Thursday, 31 March 2011

I'm very happy to present to you the latest edition of Bloggers + Cats featuring Kate Miss from For Me, For You and the lovely Wendy! *Applause*. I'm sure you've all seen Wendy on For Me, For You - and she's quite the trooper: how many cats do you know who have completed a NY to LA cross country road trip, complete with motel stays? Wendy's a bit of a quiet rock star. She and Lola could compare


Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Alas, poor Wiksten! I knew him well.
If I like something enough and it fits me well, I'll wear it to death. I knew it was time to look for a replacement for my bamboo Wiksten skirt when people started saying things like, "Oh, I recognised you from down the street because you always wear that skirt." It's true, I've been wearing this skirt almost daily for the past two or three years. It's my


Friday, 25 March 2011
I stretched out reading Patti Smith’s book Just Kids, about her life with Robert Mapplethorpe, for as long as possible. I read about a page a day, wanting to extend my time hanging out with Patti as it were. I could pick any of the countless ways the book inspired me, but Patti’s descriptions of how she dressed at significant moments in her life have stayed with me. I often feel misunderstood in


Thursday, 24 March 2011
This week's Bloggers + Cats would not have happened today were it not for my extreme dedication to cat blogging! I've been without internet or land line for the past two days, and I'm set for five more days without it, thanks to BT, who have informed me they're not obliged to refund me anything either. Thanks BT! I hate you! Anyway let's not turn this into an anti British Telecom rant, but just

Photoshop, my BFF

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

This random small post is inspired by one of our new readers, Beauty and the Bullshit's 500th follower Marta who asked my opinion about the new "MakeUp Forever we didn't retouch this bitch - it is all due to our fabulous product campaign".

Thought I would share my answer with you though I am pretty sure most of you pro make up artists would already know. 

Contrary to public opinion, we try to avoid retouching as much as we can.  Not because we want to be honest (heehee- that's silly even to think that!) but because it is hell expensive- beauty retouchers have a higher rate than your garden variety kind- talk about who is on the wrong side of BS now.

Here is how -
  1. We select young and already naturally beautiful models at the age when they have the most perfect skin. (with the exemption of Kate Moss who will probably survive all holocausts)
  2. We hire a real make up pro who takes at least two hours just to put on the face zero.
  3. Make up pro uses all the make up she needs to use.  She may or may not use my product.  But she is required to attain the imaginary end finish that my product supposedly promises to deliver.
  4. We cheat especially with sparkled products.
  5. Lighting is controlled like a bitch.  We almost never shoot outdoors especially for print campaigns.  If we do (for video), the time of shoot (for the type of lighting) is well defined.  As we have to wake up extra early (try 3 am) for outdoor shots- we try to avoid this.
  6. Lashes always, always have falsies.  And speaking of, I saw these ads where they say "lash inserts were used to even out the lashline"- pure bullshit.  For everyone's information- we ONLY use individual lash inserts (except when i want a ridiculous effect on purpose).  So, they are not claiming anything heroic there.
  7. I use hand models if model's hands are crap and I have nail polish to sell.
  8. I clip the ears if they are getting in the way.
  9. I am extra persnickety with the hair (this is the thing that takes the shoot so long to perfect) as hair is so tricky to retouch.
The general rule of retouching for me is when certain details, imperfections are getting in the way of the message we are delivering.
  1. If model has flaw that is hell impossible to hide by make up without making her look unnatural.  Like tattoos, king kong eyebags, red eyes, funny teeth, unexpected nose hair (from being tired looking at the camera all day)- heck all- now that i think about it.
  2. Lash and sparkle enhancement
  3. If i want a hand position with a head tilt and i tried and i tried and couldn't get the right combination during the shoot- i assemble a composite picture
  4. And of course there are perfectionist photographers (the really expensive ones) who will never release a less that perfect photo and will retouch it themselves before client gets copy.
  5. If my make up artist is less than what i expect her/him to be - ohh and i had experience with some bad ones with egos bigger than Mariah's.  (Yes you know who you are, "Mr. I-am-not-doing-preprod-trial, I-am-a-professional/walkout-queen"), then skin retouching becomes necessary and often catastrophic.
So yes, we definitely retouch but it should not be to the point when the first thing that comes to your mind is- "Hell this photo is so retouched!"  Then we have failed. 'cough' revlon 'cough'.  (We always try to outsmart you- remember?)

