Don't rate it then slate it

My new style crush is Karen Gillan. Not only because she's in one of my favourite ever programmes (yes, I'm a geek), but because she's super stylish without looking try-hard. Since she came on the scene less than a year ago she's been gracing our fashion magazines wearing couture this and designer that, barely putting a foot wrong.

Look magazine seemed to agree with me, as after her latest outing to the Cartier Polo event last week they dedicated a whole page to her fabulous ensemble. Wearing a Vivienne Westwood Gold Label shirt dress, on-trend clogs and a A/W 2010 must-have briefcase bag, they praised her for putting a 'sexy stamp on a frock that's normally more boardroom than bang-on glam.'

Why oh why then did she appear, in the very same outfit, in Heat magazine's 'what were you thinking' pages? They slated her for wearing her 'grandad's shirt' and put her alongside pics of WWYT regulars like Michelle Heaton, those girls from Corrie and Vanessa Feltz! This really, really gets on my tits. How can one magazine totally rate and outfit and the other totally slate it?

No wonder we're a nation of try-hard fashionistas because we don't know what's hot and what's not. On one hand you're praised for your individuality and unique style, while on the other you're trashed for looking like a nutter. I've noticed this so many times, magazines having completely opposite opinions on things, and it's starting to make me mad. We all know that yellow lycra, sparkles and orange tans are a no-go, but why can't the people that are preeching to us about what we should be wearing make up their minds?!

My advice - ignore it all and go with what you like. (As long as you don't take Michelle Heaton as inspiration.)



Accessorise Your Period.

Let me tell you a little story. When I was nine we had our first 'period' talk at school. A note was sent home to our parents, we all giggled and secretly looked forward to it as we'd finally lay the playground rumours to rest. My mum was one of the only parents to come along to the session; I was mortified. In retrospect I know she was being supportive and open with me, but at the time I was soooo embarrassed... you just don't talk about your noo-nah in front of your mum! Periods were a no-go area, a huge taboo and something that was kept secret because you were just to humiliated to talk about it.

Fast forward a few years, I was at secondary school and the 'Tampax Lady' came in to give us the updated version. (This time it contained a little bit of willy talk, but all in all just about periods again.) The best thing about this was we were in an all girls school now so we could discuss freely and grab as many boxes of tampons as we could carry. We got those ugly blue plastic boxes too - you know the ones, they were really unsubtly to carry your tampons in but everyone knew what they were anyway. Periods were becoming easier to talk about and now we even had accessories.

Fast forward a few more years and the way we think about our time of the month has completely changed. It's no longer quietly whispered, it's shouted from the rooftops in the form of a bucking bronco, Mother Nature's pearls and 'woooooaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh bodyfooooorrrrrrmmmmm, bodyform for yoooouuuuu!' I feel like some genius stood up in a boardroom and went: "Hang on a minute... every woman on this planet is using these products every four weeks. Maybe we can go somewhere with this and make a bit of dosh on the side too."

Not only are the products now advertised next to the news instead of just 'lady programmes', but the companies are realising that us ladies will accessorise anything we can. Remember the Jemma Kidd lipgloss giveaway last year with every purchase of Always? When you've got a market that needs a functional product, why not make it a bit of fun too? Now Bodyform are re-launching their cult towel tins, periods are fashionable again... literally. After I saw the advert I went on the hunt to four different shops until I found some of the free tins; then I bought two packs of towels that I won't even use just so I could get the funky tins. They have the message "I'm such a show off. I talk loud and I don't apologise. Why should I?" Exactly.

My favourite find of the day though has to be Carefree who are currently giving away free knickers with every pack - yep, free knickers. Brands are starting to understand that, like everything else we buy, offers and freebies will influence us. Periods are a fact of life and alongside them go tampons and towels. With girls being confident and sure of themselves younger and younger, we're all proud of who we are and what's in our handbag. (No more 'is that a sweet?' - the crappest campaign ever.) However, even though I'm not in the slightest bit embarrassed to go and buy a box of Tampax from Boots, I know the boys at the tills are... so, yep, I head straight for their bright red faces!

