Saturday, February 10, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

Annie at Poetic and Chic has written a wonderful post for guys about what women really want on Valentine's Day.

Did you know that every blogger and reporter at Fashion Week was given DIET PILLS in their gift bag? Beauty Addict has a great post about her own experience at the tents.

The Beauty Maven talks about Cargo's new line of awesome eco-friendly lipsticks.

For the details of the wackiest show at Fashion Week, check out the Fug Girls' report on the Heatherette show. Beware: socialites, transvestites and a pair of ass-less pants are featured.

The Beauty Snob finds the most wearable dark nail polish, a perfect alternative to the Lohan-esque black look.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Review: LUSH, Great Products, Terrible Marketing

Are there ever certain brands or stores that you've avoided, despite hearing good things about their products, just because the advertisements or logo or something about the store bugged you?

I felt this way about LUSH Cosmetics until last week, when a review by one of my favorite beauty bloggers, Carla at Product Girl wrote about LUSH's new citrus soap, Sexy Peel, a soap chock full of lemon, grapefruit and lime essential oils and even peels. As a lover of all things citrusy (there was a period in my life where I drank nothing but orange juice for a few years), it sounded like the perfect soap, and I was dying to try it out.

I went to the LUSH site to learn more about the soap and their other products, I was soon reminded why I'd avoided the line for so long. Their logo and website are just so visually unappealing. The brand's font and color scheme just looks cheap and tacky, and I always think of the store "Hot Topic", which specializes in clothing and products for those experiencing teenage angst (not what I want to be reminded of when I'm looking for cosmetics). On top of this, the website's product descriptions are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors and it's hard to navigate for someone unfamiliar with the brand's products.

When I got past the visuals and spent more time on the site and reading reviews on Makeup Alley I realized that the LUSH had a lot of very interesting, unique products, including some cool concepts like the shower jellies, bath melts and massage bars.

I decided that I needed to check out their store and products for myself if I was going to understand the brand better. After a little googling, I realized that there was a LUSH store just a few blocks from my boyfriend's dorm in Cambridge, MA, and last weekend we trekked through the snow and ice to stop by on our way to dinner. The store was difficult to miss, with a big banner showing LUSH's signature black, neon yellow and green logo. When you walk inside you feel like you're entering a psychadelic cheese shop, with huge chunks of colorful soap stacked on tables and shelves, some pre-wrapped in butcher paper, with little black signs sticking out of each pile, with a name and brief description of the product.

The layout and the products themselves are very visually appealing; you can't help but want to pick up and smell a pound of bight blue soap or a giant sized sparkly hot pink bath bomb. Many products are loaded with flower petals, fruit peels, and other goodies, and I found the crunchy, "I just made this in my bathtub" look and feel of the products really likable. In addition to this hippie aesthetic, LUSH shows a dedication to helping the environment by making as many products as possible in solid form (including shampoos) to reduce waste, using as many fresh fruit, vegetable and plant products (limited chemicals) and refuses to buy from or work with companies that carry out animal testing.

As someone new to the brand, the sales associates were very friendly, explaining how each product worked and which ones were best for my skin and hair type. Because products aren't packaged in bottles and tubes, the salespeople have to weigh and cut the solid products to your liking, which is kind of fun. Between the knowledgeable staff and the presence of so many cool, unique products, I felt like I could have played around in LUSH for hours, smelling and sampling my way through the whole product line. By the time I left, I had a bag full of products I couldn't wait to try, and a list of things I planned on buying for friends as gifts.

But I couldn't help but remain a bit confused... why was there such a disconnect between the loud, punk website and the friendly, hippie, farmer's market quality of the store? Where is LUSH trying to position itself in relation to other beauty brands? I still don't know the answers to these questions. These days, consumers have far greater contact with a company's website than the physical store (especially for a young, up and coming brand like LUSH), so why wouldn't they create such an unappealing, cheap-looking site? And why use a logo and color and font scheme that opposes instead of promotes the quality of the products and the company's identity and values?

Hopefully LUSH will get around to redesigning their logo and website, but until then I'm going to stick to shopping in their stores, which is a far more pleasant experience. If you're like me and avoided the company because of these reasons, I'd suggest that you give LUSH another chance, as their products really are cool.

On Sunday, I'm going to review a couple of the products I picked up on my trip (including the Sexy Peel soap), so be sure to check back!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Victoria's Secret? Not All Her Clothes Are Tacky!

