Soirée Snapshots: BeautyMark, Loft 82

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! From holiday media previews to pop-up shops, here's a look at what I was up to last week.

It's a bright Christmas indeed at BeautyMark, where the #neonnoel theme meant lots of DIY fluorescent decorations and holiday cheer. Their makeup selection (hello, new Butter London, Essie, and Deborah Lippmann nail polishes and ILIA lip colours) and skincare (Tata Harper and Consonant Body, to name two of my favourite organic brands) was as phenomenal as ever--great gift ideas for the beauty lover on your list. New and noteworthy this year: the Beauty Society rewards club (sign up, and for every $100 you spend, you get $5 in reward dollars to spend in-store), and the Varnish Nail Lounge upstairs (experienced nail technician Linh Khuu helms it).

Aren't these knit hot water bottles adorable?

I spotted some new products in the mix of old favourites. MaskerAide sheet masks (not shown) are based on the sheet masks so popular in Asia, but better for you and the environment: The serum contains no parabens, sulfates, artificial fragrance, or mineral oil, and the packet is recyclable while the mask is biodegradable. At $6 a pop and available in a variety of formulas for different skin concerns, they make affordable and fun stocking stuffers. Pink Door Design Lab--a line of luxury bath products created in Vancouver--just launched this year, but is already creating buzz with its thoughtful packaging and lovely scents. Their multi-tasking massage candles are a terrific gift for the perpetually stressed, providing ambiance and soothing aromatherapy while melting into massage oil.

Loft 82 may be new to Vancouver, but its sister store OAK + FORT has been a Gastown fixture for some time now. The Alberta-based import launched its pop-up shop at 840 Granville St. last Wednesday. Unlike OAK + FORT's minimalist, highly unified aesthetic, Loft 82 embraces an eclectic mix of textures, fabrications, patterns, and colours inspired by seasonal trends, vintage design, and antiques. Definitely worth checking out.


Alan Anderson, Costume Jewelry Maestro

Alan Anderson stands next to the twin of the cuff formerly owned by the late Elizabeth Taylor.

As I mentioned in my previous post, few things top an eye-catching statement necklace when it comes to dressing up for the holidays. But while my budget is more H&M than haute creation, those who consider themselves costume jewelry connoisseurs need look no further than Canadian designer Alan Anderson. Anderson's bold bijoux have been spotted on the red carpet (Viola Davis wore one of his necklaces at the London premiere of The Help), magazine covers (Katy Perry on the cover of Italian Vogue)--and perhaps most thrilling of all--amidst Elizabeth Taylor's vast collection of jewels on auction at Christie's. I caught up with Anderson while he was visiting Holt Renfrew in September and had a chance to ask him about everything, from his beginnings as a jewelry designer to his fascination with Hollywood.

Humble beginnings: A self-described "A-type personality," Anderson pursued a career in design and visual display for 20 years and collected vintage costume jewelry as a hobby before becoming a self-taught, full-time designer. A chance meeting with another designer led to him buying vintage jewelry-making components from a Rhode Island wholesaler. He then spent hours experimenting at his kitchen table, learning how to weld and solder. "Some of [the pieces] along the way were distasters, and a couple pieces turned out really good," he recalls. After another 1-2 years of experimentation, he was turning out fairly good pieces that he gave away as gifts. As more people began wearing Anderson's pieces, the word-of-mouth buzz around his designs grew.

So what attracts him to costume jewelry as opposed to fine jewelry? "The size! I don't believe in small or subtle."

The inspirations behind his latest collection: The textiles and vivid colours of India, particularly those he spotted while walking through Little India in Toronto. Anderson also draws a lot of inspiration from Old Hollywood films and actresses.

When he's not making jewelry, he can be found... reading historical books and biographies ("I'm an information junkie"), or cooking (his specialty is anything baked, and he makes his own jams and preserves).

Look for Alan Anderson's jewelry at Holt Renfrew.