What do you think about the way in which our lady-times are treated by brands now? Do you want freebies or just great technology that makes the crappy times a bit more bearable? Or do you really care?


Soft Hands, Kind Heart

The Body Shop have always been renowned for taking a stand, making a difference and being ahead of their time. Ever since a trip to the Body Shop Factory when I was studying GCSE business studies (many, many moons ago) I've been impressed on how they really try to make a difference not only to the environment, but the people that live within it. Beauty companies are really starting to use the power of their brands, raising money and awareness in aid of amazing campaigns such as AIDS, breast cancer and now sex trafficking.

Human trafficking is the third largest criminal industry in the world and it's estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked every year for sexual exploitation and cheap labour. The Body Shop has decided to stand up and take notice, with the aim of making a real difference to the UK legislation that can help these poor children. 

"Inspired by our founder Anita Roddick and her commitment and passion for justice, The Body Shop is proud to continue her fight against human trafficking, bringing awareness of this modern-day slave trade to world leaders and the global community. In collaboration with ECPAT UK we are calling on the UK Government to introduce a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking. This would mean that all child victims of trafficking would:

- have someone with parental responsibility to care for and support them
- be prevented from facing further exploitation and harm from their traffickers
- receive the educational, medical, practical and legal support they need to help rebuild their lives"

In addition to this they have launched a new hand cream, perfectly entitled 'Soft Hands, Kind Heart', to raise money for the cause. The cream, which is delicately packaged in a white luxe tube with a sweet heart logo, costs only £3.50 with £2.56 going to their campaign partner ECPAT. That means for less than your morning coffee and muffin you can make a real difference to someone else's life. Not only is the cream delicious, good for you and pretty to look at, it does real good too.

The campaign has already secured a raft of high level support from the UK and beyond with stars such as Rob Lowe, Matt LeBlanc, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Joanna Lumley, Yoko Ono, Naomi Campbell, Sir Ben Kingsley and Martine McCutcheon all submitting handprints to support the campaign and petition. (Please make sure you sign up to the petition and also join the Facebook group) 

We made a real impact with the MAC Rodarte collection. Please, please, please help us with this amazing campaign too.


Tropical Colours

Nail varnish sums up who I am most of the time... colourful, shiny and a little bit chipped. I don't ever go without nail colour and it's become as much of who I am as my fascination with hair. I re-paint my nails every two or three days, normally with the latest on-trend colours, occasionally just with something I fancy. There are so many nail varnish ranges out there, most of which are so focused on colour or drying quickly that they actually forget to make a decent formula. This is where Avon have come up trumps.

I was given a selection of their 'Nailwear Pro' colours to try a couple weeks ago and was instantly impressed and excited how on-trend the colours were - coral, lilac and green. The bottles were a decent size (12ml compared to most brands who are 8-10ml) and looked super sleek and stylish with their angular, chunky style. I have to admit that I didn't expect much from the nail varnish itself, but I was very, very wrong.

The formula is thick and so really easy to apply. You don't even really need two coats as one gives enough coverage to just leave it at that - I always put on two coats though, just so it lasts a bit longer. The colour result is bright and super shiny, competing easily with some of the most expensive nail enamels I've ever used. The best thing though is that even after three days there was absolutely no chipping! I normally ignore all the non-chip claims from brands, as this basically means no chipping as long as you don't move your hands for a week. I typed (a lot), I washed up (not so much) and I faffed around as usual - my nails stayed practically perfect in every way.

Take a look at some of the colours below... Definitely a top tip from me - call the Avon lady!

PS - I'm wearing Coral Beat, Peppermint Leaf & Luxe Lavender


Get your roots done!

Since the dawn of time us lady folk have been dying our hair and experimenting with colour. I'm sure that back in caveman times the women would shake their big sticks at the men and order them to go find something red to colour their hair with. As we've already established (read on down if you don't know already) I'm a lover of hair dye. It saves my graces, allows me to try a new look and generally makes my hair in better condition.

