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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

As a lifelong movie fan – with a particular passion for the films of the 1930s  – I’m ashamed to admit that I completely missed the centenary of one of my favourite comediennes, the original Blonde Bombshell Jean Harlow (right).

Sassy, sexy and much more sussed than the bimbo characters she often played, Jean Harlow was the original prototype of the dumb blonde persona that Marilyn Monroe also cultivated.

Of course, as one of the biggest stars of her time, she was hugely influential as a style and beauty icon – the platinum blonde, waved hair; the dark, Cupid’s bow lips, the pencilled-on eyebrows and the slouchy, slinky posture were copied by women worldwide.

I was reminded of Jean, and her languid sensuality when, on Monday, I was marvelling at the exquisite Christmas collection from Guerlain. Jean was known to be a devotee of Guerlain fragrance – indeed, the legend goes that when her second husband killed himself, his body was found doused in Mitsouko..

TUESDAY

If one item in that collection screams Jean Harlow (to me anyway!), it’s the  Guerlain Vol de Nuit Perfumed Shimmer Powder Face & Body (£49.50) which looks exactly the kind of item you’d expect to find on a 1930s movie star’s art deco dressing table.

Vol de Nuit may not be the Guerlain fragrance most associated with Jean Harlow, but it is very much of her time. Created in 1933 (the year of two of her biggest hits – Dinner at Eight and Blonde Bombshell), it was inspired by – of all things – aviation. Jacques Guerlain named this sensual oriental after the novel penned by his friend the poet and aviator Antoine de Sainte-Exupery and it was inspired by the great aviatrix of the day, notably France’s Helene Boucher.

This new shimmering powder is a lovely, modern way to try out the daring Vol de Nuit – while adding a touch of Harlow-esque glamour to any lady’s boudoir.

WEDNESDAY

One person complimenting you on your skin could just be insincere flattery but by Wednesday, I had had enough compliments in that department to make me realise that there was something going on with my complexion. It has been especially well cared for in recent weeks, thanks to more regular exfoliation (with Elemis’s Gentle Rose Exfoliator, since you ask) and a weekly helping of a luxurious mask (Sisley’s Black Rose) but I think that what prompted the compliments was the foundation: each time I was complimented, I was wearing Dior Diorskin Forever Fluid SPF25 (£29.50), which provides great coverage but a natural finish. The effect is of no foundation, but super-enhanced, healthily glowing, skin…

THURSDAY

Christmas may still be a way away but I noticed on Thursday that I had already worn down couple of the shades in my favourite Christmas palette so far: Clarins Eye Quartet Mineral Palette in Smokey Passion (£30; www.clarins.co.uk).

This limited edition set is quite distinct from any other I’ve seen this season. It comprises a tawny, coral shade, a taupe and a dark grey-brown – all shimmery powders – plus a wet, glittery silver which goes on sheer and adds a subtle sparkle.

FRIDAY

It may seem a little premature to be talking about spring cosmetic colours but that was what Lloyd Simmonds, the creator of YSL’s make-up, wanted to discuss when he came to Glasgow to meet the press on Friday. No wonder he was keen to talk spring: he has designed a beautiful collection of pastels and sheer shades for his next collection, which goes on sale on December 20. (The photo shows him playing with the new colours.)

The spring collection was inspired, said Simmonds, “by an old-fashioned candy shop I stumbled across in Paris”. It’s playful, light, fresh – very much “candy for the face” and a complete contrast to the current Holiday Look 2011, which is based around black.

 

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

There’s nothing like being treated like a supermodel to brighten up a dull Monday – and that’s exactly what happened to me when I was reunited with Jamie Coombes, Dior’s National Make-up Artist and a member of the International Pro Artist Team. I loved the makeup he did for me this time last year – he taught me how to create the look and I trotted out variations on it at every event I went to last winter. So, on Monday when I had an appointment with him at Frasers in Glasgow, I challenged him to come up with an evening look that would see me through this year’s party season. “Oooh, can I play about?” he asked. Carte blanche was duly granted.

Jamie must have been reading my mind because he immediately picked out green as the dominant colour in the smoky eye he elected to create. His first step was to apply a little foundation – Dior Forever Fluide 010 (£29.50) – on the eyelids as a base. Then, taking the Dior 5 Couleur Designer in Green Design (£40), he applied its darkest shade along the lash line and created a V shape in the outer corner. He spent quite  a bit of time smudging the dark green, and pulling the colour further into the lid while keeping the darkest part at the outside. In the centre of the lid, he applied some of the central, shimmery shade in the palette – as well as the golden shade from the Dior 5 Couleur Designer in Amber Design. 

