Snooping Around, Part 6: Beauty Products

Here it is: the last installment of the Snooping Around series. I’ve shared with you some of my favourite Interweb windows into homes, desks, treasured possesions, wardrobes and handbags. But, I’ve saved my absolute favourite for last: beauty products.

Created by the beautiful Emily Weiss in 2010, Into The Gloss takes us into the beauty cabinets of fashion insiders. You’ll find editors, stylists, makeup artists, models, assistants etc. all divulging details of the beauty products routines that they can’t live without. The site itself is as glossy as the women it documents – it’s uncluttered, easy to navigate, and full of photographs. It’s also nice to read about full beauty routines for a change – so often we see reviews of just one product, and you never know how it will work with your other lotions and potions.

Above, the beauty cabinet of Eva Chen, Beauty Director at Teen Vogue. How wonderful would it be to be at the receiving end of parcel after parcel of goodies to test?! Photo Credit: Into The Gloss

I love these perspex dividers, which organise your products but still keep the drawer light, so you don’t have to rummage around too much. From designer Tory Burch’s cabinet. Photo Credit: Into The Gloss

If you downloaded the Tod’s D-Bag iPad app that I talked about here, you can get another glimpse into the life of Lauren Remington Platt by reading about her beauty routine here.

When I first discovered this blog, I spent hours reading through the archives. There’s a pattern: everyone has a favourite lipstick/lipgloss/lipbalm, favourite moisturiser, ‘best I’ve tried’ eyeliner etc. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it) that very rarely is one person’s star-product the same as another’s. We all have our favourite products. Even if, like me, you’re not brand-loyal, you’ll find that you know what works for you and what doesn’t because of your skin type, the climate you live in, and so on. Having said that, I’ve noticed some products cropping up more than others (on Into the Gloss as well as in magazines, and other beauty blogs):

  • Bioderma Créaline H20 Cleansing Solution – comes up a lot as the staple cleanser used by makeup artists, models, and even mere mortals. Hard to find outside of France, but available on eBay and here at LeGuideSante for a bargainous £8.74…shipping is about £7 though!
  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios – really good, reasonably priced sun protection. They even have a version for oily skin called Anthelios AC, which doesn’t leave your face competing with your patent Louboutins for the Shiniest Accessory prize (if only my face was an accessory). Readily available in pretty much all French pharmacies. In England, larger Boots stores and many pharmacies (I get mine at my local Lloyd’s Pharmacy) stock it. You can also get it online at Boots.
  • French brands in general get a lot of well-deserved hype. Pharmacy brands like Avène, La Roche-Posay, Lierac and Vichy are brilliant value for the quality of product that you get. I read here that the French government even subsidises some treatments at the Avène and La Roche-Posay clinics. The French know how to do good skincare!
  • Other than that, almost everybody repeats the importance of thoroughly cleansing and hydrating your skin – don’t expect your makeup to do all the hard work!

For me, beauty products are so much more accessible than clothes or furnishings. I love new things, and the cheapest but most satisfying way of alleviating that craving is a visit to the beauty counters at Selfridges, Harvey Nichols or Peter Jones. Is there a purchase that gives a more instant sense of smile-inducing gratification than a luxurious new lipstick? Or one that offers more hope than a new wrinkle-reducing blemish-erasing moisturiser? As Philosophy so rightly put it, it’s Hope in a Jar, and it’s much more affordable than those boots from Alaïa. That was my attempt at rhyme, by the way (Alaï-AR).

Whereas the other Snooping Around blogs that I’ve talked about might provide inspiration and ideas, that’s often all that they provide: Givenchy couture and Eames chairs aren’t within everybody’s reach. On the other hand, cosmetics and skincare products are attainable. And that is why I like to know about other people’s favourite beauty products and routines – you hear about what works for other people, and you can try the same tip or buy the same product, and hope that it will work miracles for your complexion. Unsurprisingly, most of the time, what works wonders for somebody else isn’t as effective for me, but I still go back for more beauty revelations. Indulgent, yes, but it’s far cheaper than treating yourself with Jimmy Choos, and much kinder to your waistline than consoling yourself with half a a whole bar of Lindt.