The biggest no-no in the world of hair has always been to let your roots grow out. There's nothing more council estate, Essex-wivesy than dark roots and blonde hair. It instantly makes you look cheaper than Katie Price at a book launch. So why, oh why, oh why have I been seeing grown out locks all over the place?

This 'new trend' started on the catwalk and sure enough channeled down to those folks we call celebrities. Alexa Chung, the Olsen twins, Jessica Simpson, Sarah Harding, Nicole Ritchie and even her highness SJP have been seen with half a head of roots. I know it's supposed to be 'cool' and 'on-trend' but to me it just looks like they couldn't be arsed. Was their hairdresser's appointment book to full to fit them in? Are they scrimping to save for a new Mulberry bag? What is the meaning of this?

In my opinion the point of celebrities is to make us mere mortals aspire to look like them, worship every fashion step they take and to generally spend hundreds of pounds in an attempt to gain a little bit of their magic. This latest look is making me feel like my hair is sooo much better than theirs. And mine came out of a bottle costing less than a fiver.



Purrrrfect Lips

I'm quite partial to a bit of lipbalm. Right now in my handbag I have three different ones, just in case I may leave one behind and have to face a whole tube journey without a bit of shiny stuff. I always seem to be buying them and always seem to be losing them. While I was in the enormous queue in H&M the other day (why do they only ever have one person serving at a time?) I started perusing that area by the till where they keep all the tat they want you to buy when you're bored. Normally I wouldn't dream of picking up a pair of socks or random hair clip, but something twinkly caught my eye.

H&M have been working with Hello Kitty for some time now and seem to have branded everything going, from hair bands to shower gel. I actually bought my friend's little girl a collection of their stuff for her last birthday - she attempted to use the pink lipgloss as blusher, but who am I to judge. I hate girly, kitten type stuff, but this lipgloss was surprisingly cute, classy and a little bit retro.

The latest additions are these lip balms, available in lilac and pink. I went for the lilac option (I told you I didn't like girly stuff) which holds a delicious vanilla balm with ever so subtle shiny pigments that catch the light. The balm itself is super smooth and moisturising, lasts a relatively long time and adds something extra to your lips so you don't even need a gloss. All this and they're only £1.50! Bargainous. The best thing to come out of H&M for a long time... and that includes the top I just bought that's already shrunk in the wash.


Secret Party Time

I wrote this post for another website but it was never published, (sadface.) Because it contains loads of information on ace products I thought I'd put it up here anyway... enjoy!

Summer is well and truly back on track this week and what better way to celebrate than with the ultimate alternative festival, The Secret Garden Party! Think goblins and fairies, flowers and trees, earth lovers and beer lovers - all mixed together in a big secret pot somewhere in the British countryside. Think inner-beauty and you're half-way there.

You don't need flash products at this fantastic festival, just the basics and a sense of fun. What other ultimate festival-product to take with you than a can of Batiste dry shampoo? If you want something a little out of the ordinary try their new gold and silver shimmer sprays, which not only come out clear so you don't have to live with unsightly white marks all weekend, but they contain teeny pieces of sparkle to give your hair a little something-something. You may even get mistaken for a fairy.

A space-saving essential to take with you is Eyeko 3 in 1 Highlighter and Hydration Eye Cream. This wonder product not only moisturises but acts as an eye cream to reduce the appearance of dark circles after a heavy night. To top it off is contains skin perfecting light reflectors and antioxidant vitamin A for a radiant complexion and subtle glow. Perfect skin in a flash, without having to take a seperate rucksack for your beauty products.

Keeping with the 3 in 1 theme, Avon have just launched a lip wand which triples up as a lip liner, lipstick and lipgloss all in one package. Another space saving wonder product! You can even use the lipstick as a cheek stain and the lip liner as an eyeliner if the need strikes you, and nobody will ever know you're just mixing and matching. Available in six varying shades, from Bronze to Berry, there's something for everyone - and it's cheap as chips.

To everyone that's off to The Secret Garden Party this wekeend, have an amazing time - I'm very jealous as I havent got tickets. I would try to track you down and sneak in, but I havent a clue where it is.