To complete the dramatic eye look, Jamie lined my eyes using a combination of the Carbon and Navy shades of Diorshow Waterproof Liner (£17), and then applied the Carbon shade to the inner rim of the eyelids to intensify the effect.  He plumped up my stumpy eyelashes with a coat of Diorshow Maximiser (£22), a bodybuilding primer, before applying the fantastic Diorshow Black Out Spectacular Volume Mascara (£22).

After sculpting my cheeks with blusher and highligher, Jamie painted on a nude lip – the Rouge
Dior in Beige Angelique
(£22.50), the shade he used recently on Charlize Theron. That’s what I’m wearing in the photo at the top of this article. Then we experimented with a bolder – almost scary – red: Diorific High Fashion Lipstick in Dolce Vita Red (£21.50). I think the pale one is slightly too pale and the red a bit too strong with the strong eye, so I’m going to conduct further experiments at home – sticking to warm shades to complement the greens.

Meanwhile, Jamie is coming to a House of Fraser store near you over the next few weeks: Tuesday, October 25 & Wednesday 26 at Selfridges, Manchester; Thursday 27 at Harrods, London; Friday 28th at Selfridges, London;  November 1 & 2 at Jenners, Edinburgh; November 3 & 4 at Frasers, Glasgow; November 15 & 16 at Arnotts, Dublin; November 17 & 18 at Brown Thomas, Dublin and November 28 & 29 at Harrods, London.

WEDNESDAY

This is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and, as they’ve been doing for the last 18 years, the Estee Lauder Companies are highlighting this great cause with their own campaign.

Jo Malone London‘s contribution to the cause is one of the most covetable: Jo Malone Red Roses Body & Hand Wash (£30; http://www.jomalone.com) is a gorgeous new product which went on sale at the beginning of the month and is almost too delectable to use on a daily basis. (If you think my kids are going to get to wash their mitts with it, think again!)

£5 from every sale of the Red Roses Hand & Body Wash is going to be donated to help fund grants for research into breast cancer, here in the UK.

THURSDAY

Well, I’m not sure if my legs would have made the grade in a 42nd Street-style line-up, but they certainly stand a much better chance following the Clarins TriActive Body Treatment – The Body Sculptor (£63; selected Clarins spas nationwide) which I enjoyed on Thursday.

The TriActive Body Treatments are the first new treatments to be introduced by Clarins in four years, and I was delighted to be getting the chance to try one out at the Clarins Spa in Frasers, Glasgow (0141 221 5760). There are three variations on the treatment – The Moisture Quencher, The Firming Age Corrector and The Body Sculptor. It’s a very thorough treatment- the therapist asks if there are any areas you would prefer she skipped as the massage takes in the breasts, tummy and inside leg.. Very French, you see. I skipped the tummy – mine does not like massage since I had my twins.

This isn’t a treatment designed to send you drifting off for a wee snooze – it’s about results. The 60-minute massage is all about detoxifying, toning up the skin and “sculpting” the contours. My skin felt lovely afterwards and where I had the toning mask (upper arms), there was a distinct sensation of tightness. I wouldn’t expect visible results after one session so I may well consider booking in for a series. Just as well, then, that, until October 29, Clarins Spas are offering the chance to book six body treatments for the price of four. Call 0800 036 3558 for more details or information on your nearest salon.

FRIDAY

October is proving to be a great month for new lipsticks: in fact, we’re spoilt for choice. The latest is Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture Golden Lustre (£22.50; from October 19), a sheer lipstick infused with gold. There are 12 beautiful shades in the collection – so far I’ve fallen for no.112, AKA (appropriately enough for someone who’s overdue a trip to the French capital) Rose Parisien…

The make-up maestro who created this sumptuous purpley pink – and the rest of the range – is Lloyd Simmonds, YSL’s Creative Director, and he’s going to be previewing his new Holiday collection at Selfridges on Thursday, November 3 (from 5pm) and at Glasgow’s Frasers on Friday, November 4.

During his visit, clients can have their make-up done by a member of his team – and receive a luxury goody bag and glass of champagne. Appointments cost £25, and are redeemable against any purchases made on the day. For Selfridges, call 0207 318 1358 and for Frasers, call 0141 221 3880, extension 2036.