Victoria's Secret isn't known for their clothes; many people are unaware that VS even sells regular clothing (because they're mostly sold online or through their catalogs) and even those who have seen their offerings probably don't have a very high opinion of the company as a fashion retailer, usually for good reason. Although I own a couple of decent sweaters from there, the majority of the items in their clothing catalog defy any notion of style, quality or good taste, to the point of making me wonder whether any grown, self-respecting woman would dare to be seen in some of these outfits. Case in point:

It even comes in tie dye if you're interested!

So anyway, since I stopped buying bras and underwear there a few years ago when I realized that they were overpriced and poorly made, I'd forgotten that VS even sold clothes. But She's A Betty had a great post last Thursday that highlighted a few really nice pieces from their most recent collection, some of which are even work and grandparent appropriate! I poked around their website and was amazed to find a lot of really great things at reasonable prices. Here are a few of my favorites:

(This dress wouldn't be so flashy if you didn't have gigantic breasts)

Unfortunately Victoria's Secret isn't letting me link to each individual item, so you'll have to search for these items on your own, but the site is easy to navigate.

One final note: I love those little "May We Also Suggest" boxes that pop up on the screen at the bottom of each individual item's page where they suggest that you try the knee-high stretch polyurethane stiletto boot with your miniskirt... as Cher (from Clueless) would say, "As if!"

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Case Against "Panties"

With Valentine's Day coming up, I've been forced to read and hear my least favorite word in the English language: panties. When I see a Victoria's Secret commercial and that announcer with the English accent starts talking about "Victooorriaaaa's Seeecret Annnnual Paaaahnty Sale" I just want to curl up in a ball and hide. Something about that word is just so irritating. It's supposed to be sexy but it really just sounds childish and overly cutesy (can you imagine the type of grown woman who says "I found the cutest pair of panties yesterday") and there's something vaguely disturbing about that. Then there's the phrase "granny panties" which kind of doubles the icky connotations.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way... many of my female friends also cringe upon hearing the word. I rarely hear it spoken in conversation, except by men who like how girly it sounds. And yet lingerie companies insist upon using it, and magazines and television shows (and even many blogs) also use it to describe "women's undergarments." Yeah, that phrase is pretty awful too, but it seems like the official term. The British prefer knickers, which I kind of like (although knickers sounds vaguely historical, like pantaloons), but I don't expect it to catch on in the U.S. anytime soon.

Underwear happens to be my noun of choice. When someone refers to underwear I think of this:

Functional, comfortable, practical, comes in nude, black or occasionally light pink. Does not ride up or itch or feel strange under jeans. Is not embarrassing to ask mom to wash.

The word "Panties"(*shudder*) makes me think of this:

Frilly, lacy, super girly. Limited fabric and coverage. Not practical or comfortable. Male undergarment of choice (for women). Not warn to work, class, the gym or to run errands (unless you have something really special planned after). Color choices overwhelmingly lean toward hot pink, red and black. Not brought home for mom to wash.

Of course, there's a time and place for "panties" like the one I just described. Valentine's Day is a pretty constructed, artificial excuse to try to look especially sexy, but if you're into the Hallmark holidays, you probably are interested in receiving or wearing panties on that day. Do what makes you happy.

I'm not interested in outlawing undergarments like these, I'm just advocating that the word "panties" not be used at all, and if it must continue, to only describe the frilly, pretty, itty-bitty things usually saved for special occasions. Marketers and advertisers, lingerie and departments stores and men worldwide: please take note.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bloggers Hit The Tents!

Are you dying for up to the minute reports from Bryant Park? More bloggers than ever are reporting live from the tents, and every perspective, from the top critics (Cathy Horyn) to the queens of snark (The Fug Girls) is represented. Here's a list of my favorite blogs covering all the highs and lows of New York Fashion Week:

New York Magazine has fantastic overall coverage of fashion week, with multiple feature stories and interviews posted each day. They also have an up to the minute archive of photos of each outfit from every show. The Show and Talk Blog features the girls behind Go Fug Yourself.

For one of the most knowledgeable critiques of runway styles and trends and a true behind the scenes look at the process of designing, check out Cathy Horyn's articles for the New York Times and her day to day postings on her blog, On the Runway.

Two other great overall resources for Fashion Week news and reviews are, the official site of Vogue and W magazines, and Women's Wear Daily's Fashion on Site blog.

The fabulous ladies at Second City Style have hit most of the shows and do a great job discussing key looks and what pieces and trends are wearable for regular girls.

For behind the scenes coverage of runway makeup, as well as tips on how to achieve runway-inspired looks on your own, be sure to stop by Beauty Addict, who's got the inside scoop.