Queen of Accessories

Accessories make the world go round. Well, maybe not, but they help to make it a little bit more interesting. In the words of Giorgio Armarni: “Accessories can completely change the look of an outfit, and women like the idea of having a wardrobe that's versatile." A couple of bangles can make your outfit look completely different and a statement necklace can transform a plain dress. I have so many accessories that I practically need another room just to store them - they're the cheapest, most practical way to update your look or channel a trend.

I noticed an up-and-coming designer, Laura Rutter aka Vintage Princess, on facebook recently and have been watching her with beady eyes as she develops new ideas and retails them through her online shop. She designs everything from start to finish and even produces bespoke pieces to your specific requirements. I was intrigued by the positive comments she was getting from customers and recommendations to others - she's even designed wedding jewellery, so she must be trusted!

Mixing together an amazingly beautiful and kooky combination of vintage re-work and high street couture, the collection guarantees to make anyone’s day. Ranging from rings and necklaces to hair pieces and brooches, she makes anything that is classed as an accessory. Most pieces are also one-offs, where she finds a piece that inspires her and runs with it. I'm astounded at how great and unique her pieces are and can't wait to get my hands on them all...

All this and the prices are so reasonable that you really can afford to get one of everything. With there being about 100,000 people out there with the same Topshop bangle or necklace as you, this is a great way of being individual without the couture price tag. Make sure you rush over and check her out on facebook - just look at what you could have your hands on!



Curly Cat

I'd been seeing things about the latest addition to 17's mascara range and felt like I was missing out on a trick. The feedback from bloggers, press and customers alike all seemed to be positive. Mascara is one of those products that is exceptionally personal - the result depends on your lashes and your opinion depends on the result you're after - so to get universal praise for a mascara is quite unique!  The lovely ladies at 17 kindly sent me a sample of this fabulous animal print product, and I have to say that I'm in universal agreement with everything that's been said so far...

The Wild Curls Mascara claims to create an intense look, clump free lashes, six times more volume and a lasting formula that will stick around for up to 10 hours. That's a lot to promise for a product that's under the six quid mark. The animal print packaging makes it sexy and fun without being too sickly sweet (namely pink) so you'd be proud to have this floating around in your make-up bag. But how did it stand up...

I've been using this all week to get a true representation of the result I could achieve. (You should never just try a mascara once and make your mind up - it doesn't adapt or reach its full potential until it's been used at least three times, so stick with it.) From the first swish of the wand I knew I was gonna like this wild cat (High School Musical reference completely intended there.) It really lengthened my lashes, separating them with the short-bristled brush while creating a nice bit of volume. It's really easy to build up the mascara to the result you want, without getting all clumpy and looking like a spiders made its home on your face. The more I use it the more I like it.

Most mascaras offer one claim - lengthening, volumising, separating - but this mascara is the master or all its trades. I'm massively fussy when it comes to my eye products, particularly as I think my lashes are a bit pathetic, but this really stood up to the mark and enabled me to brush aside the other 20-or-so mascaras lurking around my bedroom. For the time being anyway!


L'Occitane Love

I do like a good pampering session - it makes me feel like a princess, without the actual slaves. So when I got an e-invite to a facial consultation at L'Occitane I thought I could do with a bit of 'me time' and booked an appointment at the Westfield store. I wasn't that familiar with the brand so I was up for a bit of learning, a bit of experimenting and a lot of relaxing!

As soon as you walk into L'Occitane you're fully aware that you're stepping into a little bit of rural France - from the wood furnishings to the floral smells, this certainly aint Boots anymore. Being greeted by a cup of delicious honey tea is always going to start you off on the right foot, putting you in a place where you're ready for something different. (By the way, I want that recipe... mmm) My consultant, Anne Claire, did a fabulous job of putting me at ease, explaining the brand background and ethos before asking me about my skincare regime and general health.

