Thursday, 31 March 2011

Smooth Operator

Smooth Operator..

Harrods has been satiating the needs of its discerning clientele for some time with their uber-luxurious By Appointment personal shopping service. Now, courtesy of cult beauty brand NUBO (Pixie Lott and Kylie are fans), the exclusive (and oh-so-clever) Beauty by Appointment concept is bringing personally tailored beauty to you, via the Harrods Beauty Apothecary. For one week each month, those in the know (yourselves included you lucky devils), will be able to select a bespoke NUBO beauty treatment from a capsule menu, catering to every possible skin concern, from boosting radiance and deep cleansing to banishing fine lines and wrinkles.

The menu consists of five exclusive treatments, though these can be combined to create a bespoke, tailor-made service, to satiate your specific needs at the time:

NUBO Oxygen Surge (Ideal for sensitive skin)

A reparative treatment for devitalised, distressed or damaged skin that delivers an instant plumping sensation. A two part facial to plump and heal the skin, using NUBO's innovative oxygen plasma mask (created with NASA technology no less), followed by a treatment to repair and restore damaged or tired skin.

NUBO Cryolift Facial (Ideal for anti-ageing)

A new concept facial to stimulate and reboot the skin's ecosystem. The proven technique of cooling shock therapy kick starts the skin to reduce lines, lift and plump. The heating, then cooling creates an immediate tightening and lifting sensation. This is the perfect treatment for tired or unbalanced skin.

NUBO White Diamond Radiance (Ideal for brightening)

Diamonds are forever in NUBO's new facial to improve uneven pigmentation, skin tone and brightness. Using innovative methods, White Diamond Radiance instantly penetrates deep into the layers of the skin to create unrivalled luminosity that is visible immediately.

NUBO Jet Facial (Ideal for deep cleansing)

NUBO's turbo-powered, deepl cleansing, rapid results facial for young or oily skin types. The combination of unprecedented exfoliation and NUBO's detox mask leaves skin feeling smooth, cleansed and super charged.

NUBO Black Tie Men's Treatment (Exclusively for chaps)

All the facials described above are suitable for men, however, NUBO's Black Tie treatment specifically addresses all the unique characteristics of men's skin: razor irritation, dry and patchy skin. This treatment imparts a calming and soothing sensation on the skin. The perfect treatment for a NUBO man.

Being a friend of the brand, I had the privilege of popping into the Harrods Beauty Apothecary to see what all the hype was about (and boy was I glad I did).

The minute I caught sight of expert facialist Caroline Htchcock, I knew I was in safe hands. Being a make-up artist, I'm a firm believer in living and breathing my work. I'd have alarm bells ringing in my head if my hair stylist had a dodgy barnet, and by the same token, I'd be some what unsettled if my facialist had awful skin. Caroline was the complete antithesis of this, her skin literally glowed as if she had a mega watt light bulb inside her. It's my job to notice things, my friends don't call me "hawk eyes" for nothing, as there's very little that escapes my attention, especially when it comes to one's appearance. Caroline obviously attended the Audrey Hepburn school of beauty as she is immaculate from head to toe, from her perfect LBD and shoes, to her pristine hair, perfect brows, artfully applied make-up, chic dark nails and pore-less skin. Put it this way, if Gabrielle Chanel were alive today, Caroline would be her personal beautician.

I'm normally staunchly against cosmetic surgery (unless it is so good that you can barely tell). On examining Caroline's exquisite features, I couldn't help but notice that she didn't have one line on her forehead. For the sake of honest journalism, I discretely asked her if she's had any botox, to which she intimated that she had (in her forehead), together with a little filler in her cheeks. I don't know who did her work, but whoever they are, I must state for the record that they are the Rembrandt of injectables, because Caroline is a walking masterpiece!

Now before you all start thinking that I'm rude beyond imagination, my query wasn't solely to satiate my own inquisitive nature. NUBO have just launched their hot new Post-Injection Treatment (currently exclusive to the Harrods Beauty Apothecary), which promises accelerated recovery for distressed skin. As I haven't had any botox or fillers, I wanted to know if Caroline had tested the product herself after one of her treatments, and if so, what effect the product had on her down time. She admitted that the localised bruising she experiences after botox usually takes a week to heal, but that applying the Post Injection Treatment in the morning, throughout the day, and last thing at night, reduced her down time from one week to two days (how incredible is that).

She told me that the secret to the product's efficacy was the Vitamin K and Vitamin P content, together with the lacto-peptides, which work in tandem to rapidly soothe irritation and restructure the connective tissue (I knew there was a reason Tatler has been buzzing about this gem of a product). Caroline also shared that the product is ideal to tackle a variety of skin complaints head on, ranging from high colour and rosacea to broken capillaries and acne, working on all fronts to swiftly calm the skin and minimise redness. Given that the NUBO by Appointment facials are a modest £50 for 50 minutes (fully redeemable against NUBO products), I'd suggest snapping up the Post Injection-Treatment, which quite frankly is a bargain at £48!

