her looking that way – this idea, which has been for almost 40 years the fuel for the Chanel engine, has now permeated the fashion world.”

Riding on a cloud of success again, Coco Chanel – although she no longer owned shares in Parfums Chanel, but did receive 2% royalties on perfume sales – wanted to launch a new perfume to accompany this new chapter in her career and celebrate her triumphant return. The women’s perfumes in the Chanel portfolio had all been created during her initial run of success: Chanel No.5, launched in 1921, had been followed by No.22 (1922), Cuir de Russie (1924), Gardenia (1925), Bois des Iles (1926) and Sycomore (1930) – all of which were recently relaunched as part of Les Exclusifs collection – then Une Idee, Le 1940 Bleu, Le 1940 Rouge and Le 1940 Beige (all 1930) and Ivoire (1931).

Chanel now wanted a perfume to reflect her new success in the second half of the 20th century. Throughout the early 1960s, she nagged Parfums Chanel about it but – according to Michael Edwards’s book Perfume Legends, the fragrance company wasn’t keen – and nor were the distributors. Edwards quotes Chanel’s legal advisor, Robert Chaillet, who said: “They feared it might torpedo No.5.” Chanel persisted with her request for a new perfume and as time went by, the request became a demand. Finally, in 1965, when Pierre Wertheimer – one of the owners of Parfums Chanel – died, Chanel got her way and began work on what would become No.19.

Coco Chanel was involved in every step of the evolution of No.19, which was created by the revered “nose” Henri Robert. Chaillet later said: “Every week for over a year I brought her three different perfume bottles marked one, two, three. She sprayed herself with them from head to toe and then wandered around the fashion house waiting for reactions. If the salesgirls said: ‘Oh! Mademoiselle smells good!’ she was delighted. If nothing was said to her she would telephone me, furious. ‘This perfume is awful. I don’t want any. It stinks! Nobody noticed it!’ ”

Determined that the new perfume be a head-turner, Chanel settled on a daring formula which, says the internationally renowned perfume expert Roja Dove, “revolutionised” perfume. He says: “The thing that  made it such a revolution in its time was the overdose of orris [the root of the iris plant], which is the main classic powder note of perfumery, nestling in the base. You only notice it once the scent dries down.”

Both Dove and Jacques Polge, Chanel’s current “nose” and the guardian of all the Chanel fragrances, agree that No.19 is truly a connoisseur’s perfume. Polge explains: “In the industry, it’s always been very highly regarded – I don’t know of any nose who doesn’t rate 19 –  and those women who are faithful to No.19 usually come from a culture of perfume.”

Dove adds: “The so-called green note of perfumery – which is generally based around galbanum – is a polarising material. People either love it or really can’t stand it. And if you look at all the great classical perfumes that use it – perfumes like Miss Dior, or Guerlain Vol de Nuit, they are scents that you really love or you just can’t stand. What’s interesting is that No.19 has two hugely polarising materials – it has the note of galbanum, that so-called fresh note, and then underneath it, it has orris, the powder note.

“In my opinion, the powder note generally suggests somebody who is a little retrospective in their view on life; the so-called green note generally appeals to people who are forward thinking. So maybe the rather beautiful schizophrenia of this perfectly formed creation makes it polarising and therefore if you love it, nothing else will quite do, because nothing gives you this sort of duality – I can’t think of another scent that exists which combines freshness on a powdered note in that way.”

Certainly the simultaneously backward and forward-looking description seems to fit Coco Chanel. She always drew – whether subconsciously or not – on her past for inspiration. The distinctive chains of her bags were inspired, it is said, by the belts worn by the nuns who had educated her, for example. Yet she invariably moved fashion and fragrance forward with her bold choices.

With No.19 (so named after the date of her birth – August 19), she was soon vindicated in her choice. Jacques Polge cites the story of how, just a few months before her death, the 87-year-old
Coco Chanel was wearing the fragrance when she was stopped in the street by a young man. As she told it: “Coming out of the Ritz, I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder and I turned around to see an unknown face. I was just about to tell him off in no uncertain terms, when he said to me, with an American accent: ‘Excuse me, I am with two friends who want to know the name of your perfume.’ To be stopped in the street by a man at my age, that’s not bad, is it?”

Whether Chanel switched completely from No.5 to No.19 as her signature perfume during her final days nobody knows for sure, but Roja Dove says: “I wouldn’t be surprised –  I’m sure that any woman who received a compliment from a handsome man might end up having a proclivity towards the liquid that brought that comment her way!”

Chanel No.19 quickly established a loyal following, but never – Dove points out – became “a blockbuster” like No.5. Its influence is evident in various highly successful fragrances, including Estee Lauder’s Beautiful, Cartier’s So Pretty and, most recently, Prada’s Infusion d’Iris. And it was partly to “reclaim Chanel’s territory” as the perfume company which constructed the original iris masterpiece, says Jacques Polge, that he decided to create the new variation, No.19 Poudre, which is softer and makes use of the new musks that have become available since the original No.19 was formulated.

Roja Dove is thrilled with the arrival of a baby sister for the original No.19. “The beauty of a launch like this is it means that a whole new generation will suddenly look at one of the great classical perfumes and whilst they may be drawn to it through the new version, they might be tempted to try the old one. It would have been a great tragedy if No.19 had faded into oblivion.”

* Chanel No.19 Poudre (from £61) goes on sale on July 15. For stockists, call 020-7493 3836.

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