It's OK for intellectual feminists to like fashion

Blog title from Hadley Freeman's book The Meaning of Sunglasses : "Prada styles itself as the label it's OK for intellectual feminists to like".

The author is a bilingual fashion editor, writer and translator with a serious blog, cinema and magazine habit.

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In her latest ad for l’Oréal, Cheryl Cole appears foundation-free, promoting the French beauty brand’s latest skincare product, Skin Perfection. 

In The Daily Telegraph Cole is quoted affirming that “Skin Perfection works to perfect your skin - it tightens pores, gives luminosity and helps to improve skin texture. It has all the skincare benefits you want before you put on your make-up, which means you don’t need to mask your skin”. To which the columnist, Katy Young, snidely remarks that she “has the backing of 73 per cent of the 123 women who tested the range”. 

A panel that small can hardly be representative of the UK, or any population you say? Yet it is actually larger than many panels I found leafing through French, British and American consumer fashion magazines, searching for scientific-sounding claims from make-up, skincare and shampoo brands. Oh they don’t lie, most of the time. They just omit or exaggerate

Aside from the opinion panels that feature fewer than 200 women (Are they randomly picked up in the street? Paid? Relations of people working for the brand?), there are the products that improve your skin or hair, but only when used in conjunction with another, retouched photos, the much bragged about but often unconfirmed patents…the list is almost endless. I look forward to a beauty brand telling the exact truth in its ads. This is a USP I would certainly buy into. 

1 - “82% of UK women agree that Double serum is more effective than their regular serum”. The small print: “Satisfaction test - 194 UK women”. Clarins Double Serum [Hydric + Lipidic System] (Ad published in Vanity Fair, March 2013)

2 - “25+ Patents Worldwide”. The small print: “Patents and patents pending”. Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair (Ad published in Vanity Fair, September 2013)

3 - “Improves the appearance of Fine Lines -31% Deep Wrinkles -34% Radiance +36% Clarity +30% Even Skin Tone +25%”. The small print: “Improvement in average clinical grading - 34 women”. Lancôme Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Concentrate (Ad published in Harper’s Bazaar UK, July 2013)

4 - “96% of women would recommend it to a friend”. The small print: “Lancome trial panel of 124 women”. Lancôme Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Concentrate (Ad published in Harper’s Bazaar UK, August 2013)

5 - “One out of two women tempted by a cosmetic procedure decided to postpone it”. The small print: “After 4 weeks of consumer use. Consumer evaluations of women 35 to 49 years tempted by hyaluronic acid, laser or chemical peeling. Results not equal to a medical procedure.” Lancôme Visionnaire (Ad published in Vogue US, July 2012)

6 - “Our revolutionary gel-mousse formula has 40% less hard waxes”. The small print: “Vs. our leading volumizing mascara”. Maybelline The Mega Plush Volum’ Express (Ad published in Vogue US, July 2012)

7 - “Get results comparable to the leading $200 prescription wrinkle cream”. The small print: “Based on pricing data from November 2010 to October 2011. Use as directed. Pro-X hydrates to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Prescription takes 24 weeks to see full results and results may be different”. Olay ProX (Ad published in Vogue US, July 2012)

8 - “If your mascara promises volume but delivers clumps - that’s false! True volume comes from our big brush, not from big clumps. Try LastBlast Volume for yourself. You may never go “false” again.’” The small print: ”Lash inserts were applied to both of Nicole’s lashes to add lash count before applying mascara.” CoverGirl LashBlast volume mascara (May 2011)

9 - “3 Hot looks in 1 mascara”. The small print: “shot with lash inserts”. Rimmel 1-2-3 Looks Mascara (November 2010)

10 - “Firm, lifted, toned skin in just 4 weeks”. The small print: “77 women - consumer test”. Clarins Extra-Firming Day Wrinkle lifting cream (Ad published in Vogue US, May 2012)

11 - “100% more nourishment” The small print: ”Shampoo ad conditioner system vs. non-conditioning shampoo”. Pantene Pro-V Aqua Light (Ad published in Vogue US, May 2012)