With so much extensive coverage available on the web, fashion lovers everywhere are able to experience all the shows, parties and backstage gossip without having to leave the computer. By the end of the week, I promise that you'll have your entire dream wardrobe for fall picked out.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Valentine's Day Gift and Card Ideas

I haven't been thinking about Valentine's Day much... first, I've never cared much about Hallmark holidays, and this year I don't have to find or organize something special with my boyfriend. We're planning on exchanging cards and having dinner at our favorite restaurant, but we're holding off on gifts because we're saving up for a weekend trip to Montreal in April, to celebrate my 21st birthday and our 2 year anniversary (so excited!).

But of course, I still wanted to write a post with card and gift recommendations, so here are some of my ideas:

I think Valentine's Day is the perfect time to tell or show someone how much you appreciate and love them, and it doesn't have you be your significant other. If you're single and you find V-day depressing, why not ask a good friend to be your valentine. Go out for a nice dinner together, send each other flowers, and use the holiday as an excuse to have fun with someone you care about (even if it's not romantic). Some of my favorite and most memorable Valentine's Days involved going out with a group of friends, or inviting a bunch of people over for some wine and cheese (you can invite all your single friends, male and female, and play matchmaker).

But if you do have a significant other to celebrate with, there are lots of fun gift ideas that are sure to please any guy.

First, you can't go wrong with something sweet. As I've mentioned before, I like to give homemade cookies and brownies as gifts, though more ambitious types and cupcake lovers should check out the Cupcake Bakeshop's selection of fun, original cupcake recipes that are sure to impress. But if you're not the baking type, there are tons of options at your local bakery, chocolate shop and online.

Brownie lover? Try Mari's, featuring flavors from the classic chocolate brownie (made with premium dark chocolate and Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract) to Thai Coffee and Heat (with ancho and chipotle peppers for some extra kick.

You can't go wrong with truffles, but to take decadence to a new level, check out Vosges's famous truffles which come in every flavor you'd ever want.

Like it hot? Zingerman's Dark Spanish Drinking Chocolate is one of the best gourmet hot chocolates you can buy, and advertises itself as the sexiest beverage on earth.

Not a chocolate fan? Try these French Fleur de Sel caramels for a sweet, salty, savory treat.

In addition to homemade or thoughtfully store bought sweets, a card is a must, and it's easy to find something cooler and more personal than your regular Hallmark card. For a card that nearly doubles as a piece of art, check out Design*Sponge's suggestions for Valentine's Day cards here and here.

But if you're feeling crafty, why not try making your own card to tell that special someone just how you feel about them. Whether you use crayons or oil paint, use doodles or just write out a message on a folded piece of cardstock, you can be sure that your time, thought and creativity will really impress. Here's an earlier post I wrote on buying and making cards with a few extra tips.

If you have any other ideas for great gifts, or stories about the best gifts you've given or received on Valentine's Day, share them in the comment section, I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Review: Olay Moisturinse In Shower Body Lotion

A few weeks ago, I was lucky to run into a family friend who works in the health and beauty department of Proctor and Gamble (the company behind brands such as Cover Girl, Pantene, Herbal Essences, Max Factor, SK-II, Head and Shoulders, Olay, and about a gazillion other brands) and I jumped at the opportunity to ask him about which products he recommended.

He said that the beauty product with the best customer feedback, among all their brands, is the Olay Moisturinse In Shower Body Lotion. According to him, it's a lifesaver for anyone with dry skin. I've used Olay products before, but I'd never heard of this one, or the concept of a lotion you apply in the shower, and I was skeptical. He explained that it's like a conditioner for your legs, and it saves you the step of applying lotion after the shower. And because of the interaction between the product and the warm water of a bath or shower, it penetrates the skin better than a normal lotion.

It all sounded a little like marketing BS to me, but as the weather continued to get colder, the lack of humidity from blasting the heat all day has made my skin bone dry. My legs in particular get very itchy from the dryness, and I was applying heavy lotion to them at least 3 times a day. I finally remembered what the P&G guy had said, and went and picked up a bottle of the Moisturinse (the version for extra dry skin) and tried it in the shower that night. After using my regular body wash, I applied a quarter sized amount to each leg (and a little on each arm) and let it soak in while I washed my conditioner out, then lightly washed it off. Normally, if I don't apply lotion within 5 minutes of leaving the shower, my legs become dry, red and itchy, but I noticed that they felt smooth and moisturized already, and it lasted for over a day. I can go full days not having to apply lotion (though on especially dry days when I've showered in the morning, I'll slather on some Nivea before going to bed). But really, I've never used a body moisturizer that's compared to this- the stuff is incredible.

If you have dry or very dry skin, you should stop by the drug store or supermarket and pick up a bottle of Moisturinse (the bottle costs about $5, a great deal for a lot of product). I don't think I'll need it once the weather warms up, but I can't live without it during the winter.