Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Shop of the Week: Topshop

I've been on the lookout for some plain, dark denim shorts that aren't cut-offs and unable to find a pair anywhere. They all have some form of vile embroidery or creepy 'distressed' patches. Finally tracked down a pair on the Topshop website, although I am a bit scared by the fact they're labeled as 'hotpants'. Am hoping they're just short shorts. Can't be doing with Jenny Lopez looking bum-cheek grazers. Popped a couple of sizes in my online shopping bag in the hope that one will work.

I have an issue with paying for postage and the site offers free delivery when you spend £100, so... I spent £100. To save £3.95. I'm assuming one or both of these pairs of shoes will be rank in the flesh and I'll be able to take them back. I'll be really cross if they're both keepers.
Hula Tassle Sandals, £28
Blue Denim Hotpants, £25
Velocity Heavy Studded Pumps, £22

Monday, 26 July 2010

Scarlett Johansson Gets the Chop

Scarlett Johansson rocked up to the Comic-Con International comic book convention at the weekend with a new choppy bob hairstyle. It's quite a drastic change from her usual long layers. I love the way she's always changing up her look. What do you think of this latest style?

Waitrose Christmas in July

Tis a rare treat for me to attend a press day, being based outside London. The last time I was in town I managed to pack in a couple of different events and a massage.

The Waitrose 'Christmas in July' event was staged over several floors of a gorgeous townhouse. Various goodies were packed into different rooms. Katy (makeupbykaty.blogspot.com) and I made a beeline for the beauty goodies, obviously. I've always thought that Waitrose have the best product selection – loads of gorgeous goodies from Tisserand, Weleda and Crabtree & Evelyn, as well as their own ranges.

Having smothered my hands in Cath Kidson Rose Hand Cream I asked the very talented manicurist, Giselle, to give me a speedy French Manicure. She did a fantastic job in double-quick time. I've never had a French mani before – it made me feel reet elegant and chic!

After Katy helped me to pick up my bag (nails darling!) we headed downstairs to what was essentially a Christmas feast. Every type of meat, cheese, savoury nibble, chocolate prune and delicious pudding you could imagine! Oh my goodness. If I hadn't been pretending to be unfazed and professional I would've stuffed my face.

We worked our way around the room, trying different cheeses, before hitting the desserts. A plate of four different treats was proffered (and snatched). The Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding from the new Heston Blumenthal for Waitrose range was absolutely lush – and I don't even like Christmas pud as a rule. Everything was delish but the Waitrose Seriously Raspberry Torte had Katy and I clearing our plates.

All of the Waitrose staff in attendance were so lovely, knowledgeable and friendly, they really made the event. If anyone is a fan of 'food porn' the Waitrose look book with all the different dishes we tried is here. Warning: do not look if you're feeling a bit peckish!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

MAC Rodarte: the Power of Beauty Bloggers

MAC has bowed under the weight of mass blogger protest and consumer horror, agreeing to donate $100,000 to 'a non-profit organisation that has a proven, successful track record of helping women in need and that can directly improve the lives of women in Juarez in a meaningful way'. They're also going to change the product names used in the collection.

We have a result. But is it good enough? I initially read the amount as pounds, not dollars (it's late and I'm tired!) and felt semi-consoled. However, $100,000 converts to just over £65,650. When Caroline at beautymouth.com tells us that MAC's number one UK outlet makes £86,538 a week. One shop! I'm thinking no.

MAC are no doubt trying to spin this publicity in their favour. I just hope that their customers have a long memory. I certainly won't forget the total absence of judgement and ethics that made this collection a reality; one that could have been sitting proudly on your local counter. Not one penny would have gone to the women of Juárez.

And it gets worse. The reaction from Rodarte is truly astounding:

'We recognise that the violence against women taking place in Juarez needs to be met with proactive action. We never intended to make light of this serious issue and we are truly sorry.

Helping to improve the conditions for women in Juarez is a priority for us and we are thankful for all the comments calling attention to the urgency of addressing this situation.'

Sorry, what was it they're doing? I think I missed it. Oh, that's right. Nothing.