So that’s it: we’ve FINALLY reached the end of the Snooping Around series. Even I – the one who thought it would be such a fabulous idea – was beginning to tire of poking around other people’s lives. I better go and think of some other things to write about…

Snooping Around, Part 5: Bags

What do women (and some men) carry in their handbags? I didn’t give this question much thought until my last trip through Gatwick departures: the contents of a non-bulging Mulberry tote going into the security scanner ahead of my over-stuffed monstrosity sparked my curiosity just as much as the details of Gwyneth Paltrow’s exercise routine. If I had been the security officer, I would have been tempted to fabricate a suspicious object that had to be inspected in said bag, just to have a poke around. Would that be frowned upon…?

In the spirit of the Snooping Around series, I’ve decided to a) share with you the contents of my own handbag, and b) tell you about a few of my bag-snooping interweb finds.

First off: my handbag. I generally switch between handbags a few times a week, but this one is my current favourite because it goes with everything, and fits in all my ‘essentials’. My mother bought the handbag for herself about four years ago and then last year decided that it was time to throw it away because it was starting to look scruffy. Fortunately, I saved it. ‘Scruffy’ is a relative term: I actually like the look of the worn leather…it looks a bit vintagey and loved.

Photo: My Handbag

And here’s what’s inside (doesn’t the bag look sad when empty??):

Photo: Bag Contents

These are my essentials if I’m going for a full day out (if I have 9-5 lectures, for example), but most of the time I manage with less. I don’t bother with the water or iPad if I’m only out for an hour or two. If I’m going out in the evening, I’ll just squeeze my true essentials (phone, keys, purse, Oyster card, lipgloss, blotting paper, comb, and, occasionally, camera) into a clutch.

  • Phone
  • Keys
  • iPad – in navy Calabrese case
  • Oyster card
  • Coach purse before my summer holidays started, I decided to downsize my purse. Since I don’t use my store cards as much when at home during the holidays, I waved (a temporary) bye-bye to everything but my ID, debit card and some change. It felt oddly liberating, but I’m searching for a slightly larger purse for when I’m back in London (don’t want to miss out on those Boots Advantage and Nectar points…)
  • Camera – since I started this blog, I’ve noticed that there are things to photograph absolutely EVERYWHERE
  • Moleskine monthly diary – more for jotting down ideas and things that I want to look up at home, than for organisation purposes
  • Waitrose bag for life – I’m always making unexpected supermarket trips…though not always to Waitrose, as the bag may suggest
  • Umbrella
  • Bobble water bottle
  • Cath Kidston pouch:
      • YSL lipstick (Rouge Volupté in shade 14), Kiehl’s SPF 15 tinted lip balm, Lancome SPF 15 lipgloss.
      • Clinique sun cream – I rarely use this as I prefer La Roche Posay’s Anthelios AC SPF 30 Extreme Fluid for its matte anti-greasy quality. I use the Clinique to moisturise my hands and when I forget to put suncream on in the morning.
      • Dior mascara
      • Space NK teeny bottle of perfume
      • Comb, hairbands and hair grips
      • Small pot of Bare Escentuals foundation and brush for on-the-go touch-ups, blotting paper
      • Girly bits (*whispers* T-A-M-P-O-N-S)
Photo: Make-up Pouch

In term-time, I’d also carry a notepad, memory stick and always ALWAYS a scientific calculator.

[Not pictured: receipts, post-its, chewing gum, crumbs, change that has found its way out of my purse/that I’ve been too lazy to put into my purse.]

And all of that weighs 4.2kg!!

For more bag-snooping, have a look at these:

– Tod’s D-Bag iPad app: I was pleasantly surprised to find that the app wasn’t as much of an advertising ploy as it could’ve been. With the tagline “My life is in this Bag”, it takes us into the polished lives and (D-)bags of six women. It has lots of nice touches: for example, there’s a video from each woman and a handwritten diary entry about their occupation and favourite things/places. But it goes further than that – some objects in the handbag have special features: on Lauren Remington Platt’s profile, you can click a lighter, which then brings up one of her playlists…which you can then email (with a link to the iTunes page for the playlist). Similarly, if you click on the apple in Christina Villegas-Boujnah’s profile, you find the recipe for her mother’s apple compote.