But I digress - let's get back to my fabulous facial. I have to admit, blogging about all things beauty means I spend an inordinate amount of time in front of a laptop, which not only sucks every drop of moisture from my skin but also leaves me with dark circles (how attractive). Caroline could see that I needed a boost, so she designed a bespoke treatment just for me, combining the Oxygen Surge and Cryo Lift treatments to instantly boost my lacklustre complexion.

My 50 minutes of fabulousness commenced with Caroline cleansing my face with the Velvet Cleansing Cream, which, just as the name suggests, leaves skin feeling a smooth as velvet, thanks in large part to a nifty line banishing and collagen boosting tri-peptide. Wheatgerm and coconut oils restore optimum elasticity and replenish moisture levels. This cleanser is so divine that I'm using it on a lot of my high end make-up clients in Urban Retreat at Harrods. Actually, the entire NUBO line is so heavenly that I've started to rely on it as frequently as other super-luxe brands in Urban Retreat, such as Creme De La Mer, Sisley, La Prairie, Rodial, Elemis and Omorovicza. One of my clients from Hong Kong was so enamoured with the cleanser when I prepped her skin with it today, that she snapped it up on the spot.

Given my naturally oily skin, I'm a huge fan of twice-weekly exfoliation. If I don't exfoliate regularly, I can guarantee that I'll get breakouts. Similarly, anything relating to microdermabrasion gets my vote, as there's nothing better to instantly brighten the complexion, diminish fine lines, and prep skin for nourishment. Given this information, you can imagine how much I enjoyed the Diamond Peel & Reveal treatment. This uber-luxurious two step, at home microdermabrasion treatment contains micronized diamonds (how chic). I can't stand exfoliators with large grains, which inevitably drag on the skin, causing more harm than good. But the micronized diamond particles in this product duo are so minute, that you get the most satisfying exfoliation.

To date, my favourite microdermabrasion treatment had been one I'd had at The Refinery, but this at home treatment knocks The Refinery's professional treatment out of the park. Once you've massaged The Exfoliator (containing the diamond dust) into the skin for a couple of minutes, you then add The Activator (containing fruit and lactic acid suspended in gel form) for the optimum in skin smoothing and brightening (in minutes). I used this on the aforementioned client from Hong Kong today as her skin was dry, dull and flaky from frequent flying and sun exposure, and I was amazed at how smooth it left her skin. When I cleaned her face after massaging both products into her skin, the cotton pads literally came away a dull grey colour (all the dead skin cells had been removed, paving the way for a host of nourishing NUBO treats).

Once Caroline had sloughed off all my dull dead skin with the Diamond Peel & Reveal, she gave me a little modern "Mummy" treatment, wrapping my face in hot towels infused with peppermint oil, to warm my facial muscles and open my pores.

I have to admit that this part of the treatment was amazing, the heat from the towels was so comforting, it was like being enveloped in a peppermint oil cocoon! Up until this point, I'd been bombarding Caroline with questions, but it was it this point that I finally shut up and started to enjoy the experience.

Having warmed my facial muscles with the hot towels, Caroline then treated me to the most amazing face, scalp, neck and shoulder massage with the NUBO Bien-Etre Serum. This divine holistic oil is infused with juniper essential oil, known for its detoxifying properties, expressed with lemon, lime and vanilla oils, which combine to, as the name suggests, impart feelings of Bien-Etre (well being). The first thing that hits you about this oil is the incredible "green" scent. It is so sharp and invigorating, immediately clearing the mind of any worries or stress.

I'm not known for being especially quiet (the term motor mouth could have been coined for me), but you can see here, that Caroline's massage skills had me on the brink of slumber (why go Buddhist when she can get you to Nirvana in well under 50 minutes). She is resolutely petite, with the physical stature of David, and the strength of Goliath. I couldn't believe how strong her hands were, I felt like a piece of melting putty in her superbly capable hands. Having hit the gym especially heavy that week, my neck and shoulders were as stiff as a board and full of painful knots, but Caroline expertly kneaded away every lump, leaving me in a state of bliss.

There's nothing less satisfying than booking in for a massage, only to have a therapist pussyfoot around from the task at hand, but Caroline approaches massage like a commando, she goes in for the kill, getting the job done line a pro. I'd book in with her again solely on the basis of her massage skills. I find it incredibly hard to switch off as my mind is so over-active, but somehow, she was able to relax me in a way that I've never experienced before. She told me that she also practices Reiki, when customers are receptive to it.

I'm a huge fan of all things holistic and definitely believe in alternative therapies. I can't help thinking that this marvellous woman has magic hands. Whether it was energy flowing from her finger tips, or just exceptional skill, she is far more than just a typical beauty therapist. As she massaged the pressure points on my brow and temples, just as she had done with my neck and shoulders, she intuitively read the areas where I was harbouring tension, as if she were reading braille with her finger tips. With just the right amount of pressure, I felt my energy channels unblocking, releasing all the pent up tension and anxiety I'd been manifesting for goodness knows how long.

