Saturday, January 19, 2008

Thank you Crabtree & Evelyn! A Complete Swag Bag Review

Happy early valentine's day to me from Crabtree & Evelyn! Here goes, my opinion of every last yummy smelly treat:
1. Nadira Body Oil Spray: Hands down my favorite. The box is colorful, far fancier than the few-frills clear plastic spray bottle inside, but what's great here is the actual product. There's no better beauty product for winter in Chicago than body oil, and no better way to deliver its intense moisturising punch to ashy skin than via spray pump. And the scent here --sweet almond and fig -- is blended with Moroccan argan, a rare oil famous for its moisturizing power. It reminded me a bit of Chanel #5. Verdict: A must-buy!
2. Natural botanical body butter: Very lemony -- almost overpoweringly so, as if I had been mystic-sprayed with Lemon Pledge. That's probably due to the inclusion of lemongrass, as trumpted on the label. Although this isn't the subtle scent of the true stuff. The packaging, however, is lovely: brownish-redish glass with a brown metal lid embossed with the brand name and an olive branch. Patch test: skin was noticibly silkier, and the lemon smell subsided into a sweet, sugary smell after about 10 minutes. And lord knows I love me some cosmetics in a pot! Verict: If you like lemon, buy it -- use it and keep it out on your vanity for display.
3. Lip conditioner: Giant box contains a plastic tray holding a smallish tube of lip treatment. Hardly eco-sensitive packaging, folks. So already I am a bit annoyed -- what's the purpose of the box again? Why not just sell this stuff as is? Also vexing is the condition of the tube -- the stickers affixed to both sides of the tube extend past the surface area. leaving the corners sticking up ... the box is lovely enough but the whole shebang seems a bit off. That said, the lip conditioner smells wonderful -- lightly fruity! -- and goes on smoothly. Once on the lips, though, I have to say it's a bit unremarkable. But you know how I feel about lip conditioners and remedies (see post of a few months ago entitled "Battle of the Balms"). The SPF factor seems to be the sales point here, and the back of the box is set up like something you'd see on a prescription medication, with "Active Ingredients" -- yet they are all sunscreens and nothing seems to say it's higher than SPF 15. Verdict: Caveat emptor, I'd say.
4. A duo of perfumes, one called Lost, one called Found. I have to admit, this is a supercute idea. The Lost package is an eau de parfum, a squat, square bottle containing a light blue liquid that is, as its tagline suggests, actually "fresh, reflective, unique." Actually, I am no expert on this, but the scent is light and not bad. A good scent to give as a gift because the bottle is pretty and the scent is mild. Verdict: Great gift. The Found packaging mirrors the Lost packaging except this one is pink. The Found product I was given was the solid perfume, a tall stick of shimmery yet non-greasy fragrance, like a non-powdery stick deodorant. When I applied it, it left a light shimmer -- I wish I'd used it last night's Marc party. I liked this scent -- on me, it went on lightly fruity and mellowed to more of a vanilla note. I will definitely use this, probably when it gets warmer out. My usual summer fragrance is Mimosa from Christiane Celle, but I will make room for this one, too -- a real, ahem, FIND! Verdict: Buy it!
5. Rose & Glycerine Soap: Inside the creepy, Miss Havisham box is a beautiful perfectly shaped heart soap that would be cute, cute, cute if the box weren't so hideous and the soap reek like an old lady. Hey C&R -- keep the mold and fill it with cherry vanilla-scented soap, put it in a cute box (recycled paper maybe?) and market it to tweens. I promise your sales will triple. Verdict: Smell so overpowering you can't even keep it in your house. If you don't like rose, take this outside and leave it there.
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I MET MARC JACOBS! The Full Story on the Party Celebrating the Opening of his New Bucktown Boutique!

Last night, Marc & Co. swooped into town for a 700-person sit-down dinner dance celebrating the opening of the new Marc by Marc Jacobs boutique on North Ave. in Bucktown. It's a very Armitage-Avenue-looking outpost, but perhaps I am biased because I used to live down the street and lament the area's de-gritification. Anyway, back to me and Marc and the moonlight ...

The party went down on the third floor of a raw loft space near the five-points intersection, the kind of space marked at streetlevel by a single metal door and a single thick-necked, earpiece-wearing sentry. I wore my copper-satin accented sparkly knit Just Cavali dress because the invitation called for a dress code of "glitter and glamour." The crowd only half complied, but everyone gets a bit of a pass because the weather was so damn cold. The invitation instructed that it was to be a sit-down affair, starting promptly at 8 pm -- which came and went with nary a salad. But no matter, everyone was having fun, mingling and hoping that soon St. Marc would be there. And then, he was.

No ceremony surrounded his arrival -- no announcement, none of the pomp that could be expected to swirl around one of today's most influential designers. He just sort of walked in the door and surveyed the scene. The PR rep hustled to his side and brought him to one of the circular tables in the center of the room, all of which were identically decked with large rhinestones, votives and wooden airplane toys. A few other people appeared to clasp his hand and shoulder, then they disappeared. And suddenly, Marc was alone at the table. I lept into action. I was not going to have a repeat of the Rowley incident, where I stood feet away from a Major Designer and did not budge!

