Boutique Chic

I love the beauty halls in the major London department stores such as Selfridges, John Lewis Oxford Street, Liberty and Harvey Nicks…the convenience of  being able to purchase all of my favourite brands all under one roof is a boon and the in store theatre, promotions, window displays and the opportunity to discover new, exclusive brands all add to the joy of beauty shopping….

I'm a beauty shopper, looking for some peace...GET ME OUT OF HERE!!

…sometimes, however it is nice to leave the hustle and bustle behind and visit the stand alone boutique of individual brands.

That is exactly what I did over the last weekend – and how lovely it was indeed.

I visited:

Diptyque –  Brook Street, W1

Miller Harris – Bruton Street W1

Although department stores are convenient, they can often feel impersonal, but this was not the case at all with the stores that I visited – I was not just another faceless customer, the staff went above and beyond to make me feel welcomed and valued.  Also, I very much prefer niche fragrances that are unusual and eclectic, so thought it would be a nice change to  take the time to rediscover the beautiful stores that house these creations.

Diptyque

I was actually on my way to Space NK on Brook Street, when I happened upon the Diptyque store.  I had had no idea that this store was located here (which is very unusual for me!!), and was shocked to learn that it had been open for 3 years!  The store is quaint and petite, but is perfectly formed.  I adore the Diptyque range!

Diptyque, Brook Street

The candles are divine and extremely long lasting (my favorite scent is Tubéreuse) and the although the cult fragrance that has amassed a dedicated following  is the fig based Philosykos,  I prefer the  fruity scent of Oyedo.

Sweet and sensual...just like me 😉 !!

The Diptyque consultant was extremely knowledgeable and took her time to introduce us to the latest fragrance, Eau Rose (£60.00) and also demonstrated how could be combined with Philosykos to create a whole new fragrance….which I actually found to be quite appealing .  This was a surprise – as not only am I not Philosylos’  biggest fan, neither do I take to well to rose scented fragrances!  So it goes to show that the staff can play a critical role in assisting you to discover a new experience that you  might have otherwise discounted.

At no time,  did she try to ‘sell’ me any thing (unlike many department store ‘spritzers’ ), but was happy to answer all of my my questions and allow me to peruse the beautiful surroundings at my leisure…pure heaven! I left with a cute sample of the fragrance Do Son, which contains – you guessed it – tuberose! The other ingredients of berries and flowers create a concoction that is sweet, but not saccharine and is perfect for every day wear.

Miller Harris

Ever since I was given a bottle of L’air De Rien over 5 years ago, I have been besotted with the fragrance and the brand behind its creation. I will have to do a separate post on this fragrance because it is SO gorgeous…

The brand’s creator and the nose behind the fragrant offering is Lyn Harris.

Lyn Harris has been working in the fragrance industry for more than twenty years and founded Miller Harris in 2000. She spent five years training in France at one of the highly prestigious schools of the perfume elite in Paris and then Robertet in Grasse.

Lyn in her fragrance laboratory (looks like fun)!

The Mayfair flagship store offers a peaceful retreat from the bustle of Bond street with a Fragrant Tea Room at the rear of the store.   I arrived at the store at about 6.15pm…not realising that the store closed at 6pm!  The door was locked but the lights were still on.

Miller Harris - Bruton Street

As I was peering through the window a member of staff appeared and came to the door.  I expected her to say we are closed and advise me of the opening times for future visits….but no, she opened the door and invited me in!  ‘You have made your way here to see us’ she said and welcomed me as if it was 12 o’clock midday!

NOW THAT IS WHAT I CALL CUSTOMER SERVICE!!!

We chatted about the fragrances and candles and as you can see I didn’t leave empty handed!

It was just so refreshing to receive genuine customer focused  service – to see someone go above and beyond the what was reasonable to expect.

In the word’s of the Mastercard adverts – this is priceless.

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Celebrate Good Times!

I can’t believe that October is nearly coming to an end… time is certainly flying.