Having rendered me almost unconscious with her expert hands, it was time for me to experience NUBO's hot new Cryo Lift Face Mask (launching this summer). Ginger and Peppermint oils combine to stimulate blood flow, simultaneously warming and cooling to invigorate the complexion, as well as the senses. Having placed some cooling cotton pads over my eyes, she smoothed the mask over my skin, and proceeded to massage a high tech device over my face, emitting sonic waves to aid the mask's active ingredients to penetrate deep into the deepest layers of the skin. Though odd at first, the subtle buzzing sensation was strangely soothing. The mask is without doubt stimulating, I could feel a strong tingling sensation all over my face, it was as if my skin had woken up from a deep slumber and had been electrocuted into life.

Once she had removed all traces of the Cryo Lift Mask, it was time to boost my complexion even more with NUBO's Plumping Oxygen Boost. The technology for this groundbreaking serum is derived from NASA research no less. The world renowned aeronautics institute created the technology for this serum, initially to ensure the optimum skin health of astronauts in space. Skin cells rely on oxygen for optimum healthy function, but as there is no oxygen in space, NASA created this oxygen plasma especially for astronauts. NUBO being the cutting edge brand that it is, purchased this technology from the NASA scientists, and formulated it into a cosmetic serum. The first thing you notice when it comes into contact with the skin, is a bracing icy sensation, it's almost as if you can feel it pumping life into your skin. As my skin was already tingling from the peppermint and ginger oils from the Cryo Lift mask, the Plumping Oxygen Boost was especially bracing.

This mask was also accompanied by a crazy gadget, this time, a mini pen that blew a cooling jet of oxygen all over the face. Caroline paid special attention to my under eye area, which was especially dark due to fatigue and a build up of toxins.

To tackle my dark circles and the beginnings of dreaded crow's feet, she smoothed NUBO's Cell Dynamic Eye Focus Cream around my eyes. Beloved of The Daily Mail, Hello! and Instyle magazines, this wonder eye cream tackles every concern that we have about our eyes, from dark circles and lines to sagging skin, thanks to a potent cocktail of Vitamin P (combats broken capillaries), Pro Vitamin C (to instantly brighten shadows), neuro-peptides (has a botox effect on lines), tri-peptides (boost collagen production to plump hollows under the eyes) and tetra-peptides (to further tighten the skin).

To help combat redness from my blemishes and to accelerate the healing of pigmentation from former blemishes (thanks to a terrible habit of squeezing my occasional pimples), Caroline smoothed the Post-Injection Treatment over my skin.

I'd been rushing around attending beauty launches all day, and hadn't drunk as much water as I ought to have done, so you can imagine my lips were rather dry. To combat this, she smoothed the collagen boosting, natural capsicum infused Instant Lip Perfection treatment over my lips, which has a delightfully moist, balmy texture. I regularly use the superbly conditioning and minty Creme De La Mer lip balm to soothe my clients' chapped lips, but I use the NUBO Instant Lip Perfection on clients in search of an instant lip plumping effect. It's great to have options, at the end of the day, I use the products best-suited to my clients' specific needs at the time. It's all about bespoke beauty.

As I had to dash off to another beauty launch later that day, she smoothed a little of the Voile in Shade 5, Tan, over my skin, to act like a tinted moisturiser / primer hybrid, to diffuse fine lines and imperfections. This divinely silky primer is so good that I now use it on all of my make-up clients at Urban Retreat in Harrods. I apply it to my clients' faces after the Cell Dynamic Day Performance SPF 20 (using a foundation brush to apply both, to further enhance penetration and efficacy). I swear by both for creating a perfectly smooth canvas on which to apply flawless, airbrush effect foundation that lasts all day.

The only low point of this treatment, was the fact I had to get off the treatment bed afterwards. Walking to Mayfair to make my next appointment was some what of a challenge, given that Caroline had left me so relaxed that I could have happily gone to bed and not woken until the next morning. On the plus side, my skin was so radiant, I was able to get away with just wearing the Voile (which for the record, is super sheer). I had brought my make-up bag with me but didn't even need to apply my tinted moisturiser and concealer, which just goes to show how dewy and glowy the treatment had left my complexion. I suggest clearing your schedule after your treatment so that you can truly relax and make the best of Caroline's legendary skills.

Velvet Cleansing Cream - £28
Diamond Peel & Reveal - £65
Plumping Oxygen Boost - £80
Cell Dynamic Eye Focus - £180
Post Injection Treatment - £48
Instant Lip Perfection SPF 15 - £38
Voile - £40

NUBO Beauty by Appointment is £50 for 50 minutes, available at Harrods Beauty Apothecary, 8th - 21st May with expert facialist Caroline Hitchcock.

To reserve your place, call the NUBO counter on 0207 730 1234 extension 3285

Friday, 25 March 2011

The G Spot

The G Spot..

I was pretty intrigued when my friend Andre e-mailed me info about Vanessa G's fashion debut. For one, the show venue was the Whitehall Banqueting house (FYI the venue is typically reserved for large-scale media awards ceremonies), so I knew from the get go, that this was to be no run of the mill event. A lot of fashion brands would usually pick a miniscule venue off the beaten track in the depths of Shoreditch to showcase their premier collection.

