Friday, December 30, 2011

Beauty Fridays: YSL Touche Éclat, I Love You So

If I could write a love poem about a beauty product, Touche Éclat would be its subject. But I'm no poet, so I'll spare you the embarrassment of having to read that. 

Despite its cult status, I've avoided buying Touche Éclat due to its steep price. However, this magical little pen has been in the news recently for celebrating its 20th birthday, so there was no way of escaping it. I finally caved and shelled out $50 for it, and... my life changed. 

Touche Éclat is brightening cream -- it is not a concealer -- and it does everything it promises to. It brightens and highlights the spots that need a little lift. For example, all my life, no matter how rested I am, I've struggled with the worst dark circles. My concealer does cover them up, but layering Touche Éclat on top of the concealer brings life into my eyes (here's the bad poetry I was taking about). Beyond just camouflaging the stubborn circles, I extend the "light" over to the edge of my cheekbones, under my brow bone, and I trace the line of my nose, all to very subtle but crucial effects. 

Little magical clicks... CLICK, CLICK, CLICK (cue the poetry again) and I'm forever changed. Addictive, exhilarating, sensational: Touche Éclat is my #1 beauty discovery of 2011. Here's to our happy future together! (Dear God, make me stop.)

$50 at The Bay and Holt Renfrew.

PS. Beautygeeks' Janine Falcon is into it (and I kind of love her too). And here's a much better written ode to Touche Éclat courtesy of Macleans magazine.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Daphne Guinness (and Me)

Call it a Christmas miracle, or a fashion fantasy come true, but it appears that, at least on paper, my style icon Daphne Guinness and I have become very close. The supreme priestess of haute couture has recently co-authored a book, Daphne Guinness, with another role model of mine, Valerie Steelethe imitable fashion historian and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. 

So what's the miracle, you ask? In her introduction, Steele quotes fashion greats like Tom Ford, Valentino Garavani, Karl Lagerfeld, and yours truly. That's right: me. The quote is pulled from Style Icon: Daphne Guinness, a post I wrote almost two years ago, when about five people read my blog. It's one of my all-time favourites, not just because Daphne's clothes are astounding, but because it's almost written like a silly love letter -- I must have woken up extra couture-giddy that day. 

Here's the excerpt: 

An icon was originally an image of a sacred person worshipped by his or her followers. There is undeniably an element of enthusiasm boarding on worship in the popular response to celebrities. Consider the blog referring to "style-icon-daphne-guinness": "There are normal people and there is Daphne Guinness. Ms. Guinness is the ultimate fashion fantasy where everyone wears couture 24/7 and has ridiculously perfect bone structure. I like this world and therefore I love Daphne." She also proudly sites Vanity Fair journalist A.A. Gill, who argued that "[Daphne Guinness] has never had a look, never once, never remotely, that was anyone's but her very own." -Valerie Steele, Daphne Guinness

The idea of Daphne Guinness and Valerie Steele visiting my blog is insane enough as it is, let alone the idea of them choosing (or even discussing) my quote from thousands of others. Mind-boggling.

Daphne Guinness by Valerie Steele and Daphne Guinness (Published by Yale University, my former, albeit brief, alma matter.) 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays

I'm signing off for a week to indulge in mom's baked goods, Christmas movies, snowy walks, and long naps. Hope you enjoy quality time with your family and loved ones. And I hope Santa brings you some amazing goodies. 



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shoe Wednesdays: Maison Martin Margiela Ankle Boot

I have these in black and it's probably my all-time favourite boot. I got them last September at The Room (together with this bag) in Vancouver (there still might be some left) and I've had to restrain myself from wearing them every single day ever since. When I got them, a friend of mine so wrongly said that "they'd be even better with a platform." Sacrilege! Nothing beats the elegance of the soft contour. 

And if anyone knows softness, it's Maison Martin Margiela -- bar none the softest shoes in the world.  

$725 at La Garconne (grey) and Shopbop (brown and black). 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If I Were Rich I Would Buy... La Peregrina

Welcome to the extreme edition of If I Were Rich, I Would Buy. At the recent Elizabeth Taylor Christie's auction, the most talked about jewel was La Peregrina, an incredible pearl necklace, with diamond and ruby settings given to her by Richard Burton, the love of her life. It's stunning all right, but this oversized precious pearl goes beyond the legendary Hollywood star. 