Now normally, seeing I was in the middle of London's busiest shopping centre, I wouldn't dream of letting someone take off my slap; but I was intrigued to see what these concoctions could do! Anne Claire started by removing my eye make-up with Immortelle Eye Make-Up Remover, a dual-phased product that was so gentle my normally super-sensitive eyes didn't even notice. She then used Immortelle Milk Makeup Remover, which not only smelt delicious but was so gentle and refreshing I almost fell asleep while she massaged it over my face. The final stage was Immortelle Essential Water for the Face, again amazingly refreshing and didn't leave my face tight at all. This three-stage simple process was made into a true experience - every detail was thought of, every amount of care and attention given to remove my make-up in a gentle and relaxing way so I felt like I was getting a treatment rather than just removing the layer of war paint on my face.

Two drops of Very Precious Brightening Concentrate were then massaged into my skin. This serum claims to enhance the skin's radiance and reduce the appearance of blemishes, leaving you with a bright, radiant and even complexion. It contains the equivalent of 3,000 flowers in a single bottle (wowzer) to stimulate collagen and protect against free radicals. All good stuff then. It was light, smooth and addictive. I want some right now, but seeing as it's £39.00 a bottle it'll have to wait til payday!

Although you can use this as a night serum, you can also wear it under moisturisers or face masks to help enhance their effect. Anne Claire used it underneath Immortelle Cream Mask, which contains moisturising agents, Vitamins A and E as well as rice peptides (a new one on me!) for improved cellular nutrition and oxygenation. This all sounds very technical and good for you, but the most important thing was that it felt amazing. So refreshing and relaxing - bear in mind that I am now sitting in the middle of a shopping centre not only slap-free, but with a full face of facemask and a towel on my head! How many times can you say you've felt inclined to do that in your life?

While I was waiting for the mask to take action there were more treats to come - that's right ladies, she only bloody gave me a hand massage! Again, so delicate, thoughtful and exceptionally professional, I really wanted to take Anne Claire home and keep her in my cupboard for whenever I needed some pampering. So by this point I'm practically falling asleep, which isn't helped by the face massage I then receive after the mask has done its thing. Is this their aim... get them so relaxed and happy that they buy the whole shop in an attempt to re-create the feeling at home?! The final steps were to add a touch of Immortelle Eye Balm and Precious Cream, both light, fresh and moisturising. I could barely get out of the chair I was so chilled out.

The whole experience was one full of care and attention; you could tell every little thing had been thought through and perfected so L'Occitane customers get a truly fantastic and memorable consultation. This wasn't just a sales tool like you get on a lot of make-up or premium skincare counters, this was setting the scene for you to appreciate the brand and the products. You got to try out seven different gems, really feeling and experiencing  them on your skin, which is something I've never had the opportunity to do elsewhere. To top this off, you even got a 'prescription' to take away with you with all your recommended products and three mini samples wrapped up in a delicious bag for you to try at home! This was definitely the cherry on the cake.

These consultations are totally free of charge and bookable by appointment at many L'Occitane stores throughout the country. My advice is to book one now before they get snapped up, but make sure you have nowhere to go after... you may fall asleep!

Warning! Warning!

I've inherited something rubbish from my dad. Not his height, his shoe size or his lack of backbone in certain situations - his bloody grey hair. Yes, lovely blog readers, I am 27 and I'm going grey. I actually have more grey hairs than my mother and she's 50! This look doesn't match with my youthful appearance in every other way (I still get asked for ID in Tesco) so I have to delve into the world of hair dying on frequent occasions.

I'm not really brand loyal to any particular product. I try them all, test brands which are on offer and head towards to super-quick ones which don't leave me sitting on the edge of my bed watching the clock and wishing I could just do something more exciting. One I'd never tried is Garnier's Herbashine which had a massive launch last year. My initial reaction was to stay away from anything plant related as I figured it wouldn’t be as powerful or rich enough to cover my grey lanky hairs (which seem to be three times thicker than normal hair!) But, hey ho it was on offer in Boots so I figured I'd give it a go.