There was no way anyone in the media was going to miss out on this spectacle. Firstly, the PR's sent out an e-invite, followed by a postal reminder, which in turn was followed by a rather large red perspex invitation, together with two "admit one" perspex cards. My fashion spidey senses were well and truly tingling. Who on earth is Vanessa G and what is this all about?

My attempts to find a website were to no avail (her website has now launched), all I could find were blog articles buzzing about the forthcoming event.

According to her Press bio, Vanessa G (aka Vanessa Gounden, pictured at the top, in one of her own signature floral print trench coats) is a "formidable entrepeneur, with business interests spanning Africa, Europe, and the Asian subcontinent. She is arguably one of the most successful businesswomen in the mining sector on the African continent, and her other interests include Healthcare Services, Financial Services and Lifestyle and Leisure". Already, it's clear to see that this is no ordinary fashion debut, but the plot thickens. On reading the paragraph above, it's easy to assume that this is just another trustafarian or rich divorcee creating a little fashion diversion with which to amuse herself, but her life has not always been one of privilege.

In the late 1800's, Vanessa's grandparents left India for the shores of Africa to work as indentured labourers on the sugarcane plantations of South Africa. Her early childhood memories include helping her family, on their small holding, cutting and preparing roses for sale to the florists in the district.

As the dreaded apartheid state swept Africa in the 1960's, and segregation by race was tragically enforced, Vanessa and her family were removed from their home and livelihood, and forced to reside in a dormitory township with minimal facilities. This hideous chapter in Vanessa's life sparked her political awareness, so it is no wonder that in the years preceding South Africa's first democratic election, Vanessa played a pivotal role in the country's Trade Union agreement, thereafter serving in Nelson Mandela's administration in 1994.

Her experience of working with Mandela galvanized her business acumen, inspiring her to commence her own commercial activities, from the humble surroundings of her bedroom desk (I wonder if Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin's "Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves was written about Vanessa), it would be a fitting theme tune none the less.

Vanessa's extensive travels exposed her to various forms of art, be it community based or the work of young emerging talent. This, together with her belief that dress sense should reflect one's inner beauty and confidence, led to her venture in the world of fashion.

I don't know about you folks, but am I the only one sensing Hollywood film material here (or at the very least a New York Times best selling book). Calling Frieda Pinto!!

At this point, I have to add that Vanessa walked past me at her launch on Wednesday evening, looking petite and radiant in a pewter coloured sheath. I wasn't sure if it was her at first, but the impossibly tall security guard with the discrete ear piece who was escorting her kind of gave it away! Furthermore, she was resolutely devoid of attitude, flashing me a lovely genuine smile as she passed (and for the record, she looks far more beautiful in person, the Press shot of her does her little justice). Naturally, when she took her turn on stage at the end of her show, my earlier suspicions were put to rest. The lady herself, had in fact glided right past me before her show. How fabulous!

There's something about Vanessa's story that immediately resonated with me. Though I haven't experienced apartheid per se, racism is something that I most definitely lived through for a large part of my childhood and adolescence. My father is Scottish, while my mother is half Ethiopian and half Eritrean (Vanessa and I share the African connection). At the age of five, I relocated with my parents from Oman (my birth place), leaving my international school and settling with my parents in rural Northumberland, attending a private school there. Given that we were literally in the sticks, my mother and I were, without doubt, fishes out of water. It took me a great deal of time before I was able to make friends, with our neighbours calling me a "Paki", not bothering to find out what my ethnic origin actually was. Later, when I was sent to boarding school at 9, I was called a "nigger" on my first day at school. I recall my headmaster telling the boy who'd hurled the insult at me, that it wasn't a very nice thing to say, and that was that.

Furthermore, when I was given my first taste of Scottish bonfire night (and the subsequent joke telling around the fire as our marsmallows melted), I was treated to the lovely experience of having quite a few kids from the school take their turn in standing around the fire, and uttering such comical gems as "What do you call two Ethiopians in a body bag? A Kit-Kat", which was soon followed by "How do you get a million Ethiopians to jump off a cliff? Throw a can of baked beans over it". My response was to cry. I didn't hear any children stand up and make jokes about white people, and being the only child of colour at the school, I felt targeted. Oddly enough, we're talking about the late 80's here, at least 20 years after apartheid, yet clearly, racism in Britain was still strong. When I asked my headmaster how it was acceptable for people to say things like this, he turned to me and said "it would be no different if you were fat or ginger". Nice!

Later, in the 90's, when I attended another prominent Scottish school on the outskirts of Edinburgh, my peers would often force me to eat my meals alone, moving along the benches at the dining room tables, proclaiming that there was no space for me (though magically creating space when children of their own ethnicity needed a seat). And so it came to be, that in a dining room filled with over a thousand students and teachers, I would sit at a table alone, crying into my food, wondering what on earth was wrong with me. Progress? I wonder? Thank goodness then for people like Vanessa.

The Advance Press Shots

I've copied a selection of my favourite advance Press shots of her garments below, I feel they represent the essence of Vanessa G.

The sheath dresses were some of the standout winners from the collection. Channelling Hitchcock femme fatale chic (think Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren), with elements of Erdem and Peter Pilotto (digital prints / draping / sculptural silhouettes), of all the pieces on show, these were the ones that are destined to sell in their droves.