Mary Tudor of England, mid-1550s

Its history spans over five decades, when an African slave discovered it at the Pearl Islands in the Gulf of Panama. It was then, and it still is, the largest natural pearl in the world, weighing an astonishing 203 grains, which is equivalent to 50 carats.  The pearl's finder didn't go without a reward: by finding this pearl, he won his freedom (he should have gotten more, but that's another story). Shortly after, it ended up in the hands of Prince Phillip II of Spain, who gifted it to his fiancé, Mary Tudor of England. Following Mary Tudor's death, the pearl was returned to Spain, where it remained for the next three centuries. 

La Peregrina, the not-so-original original

During its life in Spain, La Peregrina was removed from its original setting and placed onto a fairly conventional long pearl necklace. Eventually it ended up in the ownership of the Bonaparte family, who ruled Spain for a short period of time, and in the end, during his exile in England, Joseph Bonaparte sold it to James Hamilton, Duke of Abercorn. It remained with the Hamiltons until 1969 when Richard Burton purchased it for a measly $37,000 for his darling wife, Elizabeth Taylor, at Sotheby's in London. 

Elizabeth Taylor, Anne of Thousand Days, 1969

Three years later, inspired by the above portrait of Queen Mary, Elizabeth commissioned Cartier to create a similar choker composition for the legendary pearl, leaving the little diamond bail, suspending the pearl, intact. 

Elizabeth Taylor, mid-1970s

In her book My Love Affair With Jewelry (the best book ever, by the way), Elizabeth recalls an incident when Richard Burton's Pekingese nearly ate the pearl by accident. Before it was reset by Cartier, the pearl had the tendency to simply fall off, and it ended up in the puppy's mouth, and was luckily retrieved by Elizabeth before any damage was done. Phew! Can you imagine?

La Peregrina was estimated at $2,000,000-$3,000,000, but it reached a whopping $11,842,500. The question is: who bought it?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Item of the Week: Canada Goose 'Kensington' Parka

I'm heading to Calgary tomorrow for the holidays, armed with all my warmest, fluffiest sweaters, and boots that could best be described as unladylike (no, they are not Uggs). What I wish I was bringing was this parka by Canada Goose. Having lived in Vancouver for six years now, I've become somewhat spoiled weather-wise. So every time I head anywhere even slightly approaching towards the lower end of the scale, I'm grossly unprepared. Warmth is in the details: the duck down insulation, the fleece lining (including the pockets!), the coyote fur ruff, and the rib-knit cuffs to prevent the cold from sneaking in. 

$595 at Holt Renfrew.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Beauty Fridays: Swan Eyes

Jean Paul Gaultier Fall 2011 Couture

I was trying to think which one of the beauty looks I featured this year would make for brilliant New Years Eve makeup. Emma Watson's golden smoky eye comes to mind. As do Gucci's F/W cherry lip and Jil Sander's teal lined eyes. There is one, however, I haven't touched on yet, and that is Jean Paul Gaultier's swan-like eyes from his Fall 2011 Couture presentation. 

Shu Uemura Eye Light Pencil White ($22 at Holt Renfrew)

Maybe the lower lash line is best left unlined off the runway, but I really love what's happening on the lids. It's kind of a Black Swan-inspired look. I'm thinking tons of primer, then the white pencil outlines, followed by a feather effect black eyeliner. 

Sephora Classic Angled Liner/Eyeliner Brush #15 ($18 at Sephora)
Make Up For Ever Waterproof Cream Liner ($23 at Sephora)

I feel like NYE is one of those times that you can get away with very flamboyant makeup. A couple of years ago, I wore my Shu Uemura gold eyelashes and no one thought I was crazy. What are your NYE makeup plans?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Shoe Wednesdays: Opening Ceremony 'Jeanette' Pumps

I've been eyeing this pretty floral pump for a couple of months now. I blame its velvet grandma couch-like fabric: it looks so comforting. At some point, I considered getting the adorable plush dress version of it. But it's the shoe I can see myself slipping on time after time, day, night, winter, summer. 