Anyone who feels that MAC aren't doing enough, please sign our petition here

Sunday, 18 July 2010

MAC and Rodarte: Taking Tasteless to a New Level

I wasn't going to include this picture in my MAC/Rodarte post as I really can't bear to look at it every day. But then I noticed the blue-red dribbles in the silhouette on the left. Is that blood? You probably wouldn't make the connection unless you knew the 'inspiration' behind the Rodarte Autumn/Winter 2010 catwalk collection shown in New York.

The Mulleavy sisters (the design duo responsible for Rodarte), inspired by a road trip from El Paso to Marfa, Texas, became interested in Ciudad Juárez, the troubled Mexican border town that boasts the title of 'murder capital of the world'. Escalating violence between rival cartels competing for governance of this 'drug corridor' into the United States has led to the murders of more than 5,500 people since January 2008.

After the North American Free Trade Agreement was established in 1994, 'maquiladoras' (Mexican factories that take in imported raw materials and produce goods for export) became commonplace in Juárez and other cities. Staffed predominantly by young women, conditions in these factories are often dangerous – the toxic chemicals used in manufacturing cause nosebleeds and long-term health problems – but, despite receiving approximately one-sixth of the average US hourly wage (Mexican labor must remain cheap and competitive to keep United States firms operating within the assembly plants), workers are still paid more than those in other sectors.

A brutal phenomenon known as feminicidios (femicides), or las muertas de Juárez (The dead women of Juárez) has arisen in parallel with the growth of both the maquiladoras and the drug cartels. Hundreds, possibly thousands of young women have been kidnapped, violently raped, tortured and murdered in Juárez since 1993; the majority of whom are young maquiladora workers aged between 12 and 22. Many of these women vanish as they walk to and from their factories at dawn. Despite the continual flow of defiled and mutilated female corpses, Mexican authorities rarely investigate the murders or succeed in prosecuting anyone. 

I know what you're thinking: this all sounds like the perfect inspiration for a designer clothing collection and subsequent makeup brand partnership. Well, you'd be right!  

The sight of the female maquiladora workers 'drifting' to work in the middle of the night gave the Mulleavy sisters the idea to build a collection around the (impoverished) sleepwalking women of Juárez and the 'ethereal nature of the landscape'. Because, god knows, a backdrop of violent gang wars, mass female homicide and worker exploitation is nothing if not romantic.

The collection was a huge success, the inspiration behind it mostly lost (the Catwalk Queen TV website gleefully described the 'touch of Mexican thrown in for good measure'), and Rodarte succeeded in comodifying the troubled lives of Mexican workers. They also failed quite spectacularly to use their obvious platform as a catalyst to do anything whatsoever about the manifold atrocities in Juárez. 

Estée Lauder-owned international makeup brand MAC have collaborated with Rodarte to launch a limited edition range based on their Autumn/Winter 2010 clothing collection. As of September, customers can buy lipstick named 'Sleepless' and 'Ghost Town' and nail polish called 'Factory' and 'Juarez'. This charming blood-streaked eyeshadow is called 'Bordertown'.

If this macabre collection is turning you pale, perk up your cheeks with a sweep of 'Quinceanera' – a blue-pink blush. Presumably the fact that Quinceañera is a ceremony held in Latin-American cultures to mark a girl's fifteenth birthday is a tasteless reference to the feminicidios killings; teenage girls often failing to make this seminal age.

In response to the calls of outraged bloggers and beauty folk, MAC have issued a statement (which you can read elsewhere) saying that they are sorry if the 'product names' have offended anyone and that they will donate 'a portion' of the proceeds from the collection to help the people of Juárez. I think they're rather missing the point. I am offended by the whole ethos of the collection, from its Rodarte inception to its MAC diffusion, not merely the product names. And I'm not the only one. Dozens of beauty bloggers have come together in unison against the tastelessness of the Rodarte collaboration. Click here for Tsunimee's rather excellent and comprehensive list.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Review: Hydrohealing 60 Minute Massage

As I sat on the train to London contemplating how the hell I was going to make my appointment with only 15 minutes to spare (as of course, my train was delayed), I couldn't imagine being able to relax and unwind once I hit the treatment table. Well, a taxi sorted the first problem; the second was remedied by a woman named Jane.