Playing Dress-up with Wear Else (Part 2)

Trina Turk coat (borrowed from Wear Else) | Chanel purse | H&M dress and necklace | DKNYC booties

It may be Thanksgiving long weekend and Black Friday for my American readers, but here in Canada the race toward the holiday season began shortly after Remembrance Day. I've been to one holiday party already and have two more before this month ends. Can you believe it? Christmas seems to begin earlier every year.


Product Review: LUSH Twilight Shower Gel

The latest product from LUSH has nothing to do with vampires, werewolves, or Kristen Stewart, but you might be excused for thinking that based on the name. The misleading moniker that Twilight Shower Gel ($9.95-27.95) bears instead refers to the soothing, calming properties of its star ingredients: lavender and ylang ylang. I've been using it for the past couple of weeks and it does everything that a shower gel should. The sparkly purple formula lathers well (particularly with a pouf), smells great, and rinses away cleanly without drying out skin. Best of all, its lavender scent does seem to help me sleep a little more deeply at nights. Taking a shower with Twilight and enjoying a hot mug of caffeine-free tea has become a pre-bedtime ritual.

So, in a nutshell: Pick up this limited-edition shower gel while you can. Sleep well. Vampires and werewolves not included.


Soirée Snapshots: MUGLER x The Room, Joe Fortes, Man Repeller x Secret Location, The Cross

One of the many incredible couture outfits by MUGLER that was on display at The Room

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I've been pretty busy lately! Here's a look at some of the events I had the privilege of attending in the past few weeks.

I went to the MUGLER x The Room event at The Bay downtown not knowing what to expect, having only known the label through its infamous gourmand fragrance, Angel. The couture outfit retrospective was therefore a great opportunity to get acquainted with this design house's past work, which was eclectic and wildly inventive.

Think gowns inspired by insects (crafted from diverse materials like sequins, glitter-embellished scales, and horsehair), a motorcycle-inspired bustier (complete with protruding rear-view mirrors and tasseled handlebars), and a cyborg-esque molded moto jacket. Seeing these garments up close was a real treat. The label, founded by Thierry Mugler in 1974, lay dormant until 2011 when Nicola Formichetti was tapped as creative director. With such a rich past and an intriguing fashion talent at the helm, I'm eager to see what this label has in store for the future.

And speaking of treats, Joe Fortes was decked out in its holiday best as it served an assortment of tantalizing dishes to a hungry crowd at their holiday tweet-up party. The chicken and waffles, tuna tataki, and seafood all met with approval, while the raw oyster bar kept tweeters more than satisfied. Drinks and complimentary gingerbread men rounded out the evening. P.S. Check out their newly launched seafood-laden brunch menu.

Gastown shop Secret Location played host to Leandra Medine of Man Repeller fame last week. The New York-based blogosphere darling was greeted by an enthusiastic and well-heeled crowd, who patiently lined up for their chance for a meet-and-greet with Medine.

In case it wasn't obvious from this post, I've been on a real home decor and nesting kick lately, so of course I couldn't resist The Cross Decor & Design's nine-year anniversary celebration. Guests enjoyed canapés, champagne, and a raw oyster bar as they shopped the store's elegant wares. For many, the 20% one-night-only discount was a chance to stock up on holiday decorations and Voluspa candles. As for me, I bought some vintage-inspired glassware and design accents.

(Buffalo) Check, Please

I used to have a short-sleeved, tie-neck blouse from Forever 21 in buffalo plaid that looked great with a basic black-cardi-and-jeans combo. But being from Forever 21 and of dubious quality, after a year of wear it mysteriously shrank so much in the shoulders that I had to give it away. (The boy was kind of sad about it. He loved that blouse on me.) Anyway, I didn't realize what a buffalo-checked hole this blouse left in my wardrobe until we were in Seattle last month and I spotted this J. Crew shirt. In the dressing room, it was love at first wear. The soft cotton--no, make that softest cotton ever--felt perfectly worn in and draped just so. Forget online stalking this shirt hoping it would go on sale; I was sold right then and there.