12 - “After 10 days 88% reported skin is firmed and toned”. The small print: “Results obtained using product twice daily, following a self-assessment of 100 women”. Algenist Firming & Lifting cream (Ad published in Vogue US, February 2012)

13 - “86% of women saw fewer dark spots and more luminous skin”. The small print: “In 8 weeks”. L’Oréal Youth Code Serum Corrector (Ad published in Vogue US, February 2012)

14 - “Gel-like shine shatterproof color up to 11 days”. The small print: “When worn with ColorStay base and top coat”. Revlon ColorStay Longwear Nail Enamel (Ad published in Vogue US, February 2012)

15 - “Fiber-fix brush has 6 different contact points with each lash for optimal fiber placement”. The Small Print: “Points of contact between fibers and lashes will vary”. Maybelline Illegal Length Fiber Extensions  (Ad published in Vogue US, March 2012)

16 - “My hair feels stronger, full of life, replenished with a healthy shine. It’s got its mojo back.” The small print: “Styled with some natural hair extension” L’Oréal Elvive Full Restore 5 (November 2009)

17 - “After two hours, wrinkles start fading out”. The small print: “Affects wrinkles appearance: in vitro testing” Estée Lauder Perfectionist Wrinkle Lifting Serum (Paris Vogue, March 2010)*

18 - “100% of women surveyed found that wrinkles were smoothed” Small print: “Consumer tests on 55 women after 2 months” Dior Capture Totale (see ad here)

19 - “The first universal skin boosting superserum by Dior”. The small print: “Bi-daily applications of One Essential + Crème Multi-Perfection for two weeks vs. Crème Multi-Perfection applied on its own”. Dior One Essential (Paris Vogue, March 2010)**

20 - “The skin is suppler and denser (+53%)”. The small print: “Result shown after four weeks according to a clinical study on 25 women” Dr. Brandt Collagen Booster (Paris Vogue, February 2010)***

21 - “76% of women said their friends found their skin looked more beautiful and revitalized in just 2 weeks” The small print: “Self-assessment - 111 women - 8 weeks study” Lancôme Rénergie Lift Multi-action (Ad published in Vogue US, August 2013)

22 - “90% of women find it more effective than their current serum” The small print: “Satisfaction test, 50 women reported, 4 weeks”. Clarins Double Serum (Ad published in Vogue US, August 2013)

23 - “Deep reconstruction in just 5 washes”. The small print: “With shampoo and Express Treatment Conditioner use”. Dove Express Treatment Conditioner (Ad published in Look, 5 August 2013)

 * French copy: “2 heures et vos rides s’effacent deja”. “Action sur l’apparence des rides : tests in vitro”. Translation my own. 

** French copy for the small print: “t = 2 semaines d’application bi-quotidienne de One Essential + Crème Multi-Perfection vs Crème Multi-Perfection seule”. Translation my own. 

*** French copy: “La peau est plus souple, plus dense (+53%)”. “Résultats obtenus apres 4 semaines selon une étude clinique réalisée sur 25 femmes”. Translation my own. 


Posted at 6:00am and tagged with: advertising, beauty, list,.

My four Paris Coups de Coeur Addresses

My sister Camille and I have just come back from our yearly Paris weekend: multiple back-and-forths between Concorde and Champs-Elysées, sale shopping, eating lunch and dinner out, visiting a haute couture exhibition at the Mairie de Paris… Below are our four favourite addresses from the past two days, these are the four places we would go back to and would recommend to anyone. 

Spa Nuxe Montorgueil, 32-34 rue Montorgueil 75001

An award-winning spa and a quiet heaven in the heart of Paris. I treated myself to the Soin prodigieux à l’Immortelle Bleue, while Camille enjoyed a honey-based treatment. We left with the softest skin we’ve had since we were born and a bag heavy with skincare products. The beauticians’ expertise enhances the quiet luxury of the place. Treatments from £90 include a recommendation on the type of Nuxe products to use, all available to purchase with a 20% discount. 