Arriving at hydrohealing Day Spa I was impressed with the set up. The reception was very light and bright, the staff were lovely, and after a glass of water and a couple of forms I was taken downstairs to the treatment room.

As soon as I was inside I knew the mad dash to the train and subsequent stress would soon be forgotten. The room was immaculate: tiled walls and floor combined to create a clean, professional space, while the bright white towels and comfy looking treatment table invited me to lie down and relax.

As Jane was about to begin the massage I enquired as to whether she could focus solely on my back instead of my whole body as advertised. She was completely obliging and immediately made me feel comfortable.

To the massage. Oh the massage! When asked what type of pressure I'd like, I said medium. You see, there was an incident a few years ago at The Randolph Hotel Spa in Oxford where I asked for a hardcore 'tension-relief' massage. Cut to me, biting the towel my head was balanced on and having to stop myself from swinging a punch at the masseuse as she repeatedly prodded the endless knots popping up from my shoulders like a colony of meerkats. Never again. I had no such problems at hydrohealing. Jane gently but firmly zoned in on all of my tense areas, gradually working them out with minimum discomfort, maximum pleasure. An hour flew by in what felt like five heavenly minutes and I was left to quietly get dressed.

I paid £20 for my hour-long massage as it was a Wahanda mobdeal. I'd say that was an absolute steal! If you're ever in the vicinity of Notting Hill and in need of a little pampering, I wholeheartedly recommend the hydrohealing Day Spa. They offer a wide range of treatments including their signature hydrocushion three dimensional massage, where you lie face up on a heated water pad while being massaged from underneath!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

London Lady Day Out

Today brings a welcome bit of glamour to my dull, rural life, for I'm off to London for a very ladylike day out. 

First on the agenda is an hour-long massage at Hydrohealing Day Spa in Notting Hill – another naughty Wahanda mob deal. 

I'm then off to a Christmas in July event where I'm hoping to partake of a free manicure on my newly improved nails (taking B-Complex has stopped them from splitting! Miracle.)

After that I'll be (literally) running to meet two different sets of people for drinks at the same time. Yes I know that's impossible but I do try to pack everything in when I'm in town. 

Last but definitely not least, this evening marks the Zuneta-organised Edward Bess event where the makeup artist will launch his range in the UK. Very exciting! If you're keen to see the products on offer, zuneta.com has the lot, plus videos on application featuring the man himself. I can't wait to see what unfolds and, most of all, to catch up with my beauty blogging pals. 

Cross your fingers that the trains run on time because this is a finely tuned operation without a minute to spare! 

Monday, 12 July 2010

Thrifty Summer Challenge

The clever money-saving bods at vouchercodes.co.uk challenged me to pick five–ten items under £40 to recommend as my top summer bargains. After scouring the net for the very prettiest warm-weather treats, I finally came up with this selection. What do you think?

Clockwise from top right:
Poppy Print Cover Up Dress, Miss Selfridge, £22
Francesea Ethnic Cuff Sandals, Accessorize, £30
Sutton Stripe Top, People Tree, £20
Love Heart Sunglasses, Asda, £5
Ethnic Trim Tunic, River Island, £29.99
Regatta Bandeau Bikini Set, Peacocks, £12
Beige Mid-length Mac, Debenhams, £38
Creation Printed Canvas Bag, La Redoute, £25
Be Beau Pool Party Skirt, Matalan, £14
Plain Bubble Sleeve Dress, Topshop, £40

I can't link directly to items listed on Flash websites. The River Island tunic is under 'tops > going out tops'. Also, you know how the shops like to put all the summer stuff in the sale in July and bring in the winter coats? Well, some stuff may only be available in limited sizes for this reason. The People Tree striped top is now out of stock, but you can still buy this gorgeous Laguna Striped Top for £15.