I couldn’t let the month end without writing a post in celebration of Black History Month – which is in October here on the British Isles!

There are so many inspirational people of colour that I could mention – the free newspaper ‘The Metro’,  compiled a very comprehensive list as part of a nationwide poll, however I would like to celebrate some of the men and women who have contributed to the global hair and beauty industry – providing jobs and careers for thousands, enriching the lives of millions of women (and men) and making the founders of the following companies very rich indeed!!

The hair and beauty industry catering to the needs of black men and women is a flourishing sector.  The US black haircare market is worth $185 million, up 4% versus the 2010 sales value,  according to a recent Mintel report,  and although a primarily Caucasian standard of beauty dominated the popular press and the department store counters for much of the last century – the black hair and beauty industry is not a recent phenomenon….

Madam Walker in a photograph ca. 1914 by Addison Scurlock

….Madam C.J. Walker (December 23, 1867 – May 25, 1919), born Sarah Breedlove, was an African-American businesswoman, hair care entrepreneur and philanthropist who made her fortune by developing and marketing a hugely successful line of beauty and hair products for black women under the company she founded in 1910 the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company.  She is also credited for developing the ‘hot comb’ (the forerunner of your GHDs!). According to the Guinness Book of Records, Madame Walker was the first woman to become a millionaire by her own achievements.

Other Americans who have transformed the tresses of black women worldwide include:

Drs. Joe and Eunice Dudley – Dudley Beauty Corp

Eunice Dudley

Joe Dudley Snr.

Drs. Joe and Eunice Dudley probably didn’t have any idea that their small family owned operation would become one of the longest standing black-owned hair care companies  when they were mixing products in their kitchen 43 years ago.

Story has it that while the husband and wife team were creating formulas, their two oldest children would help package the products at night. The rest, as they say, is history. Their oldest daughter, Ursula Dudley Oglesby, runs the North Carolina based company as President.  The pioneering couple were also featured in Chris Rock’s enlightening and enjoyable 1999 docu-tainment film,  Good Hair.

Fred Luster Sr. – Luster Products Inc.   

Back in the day...

When you think of Luster, you think of Luster’s Pink Oil Moisturizer, the ubiquitous hair lotion that was a staple of  bathroom cabinets in black households throughout the 80’s and 90’s.  The company behind the iconic brand was founded by the late Fred Luster Snr, in 1957 and is now headed by his children Jory Luster, Fred Luster II and Sonja Luster-Munis. The Chicago-based company is one of the largest black owned companies in the African-American hair care market.

Last year  the ‘Pink’ line of  haircare products was launched in  Boots.

Lisa Price – Carol’s Daughter

Lisa Price - Founder and President of Carol's Daughter

Lisa Price is an entrepreneur whose 15 year old venture was started by happenstance. The products were born through an experiment with fragrances and moisturisers, intended to be given as crafted gifts to friends and family. Price named the products after her mother, Carol Price.  As word of these homemade products quickly spread, Price was in business.  In 1999, she opened the doors to Carol’s Daughter’s first brick-and-mortar retail location in her native Brooklyn, NY.  Since then, the brand has matured forcefully with major media endorsements and high profile business partnerships –  investors include Jay-Z , Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith.  Price’s home-grown experiment has grown into one of the most popular ethnic beauty brands in the world.

Loving the Skin you’re In

No ode to the black hair and beauty industry would be complete without a mention of the venerable cosmetics brand Fashion Fair.

38 years young - Fashion Fair Cosmetics

Fashion Fair  was created for women of colour by the late John H. Johnson, publisher of  the famous Ebony and Jet magazines.  As a pioneering businessman, Johnson took the risk that most major cosmetic companies refused to take by entering the untapped market of makeup for women with deeper skin tones.

Johnson ( and his wife Eunice W. Johnson) produced the Capsule Collection, a mail-order package in 1969.   Based on the overwhelming response, it was clear there was a demand for a Black cosmetics line.  