Le 20eme Art, 49 rue des Vignoles 75020

The perfect rendering of what Parisians think eating in province is like, the Le 20eme Art restaurant offers a daily-renewed menu with around five starters, mains and desserts to choose from. The service is friendly, accommodating and swift. Portions are the perfect size: big enough to enjoy but not so large you feel stuffed. Camille and I had steamed asparagus with a poached egg and bacon vinaigrette to start followed by a slab of foie gras for me and a navarin d’agneau, the local specialty, for her. We finished with a meringue lemon tart and amaple syrup cheesecake.  From £25 for three dishes. 

Mastino, 46 rue Caulaincourt 75018

A good and efficient pizza place close to Montmartre, but not so close it is full of tourists, Mastino offers a simple menu of classic pizzas and antipasti. The restaurant only uses the best and freshest ingredients, including a first-rate Italian flour, and leaves the dough to rest for two days, ensuring that the pizza dough is the perfect balance of thin and crisp. I had a classic Margherita jazzed up with some mozzarella di Bufala; Camille ordered the 4 Stagioni with ham, artichokes, mushrooms and olives with some Pomodori & mozzarella di Bufala to share. Pizzas from about £10. 

Ambali, 79 rue Vieille du Temple 75003

Our fashion discovery of the weekend, Ambali is a Paris-based Japanese womenswear brand. The clothes are simple and incredibly well made: each dress is lined, zip closures are hidden and even the most classic item displays unexpected twists. The staff is helpful and knowledgeable about the brand and wears the clothes with style and elegance. Dresses from about £200, t-shirts from about £75.

Posted at 8:01am and tagged with: Paris, restaurant, beauty, address,.

A universal tale of finding yourself with Jungian traits and multiple variants worldwide, the Brothers Grimm’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been re-imagined by Hollywood twice over the past six months: Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. With its "Miroir, Miroir" email sent early July, Chanel is keeping with the trend and banking on how the story echoes in ourselves to increase opening rates.

The entire email copy references fairy tales. The subject line refers to a (likely incorrect, depending on the translation) Snow White quote so engraved in popular culture finishing it is not necessary for the recipient to know this email is about beauty. The call to action invites the customer to go through the mirror, a possible reference to Alice in Wonderland, another tale with a looking-glass at its heart. The email ultimately links to a short film teasing the upcoming Rouge Allure lipstick line, “lips red as blood” being one of Snow White’s three key beauty attributes.

The film, where “crystals become makeup and reveal kaleidoscopic beauty”, is more science fiction than fairy tale, India-influenced rather than set in the German forest. According to, inspired by the “something Indian” in the new lipstick, Chanel creative director of makeup Peter Philips looked at Karl Lagerfeld’s Paris-Bombay and “a specific mirror-embellished coat” to direct the short. India is a popular inspiration for beauty brands at the moment: Clarins, Boucheron and NARS have all released wide-reaching lines rooted in the subcontinent. Yet the Chanel email copy follows the decidedly Western angle of Snow White.

Pictures: Top picture, Miroir miroir, Chanel email July 2012; Photos 2 and 3: Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen in Mirror Mirror, Relativity Media 2012; Photos 4 to 7: Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen and the mirror in Snow White and the Huntsman, Universal Pictures 2012

Posted at 8:35pm and tagged with: Brand communication, Classy film, beauty, chanel, email marketing, karl lagerfeld,.

Hands up if you’ve ever finished a tube of lipstick or mascara before its best by date/you lost it/it broke.

Over the past few years, for hygiene reasons, cosmetic brands have started printing logos indicating how long you can hold on to a product, once opened. This goes from three months for a mascara (assuming it doesn’t dry before) to two years for a lipstick. Considering the average mascara tube contains 7 ml of product*, assuming you only owe one and apply it daily for 90 days straight, it means you’d have to wear 0.08 ml of mascara a day. It might not seem a lot but when it comes to eyelash coating, it actually is.

Since we’re reluctant to throw away a half-used product, many a make-up case contains cosmetics so out of date they’re a health hazard. Binning these items would mean, when purchasing, knowingly spending a percentage of the price on product never to be used. Isn’t it time the industry starts selling smaller quantities of make up, containing realistic amount of product considering the best by dates? This would mean customers buying more often, wearing make-up of a better quality and not putting their immune system at risk during their morning beauty routine.