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French Beauty Ideals

I’m in a French frame of mind today – what with it being Bastille Day. So I thought I’d share some of the words of beauty wisdom that I’ve received from two leading French make-up gurus whom I’ve interviewed in the last couple of years.

Both Laura Mercier and Terry de Gunzburg are charming, vivacious and sexy older women who graduated from the legendary Carita beauty school, and made their names as top make-up artists in the 1980s before launching their own lines of cosmetics. (Of course, for de Gunzburg, there was also the small matter of her creation of a “magic wand” called Touche Eclat at YSL ..)

It’s perhaps unsurprising then to discover that they share a similar beauty aesthetic – one which really highlights the difference between how French women and their British and/or American cousins view themselves, their looks and their sex appeal, as they go through life.

Asked to name the movie actresses whose looks she most admired, Laura Mercier said:  “I’ve always had a fascination for people who are not obviously beautiful … Obviously beautiful women like Catherine Deneuve absolutely don’t move me. Yes, she’s gorgeous in Belle de Jour but she has never moved me. However,  I am completely fascinated by the Italian actress Anna Magnani (right; 1908-1973) who can be gorgeous. Sometimes she can be not so beautiful but she’s always so intense. The personality is to die for – I mean, big dark circles, the nose and the teeth. I’m fascinated by that, by all faces. Everybody has the potential to be beautiful.”

Another of Mercier’s beauty heroines is the stylish, but not conventionally beautiful, octogenarian interior designer Andree Putman.  “She looks odd – she has adopted, completely adopted, a make-up and a hairstyle that’s always asymmetrical. I mean, she really goes for it. She imposes a personality. It’s not just about being perfect and symmetrical – it’s also her talent and her personality. Thank God! Beauty’s not like that. Paloma Picasso (below)  is another example. Even if you take Jackie Kennedy (left), yeah she was beautiful but she was not obviously beautiful. Her eyes were very far apart. If you look into the details, you see that they’re not perfect but that’s what makes us all unique. The defect can often become an asset.”

Terry de Gunzburg agrees. “I’ve always said: ‘ J’aime les defaults dans les grands oeuvres. ‘ [I like the flaws in the masterpieces.] I think that some wrinkles and fine lines can give you an internal beauty.”  She named as one of her favourite beauty heroines, whose face she had made-up while she was at Carita, the grande dame of American cinema Lauren Bacall. “I prefer the face of the older Lauren Bacall to the face of the older Goldie Hawn,” she said, recalling Bacall’s own view that she had “earned every one of her wrinkles”.

Laura Mercier sums up by saying:  “No-one can say Catherine Deneuve and Grace Kelly are not beautiful but, to me, they’re slightly boring, they’re a little bland. I like a little more hot pepper..”

* Laura Mercier’s range is widely available. Visit www.lauramercier.com to view her products. By Terry is available in Space NK stores in the UK. Visit www.spacenk.co.uk

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

I may be the one who writes about beauty but my friends are all experts about the areas that particularly concern them.

My pal Shiv is one of my top testers for fake tan and body products; apart from her essentials – mascara and lip gloss – make-up has tended to be much lower down her priority list .

Her skin is so good that she only recently began to feel the need of some sort of coverage to even out dark circles and disguise fine lines – so she turned to the excellent By Terry range.

When I met her on Monday, she was singing the praises not only of the By Terry Touche Veloutee (£29; www.spacenk.co.uk), a concealer/highlighter and cousin to the original Touche Eclat (which Terry de Gunzburg created at YSL), but also of the lady who sold it to her in Space NK.

Shiv went in to buy the shade she had bought before. When the saleswoman realised they didn’t have it, she didn’t try to persuade her to buy something else; instead, she persuaded her to book herself in for a mini-makeover the following weekend.

I’ve not heard the usually cynical Shiv wax so lyrical about a retail experience as she did about the makeover. She was thrilled with the results  and left with a different (and better) shade of the Touche Veloutee,  as well as her first eyeliner pencil in probably about 20 years and a list of make-up she’d like to try.