Fine by Name....Fine by Nature

Fashion Fair Cosmetics was born in 1973 .  Ten years after the company opened its first U.S. counter, the company expanded its global reach with the first European initiative in London. In conjunction with the Ebony Fashion Fair, Fashion Fair cosmetics took Great Britain by storm by hosting a signature luncheon highlighting an array of products and extravagant fashions from the show.  The brand recently appointed the (oh so fine!) celebrity make-up artist Sam Fine as its Creative Make-up Director.

Fashion Fair is available at Debenhams, House of Fraser, Morley’s of Brixton  and of course…. Boots.

So, what about us Brits?

It is SO exciting to see a number of  Black British entrepreneurs taking the beauty industry storm – such as:

Michael Boadi – Boadicea The Victorious and Illuminum fragrances

Boadicea The Victorious was launched in 2009 by British  former celebrity hairstylist Michael Boadi.  He previously styled the stars including Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, before launching his first line of fragrances, Boadicea The Victorious  exclusively at Selfridges.

Stylist turned Perfumer - Micheal Boadi

The Illuminum brand followed in  2007 and shot to fame earlier this year when it was reported that the Duchess of Cambridge (yes Queen Kate!) wore one of his fragrances on her big day!  The Daily Mail and fragrance bloggers soon revealed that the bride wore White Gardenia Petals.  Every one of the 50ml bottles in stock was sold within moments of the news breaking, and an extensive waiting list accumulated  soon after.  Price – a very reasonable £70 for 50 ml

Fit for a Queen

Pat McGrath – Celebrity Make Up Artist

Changing faces – Pat McGrath

Hailing from Northampton,  Pat is one of the top make-up artists in the world.  She currently reigns supreme as the Global Cosmetics Creative Design Director for Procter and Gamble – the conglomerate behind some of the world’s most glamorous and powerful make up brand names- such as Max Factor, CoverGirl, SK-II and the more recently launched Dolce and Gabanna range.  Constantly in demand by top celebrities such as Madonna, Oprah and Scarlett Johansson, Pat McGrath’s editorial work with top photographers like Steven Meisel for Italian and American Vogue continually breaks new ground.

Daniel Vauud – the future of Fragrance creation

St Lucian born Daniel Vaudd is an inspirational young man.  A certified Cosmetic Scientist,  Daniel trained under evaluative perfumer John Ayres, the Director of the UK Fragrance Foundation, who taught him about the clarity and structure of perfume and how to refine his abilities.  Soon, he was asked to become the Global Colour Cosmetic Researcher for a major multinational, developing new and individual colours, as well as fragrances, for their cosmetic ranges.

Fragrance maestro - Daniel Vaudd

A chance encounter with the  world’s sole ‘ Professeur de parfum’, Roja Dove, led Dove to ask Daniel to be his personal researcher on the project ‘Essence of Perfume’ by Roja Dove. With his instincts and talents and his ever-broadening abilities and experience, Daniel soon began receiving requests to craft bespoke perfumes himself.

In 2010 Daniel launched his own line of fragrance – The House of Daniel Vaudd.

Just a few names of the movers and shakers  in the UK beauty industry… I am sure I will  be celebrating their talent for many  years to come.


Count your Blessings

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I was given a sample of a heavenly (no pun intended!) frangrance called Blessings.  I was enraptured by the warm, vanilla tones and was impressed by its longevity – it was easy to see that this was a fragrance of superior quality.  I promised to share my discovery with you, as it is as heart warming as the fragrance itself!

Blessings is not the creation of a large multi-national, nor is it another celebrity endoreded offering.  Blessings was conceived by a fragrance loving mother and wife (she even wear perfume to bed), whose passion and vision led to her fragrance being retailed in one of the world’s most famous department stores – the exclusive Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie in Harrods.

Belinda Brown

The creator is Belinda Brown, a native of the nation of Nigeria.   An endearing love for a classic moisturiser called Stella pomade (a rich heady mix of lavender, jasmine and vanilla) that her mother would smother her in as a child and a chance meeting with the perfume connoisseur Roja Dove, resulted in the fabulous fragrance .