$223.50 at Shopbop (on sale from $477).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Know What Boys Like

Since last year's I Know What Boys Like men's gift guide was such a hit -- especially with the three guys that read this blog -- I thought I'd make it a tradition. In some ways, I find menswear more exciting than womenswear, although probably because it's a novelty to write about.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Item of the Week: Kenneth Jay Lane Chandelier Earrings

When it comes to jewellery, I'm attracted to gigantic Elizabeth Taylor-like things, although I rarely wear them. I did however wear these Kenneth Jay Lane chandeliers at two events recently to a slew of compliments. Of course they were a hit — just look at them: they're probably the biggest, brightest and shiniest things I've ever had on my ears. Just spectacular. 

TIP: Most clip-ons (if the earrings are heavy, I actually prefer clip-ons) come with little cushions (they look like this) that do two things: make the earrings more comfortable to wear and help secure them in place. Use them. You don't want to spend the entire evening catching your earrings as they slide down your ear — because I totally did that. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Beauty Fridays: Beautiful Gifts

If your girlfriends are anything like mine, then beauty items make for ideal gifts. In the past, we've given each other Chanel polishes and Tom Ford lipsticks, all to much excitement of course. This season, there are a few beauty gems -- from glam and glitzy to au naturel -- that would make for lovely gifts, on their own or as stocking stuffers. 

Stila 'Daydream' Palette ($24 at Kiss & Makeup)
Deborah Lippmann 'Glamorous Life' ($20 at Beautymark)
Wong Kar Wai x Shu Uemura 'Jeweled Love' Eyelashes ($36 at Holt Renfrew)

Every year, Stila releases their limited edition holiday palette, and I find that I end up using mine all year around. The colours are classic and I find that it encourages me to get more creative with mixing different shades. Shu Uemura usually does a special holiday collaboration and this year it's with the acclaimed film director Wong Kar Wai. I'm completely in love with his accent eyelashes made with red feather and crystals -- would make for a fun little New Year's Eve makeup addition. And I'm pretty sure that anything Deborah Lippmann would be an immediate hit. 'Glamorous Life' rose gold is one of my favourite metallics at the moment and it would work beyond the holiday season.

Kaia Naturals Bamboo Cloths ($20 at Kiss & Makeup)
Weleda Skin Food ($20 at Whole Foods)
Ilia Lip Care ($24.95 at Beautymark)

For the girl that loves green beauty, Kaia's Bamboo Facial Cleansing Cloths is an ingenious product that triples as a cleanser, toner and makeup remover, and comes in a cute little box. And I can never say enough great things about Weleda's Skin Food: its holiday version comes with a free pair of moisturizing gloves. Same goes for Ilia Pure Lip Care, a tinted lip balm that goes on as a lipstick -- a must have for any natural beauty.

Do you give the gift of beauty? 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Flying High: Q&A with Jenny Bird

Jenny Bird (photographed by Jen Arron)

Only four years into her eponymous label, Canadian designer Jenny Bird has accumulated an enviable amount of press clippings. Her stylish accessories have been featured on the home front in FASHION, Flare and Elle Canada, as well as across the border in Vogue, Instyle and, most recently, W magazine. Bird's debut handbag collection was received with great enthusiasm from media and buyers alike, placing her pieces in stores across the continent. The success lead her to add jewellery to her lineup, focusing on unique pieces intended at bridging the gap between the Club Monaco and Lanvin jewellery counters, by providing high fashion and quality indie-luxe pieces at accessible price points. I caught up with Bird for a quick Q&A to discuss her inspiration, success, and future plans.

Empress Collar

What’s your personal style motto?

Take time to creatively express yourself and dress in what makes you feel good each day! Be free and have fun with it. If you feel good, you’ll have a different/better day/life!

Empress Collar in W Magazine (November 2011)

From handbags to jewellery, where do you turn for inspiration?