The blouses were also very on point, immaculately tailored in sensual, fluid silk, whether rendered in metallic neutrals or digital florals, they are the perfect addition to any stylish woman's wardrobe. Team with one of Vanessa's knockout high waisted trousers or pencils skirts, or dress them down with a skinny or high waisted 70's flared jean in a dark indigo wash (teamed with skyscraper heels naturally).

What woman could live without her go-to LBD? Putting the "Result" into result dressing, sharply cut, chic numbers like this are simply a wardrobe staple. I especially love the sculpted torso, flattering pleat details and opulent detailing (after all, who says black has to be boring). From cocktails, to dinner, to parties or the red carpet, an LBD will work hard so you don't have to. Black takes statement jewellery especially well, so channel Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, and go OTT with the bijoux.

The Champagne Reception

The Hors d'oeuvre were insanely delicious, I couldn't keep away from the smoked salmon (with champagne flowing so freely, protein was essential). I especially loved the waitress serving delicacies from an ornate birdcage (doesn't everyone?)

The attention to detail was impressive, note the floral print carpet runner (clearly, red carpets are passe)

The Celebrities

The champagne reception was buzzing with news of the celebrities in attendance. I was rather chuffed that I'd positioned myself in an ideal spot to not only observe everyone in the room, but also to get photos of the celebrity guests as they passed (whom I have to add, were all incredibly gracious and forthcoming about having their photograph taken).

My first (and possibly most exciting) encounter of the night, was with Jade Jagger. What a supremely cool woman, she literally slinked towards me like a seductive panther (with no entourage may I add), and when I asked politely if I could take her picture, she flashed the kind of smile that would literally turn a gay man straight (trust me, she exudes a palpable sexual charisma), and posed without a second thought. She remained within my vicinity for about five minutes, chatting happily away with friends, then flashed me yet another smile as she departed. Love her!

Getting a photo of Emila Fox was a little trickier. I'd spied her minder flanking her all evening (a lovely PR lady, wearing some rather funky geek chic glasses). I'd seen her PR before, helping Emilia navigate the red carpet at the BAFTA's (actresses of Emilia's calibre invariably need protection from over-zealous journalists and paparazzi). So when it happened that the PR and I headed to the cloak room at the same time to get our bags after the show, I politely enquired as to whether she was looking after Emilia that evening, and whether it would be possible for me to take a photograph of her client for my blog. It's amazing how helpful people can be if you ask them something politely. After enquiring what the name of my blog was (and responding "cute" on hearing the name Diary of a Fashion Mister), I was able to follow her to Emilia, the PR worked her magic, and low and behold, her photograph is now on my blog. How glad am I that my grandmother forever drilled into me at a young age that "manners maketh man".

Sophie Ellis Bextor was so shy when I asked her for a photograph. Poor thing, I'd imagine navigating her way down the hall must have been an experience akin to dodging all the beauty sales people spraying perfumes in a department store, yet again, after just a moment's hesitation, she politely obliged, posing for the shot above (thanks again Sophie, it is much appreciated). She looked stunning in this metallic Vanessa G sheath (bonus points for the statement jewellery and neon clutch), punctuated with minimal make-up and a slash of her signature liquid liner (her twinkling feline eyes are divine). Sophie and her husband Richard Jones (of The Feeling) were on the decks at the after show party (at least they were according to the Evening Standard, I didn't stick around as I had four beauty launches to attend the next day and needed my beauty sleep).

It wasn't difficult spotting the Burberry model Poppy Delevigne, with her coltish legs, flowing blonde locks and honeyed skin, she doesn't exactly blend in! Naturally, I zoomed in and asked for a photograph, to which she happily obliged. (FYI she was wearing a Vanessa G pewter sheath (in the same fabric as Sophie's), accessorised with a Burberry Prorsum SS11 leather jacket and ankle boots).

Noelle Reno is one of those girls who are difficult to label without slashes. The model / socialite / Zandra Rhodes business collaborator / professional girlfriend of the uber-rich deserved a photo because she is supremely gorgeous (bonus points for the immaculate make-up / blowdry and nude patent Louboutins, which offset her minutely proportioned digitally printed shift dress to perfection).

What launch would be complete without Henry Conway? He and his father have had a terrible time with the mainstream Press, but for the record, he is a lovely chap with such an effervescent personality. It's no wonder he has party invites coming out of his ears, he'd be a welcome addition to any soiree and was delightful to converse with, all be it briefly. He even went so far as to politely excuse himself when he wanted to disappear outside for some air (what a gent).

Konnie Huq looked lovely in this mustard chiffon blouse and indigo skinny jeans with nude patent platforms and tan leather Mulberry Alexa bag. She did make me giggle though, when I asked her if I could take her photo for my blog, she assumed I wanted a photo WITH her, so there was a brief awkward moment where I had to explain that, although I was definitely a fan of her outfit, the love affair ended there! However, Fashion Mister isn't a meanie, so Konnie gets bonus points for being such a sweetheart.