Since then, I've been extra aware of this perennially popular print while window-shopping in stores and online. The good news for those who are as much a fan of it as I am is that buffalo plaid is back with a vengeance. Sleeker cuts, more luxe fabrics, and oversize graphic patterns make this new crop of printed pieces a little more fashion-forward, a little less lumberjack. Wear them during the holiday season for a festive vibe, and pull them out again next autumn when the leaves start falling. Here are some of my favourite pieces in one of my favourite prints.


Lisa's Most Coveted List

Greetings, lovely readers! Sorry for the unexpected hiatus last week; I needed a break so I could focus on work and other priorities. Now that I'm back though, it's time for a long overdue edition of my Most Coveted List.

This edition is going to consist mostly of things for, in, and around the home. Ever since temperatures have dropped, I've gone into nesting mode. After all, few things beat that super cozy feeling one gets from staying indoors when the weather is dreary. To make my nest extra cozy, I've been shopping for holiday decor, vintage-inspired glassware, and scented candles in the hopes of making this house (well, condo) feel more like a home. Here are five home finds I am loving or lusting after right now--some unattainable, some budget-friendly.

1. Armchairs with legs like the Aquarius Allure armchair (pictured left) and the Pipeline Series chair by Jeff Messerschmidt ($1,200; available from Kelly Wearstler). Lately the boy and I have been on the lookout for an armchair for our living area: something that's padded and comfy but still sleek and streamlined, something that has a minimal footprint in our open concept space. Either of these beauties would fit in beautifully. (The only downside is that one of these chairs costs more than a mortgage payment, but one can dream.)

2. Glass butter dish (available at The Cross Decor & Design and Crate & Barrel). Sometimes the simplest things can make a house a home. Such is the case with the humble glass butter dish. I didn't know how much we needed one until the boy remarked on it as he was folding the greasy, crumpled wrapper around the remainder of our butter for the umpteenth time. This version has a solid heft to it, a simple and timeless design, and is big enough for a full block of butter.

3. Illume extra long matches ($5; available at Chapters). These 4.5" long matches make it possible to light that last inch of a scented glass-ensconced votive candle without scorching my fingers. Genius. Why didn't other match manufacturers think of this sooner?

4. Homecooked meals. Comfort food like roast chicken and baby potatoes (served with spring mix salad and pineapple for a simple yet sumptuous-feeling Sunday dinner) reigns supreme this time of the year. I've been making roast chicken every two weeks or so and saving the bones for stock.

5. TWG Red of Africa tea ($30.50 at Urban Tea Merchant or Dean & Deluca). On particularly cold nights, I like to cozy up on my couch with a soft throw, a good movie, and a cup of caffeine-free tea. My recent favourite is this Red of Africa tea which I received in a gift bag during Fashion's Night Out Vancouver. Described as "a dessert in itself," the loose leaves produce a steaming, fragrant cup of tea with the heady aromas of vanilla and sweet spices. It's dessert without the sugar and the guilt.

Your turn! What are your essentials for making your home extra cozy this winter?


Today's Outfit: Varsity Blues

Madewell letterman sweater-jacket | JACOB pretty bows blouse (c/o) | J. Crew no. 2 pencil skirt (floral brocade version available) | Joe Fresh boots | Vintage Coach bag (new re-issue available) | Beausoleil glasses

When I wrote about my love of varsity sweaters, gorgeous blogger Leesh commented, "I have seen these varsity jackets all around, but I am unsure of how to incorporate it into my wardrobe and still look girly." As soon as I read that, I interpreted her comment as a challenge of sorts and decided that the debut outfit post featuring my Madewell letterman sweater-jacket should be as feminine as possible. The sweater's sportiness is the perfect counterpoint to the JACOB sleeveless blouse's dainty bows and pintucks and the pencil skirt's watercolour floral print. With sleek ankle boots and a vintage navy leather bag, the overall effect is girly without being overly twee.