Everywhere! Vintage, street style, pop culture, architecture, a crack in the sidewalk, everyday needs and wants of my own. I also love identifying what’s not out there that I want. I also source a lot of inspiration from just playing with raw materials. My creative process is centered around working with raw materials and seeing what forms they can take, what new things I can create by working with materials in different ways. Right now, I’m fascinated with wood and the use of wood and metal. It's such a good ying-yang that is explored a lot (to our benefit) in architecture, but hasn’t been explored broadly via sophisticated, stylish routes in fashion or costume jewelry. I’m focused on this for S/S 2012 and I think it's going to be a “stand up and take notice” collection.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? 

Hmmm... this is a hard one. Anna Dello Russo owning and wearing my serpent bangle! Making the Rachel Zoe Report! Having earrings in Vogue! Gossip Girl was fun too: I was watching the show late at night and little Jenny walked into the room with my necklace on. I had no idea it was about to happen and screamed.

Your line is now entering its fourth year. What’s next for Jenny Bird? 

More bagsa big new bag collection for F/W 2012! Lots of big day bags and satchels. Then Jenny Bird eyewear, and shoes! We designed our logo to work with all extensions. I’m really excited for shoes.

Ruched Clutch

Describe Jenny Bird in three words. 

Canadian, boho-luxe, attainable.

Jenny Bird is graciously offering my readers a 50% off discount on any items from her online store,, with code ITGIRL50, until Friday, December 9th at midnight PST — just in time for the holidays! 

Shoe Wednesdays: Isabel Marant 'Dicker' Boots

In the last little while, I've featured a couple of Isabel Marant-like boots, like these ones from Madewell. Nowadays, everyone has a similar version of them, including Aldo and Steve Madden, but none compare to the originals. It's a flawless boot, a beautiful mix of cowboy chic and French elegance. 

Sure, they are a little on the pricey side (and if they weren't suede and if I didn't live in rainy Vancouver, they would be in my closet already), but since it's the holiday season, maybe they'll show up under someone's tree. 

$580 at La Garconne.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gossip Girl "Riding in Towncars With Boys" Fashion Round-Up

Ugh, this show. I have such a love/hate relationship with it. The love is obvious: the lifestyles, the ridiculously good looking leads, the banter, the humour, the prosperity of its existence in general. The hate: the soapy melodrama. The question is, does Gossip Girl need the latter? The lives of teenagers and early twenty-somethings are already filled with juicy things like love, friendship, sex, betrayal, family, school/career dilemmas... things that could provide endless scenarios and conflicts. Sure, that's everyday kind of stuff, but Gilmore Girls, for example, embraced the everyday and flourished season after season. The O.C. -- a show I briefly loved -- lost itself in the endless drama (drugs, rape, babies, deaths, etc.) and eventually dwindled away. Did we need this Diana/Dodi-style car accident? Do we need Chuck to hold on to his dear life once more? This show works best when there is self-deprecating humour behind it. Instead of tragedy, think of all the possibilities they could have done with a Princess-on-the-run theme (Roman Holiday, anyone?). I suppose the writers were looking for a way to kill the baby, and it was a cheap way out. How about not making her pregnant in the first place?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Item of the Week: Paul & Joe Sister Chevrot Sweater

There are two realms of holiday dressing, one being the realm of all things sparkly, and the other of all things cozy, sometimes silly, knitwear. Unlike Bridget Jones (I thought Mark Darcy looked really charming in his reindeer jumper), I'm a fan of both. When I was little, I remember ogling Princess Diana's super fun sheep sweater, thinking it was the cutest thing I've ever seen. Mind you, I was like five years old, but, sure, I'd wear it now. By the way, notice the one black sheep on it? Tina Brown is right: Di did have a great sense of humour. 

Paul and Joe must have shared the same cute animal-loving sentiments as me, because their chevrot sweater surely must be a reference to Diana's. Available in both grey and black, this little jumper is the chicest (and silliest) way to veg out in front of a fireplace this Christmas. Preferably at some snowy chalet. 