TUESDAY

I spent some time on Tuesday in a bit of a coiffeur quandary. My hair is desperately needing to be coloured and cut but, for the first time in ages, I’m toying with the idea of doing something different with it. It could be that I fancy going for the chop because, suddenly, the ends of my hair are tangling and look like they’re paying the price for my regular colour sessions. It could be that short hair looks so much easier (though I know, from experience, that it isn’t). Or it could have something to do with the fact that, however much she may hate it, I love Oscar-nominated Carey Mulligan’s elfin crop. Though not half as much as I love the original model – as seen on movie actress Jean Seberg (above). Not sure if I’m quite ready to take the plunge but you never know …

WEDNESDAY

Dior’s summer make-up collection arrived on Wednesday morning – and the pinks, peaches and corals are mouthwateringly pretty. Also in the package was Diorshow Extase Mascara (£21.50), which somehow I missed out on when they landed in stores at the end of March.

I can report that, as often happens with mascara, I’m in love again.. This mascara is brilliant for beefing up scraggy lashes and making them look like contenders in the battable stakes. I am fickle when it comes to mascara so we’ll have to see whether I’m as much in love in a couple of weeks as I am now ..

THURSDAY

I was writing about foundations on Thursday and, in the course of testing a few different ones, I had a Dorothy moment. In other words, just as Dorothy realises that “there’s no place like home” in The Wizard of Oz, so I realised that there’s no foundation like my old reliable: Clinique Perfectly Real Make-up (£20; www.clinique.co.uk).

It’s not an all-singing, all-dancing base like some of Clinique’s recent offerings, but Perfectly Real is a godsend for women like me, with a less-than-even skin tone, and a complexion which is totally confused in its orientation: it veers between oily, sensitive, dehydrated and dry. Not only does this foundation deal with all these issues, but it also comes in a shade which is a perfect match for my very fair colouring.

FRIDAY

It may be the Easter Holidays and Friday is the day I usually look after my twin boys, but I had to book my mum to babysit for long enough for me to sneek into town to meet Melissa, the suitably chic PR for Tom Ford Beauty. After all, she had promised to give me a preview of the new Tom Ford Private Blend Lip Colors (£35), which go on sale in Harvey Nichols on April 24.

This collection of 12 lipsticks marks the talented Mr Ford’s first foray into the world of cosmetics.  Why start with lipsticks? Well, over to him. “There is no more dramatic accessory than a perfect lip,” he says. “It is the focus of the face and it has the power to define a woman’s whole look.”

At £35 a pop, a Private Blend Lip Color does not come cheap, but it’s designed to be the ultimate in luxurious lipstick -as the expensive-looking ivory and gold tubes suggest. The quality is immediately apparent when you apply the lipstick too. Extremely moisturising, it glides on to the lips thanks to such rare ingredients as soja seed extract, Brazilian murumur butter and chamomilla flower oil. My mother has already named a coral-coloured Lip Color as payback for the babysitting job ….

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The Wintour Issue

If I thought I was having a grim month in terms of persuading commissioning editors to part with their pennies, it’s nothing compared to how soul-destroying it must be to work on American Vogue. How do I know this? Well, because I spent the morning watching, sniggering, empathising and cringing at the eagerly anticipated film The September Issue, RJ Cutler’s utterly fascinating and hugely enjoyable documentary which charts the production of what is always the biggest edition of the magazine of the year.

One by one, staff members are crushed by editor-in-chief Anna Wintour’s apparently breezy dismissal of photos, ensembles or ideas that they have sweated blood over. But it’s the veteran creative director, Grace Coddington who inspires the most sympathy. Although she and Wintour have been colleagues for two decades, she knows that her boss will make her decisions based on her own judgement alone – with no consultation. Every spread she completes is chopped by Wintour, and always when she is elsewhere in the building.

Indeed, Coddington’s editorial tussles with Wintour provide most of the drama and tension in the film. (Cutler was lucky that Coddington, being older and more Wintour-wise than the rest of the staff, was self-confident enough to speak her mind for the camera.)

Of the two women, Coddington is the one whose passion shines through. Next to her (and the insanely flamboyant editor-at-large, Andre Leon Talley – who we don’t see enough of), Wintour has about as much passion as a dead fish. While Coddington is always on the look-out for inspiration and ideas, Wintour, her head bowed at Lady Di angles and her eyes often hidden behind her heavy fringe or her sunglasses (or both), seems introverted – as someone who relies solely on their own judgement and opinion must inevitably be.

Coddington, who could get a job as an Elizabeth I look-alike if she ever gets completely fed up with Wintour, dreams up the most ravishing images (that 1920s shoot! the French chateau spread!) but it’s clear that she gets carried away and, like most of us, takes it personally when other people start hacking away at her work. She doesn’t seem to know when to stop once those creative juices are flowing – so of course Wintour has to edit her output. As she says, decisiveness is her greatest strength.