* Data from the Helena Rubinstein mascara page

Photo: The 5 Make-up Items I can’t live without, Flickr user The Chatty Dormhouse

Posted at 8:05am and tagged with: beauty,.

Dear Tom,

Was naming one of your new nail lacquer shades Bitter Bitch really appropriate? You’ve been labeled a misogynist time and time again, at Yves Saint Laurent, at Gucci and for your own label. Your adverts have featured finger blow jobs, a model displaying a male fragrance on her Brazilian-waxed pubis, women feeling up men and the infamous G-shaped pubic wax. What’s a little name calling compared with the introduction of porn in luxury advertising? How do you even come up with a name like this? Is this a comment on the colour of one’s soul when one “is bitter about her (his) life and the things that have happened to him (her) and decides to take it out on the world”? A wink to Maria Sveland? I love the colour but the name will make me think twice about buying it.

Posted at 6:26pm and tagged with: beauty, Tom Ford, open letter, feminism,.

Saint Laurent Mauvais Garçon, Marie-Dominique Lelièvre

Saint Laurent the bad boy. The alcohol-loving, drug-taking, unfaithful, irregular Saint Laurent. In case of doubt on the content of Lelièvre’s biography, here is its very first sentence: “Il ne fut qu’un couturier”. He was a mere designer. For Lelièvre, the Saint Laurent myth is nothing more than marketing orchestrated by Pierre Bergé (who refused to collaborate to this biography and apparently forbid many former Saint Laurent collaborators from doing so). As mentioned in previous articles, many of Lelièvre’s assertions feel like little more than controversy for the sake of it. Contrary to many biographers of “la saintlaurentie”, she isn’t close to her subject, observing it in a cold and systematic manner. If anyone could accuse her of bias, it would be against Saint Laurent, of writing une biographie à charge. Is it better than being so blinded by your subject you’re incapable of criticism?

Le Monde à ses Pieds, Géraldine Maillet

Death by fashion industry at 21. Death by too much fame, too much money, too much coke, too much uncertainty, too much self-doubt and too little love. In the middle of the 2000s, Ruslana Korshunova was the model of the moment, a recognisable face among the Slavic hurricane engulfing catwalks. Former model Géraldine Paillet wrote a scenario-like imagined biography. Initially multiplying view points to only focus on Ruslana’s once she has found success, her narrative is time-marked by restaurants and people and by an acerbic take on the ridiculous side of the fashion industry. We’ll never know why Ruslana killed herself but Paillet suggests it is the consequence of a gigantic misunderstanding: Ruslana wanted to make her already proud mother proud, wanted love from people who already loved her and wanted eternal success in an industry where everything has a best-before date.

Helena Rubinstein La Femme qui Inventa la Beauté, Michèle Fitoussi

We owe her modern beauty. The scientific jargon, the three steps evening routine, the sunscreen and hydrating obsession: all courtesy of one Mrs Rubinstein. Poland-born, Australia-bred, America-famous, Helena Rubinstein built an empire based on an acquaintance’s miracle cream, a huge amount of will and work and an infallible instinct for what women (and men) want. ELLE journalist Michèle Fitoussi wrote a novelised biography full of imagined dialogues where Picasso and Paul Poiret are nothing more than secondary characters.

L’Effet Kiss pas Cool Journal d’une Angoissée de la Vie, Leslie Plée

It’s not easy going through life worried. Leslie Plée suffers from the kind of anxiety which stops you from doing something because you worry it will trigger worries. Rather than allowing this anxiety to spoil her life, she channels it into a cartoon blog. Her blog is so popular it has lead to two books, including L’Effet Kiss pas Cool, full of well-spotted and funny strips on the little moments in life that can become big if you suffer from heightened anxiety. Not bad for someone who used to worry about how her drawings would be received.

Pictures: Saint Laurent from Fashionfreax, Ruslana from The Fashion Spot (ad for Geog Jensen), Helena Rubinstein from The Wall Street Journal, Leslie Plée from Leslie Plée’s blog via Les Gridouillis

Posted at 4:47pm and tagged with: book review, ysl, yves saint laurent, beauty, Helena Rubinstein, model life, blogosphere,.