The whole thing is beautifully presented and, of course, there’s a store locator, in case you feel compelled to make a purchase. If you have an iPad, I urge you to download this free app…just for the childhood pleasure of clicking on things and being surprised by the result.

I have two favourites. Firstly, Victoria Tang’s handbag for the sheer hilarity that it’s implied that she carries a dumbbell around in her bag (kudos to her if she does):

Photo: Victoria Tang's Handbag

And secondly, Lauren Remington Platt’s bag for the elegance of its contents:

Photo: Lauren Remington Platt's Handbag

[Both images are screenshots of the Tod’s D-Bag app from my iPad. Credit: Tod’s]

Persona Series by Jason Travis: A series of photographs of Atlantans and the things that they carry around with them. This is a brilliant collection of photographs – Travis’ portraits really capture the essence of each subject’s personality, so the accompanying photo of the contents of the subject’s bag/pockets doesn’t seem to require an explanation (apparently, this combination of two photos is called a diptych). He’s also published a book with the photographs, and his work has been covered by the likes of CNN, Gizmodo and Marie Claire.

F*** YEAH What’s in Your Bag: Not really getting the need for expletives in the title here, but it’s a nice Tumblr blog, with lots of photos. However, with no descriptions, it lacks the ‘window into a life’ aspect of the Tod’s app (sorry to those that don’t have iPads!).

The contents of Anya Hindmarch’s bag

–  Independent Fashion Bloggers Project #9: Scroll down on this page to see a list of 104 posts featuring the contents of various fashion bloggers’ bags.

– Inside My Bag: This one was set up by Bryan of Bryanboy fame. However, it lacks the sleekness of Bryanboy…in fact, it’s rubbish to look at, and the last post is from 2007…so perhaps resort to this only if you’re in *serious* need of bag porn.

Snooping Around, Part 4: Wardrobes

For those of you who are starting to find this whole snooping around thing a tad monotonous, look away for the next couple of days – there are just a couple more posts in the series. It should be safe to take a peek on Wednesday or Thursday.

For those of you who, like me, can never have too many windows into a person’s life, I’ll be telling you about one of my favourite insights into wardrobes tres tres chic.

One of the key things about these Snooping Around blogs is that new posts are added frequently – much more frequently than we can get our hands on our favourite monthly magazines. There is a constant supply of new ideas and, crucially, it’s a lot easier to identify with these ideas than with a model in a Vogue shoot. The photoshopped spreads in monthly glossies speak of a beautiful way of life; a life where you can wear stilettos in fields and on sand dunes, and where dog paws aren’t magnetically attracted to anything white. And, although I yearn for this escapism and extravagance once in a while (on a monthly basis, as it happens!), day-to-day I need something less staged, more pared down, and more achievable. A ‘real’ girl’s wardrobe.

Enough chatter…

The Coveteur

I LOVE this blog. The idea of looking into the wardrobes of some very stylish people was conceived and realised by designer Erin Kleinberg and stylist Stephanie Mark. Along with photographer Jake Rosenberg, the team have built up a stunning catalogue of wardrobes full of outfit ideas and inspiration for interiors and colour combinations.

The photographs are beautifully curated and composed and feature a ‘Shop This Look’ option, in case you’re feeling inspired enough to replicate the photograph yourself (convenient, but painful for my bank balance). The photographs also include a commentary from the “talent”, as Kleinberg and Mark refer to the owner of the wardrobe, explaining the significance and influence of their favourite possessions on their style.