$275 CAD (grey) at Violet Boutique and $245 US (black) at Asos

Friday, December 2, 2011

Beauty Fridays: Illuminators & Highlighters (Same-ish, But Not the Same)

Valentino Couture Fall 2011

I mostly get reader questions about shoe dilemmas, general beauty tips, recommendations on hair salons and spas, and sometimes even some personal stuff. But I recently received an intriguing question (thanks Charlotte!) that puzzled me for a second: "What's the difference between illuminators and highlighters? Are they the same thing?"

Maybe? Not really? Sort of? Well, I use both, sometimes together and sometimes separately, and, sure, they are kind of same-ish, but also really different. They both give the skin that angelic glow and bring out the best of our bone structure. But more so than anything, they make the skin photograph well, often making it appear years younger. Why? It's all about finding that perfect light (insert some Tyra ANTM quote here). The big difference is in the application.

ILLUMINATORS: NARS 'Copacabana' Illuminator ($36 at NARS); Estee Lauder Idealist Even Skintone Illuminator ($72.50 at The Bay and Holt Renfrew)

Illumintaors are meant to be used under the foundation, or, in some cases, mixed with the foundation. For example, Estée Lauder recommends for their Idealist illuminator to be used as a serum, before all the other products. Its pearly tone gives the skin a pretty glow, while working away at evening the skin's appearance (this one is loaded with goodies). 

Then there is NARS's illuminator (it comes in several shades), which is for simply aesthetic purposes: to glow. It's crazy intense, so mix it with a foundation and use it only in the areas of the face that you want to illuminate, for example: the area under the eyes, along the brow bone, at the hallow of the chin, etc. 

HIGHLIGHTERS: Stila 'Kitten' All Over Shimmer Duo ($29 at Sephora); Benefit High Beam ($30 at Shoppers Drug Mart)

A highlighter is usually used as a finishing touch, after the foundation and the concealer -- it should probably be one of the last thing you apply to your face. Basically, think of the points you would like to highlight... cheekbones, brow bones,  the bridge of your nose. Unlike the illuminator, the highlighter doesn't always come in a liquid form (and it will never double as a serum like Estée Lauder's Idealist).

Powders will do, like Stila's multipurpose All Over Shimmer; just be aware of the J.Lo effect (you don't want to look sweaty all the time). The ones that come with a fine brush, like the cult favourite from Benefit, are the most precise: dab a little, blend a little, and it's a world of difference. Of course, the legendary YSL's Touche Éclat is the one that started it all, twenty years ago -- next one on my highlighting list.

Illuminators, highlighters... Do you use both? Got any personal favourites? 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Hermès Scarf

One of my most treasured pieces is my Hermès scarf (or carré, if you please). While it's certainly not the most expensive of the luxury items, it is, in fact, the most symbolic. Beyond the Birkins and the Kellys (both of which I'm seeing everywhere these days—ugh), the scarf may just be Hermès' crowning achievement. It's a design that changed everything, completely assimilating itself into French dress. In fact, before Hermès, scarves weren't really considered fashionable, and were used for functional purposes only. Released in 2011, Nadine Coleno's The Hermes Scarf: History & Mystique  is completely dedicated to the origin and evolution of the scarf—a fascinating read.

Jeu Des Omnibus et Dames Blanches (2007 re-release)

The first Hermès scarf was released in 1937 and its very first design was Jeu Des Omnibus et Dames Blanches, taking a theme from a 1800s board game from Émile Hermès' personal collection of antiques. Its spiral composition featured well-dressed men and women at the game table, with the words above stating "a good player never loses his temper." Surrounding them is a motif which would become a symbol of Hermès: a carriage known as "les Omnibus." This carriage was, indeed, a player in the game, which was inspired by two competitor transport companies between Bastille and Madeleine. Like today, it was 90 cm × 90 cm, weighed 65 grams, and was woven from the silk of 250 mulberry moth cacoons.

Jeu Des Omnibus et Dames Blanches was re-released in 2007 (no, I didn't get one). Of course, since 1937, Hermès has produced over 2,000 designs—all limited editions—some featuring classic motifs (such as the omnibus, the horse, the letter 'H'), and some quite abstract. Each year, the house publishes two series of scarves: twelve for spring and twelve for fall. But through it all, Hermès has always maintained a sense of self, a task that has proved difficult for many luxury houses where consistency had been a challenge.