The other celebrity guests of note, were models Jasmine Guinness and Jade Parfitt, actress Naomie Harris and legendary 80's club promoter Philip Salon (while uber-editors Shelly Vella and Hershey Pascual led the media posse).

The Show

Whoever art directed the show was clearly a genius, as the theatre created by the set and sountrack was phenomenal, the perfect backdrop to the film noire showcase. There was little doubt that the natural world was a huge source of inspiration for the delectable prints and textiles, as the laser projections displayed rivers, forests, iris blooms and the sky (amongst many other wonders of the natural world).



Azure Skies

Fashion Mister Loved

I loved the feminine draping and sculpted shoulder detail in this digital floral print top. The printed pencil skirt balances the look perfectly.

The craftmanship in the top is more evident in this close up. Heaven! Note the retro beehive (with that of-the-moment frizzy texture), punctuated with Cleopatra eyes (all the more poignant given Elizabeth Taylor's sad death), and the deep pink/red matte lip.

There were some beautifully tailored pieces in the show. On the left, a floral print blouse/trouser combo looks super feminine, while on the right, the pewter 3/4 length jacket, blouse and trouser combo is the sort of thing power women the world over would love to rock up to the boardroom in (if Vanessa G had been around in the 80's, you just know it would have been Sigourney Weaver's go-to wardrobe option in Working Girl).

How cute is this blouse? It's a shame the collection was AW11 as I think a fair few women would want to rock this piece NOW!

This dress is like something out of The Stepford Wives or Valley of the Dolls, I love the retro 50's shape and gorgeous print.

"All right Mr. De Mille, I'm ready for my close up"

Love this shift dress, the sleeve length is infinitely more forgiving than the the cap-sleeved styles on show (which realistically couldn't be worn by many women, other than perhaps Anna Wintour, Victoria Beckham and Mary-Kate Olsen). The draping across the torso and clever use of volume on the hips means that this piece would flatter a more voluptuous figure, while adding curves to a slimmer frame. Genius! Gorgeous print too, just so, so pretty.

This piece would work especially well on the typically pear shaped British woman, the A-line bell shape of the skirt would skim fuller hips, nipping in the waist to create a beautiful silhouette. Note the embellished hosiery (a must-have from the show, I hope they go into production).

Some of the skirts veered dangerously into granny territory (low points were the A-line mid calf length skirts teamed with cropped jackets, far too Driving Miss Daisy for my liking). The printed skirt above however, is borderline sexy and vaguely reminiscent of Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary. Hot (in a Prada governess kind of way).

Another sizzling shift dress from the show. I love the exposed zip at the back. It would be a life saver when explaining the Vanessa G credit card bill to your partner. I can imagine women turning to their husbands/lovers and seductively asking mid-argument "darling, could you unzip me". Problem solved!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Lights Camera Action

Lights, Camera, Action..

Yesterday I, and three other leading British style and beauty bloggers, had the honour of being invited to QVC, courtesy of the uber-successful natural skincare brand Liz Earle. I woke up at 8am and treated myself to a DIY mineral mud face mask and OPI manicure, wanting to look camera ready for the day ahead. The invitation promised us an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the QVC studios, a glimpse of Liz Earle and the resident QVC experts presenting live on TV, a meet and greet opportunity with Liz Earle herself, and personal presenting coaching from resident QVC host, Simon Biagi, and QVC Guest Excellence Trainer, Tina Halvorsen, together with our own QVC screen test. Talk about a once in a lifetime experience!

I was so nervous on my way to QVC headquarters at Marco Polo House in Battersea, a stone's throw from Battersea Power Station, that my hands were sweating. In hindsight, I suppose it was half excitement at the prospect of the day ahead, and half terror of doing a screen test. I really shouldn't have worried so much, as the Liz Earle and QVC teams were the loveliest bunch of people you'd ever care to meet. From the moment I walked into reception, I was received by the female receptionist with such a warm welcome, she even complimented me on my signature fragrance, asking what it was, to which I replied; "Czech & Speake No.88". After a friendly chat about the events that lay ahead, I spotted my friend and fellow blogger Priya Sonn of "" sitting in the reception's seating area. She introduced me to Candida from "", who was sitting beside her, and after we had become better acquainted, Ronke Adeyemi of "" soon joined us and we were all chatting away like old friends.

We were soon met by Andrea Kengelbacher, the in-house PR and Social Media Manager for Liz Earle, together with other members of the Liz Earle and QVC teams, who led us upstairs to the QVC cafe and seating area. Andrea and I have had a friendly e-mail relationship going on for a few months now, but we had never met, so it was lovely to finally meet face to face. One thing I immediately noted about the entire Liz Earle team is that they are not only incredibly warm, they all have amazing skin too! After a little investigating, I found out that when they receive their pay slips each month, they also get a batch of complimentary Liz Earle products (they also get to test out all the new products before they launch, so it's no wonder they are all glowing ambassadors for the brand). They also told me that the Liz Earle headquarters on the The Isle of Wight is a resolutely eco-friendly building. It is powered by geothermal energy, uses rainwater collected from the roof for its conveniences, and even has "smart lighting" that switches off when there is no one in the room. In a recent blog feature about Liz Earle Naturally Active Men's Skincare's 5th Anniversary, I had mentioned that the brand was "green by name and green by nature", and this information only served to highlight that fact. In fact, it was a case of significant milestones all round, as the brand was also celebrating its 15th Anniversary of partnering with QVC.