Photo: Screenshot (sorry about the quality) from a feature on George Kotsiopoulos (celebrity stylist, co-host, “Fashion Police), living in Los Angeles. Credit: Jake Rosenberg, The Coveteur 

Whilst many of the women that grace the photos of The Coveteur can afford significantly more Blahniks and Chanel 2.55s than I can, they are still essentially working women who taylor their wardrobes for a variety of occasions; meetings, seminars, business lunches, SATC gossip-with-friends lunches, first dates, anniversary dinners.

The details vary – a Fashion Director and a Market Analyst will have different ideas about what is appropriate to wear to a meeting – but the underlying principles are the same. We all want to look like strong, sexy, competent women. Some women achieve this with a monochrome wardrobe. Others feel confident only in Missoni stripes and Pucci prints. But each can find inspiration in the other’s style: perhaps the Jil Sander minimalist will bring some colour into her look with a bright lip, and the Missoni girl will incorporate the minimalist trend into her wardrobe with some sharper silhouettes. And you can recreate either look at the price-point relevant to you – for students like myself, stores like Zara, COS, Massimo Dutti, Whistles and Reiss offer up-to-date good quality pieces at reasonable prices. There are also some great finds on ASOS (though it’s harder to tell as you can’t feel the material), and, if you’re feeling flush, a trip to Bicester Village is fabulous for those ‘investment pieces’.

Photo: The Coveteur ScreenshotPhoto: A screenshot from a feature on Annabel Tollman, a fashion stylist and journalist living in New York. Credit: Jake Rosenberg, The Coveteur

There’s also Diary of the Coveteur; a behind-the-scenes look at the photoshoots for The Coveteur, which shows just how much fun they have…

Doesn’t it make you want to be there?! (click photo and scroll down to find the story) Photo credit: Jake Rosenberg, Diary of The Coveteur

Show Me Your Wardrobe

Show Me Your Wardrobe has a slightly more casual approach than The Coveteur; more what I would call a ‘traditional blog’, with the most recent posts at the top, and the oldest many clicks of “Older Posts –>” away.

The blog was created by Jackie Dixon, a stylist who has worked with numerous publications. If you missed any of her Show Me Your Wardrobe features for ELLE, they’re all up on her blog. She has shot for several publications, including British Vogue, and has collaborated on projects with Benetton, Matches and Selfridges (to name but a few), so she’s one ‘Fashion Insider’ that really deserves the title.

Like The Coveteur, this blog gives us “a sneaky peek into the wardrobes of today’s creative talent” (Dixon’s words). However, Dixon tends to photograph the clothes as we would see them: worn as an outfit on a person.

The Bottom Line: Although both The Coveteur and Show Me Your Wardrobe aim to do the same thing – to give us a window into how other people dress – they do it in very different ways. I go to The Coveteur for inspiration and to look at beautiful photography. Show Me Your Wardrobe (understandably) feels like more of a diary for Dixon and her projects and I go there to be a fly on the wall in in the life of a stylist.

Snooping Around, Part 2: Treasured Possessions

Today, the topic of conversation is treasured possessions. In particular, possessions that you treasure so much that you would risk your life retrieving them if your house was burning down.

Inspired by The Burning House, I spent quite a while thinking about this and came to the conclusion that there are really very few things that make my list. Gone are the days when I would have had to clear out the cupboards to save all the family photo albums and the memories that they hold because, firstly, I don’t have a huge number of printed photos from my childhood in England (they’re hoarded in Lithuania), and secondly, who still has photo albums?! Okay okay, there will of course be people out there who still print out every photo they take, but many many of us don’t. My closest substitute for the traditional photo album is a huge floor-to-ceiling board full of photos at university. The photos change every year, and are easily replaceable because they’re archived on my laptop (and backed up doubly, triply).

Which brings me nicely to the point of technology, and just how much it dominates the list of things that I would pick up on the way out of my hypothetical burning house. When did I lose the sentiment, the emotion, and the hope that my grandchildren might one day inherit something that has a story; a history? At this rate, the only history that my future grandchildren will inherit is my internet browsing history. So far, so tragic.