Product Review: Philosophy Purity Made Simple Cleanser

When did nighttime facial cleansing get so complicated? With makeup remover, precleansing solution, cleanser, toner, and exfoliator, this one seemingly simple step can easily take 10-15 minutes at least. And on nights when I'm really tired, I confess, this entire routine seems too daunting and I go to sleep without washing my face. (One of the ultimate beauty sins, I know.)

Luckily, Philosophy Purity Made Simple cleanser ($10-$49.50 for different sizes) is salvation in a bottle for lazy-minded girls like me. This gentle but highly effective cleanser is suitable for all skin types, and the lotion-y formulation removes all manner of makeup, dirt, and oil in one easy step without leaving behind any residue. I've been using it for the past two weeks and love how much quicker getting ready for bed is because of it. Purity Made Simple lifts away all traces of mascara and the matte-est, most budge-proof lip colours easily and quickly. I mostly use it at night to wash everything off at once, but in a pinch I'll use it like any makeup remover by squeezing some on a cotton pad and pressing it to my eyes and lips. It works equally well both ways.

I'll admit: Having to switch cleansers and put away Purity Made Simple to test other cleansers for reviews is going to make me pretty sad. It's just that good. And this pleasant re-introduction to Philosophy has piqued my interest in its other products.

Available at Sephora, The Bay, Shoppers Drug Mart, and BeautyMark.


A Little Home Decor Update

I love window-shopping in home decor stores, but I usually come out empty-handed because 1) I can be picky, 2) I don't want to clutter up our minimalist space with too many knickknacks, and 3) we already have the basics. Despite my urge to keep things simple though, I have an even more overwhelming urge to change things up a bit to reflect the changing seasons. My compromise between the two resulted in chrysanthemums from my mom's garden and a few mini pumpkins scattered around the condo: pretty decorations while they last, natural and biodegradable, and therefore guilt-free, when it's time to get rid of them. The new pair of bird-shaped salt-and-pepper shakers (serving a purely ornamental purpose on the side table) was courtesy of my little brother (so thoughtful!).

Since my last home decor update, not much has changed really. We bought a glossy white dining table and some dining chairs (one orange, three white). The flatscreen TV and media stand are set up, so we spend a lot of rainy nights in watching Netflix with a lit scented candle and a glass of wine.I guess this means we're settling in!

What do you do to shift your home decor from season to season?


My Favourite Fall Nail Polishes

Reds, greys, and plums will always have a place in my fall manicure rotation. This season though, I find myself reaching for deep, dark metallic hues with richness and depth, shades that sometimes change colour depending on the light. Here are my top favourites.

  • China Glaze 'Smoke and Ashes' and 'Stone Cold' ($8 each, available at Spa Boutique) are both part of the limited-edition Hunger Games collection, which, luckily for us, is still available online. 'Smoke and Ashes' is black with metallic green glitter, while 'Stone Cold' is slate grey with pewter-coloured glitter. Both go on darker than they appear in the bottle and change colour in bright light. Plus, they both feature China Glaze's signature 3-free long-wearing formula.
  • I'm more than a little in love with Estee Lauder Pure Colour Nail Lacquer in 'Viper' ($25, available at Holt Renfrew), a metallic green so dark that it looks black except under the brightest of lights. Estee Lauder's creative director Tom Pecheux created this shade and the other rich hues in the Beyond Black collection intending to "capture the intensity and naughty side of Paris when it truly comes alive." 'Viper' is sophisticated but edgy, so mission accomplished, I'd say.
  • Although I'm not a fan of how quickly it chips, I just can't say no to Butter LONDON's clever names and pretty colours. 'Shag' ($17, available at Spa Boutique)--a lovely copper that looks like a bright, shiny penny--is part of the new autumn/winter 2012 collection. Metallic blue 'Big Smoke' ($17, available at Spa Boutique) is an oldie but a goodie.

What are your favourite fall polishes?


Chatting with Eddie Malter, Makeup Artist for L'Oréal Paris Canada

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Eddie Malter, official makeup artist with L'Oréal Paris Canada, at the beautiful Hotel Georgia for a one-on-one chat. From L'Oréal's new product launches to fall/winter trends and makeup tips for Asians, we had a blast talking about all things beauty. Here are some of the highlights.