We were encouraged to take advantage of the hospitality on offer (a yummy selection of pastries and refreshments), and take advantage we did, soon joined by the delightful QVC Guest Excellence Trainer Tina Halvorsen. Though a veteran of television, Tina really seemed to be quite ageless in appearance. She had barely a line on her face, with a smile that melted away all our nerves and eyes that twinkled with warmth and vitality. Her hair and make-up had been done immaculately and she was dressed to the nines, she truly represented all that you'd expect from a seasoned media professional. She introduced herself, asking us all our names and asking us if we'd been to QVC before (none of us had), before whisking us away for a magical, behind the scenes mystery tour of the QVC sets.

First stop was the production crew area, where staff were busy booking models for upcoming segments, there were rows of model cards lining one wall, which reminded me of my years as a stylist and style & grooming editor! Next up was a prep room, where little trollies are loaded with all the products used for each segment. She told us how products like Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish would be pumped in advance, so that when they were demonstrated by the presenters and models live on TV, there would be no embarrassing moments (such as the product not coming out). It's amazing how much detail goes into the production work. They even have sheets of paper with timings allocated to each product, so that the presenters and producers know exactly how much "on air time" each product will get, so the segments run like clockwork. While in this room, we were introduced to QVC hosts Miceal Murphy and Charlie Brook, who were busy prepping for their own upcoming live segments.

After chatting briefly with Miceal and Charlie, we were introduced to two resident chefs who were busy prepping food for the kitchen segments. It all looked delicious and very tempting, but alas we had to move on, as next up was an exclusive look at a live segment with QVC host Debbie Greenwood, who was presenting a slot on Bearpaw Boots (similar to Uggs). She was channelling Pocahaontas in a rather fetching black wedge boot with fringing (the Bearpaw Sundown Tassel Wedge Boot), and within minutes of saying hello to us, she literally had to grab her handbag on the edge of the set and run to another set for a different segment (this really gave us an insight into how crazy the pace can be). Ever the professional, she breezed off set as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Once Debbie had dashed off to her next segment, we were ushered through to watch Liz Earle hosting a live segment, with one of her gorgeous in-house models demonstrating the Cleanse & Polish ritual. It's really quite remarkable that these models will literally cleanse and polish their skin all day, yet their skin never looks red or raw, quite the opposite, they seem to age backwards, as if by magic, literally glowing from within like a human light bulb (as good a reason to snap up the product as any I'd say). We even got to stand inside the producer's room and watch her talk to the hosts via their ear pieces, orchestrating live calls from Liz Earle customers. One caller admitted to having been an avid fan of the Liz Earle range for 15 years. 15 years! How amazing is that? Talk about brand loyalty. She said that after trying Liz Earle, there wasn't any other skincare regime she would use, and even talked to Liz about a recent segment she'd watched, where Liz had extolled the benefits of mixing Cleanse & Polish with the Brightening Treatment Mask, for a DIY at home illuminating treatment with a difference (the camphor oil in the Brightening Treatment causes blood to rush to the surface of the skin, imparting an instant glow). Last stop on the tour were two of the "at home" sets, designed in a similar vein to traditional living rooms, used to showcase home wares and electrical goods such as cameras. After our enlightening whistle stop tour, Tina led us back to the QVC cafe and seating area, where Simon got to know us all a little better, with Liz Earle herself joining us straight after her live segment, for a personal meet and greet and photo opportunity.

Here's a lovely shot of myself and the other bloggers in the QVC cafe seating area, joined by QVC host Simon Biagi. Pictured left to right is: Candida, Ronke, Priya, me and Simon.

The team had laid out a gorgeous continental breakfast spread for us, with bespoke Liz Earle mini chocolate muffins on sticks, shaped like mushrooms, coated in icing rendered in the signature Liz Earle duck egg blue, with a miniature blue rose on top. We were also treated to tea, coffee, pastries, juice, mineral water, fruit smoothies and champagne. I'd already had poached eggs for breakfast, as I'd wanted to fuel up for the morning ahead (kick off was 10:30am), so I stuck to the delicious fruit smoothies and mineral water. I was asked to do the honours and open the champagne, and as lovely a gesture as it was, I rarely drink alcohol (especially with the prospect of being filmed in a couple of hours). Similarly, the notion of eating pastries left me with dread, as tempting as they were, as I was concerned that I'd end up with flakes of pain au chocolat and croissants between my teeth (not a good look for photos, let alone TV). Watching one of the stunning in-house Liz Earle models doing the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish routine live on the plasma screen didn't help with my nervous anticipation, she made it all seem so effortless.

I couldn't help but act like a complete tourist while we were sat upstairs. The team kindly allowed me to take as many snaps as I liked, so I was busy clicking away with my digital camera. The scale of the QVC building is just spectacular. The first thing that struck me about the architecture was the amount of natural light, courtesy of the glass atrium. It really is a magnificent structure, it made you feel so small. In terms of ambience, all the natural day light really boosted your mood, there was such a sense of optimism.

