Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The smell of Asia

Swarms of Asiatic tourists are a common sight in the world's great shopping cities. In Paris, they line the Louis Vuitton stores, queue at Ladurée outlets, and recoup their VAT once they have the shopping bags with all of the right brand names on them. They are also big perfume buyers, with the Paris Look store on the Boulevard Haussmann proving just as popular as its more famous neighbours, the Galeries Lafayette and the Printemps.

However, just as those from China and Japan follow the latest European trends, we in Europe are jumping steadily onto the Asian bandwagon. In addition to European brands like The Body Shop scenting their products with Japanese cherry blossoms, silk, citrus, peony, red flower and green tea, Japanese perfume designs and designers also enjoy popularity with European consumers.

Kenzo is among the best-known Japanese brands, with its distinctive red flower curving through many a shop window. Their other perfumes, though, are very much in the background, and perhaps overly so: it is almost a surprise to look at Kenzo's website and find that they sell other equally lovely perfumes, which I have never heard of due to the arguable over-publicising of Flower By Kenzo.

Shiseido, however, seems to under-publicise their scents, preferring instead to emphasise their makeup and anti-ageing lines. This is a shame, as their cutting-edge, cubic packaging is almost like a mecca to the perfume universe as light reflects through the packaging of Zen and Zen White Heat. Even though the body cream packaging bearing the same scent is not nearly so innovative, Shiseido would do well to push this aspect of their line forward to enhance the range of Japanese perfumes available to European consumers.

As previously mentioned, among the genuinely Japanese brands adorning department store shelves are others which are not Japanese but which take on the country's spirit, such as the Harajuku Lovers, invented by Westerner Gwen Stefani. Possibly the cutest perfume design on the market, the four Japanese girl figures are inspired by the singer's backup dancers, and add vibrancy and colour to the sometimes serious perfume departments. Also covering apparel, stationery and fashion accessories, they bring the friendly, sweet and kooky aspects of Japanese culture to a more mainstream audience.

On the more glamorous side are sideline brands such as the beautiful Hanae Mori, with its poetically-named products such as Butterfly and Magical Moon. It seems faintly tragic that while Hanae Mori is one of the most prominent and respected designers in Japan, her work has been marginalised in Europe.

Mainstream but still marginalised is the range of Issey Miyake perfume, whose tall conical bottles perhaps add something different to the perfume market in general, whether in the cool serene form of L'Eau d'Issey or in the traffic-light Summer version. Whatever your taste, it would appear that there is something out there for everyone when it comes to adding a little Oriental fragrance to your life.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Baylis and Harding French Lavender Moisturising Hand Lotion

RRP: £2 for 500ml

--What does the promo say?--
"Pamper your hands with this soothing hand lotion that has the uplifting aroma of French Lavender."

The only real practical problem with this packaging is in the first use: the hand cream pump is difficult to unlock, meaning that it first has to be removed, all of the hand cream wiped off it, and turned and held firmly from the inside before eventually unlocking. On the more positive side, the combination of the white with the purple is very soothing and the circular design makes the bottle fit clearly into the rest of Baylis and Harding's products, which also carry the same motif. As ever, though, rebranding may be beneficial in taking the brand away from its similarities to Molton Brown's packaging and allowing it to grow more into its own skin.

After washing and drying hands, massage the cream into hands until fully absorbed. No problems here; absorption is relatively quick and allows you to get on with your day immediately.

An off-white lotion which fits in and contrasts well with the lavender image and the purple motif. No visible residue or staining on the hands after use.

Matches the promised image one hundred per cent. Easily identifiable without being overpowering.

--Texture and consistency--
While a little runny or watery, it is still recognisably a cream which absorbs well and is non-greasy.

--Effects on the skin--
Effectively pampers and moisturises the skin, combatting dryness and freshening up your hands.

--Value for money--
While the originality of the branding can be easily criticised, ultimately this adds a more refined touch to any bathroom. Would recommend it.

perfect partners
French Lavender Hand Wash, £2 for 500ml
French Lavender Relaxing Bath Foam, £3 for 750ml
French Lavender Calming Shower Creme, £3 for 750ml

Baylis and Harding Wild Rose and Raspberry Luxurious Shower Creme

RRP: £3 for 750ml

--What does the promo say?--
"Pamper yourself with our Wild Rose and Raspberry Leaf luxurious shower creme - as refreshing as spring rain."