New products: So many! The next time you're in the drugstore, keep your eyes peeled for Infallible Lacquer Liner 24H (a long-lasting gel liner that dries to a shiny finish), Magic Lumi concealer pen (think of it as a budget-friendly version of YSL's Touche Eclat), Magic Smooth Soufflé blush (light-as-air, creamy texture that blends into skin for a natural-looking flush), and Magic Skin Beautifier BB Cream (available in four shades, contains self-adjusting colour pigments for a flawless finish). Fans of L'Oréal Voluminous mascara will be pleased to see two new formulas join the Voluminous family: Power 24H, a longlasting formulation with collagen spheres and a huge brush for even thicker lashes; and False Fiber Lashes, which uses a smaller brush to coat lashes with fine fibres (ideal for Asian lashes!). Meanwhile, the product launch I'm most excited about is Colour Caresse by Colour Riche, a series of moisturizing lipstick/balm hybrids in twelve gorgeous, wearable colours.

Fall/winter beauty trends: Classic looks like the smoky eye, the red lip, and dewy, flawless skin aren't going anywhere, according to Malter. The smoky eye gets a fresh update though: Instead of using multiple shadows and products, try using one product to line your eyes, then smudge the line outward. And for the ladies who haven't taken the plunge and tried red lipstick yet, Malter swears by Colour Riche Intense in Red Passion, which he declares a universally flattering shade.

Flattering shades for Asian skin tones: To find colours that flatter his clients, Malter first decides whether the client is "cool" (i.e. looks best in blues, purples, and greens) or "warm" (i.e. looks better in reds, corals, and oranges). In his experience, East Asians are the hardest to classify because even though most of us have dark hair and dark eyes, we can be either warm or cool. So, which one am I? After a few minutes of intense deliberation, Malter decided I was cool and advised me to try fuchsia lipstick and red shades with a touch of blue in them.

Malter's favourite cosmetic for women: Mascara, hands down. A few swipes do wonders to wake up a tired face. To get extra mileage out of your mascara, do what Malter does and gently bend the brush against the mascara tube's opening to create an angled applicator. This lets you coat every lash from every angle.


Today's Outfit: Leather Sleeves and Autumn Calm

MICHAEL Michael Kors tweed blazer with faux leather sleeves (purchased at Privilege) | H&M striped tee | Gap 1969 Always Skinny jeans | Pour La Victoire 'Marne' boots | Vintage Coach bag (brand new re-issue also available) | Beausoleil glasses

The craziness of October seems to have calmed down in the last two weeks. Media previews and fashion events have given way to quiet weeknights at home with a glass of wine and Netflix (perfect for this self-proclaimed homebody). Even my workload is more manageable at the moment. A slower pace of life has also made want to "slow down," sartorially speaking, with easy outfits and minimal makeup, of which this is a prime example. These photos were taken the weekend I pulled outerwear pieces from Wear Else for our shoot. It was after my craziest week in October, when I had ten events and appointments in five days on top of a full work week. Phew!

The only downside of resting is that my body has mistakenly interpreted a slower pace of life as permission to get sick. I'm feeling a bit under the weather right now and hope it doesn't turn out for the worse. *crosses fingers*


Luxe or Less: Lip Crayons

Matte dramatic lip colours will always have a place in my heart, but lately I've been wearing lipstick-balm hybrids on a near daily basis. They provide just the right amount of colour to wake up a tired face, moisturize all day long, and are office-appropriate to boot.

For all these reasons, two similar products at two different price points have been in heavy rotation lately. Cult favourite Clinique Chubby Sticks ($19) deliver on moisture and colour thanks to the mango and shea butters in the formula. For about half the price, Revlon Just Bitten Kissable balm stain (available at London Drugs) will do the same (although the formula is a tad less moisturizing than Clinique's). Both are thick retractable crayons that don't require sharpening. Both are incredibly fun to put on and don't require a mirror. Now the difficult part is, which one to choose?

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