But think a little longer and I’m sure you’ll come to the the same clichéd conclusion that I came to – all that matters is the health and happiness of your friends and family (one’s own health and happiness apparently comes close to the top too). Diamond rings, antique bureaus, couture gowns and first edition classic novels are only treasured because there’s a story, memory or anecdote attached. Foster Huntington, the creator of The Burning House, says quite rightly that “a father of five in his forties would grab very different things than he would have as a bachelor in his twenties”. Aged twenty, I have many years to attach stories to inanimate objects (and to earn the money to be able to afford them) but, for now, my iPad is my friend.

Enough of the chatter. Here’s my selection:

[take 1 – the dog was feeling left out of the action]

Photo: The Burning House

Photo: The Burning House

  • Laptop
  • iPad
  • Phone
  • Camera (in my hands)
  • Chargers for the above (not pictured)
  • Portable hard drive
  • Purse
  • Favourite watch – the only slightly sentimental object – a gift from my parents for my 18th birthday
  • 3 x Ray-Bans – one pair to see, one pair of Wayfarers, and a knackered but loved 50th anniversary gold-plated limited edition from ’87 that used to be my stepfather’s
  • Passport
  • Jumper for warmth (and to coordinate with the blaze…….I kid)
  • Reading material to take my mind off the burning house (yeah, right). Wallpaper* and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin were to hand.
  • This month’s Moleskine diary, where I jot down post ideas, places to visit and, generally, things that I read or hear about that seem worth a Google search.

So what would you save? Have a good browse on The Burning House, make a list, and remember that all that really matters is that you and your family get out to safety. Your photos? That’s what your memory is for. And the Cloud. Nothing gets lost in the Cloud.

Snooping Around, Part 1: Desks

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking for new blogs to peruse and I noticed that what I was really looking for was an outlet for my nosiness. I just love love love looking around real people’s houses, wardrobes, beauty cabinets etc. etc. I’m not a fan of celebrity gossip, but I’m quite happy to read all about your beauty routines, favourite wardrobe items and, in general, to see (preferably with the aid of many photographs) how one’s personality is reflected in their home, routine and treasured possessions.

Magazines will always be one of my main sources of inspiration, but one of the many wonders of blogs is that we are no longer limited to exploring the [often] airbrushed lives of the rich and famous; we can also glimpse into the life of the Average Joe. And what’s really great about that is that the Average Joe is very rarely just “average”.

In the next few posts, I’m going to share some of my favourite curiosity-quenchers in the hope that you will find as much inspiration in them as I do 🙂 First up, we have desks. Yes, you read that right: desks.

[From the desk of…]

I spent hours scouring the interweb for this, knowing that there must be a well-connected soul in the blogosphere with a penchant for desks and workspaces.

From the desk of… is a blog that is, in the words of it’s creator, Kate Donnelly, ‘dedicated solely to the canvas of the Desk’. As Donnelly says, the desk, for many of us, is a ‘second or third home’, somewhere where ‘hours upon hours pass’. And, for that reason, I love looking at people’s desks. There’s something incredibly personal about the way you lay out your desk, and the things that you choose to be surrounded by during your working day.

The blog seems to be populated mainly by creative types (lots of Macs), and, as well as the obligatory desk photos, there are also photos of some of the work that’s been produced there, and an accompanying interview to give a bit more context. It’s interesting how often the ‘feel’ of the workspace is reflected in the ideas that are conceived there (though I guess that’s not too surprising!). As well as picking up storage and decoration tips, it’s a treasure trove for inspiration when you’re lacking ideas (look around the desk too – posters on the wall, the chair, furnishings etc.). With all this deskspiration, I’m semi-dreading the time when I have my own space to decorate!

[Below, click on the photos to go the relevant blog posts. All photos from fromyourdesks.com]

I couldn’t choose a favourite, but isn’t the blackboard behind this desk brilliant? I love that screensaver, too.

Photo: Justin David Cox's Desk

And when your bike is this awesome, why not display it like art?! Oh, right, there’s no space for it anywhere else? Coulda fooled me… 

Photo: Matt Moore's Desk

I like the wall behind this one… 

Photo: Timothy Goodman's Desk