So what is behind the name?  Belinda – whose Christian faith is an important part of her personal and professional life –  states that the inspiration came from the popular bible story of Mary’s Alabaster Box (the Gospel of Mark, 14:1-11).

In his Gospel, Mark doesn’t actually mention the name of the woman, but the Gospel of John identifies her as Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus – whom Jesus had raised from the dead.

Jesus is the guest of honour at a gathering, and as He sits and eats, Mary enters the room with an alabaster box of perfume. Scripture identifies this perfume as spikenard, which was a very expensive fragrance imported from India.  In verse 5, this small container of perfume is valued at three hundred pence, which was the equivalent of a year’s salary for a common worker.  Some believe that this perfume may have been Mary’s dowry.  If that is true, it was probably all that she really possessed.

Mary of Bethany with her Alabaster box of perfume

It was customary to wash the feet and anoint the head of a guest in your house, but Mary goes above and beyond.  John says that she anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. She then breaks the container, and pours all of its contents on Jesus’ head – an extreme act of love and devotion.

Belinda imagines that this loving act filled the house with an unforgettable fragrance and was thus keen to share her perfume and bring delight to others in the same way.

Blessings is  described as an exotic floral blend of  bergamot, lemon and mandarin with a heart of jasmine de Grasse and rose de Mai.  Cedar, sandalwood, tonka and vanillic notes create the warm dry down. The notes were personally chosen by Belinda in her private consultation with Dove.  A bespoke fragrance from Dove can take up to two years to create and prices start at £25,000!!

The expense was worth it, for once the fragrance had been created Belinda felt it was just to beautiful to keep to herself and asked Dove if it could be made available to other women.  Dove gave her his blessing and in early 2010 30 bottles of Blessing parfum went on sale in Harrods at £675…and sold out within a month!!

From this....

....to this! Blessings by Belinda Brown

Thankfully, for those of us who do not want to forsake a month’s rent to own this magnificent fragrance, an EDP is available at the more accessible price of £75 and can purchased via the Blessings Perfume website.


Northern Star

In my first blog post I enthused about my love for the city of London…well I love London EVEN more during London Fashion Week!

This vibrant, cosmopolitan city plays host to one of the most famous of fashion weeks  – and the fun and frolics kicked off last Friday.

I had the privilege of attending a fabulous show hosted by Le Geneve North Events (LGN Events) in the sumptuous interiors of the Charing Cross Hotel.

LGN Events has a clear mission – the LGN team are dedicated to assisting emerging and independent designers from around the world – offering them a platform to showcase their collections to the public, press and influential buyers during key fashion buying periods, such as LFW.

The show is aptly named A La Mode (French for ‘in fashion‘), and the designers most definitely showcased fashion forward, unique and cutting edge styles.  It is in its 6th season and is going from strength to strength.

Anniss - A La Mode, LGN Events (LFW Sept '11)

My favourite designers included Polish born Anniss – who brought an avant garde flair to the evening and the debonair Omar Mansoor, whose collection of alluring evening wear was breathtaking.

Omar Mansoor - A La Mode, LGN Events (LFW Sept '11)

The success of the show and  LGN Events is down to its founder and CEO Yolande Letshou – a pioneering and enterprising young woman!

Yolande is a natural entrepreneur with a passion for all things fashionable!  She has a stellar CV – which includes working for blue chip corporations such as the John Lewis group and organising major fashion events internationally.   She was also recently featured in the OHTV  ‘Black Women in Media‘ series.

Miss Letshou is definitely one to watch!

I had a fabulous time at the show – and the goody bag was the icing on the cake!

The enclosed items ranged from hair care to make up brushes, however I was particularly struck by a small vial of fragrance called Blessings.  The juice was exquisite and upon investigation I discovered that it was developed by a client of the fragrance authority and aficionado, Roja Dove.  The story behind the fragrance is SO compelling… all will be revealed in my next blog post!