While the packaging is simple but effective, with glorious vibrant colours, this is detracted from by the fact that all of the Baylis and Harding packaging is remarkably reminiscent of the more upmarket Molton Brown range.

Slap on while under the shower, lather up, and rinse off. No problems there.

No visible residue is left on the skin after using this pearlescent shower creme, which lathers into off-white suds.

One of the more faithful of the range - while the grapefruit soap did not smell as expect, this tallies up more with its theme (rose), with just enough of a twist of raspberry to add something extra without being too sweet. 

--Texture and consistency--
A bit more viscous than perhaps its higher-end equivalent would be, but at such a low price, who really minds?

The bottle of course is huge and so will serve you well, especially as the amounts required to soap up are relatively small.

--Value for money--
I don't think anybody can be left in any doubt at the value presented by Baylis and Harding's products. However, I still feel that the branding is a little too close for comfort to the higher end brand that it aspires to resemble, and that a more individual identity would only boost its sales.

perfect partners
Wild Rose and Raspberry Sensuous Bath Foam, £3 (750ml)
Wild Rose and Raspberry Moisturising Hand Lotion, £2 (500ml)
Wild Rose and Raspberry Cleansing Hand Wash, £2 (500ml)  

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Scandalous Gorgeously Rich Moisturising Shampoo and Conditioner

RRP: £5.49 each, or 2 for £7 at Superdrug (correct as of January 4th 2011)

--What does the promo say?--
"This shampoo creates a more luxurious lather than regular shampoos and feels wonderfully soft in the hand. The fragrance fills the room instantly, creating a pampering spa experience. Conditioning Murumuru butter will leave your hair feeling fresh and revitalised....Murumuru butter and vitamins have been added to this conditioner to nourish the hair to a glossy shimmer. The fragrance of the conditioner creates an entrancing layering effect. The feminine scent is released with every turn of your head."

The combination of black, pink and gold creates an instant effect of a girls' night out, and in terms of practicalities it's fairly effective too (though the conditioner is a little more controlled while the shampoo rushes out of the tube a bit enthusiastically). Attention-grabbing, young and funky.

Proceed as usual - lather shampoo into wet hair, rinse out, and then massage conditioner through, leaving it for a few minutes before rinsing.

A very ordinary off-white colour for both; perhaps would have been nice if it had been a pale pink to echo the pink of the bottle design (I think adding gold glitter would be a bit much though).

Now, I don't know what kind of women they asked when putting their promotional material together and doing their market research, but sorry, Scandalous - I don't think this scent is feminine at all. In fact, it's masculine enough to be off-putting - a very heavy scent which just smells like shaving cream and aftershave. This might just be permissible in a unisex product, but quite clearly the packaging would send red-blooded men running for the hills, and most women (funnily enough) don't want to smell as if they don't have any shampoo of their own and so have just nicked their bloke's. Or am I just the exception there?! I don't think the murumuru butter is to blame as other websites describe the stuff as having a "natural, earthy aroma" - irritatingly, though, any other fragrances are only classified on the bottle under the umbrella term 'Parfum', so are untrackable. Grrr.

--Texture and consistency--
Smooth and luxurious. No problems there - including with washing out.

--Effects on the hair--
Makes hair silkier and less flyaway, and even keeps my hair in good enough condition so that I don't have to wash it every day. Top.

--Value for money--
£5.49 a bottle seems quite expensive seeing as competitors in this price bracket for the same amount of product include John Frieda, Tigi and Lee Stafford. However, the 2 for £7 deal is considerably better, so I'd take advantage of that if I were you. Truthfully, though, the only thing really stopping me from purchasing this product regularly is that smell - to me it is really off-putting, and made me realise just how large a part scent plays in our choice of product. Go back to the drawing board on that, Scandalous, and then I'll get back to you.

perfect partners
Scandalous Intensively Glossy Rescue Treatment, £5.99/150ml
Scandalous Flaunt It Firm Hold Hairspray, £5.49/250ml
Scandalous Seductive Shimmer Serum, £5.99/50ml

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Wishing you a beautiful new year

...and great apologies for my rubbishness as a blogger in these past few months. One of my resolutions for 2011 is to be better!

Coming up: beauty news for the year ahead, and reviews of Baylis & Harding, Arbonne, Scandalous and Soap & Glory products...