Well now, back to the make up forever video.  I really do not see the point retouching video.  First, that is too expensive and second, you see the video fleetingly - so absolute perfection is not necessary.  And third, look at all my 9 points above.

So blah MakeUp forever- this claim is not really saying niet.

And that Dove commercial?  Stupidly exaggerated to make Dove look heroic really.
Gawd, i would just get a prettier model. Duh!


    Monday, 21 March 2011

    I know that to the untrained eye, it might look as if I post the same pictures of cherry blossom every year. I swear they're different photos. I have a compulsion to keep 24 hour watch, to measure the trajectory of it, to take pictures of it at different times of the day and night, to walk along gazing upwards at a particular frond. The darker pink blossom isn't out yet, then the lighter one


    Sunday, 20 March 2011
    On Friday I spent the entire day on the phone and responding to messages, which was pretty amazing. I looked out of the window and saw that my camellia had its first bloom, which made me really happy. Which means I must be getting really old. J brought me pink / lavender roses, then in the evening I watched Waste Land with O and ate a steak. You must watch Waste Land - I will do a more

    Pencil Pornication: The Sequel

    Thursday, 17 March 2011

    To those new here, you might want to read this post first.


    Without much further ado, here is your :


    First thing to remember is that BRAND NAMES DON’T MEAN SHIT.
    Your brands do not manufacture your pencils. They all source from the same suppliers.

    So if you think that you have to buy a particular brand to get quality- you are mistaken and are only spending unnecessarily more.

    What happens is this :
    1. Brands give a brief to suppliers specifying the characteristics they want from their liners. 
    2. The suppliers then propose a gamut of textures that fulfill the brief.
    3. Brands choose a texture and the colors from that texture.  
    4. If the colors they want are not yet available in that texture, the suppliers will color match according to brands' specification.
    5. The brands will specify how they want the pencils decorated.
    6. Suppliers are free to propose the same texture in the same color to any other brand out there.
    There is no exclusivity.  Because there is no need for it.*
    Once the pencils are branded, we will all think they are different.

    I have mentioned that the biggest suppliers come from Germany, Italy, France.  They are all good suppliers.
    • Germany is the biggest supplier/s (there are at least 3 manufacturers there) and they are reliable factories which is why so many brands buy from them.
    • Italy is very good, very innovative but smaller capacity and does not have as much clients. But i say, quality and innovation wise, I like my Italian supplier better .
    • France is third in line. Good innovation, reliable supplier, decent quality. Though their innovations are less than the Italians, their innovations are very marketable.
    There are other suppliers elsewhere and perhaps they are good.
    But as I have no personal experience working with them, I cannot say anything about them though I encourage you readers to contribute your experience.*

    That out of the way, these are what you have to know when evaluating a make up pencil- the same criteria that brands use.

    1) PENCIL LENGTH.  Go for standard.

    All the suppliers get a standard size of wood for the pencils. This is why your pencils all come in almost  the same size. (around 12-13cm if i remember right)

    However, some brands decide to deviate from the standard to look premium (they go extra longer  for example), it will mean more wastage and thus higher cost- not very wise.

    So standard length gives you best value for money.

    2) DECOR.  Go for simple.

    What I mean by decor is the paint finish outside, the thing that makes it pretty. It is as useless indication of quality as the brand name.

    The fancier the decor (matt or shiny paint, special effects, brush or sponge tips, shrink wrap protection), the more needlessly expensive.

    This is one way a premium brand can distinguish themselves from mass brands but it is no indication that the textures used are better. So, try not to be swayed by fancy decor if what you really are after is good value for money.

    I know that it is important that products be pretty (it is, even to bullshit averse me). But think about it, you apply liners in the comfort of your home and will tend not to reapply it at midday, so why pay extra for nicer packaging?

    3)  SPECIAL CAPS AND TIPS. Must you really?