Aside from revealing that her children are her biggest weakness, and apart from a brief hint of embarrassment at her own admission that her siblings are bemused by her career, Wintour gives next to nothing away about what makes her tick and what drives her. She must be passionate about fashion and about Vogue to devote so much time and energy to them, but there is nothing in her manner or in what she says that distinguishes her from anyone else doing a terrifically high-pressured job.

There’s no sense that she gets anything out of it, or that it’s fulfilling – or even that she loves clothes. Only once does she register pleasure when a dress is presented to her. Every other time, she looks bored or disinterested. At YSL, she almost defies designer Stephano Pilati to impress her, and watching her making him squirm is embarrassing.

Some kind of explanation of how Wintour came to wield such power would have been useful because in no other context would an artist take direction and criticism from a magazine editor. It doesn’t happen in music or in literature or in art. Of course, fashion is a different world – but it’s shocking to realise that the Wintour-inspired character Meryl Streep played in The Devil Wears Prada was really not a caricature; in many respects it was a fairly faithful portrayal of someone who is terrifying but in a thoroughly understated way.

Wintour points out that she inherited a character trait from her father – his inscrutablity. Turn a camera on her and it seems to increase the inscrutability. She may have a fearsome reputation but, based on what we see in this film, she doesn’t appear to have a personality.

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The Wintour Issue

If I thought I was having a grim month in terms of persuading commissioning editors to part with their pennies, it’s nothing compared to how soul-destroying it must be to work on American Vogue. How do I know this? Well, because I spent the morning at the Glasgow Film Theatre watching, sniggering, empathising and cringing at the eagerly anticipated film The September Issue, RJ Cutler’s utterly fascinating and hugely enjoyable documentary which charts the production of what is always the biggest edition of the magazine of the year.
 
One by one, staff members are crushed by editor-in-chief Anna Wintour’s apparently breezy dismissal of photos, ensembles or ideas that they have sweated blood over. But it’s the veteran creative director, Grace Coddington who inspires the most sympathy. Although she and Wintour have been colleagues for two decades, she knows that her boss will make her decisions based on her own judgement alone – with no consultation. Every spread she completes is chopped by Wintour, and always when she is elsewhere in the building.
 
Indeed, Coddington’s editorial tussles with Wintour provide most of the drama and tension in the film. (Cutler was lucky that Coddington, being older and more Wintour-wise than the rest of the staff, was self-confident enough to speak her mind for the camera.)
 
Of the two women, Coddington is the one whose passion shines through. Next to her (and the insanely flamboyant editor-at-large, Andre Leon Talley – who we don’t see enough of), Wintour has about as much passion as a dead fish. While Coddington is always on the look-out for inspiration and ideas, Wintour, her head bowed at Lady Di angles and her eyes often hidden behind her heavy fringe or her sunglasses (or both), seems introverted – as someone who relies solely on their own judgement and opinion must inevitably be.
 
 Coddington, who could get a job as an Elizabeth I look-alike if she ever gets completely fed up with Wintour, dreams up the most ravishing images (that 1920s shoot! the French chateau spread!) but it’s clear that she gets carried away and, like most of us, takes it personally when other people start hacking away at her work. She doesn’t seem to know when to stop once those creative juices are flowing – so of course Wintour has to edit her output. As she says, decisiveness is her greatest strength.
 
 Aside from revealing that her children are her biggest weakness, and apart from a brief hint of embarrassment at her own admission that her siblings are bemused by her career, Wintour gives next to nothing away about what makes her tick and what drives her. She must be passionate about fashion and about Vogue to devote so much time and energy to them, but there is nothing in her manner or in what she says that distinguishes her from anyone else doing a terrifically high-pressured job.
 
 There’s no sense that she gets anything out of it, or that it’s fulfilling – or even that she loves clothes. Only once does she register pleasure when a dress is presented to her. Every other time, she looks bored or disinterested. At YSL, she almost defies designer Stephano Pilati to impress her, and watching her making him squirm is embarrassing.

 

 

 Wintour points out that she inherited a character trait from her father – his inscrutablity. Turn a camera on her and it seems to increase the inscrutability. She may have a fearsome reputation but, based on what we see in this film, she doesn’t appear to have a personality.

  * The September Issue opens at the Glasgow Film Theatre and nationwide on September 11.

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