Over the past fortnight, I've been using the vouchercodes.co.uk site to check for discounts on everything I buy online. It's super easy to use and far better than other voucher sites because it's quick and, most importantly, accurate. When you search for a shop, the results come up in tabs of 'codes', 'sales' and 'deals', enabling you to see immediately if there's anything relevant to your search.

Like most bloggers, I do get approached to endorse things sometimes, and up until now I've never agreed. However, I'm happy to recommend this site as I'm thoroughly impressed with it. I picked out this swimming costume for my mum from Wallis – she got free delivery, 15 per cent off and it was the perfect fit! Anyone else need me to find them something? I'll even get you a discount! It's a gift, I'm telling you.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Magazine Photoshop Madness

Harper's Bazaar could use a less heavy-handed designer to work on their covers. Trying to perfect ex-model Cameron Diaz's mug was too big of a task, so they just rubbed out her face and made a new one.

Why do they do this? The aim of a celebrity cover is to increase sales. Magazines want a big name who everyone will recognise and have an interest in. To wipe the character and individuality out of that person's face completely negates the point of choosing a famous actress in the first place. Not to mention the fact that Cameron looks far better with her real (post-op) nose, non scooped-out shoulder and regular waistline.

And don't even get me started on Britney's massive bashed-on-too-far-down-her-neck Barbie head for US Cosmopolitan. There are no words.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Totally Tanned

After my patchy Lancaster tan eventually wore off, I moved onto Elemis Total Glow Self Tanning Cream. This has a texture similar to Avon Skin So Soft Soft & Glow Ultimate Body Moisturiser – kind of a dryish lotion. It's not drippy so it doesn't run; there's time enough to smooth it on evenly and it's quickly absorbed and doesn't leave skin feeling wet. Macadamia nut oil, jojoba, vitamin E and milk proteins work to counteract the inevitable drying effects of the tanning agent.

According to the tube the colour should develop within two to three hours – I was counting on it to take care of my pasty legs while I was out and about. Unfortunately it seemed to take a lot longer, more like six to eight hours. Pretty typical for a fake tan, but a bit annoying if you were relying on it to give you a tan in a hurry.

The colour was mild but even and natural looking. It was a little more yellow-based than Lancaster's Fast Dry Bronze Water Spray, which, despite being utterly crap, did give me the best colour I've had from a fake tan (in patches). The result will depend on your skin tone: my skin's a peaky pale yellow, so I prefer tans with a red-brown finish as they warm it up. If you were more of a pinky shade, Elemis would probably be ideal for you. 

I'm only just getting my sense of smell back following sinusitis so I have no idea whether this whiffs. I've not had complaints from my rude brother though: he's usually the first to tell me that my perfume stinks, or that he can't stand chutney and can I please take my toast outside.

The colour fades evenly, which is important  there's nothing worse than pale-all-over with lovely tanned armpits. All-in-all, a quality product that's easy to use, but probably not the perfect colour for me. 

Monday, 5 July 2010

Shop of the Week: Peacocks

Even though the weather's been pretty good, I'm still dreaming of tropical climes. England on a sunny day is a glorious thing, but I don't live near the beach, I can never completely relax and drinking rum punch from dawn 'til dusk (at work) is 'frowned upon'. Whatever! I desperately want a holiday.

The background to the picture above was the view from my balcony in Tobago in 2008. I liked the island so much I went back for a month near the end of that year. Due to a conspicuous lack of funds I haven't been abroad since.

However, in the spirit of generosity (and seething jealousy) for those about to leave the country, I feel duty-bound to draw your attention to the lovely selection of holiday apparel available at Peacocks.

Many years ago this shop was my little secret. It's not difficult to unearth a few very reasonably priced gems. I'd like every item pictured but especially the dress, purple jellies and anchor bikini. The shorts have gone out of stock since I put this selection together, sorry. I'll update the link when they're back in.

Clockwise from top right:
Leather Thong Sandal, £16
Flower Earrings, £3.50
Heart Print Triangle Bikini Set, £9
Metallic Collar Necklace, £6
Denim Sailor Shorts, out of stock
Sling Back Jelly, £5
Nautical Bikini, £12
Placket Vest, £5
Lace Panel Top, £16
Zip Back Dress, £20