    A way to make you think that the pencil is special is to add a special accessory either at its base or  in the cap- like a smudger or a brush applicator.
    If you are semi serious with make up, you know that this is pretty lame.
    So, better to avoid if you can and spend less.
    (photo nicked from i don't know where anymore)

    3) PENCIL CROSS SECTION SHAPE.  There is more to this than round.
    • ROUND is standard and easy to work with.  It is also logistically easier for brands to adapt.
      Disadvantage: you only have one point and have to sharpen accordingly if you want finer point
    • OVAL is a rare shape but is very handy.  It is available with suppliers but very few brands order it (because they lack imagination and daring and want more sales with more classic formats).
      But it is excellent to work with - specially for eyebrow liners- One point can give you a fine and thick line (line and fill) depends how you angle the pencil (like a calligraphy brush). Great for semi experts out there.
      Disadvantage: you have to buy its own oval sharpener and that’s a major decision point for brands because it means they have to convince consumers to buy the sharpener or give it away as part of package.
    • TRIANGLE can be surprisingly easy to control as it rests well between your fingers. But also quite rare for same reason as oval shape.

    4) PENCIL THICKNESS. Size matters.
    • STANDARD is the ideal size for most eye and lipliners
    • JUMBO is a good size if you use your lipliner for filling or your eyeliner as shadow
    • ULTRA JUMBO - this thickness is used for multi usage products that gets applied to cheeks/eyes or cheeks/lips.
    • MICRO- extremely good for eyebrows

    5) MUST YOU REALLY GO AUTOMATIC? Sharpening has its advantages you know.

    Automatic pencils have their obvious advantage that you do not have to sharpen them.  Which is fine if that is your priority.  

    But remember that with this, there are three major disadvantages:
    1. In general, the packaging itself of automatic pencils costs more than the packaging of wooden pencils
    2. If lead breaks inside- even if you have not consumed all the lead, it is a goner- you have to throw it away.
    3. The lead texture is limited in hardness
      In automatic pencils, the lead hangs inside the plastic container unlike in wooden pencils which is totally embedded/supported by the wood.  This has an implication to the texture.  That means that the texture should be hard enough so that even if it is thin, it will not break inside the plastic encasing.  This is acceptable if you have want a fine hard line especially with eyebrows.  But if you want a softer, smudgeable texture-  automatic pencils are not the best.
    Important to note that there are two types of automatic pencils- the retractable and the non-retractables.

    Non- retractable means, that once you have twisted the lead out, you can not untwist it to get the lead back in.
    Retractable, you can twist it out and then untwist it back down.

    We marketeers tend to promote retractable as a big selling point.  
    BUT- retractable is more expensive and texture wise, requires even a harder lead!

    So, personally, i see no real advantage in retractables and would not recommend it. 

    6) OR WOOD?

    Wooden pencils are not what they used to be.  
    A lot of them are in fact- PLASTIC.  

    And this is where you will LEARN - a lot.

    Come on now, take a look at your pencils-
    Some are still real wood, 
    (this photo is shamelessly nicked from shutterstock)
    some are plastic with natural wood or black color

    Also look at the base tips and the caps.
    Do you notice ones with capped bottoms like these

    or special shaped caps with an indention like this:

    Nifty innit?  

    Well, the reason for this is not just decorative.
    And here is how to interpret them.
    Do you want more performance from your liners, something like -
    A liner that can be drawn fine but is also smudgeable?
    Or perhaps, a liner that stays put throughout the day?
    Or what about a water resistant, transfer resistant liner?
    Or a soft liner that has super adherence?
    The better textures like these have sophisticated ingredients like silicons, (polymers, resins) or volatiles

    (Ok, think what you want to think, but silicons are great when used in cosmetics.  They are expensive yes, but the performance is worth the price.  Gawd I drool when i evaluate silicone enhanced formulas- that is of course just in my head, as a professional, i am not supposed to show that i am peeing in my pants over make up)

    Thing with these fancy ingredients are that they sometimes tend to be too soft to be in automatics.
    So they have to be embedded in a "wooden" pencil.  

    Another thing with these, some actives react with wood, so they might need something that is less reactive to the formula, and for this, we have different types of plastics to the rescue.

    To get good adherence in our formula, we often employ "volatiles" as ingredients.
    How they work- the process of you applying the liner, the volatiles escape from the formula and this process of escaping helps to fix the texture to your skin and makes it stay there for a long time.

    Thing with these volatiles is that they have to be kept in air tight containers.
    If you see those caps at the bottom tip of your liner or that specially shaped cap, your formula has volatiles which will make them have good adhering properties.

    Important thing to remember is to always close the cap.  If you don't you will see that your textures will shrink indicating the evaporation of volatiles.  Formula is not toxic, you can still use them, but they are no longer as adherent as they should be.

    Anyway, this might be a hasty generalization but a good rule of thumb is that the more sophisticated read, better) formula will be in a plastic "wooden" pencil with airtight caps.  