I ambled over to Mssr. Jacobs, extended my hand and said, "Welcome to Chicago!" He reflexively took my hand, which I clasped again with my other hand. His eyes wandered around the room and his hand stayed limp in mine. "Hey" he responded vaguely. Undeterred, I chirped "Cold enough for ya?" He looked at me -- right ... at ... me --- and became at once a real, animated person. "I know! I just got off a plane and I can't even deal!" I sure hope he meant that he couldn't deal with the cold weather, and my goofy, fear-infused enthusiasm wasn't the offense. Here's what he looked like: slim, small-boned, taut, close-cropped hair, beautiful eyes, earlobe bling, tan, midnight-blue slim-fitting suit with a touch of sheen.

And then, it was over.

Word was out that Marc was In the House, and I could see people coming. I said, "Well, welcome and thanks for everything," and speedwalked back to my table.

The rest of the party was nice, we decided it was like a big ole fancy wedding, minus any sort of announcement, program, agenda or otherwise. Bizarre but not unwelcome. Met lots of nice people (shout out to the women of Tangerine!), enjoyed the company of my lovely dinner companion, the ever-stylish and fashion renaissance woman Heather Kenny, and gobbled up every morsel placed in front of me: balsamic-drizzled salad with blue cheese followed by fish on a bed of couscous and with a chunky Mediterranean tomato sauce, then a trio of miniature desserts: a leaf-shaped butter cookie dipped in green tea white chocolate (superb), a small shortbread tart (tasteless) and a demitasse cup filled with orange-infused chocolate mousse (divine!) topped with a sliver of what appeared to be a clementine peel. Perhaps not. Pacing was a bit erratic, but the Voss water was flowing and Champagne (OK, Segura Viudas Cava) came often enough, and life was good.

I collected lots of interesting gossip tidbits including: Marc flew in about 200 people from NYC for the event, putting them up at the James and the Penninsula (guess which venue Marc was staying at!); for the opening of the store, he staffed it entirely with male models, also from NYC (they were leaving today); and the entire store was assembled in just four days.

Then the event wound down and it was time to descend to the second floor for The Disco, complete with a top-shelf open bar and Perry Ferrell spinning the tunes. Yes, the very same Perry, of Janes Addiction/Lollapalooza fame, sort of looked like Marc Jacobs with bad skin. Truly uncanny. (Gossip alert: I heard he was donating his time & talent because he was a Friend of Marc.) I wondered first whether they could swap Hedi Silmane suits, but then I couldn't help wondering why the music he was playing was such crap. OK, not crap, just ... ordinary. Gay disco standards mixed with 80s standards like White Lines. Yes, Funkytown was played. By Perry Ferrell. I was a bit disappointed. But only a bit - the entire evening was like a fairy tale, especially since Marc and I shared such a bonding moment. I should have hit him up for an invitation to his show, since my NY Fashion Week dance card is still pretty empty. Maybe next time. Marc. Maybe next time.

Swag-o-meter: Medium. Lots of yummy food and fabulous people watching more than made up for allowing guests to leave empty-handed. That said, Marc's party was a benefit. He has a long track record of loaning his talents and marketing pull to design and sell T-shirts to benefit worthwhile causes like the HRC, and last night was all about Common Threads, a terrific local organization that puts kids in the kitchen and teaches about nutrition and cultural heritage through food. Viva Marc -- an excellent choice. The short-sleeved grey Ts were $35, and yours truly bought one. They came in a cool Marc Jacobs Chicago tote that was also stuffed with a giant American Flag towel that gave me sort of the Ralph Lauren heebie jeebies, but had the address of the Damen Ave boutique emblazoned across the back in the signature Copperplate font, so guess which side I'll be displaying poolside! So, not a bad deal for a mere $35 -- I actually wish I would have bought more. So despite the fair-to-middlin swag factor, the value-added factor was high. Nice ROI for me, yo!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

what's next

am posting remotely from a city very remote from my beloved chicago. hint: Starts with a T and ends with a great big EXAS!! It's rodeo season here, and already I have spotted a snakeskin bomber jacket and several gold leather jackets. And here I thought the Ewings no longer exerted an influence on today's women ... sigh ...
A few things since i have been caught up in the holidaze aka familial dysfunction junction:
A yummy package of wonderful products from LUSH arrived that I will be trying out next week and of course reporting on.
A charming package arrived from CRABTREE & EVELYN including the new India Hicks scent arrived, test and reporting to follow ...
Also I want to give a shout out to, a great blog whose blogmistress (blogtrix?) is MUCH more dilligent than moi. Jamie, much love -- see you at NY Fashion week in a few?
Which reminds me, must ... buy ... ticket to NYC.
Unfortunately, I sold my place and the closing is on the day of the Rachel Roy show, then I can't get moved into the new place in time to make the start of the shows but will be there for the last three days.