The QVC motto: "Engage, Enrich, Embrace", truly communicates everything that Tina taught us about the QVC presenting style. Both she and Simon explained that the primary demographic of the TV channel is older women who watch in the comfort of their homes, so it is paramount that the hosts have a warm manner, just like a friend. Simon even added that to many of the viewers, the hosts really are like friends, as the viewers will watch them for hours, day in and day out, as if the hosts were sitting with them in their own living rooms, having a cosy chat. The enrich part refers to the sharing of knowledge and expertise. All of the hosts are seasoned in their craft and areas of expertise, whether they come from media or performing backgrounds. Embrace refers to the warmth with which they deliver their commentary, it's all about relating to the viewers on a personal level, hence Simon teaching us the importance of approaching hosting as if you were talking to a friend.

Liz Earle, apparently Britain's best kept beauty secret (not anymore, the secret's out!)

The moment I got to meet Liz Earle herself. Just like her team, she glowed with health, definitely the perfect poster girl for her own brand. Being something of a style hawk, I couldn't help but notice her tiny Balenciaga purse, the zips, tassels and distressed leather were a dead give away. Throughout the day, my own attire was a source of much amusement, as I'd inadvertently co-ordinated my navy Jaeger London suit with Liz's navy jersey shift dress and heels! My Oxford blue Turnbull & Asser shirt also seemed to tone in with the duck egg blue of the Liz Earle banner we posed in front of (it must have been subliminal).

After the meet and greet with Liz, it was time for us to pair up and go to another studio for our very own QVC screen tests. Candida was first up, followed by Priya. Ronke and I chatted away merrily with Simon and Andrea, talking about everything from our media backgrounds to garra rufa fish pedicures! Once Candida and Priya were done, it was time for Ronke and I to hit the studio ourselves, with Ronke doing her segment first, followed by yours truly. It was great being last up, as I had the opportunity to watch Ronke do it all first. I listened carefully to the advice Simon gave her, soaking it all up like a sponge. Once Ronke had worked her TV magic, it was my turn to have my 15 minutes of fame (ok, so maybe it was more like 5, but you can humour me). Andrea and her colleague from Liz Earle kindly agreed to photograph me in action, hence the great action shots. Here, you can see me being wired up with my microphone by the very adept camera man. Simon made me feel so comfortable. I was super nervous at first, but he encouraged me to think of the conversation we had upstairs in the cafe, and to pretend the camera wasn't there, as if he and I were just having a cosy chat. He told me to smile, and to let my natural personality and experience shine through, which put me in the right frame of mind to tackle the daunting task at hand.

Once the camera man had slipped the mic pack inside the inner pocket of my suit jacket, and had clipped the microphone to my jacket lapel, he set to work placing the ear piece inside my right ear, so that I could receive instruction from Tina while I did my screen test.

Going back to the aforementioned colour co-ordination, my lavender Falke cashmere socks matched the Liz Earle banners in the background. I hadn't even noticed but it made the Liz Earle girls chuckle!

It's a good thing I'd had the opportunity to watch the Liz Earle in-house model doing a demo of the Cleanse & Polish earlier, as when it was my turn, I'd picked up the little tricks of the trade (I was also grateful I'd taken the initiative to give myself a manicure prior to arriving at QVC, so my hands looked good for the close up shots). Lisa was talking to me via my ear piece while I was doing my hosting, telling me that I had a lovely smile, and to smile more, which seems odd at first, but it all links back to the QVC motto: "Engage, Enrich, Embrace".

Here you can see Simon and I in the camera monitor, this is the view the camera crew get when they do the filming.

Here's me, flashing a genuine smile at the end of the screen test, you can see Tina on set, giving me the thumbs up for my performance. I felt so relieved that I'd done a good job, with Simon jokingly asking me; "are you sure you've never done this before". Both he and Tina were so kind about my debut turn as a QVC guest host, with Tina saying that I had a trustworthy manner about me that would resonate with the viewers at home. She was impressed by my beauty knowledge (maybe it was my tips on facial massage and microcirculation, I knew the beauty geek in me would be a good thing one day). She added that I was funny and that something about me shone on camera. I don't say this to blow my own trumpet, in truth I was extremely flattered by the praise, especially as both Simon and Tina are both highly respected experts in their field, so to be acknowledged by professionals of their calibre, truly warmed my heart, and made me feel like the decade I've spent honing my own knowledge and expertise has been worthwhile. I was honoured when Tina said they'd be delighted to have me back as a guest host at some point (and I really hope she meant it, because for me it would be a lifelong dream come true).

And here's my QVC screen test, I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. I want to thank the entire Liz Earle and QVC teams for their overwhelming warmth and hospitality. With a special mention for Andrea Kengelbacher, who gave me this once in a lifetime opportunity, and last but not least, to the lovely Simon Biagi and Tina Halvorsen, for being the best coaches a chap could have wished for. I hope I have the privilege of working with you all again. For me, it would be an honour.

Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser - £13.25