    BUT, of course after the packaging has given you an indication, YOU still have to test the formula and the color that suits you.

    Great that pencils can be sharpened off so you lessen the risk of contamination when using store samples.  As well, if you want a long lasting pencil, test them first in a store, do your shopping and what not and check if it really lasted before you buy.  You will be surprised how much money you will save this way.

    If you find what you liked in an expensive brand, take note of how it is packaged and look for a similar formula by taking a cue of the packaging used.  You may not stumble upon the exact same texture and color but you can have a close approximation at a much cheaper price.

    And so there you have it.
    Beauty without the Bullshit.


    This week on Bloggers + Cats we have sweet young Fritz the cat, who belongs to Olympia Le-Tan. You'll often catch a glimpse of Fritz's little face on The Olympia Press, which Olympia updates with dispatches from her world, which includes making insanely amazing book-clutches, recently making a short film with Spike Jonze, being a first rate cat mama and generally being the Queen of Felt.


    Rowenaism #8

    Wednesday, 16 March 2011
    (that's my mum)
    This rowenaism is for my mum.  
    She likes posting about my accomplishments in the church bulletin board.  
    When I was a child, it annoyed me so.  
    But now, I would do anything to make her happy.  
    I love my mom.


    Monday, 14 March 2011
    Having seen these cute little bobby pins from J.Crew that I couldn't find anywhere in London, I did what any resourceful girl would do and made them myself. I painted all my favourite nail varnish colours onto the ends of some bobby pins I already had at home (3 thin layers is best). They look exactly the same as the bought ones!


    Saturday, 12 March 2011
    The new spring/summer collection from Toujours Toi & Family Affairs is online now and below is the press text I wrote for it. Looking at the clothes and re-reading it makes me want summer. Now. Preferably in the south of France.
    For the spring summer 11 collection, Ocean Lemonade, the Toujours Toi & Family Affairs heroine is exploring the South of France with her old battered suitcase. She is

    MY ♡ TO JAPAN...

    Friday, 11 March 2011


    Thursday, 10 March 2011
    Today on Bloggers + Cats we have Brak and Alfred, who live with super lovely Laetitia, AKA Mademoiselle Robot. Laetitia is another founding member of the crazy lady cat club, which basically involves everything you'd expect: secret handshakes, clandestine meetings and conventions and an entire code language which cats can understand. I have yet to meet these two plucky felines, but I predict a


    Wednesday, 9 March 2011
    This is for the many, many people that land here after Googling "baby shetland pony". I feel bad that I'm not providing more examples of them. Will try harder.

    For anyone who remembers him, I haven't seen Billy for a while and his friend Thomas was evicted from the land he used to graze on ages ago. But I will pop along the mews today and try to get an update on their whereabouts/health from


    Tuesday, 8 March 2011

    Spring is coming and nothing can stop it. Time for some spring cleaning and home re-jujjing (I'm sure that's a word). From these pictures one can conclude that I need more rugs, I would like a kitchen big enough for a table, I want to lie down, and Chloe Sevigny's flat in the East Village is forever an inspiration.

    {1. Lauren Soloff's granola visit from LA in Bloom, 2. My photo, March 2008, 3


    Sunday, 6 March 2011
    I'm a little bit obsessed with the blossom season of the plum trees that line my street. In a couple of weeks time, we should be living in a world of candyfloss pink and walking on a carpet of petals, that look like pink snow and glow white in the dark.

    {Last year}   {The year before last}


    Thursday, 3 March 2011
    It's Thursday, and that means it's Bloggers + Cats day. Today's featured feline is Lula, who lives with Elle from the superb Diana Mini Love and Everything Reminds Me of You. I love doing something that I classify as work, which involves me uploading photos that make me exclaim things like, "So. Tiny. And. Little."(See below.) Thank you Elle, and thank you Lula for being so adorable. You'd never


    Wednesday, 2 March 2011

    *My hot pink velvet Venetian Furlane slippers - bought in Venice last autumn. Traditionally worn by Friulian people, then adopted by gondoliers; the soles are made from bicycle tyres and you can get them with lining made from recycled pinstriped shirting. I think my friend D used to have these when I lived with him, because wearing them gives me an inexplicable desire to drink Lapsang Souchong

    Oopsie... my subliminal is showing...

    Photo nicked from 9gag.