The range doesn't have a wide colour spectrum (presumably because of the ingredients) so I had to swap my normal red-brown colour for a dark golden brown. The formula developed in only 10 minutes - score - unlike many other hair dyes which take 20-25, unless you pay a premium for a quick-acting product. Simple to mix and apply, I left it on my barnet for 10mins and tipped my head over the bath to wash it - BIG MISTAKE!

After I'd washed and go-ed, I left it to dry naturally and went about my business (watching crap on tv, eating custard creams, twittering...) Then I walked past a mirror.... Oh. My. God. The formula had dyed my forehead a dark brown colour! Now, I didn't get any on my forehead whilst it was developing as I'm pretty skilled in this area now - the only way it could've gotten there was when I turned my head over to wash it out upside down. It took a long time to wash out so the only explanation I have is that it dyed my head then! Here came the panic action of attempting to get it off; I tried baby wipes, moisturiser, cleanser, toner and even nail varnish remover... nothing worked. I started to panic! I slapped as much moisturiser on my face as I possibly could, went to bed and prayed for the best. After washing my hair this morning the majority has gone, but I still have some stubborn splodges on my arms which make me look like I've got some kind of skin disease.

So we've established you need to be super careful when using Herbashine, but what's the result like? Well my colour does actually look super rich and lustrous and there's no real difference from regular hair dyes I've used. My hair doesn't feel as nourished as it normally does when I dye it and it does feel a little coarse too. The conditioner you get is in a super small sachet ( maybe this is the reason, as you don't get a full heads worth) so it's not fantastic value for money. To be honest I think I'll stick with something else next time - at least I know I won't have a brown head the night before an interview!

(PS - I did not look like that model after either!)


Frizz Free Fantastic

As someone with naturally curly (I say curly, I actually mean birds-nest frizzy) hair I spend a small fortune on products and remedies to help me get luscious, sleek locks that resemble something like the John Frieda advert. I've tried every serum going, straightening balms, relaxing sprays, treatments and skinny shampoos... all of which are ok for the day you wash and dry your hair, but their effects soon fade as soon as your head hits that pillow. I've resorted to washing my hair practically every day (even though it actually needs washing about once a week - grease free zone is a great side-effect of frizzy, dry barnets) just to keep it looking acceptable. I've even taken to applying overnight treatments to help me get that flickable hair, which again means I have to wash the gunk out every morning.

The lovely ladies at Avon have obviously been reading my blog (or rants) because they kindly sent me a load of frizz-busting products, including their new treatment: Frizz Control Lotus Shield. This claims to create a long-lasting, anti-humidity shield on hair that lasts for up to three days, so there's no need to apply it every time you wash your hair. It's been tested in the most intense humidity situations (including humidity chambers - tropical!) to ensure that it repels water and prevents the hair shaft from swelling up. It's all very technical and it looks like a lot of thought and effort has gone into creating the product and its packaging. But does it work?

I put this treatment on my hair two days ago after I washed and dried it, while it was still touch-damp. I skimped on the usual concoctions I apply and settled with a little serum, hair protector spray and this. (Trust me, my normal routine involves about 3 other things!) I was sceptical, I have to admit. How the hell will this relax my hair when I've only applied a few blobs, and how the hell is it going to last after I wash and dry my hair tomorrow? Well ladies.... yesterday I had very luscious locks. My hair was smooth, silky feeling and frizz free - even after my sweaty tube journey into work. It seemed to get better as the day went on - I'd decided that the hair around my sweaty forehead (mmm sexy) would start going coarse and messy around lunchtime, but the hair of work-days past was gone. First stage, tick.

So, I washed and styled my hair again today expecting to go back to my frizzy former self. I even started off the day with a bit of a birds nest after I decided I was too hot on the tube and scraped it all back with my sunnies. I sat down at my desk and turned on the fan - great, messy barnet here I come. But now, at 11am the day after I applied the treatment, I have silky smooth locks again! It's calmed down from the mess it was earlier and looks like it should do (i.e. when the hairdresser does it) rather than what it normally does when I'm too focused on GMTV to straighten it properly. Second stage, tick.

This really works. And to my surprise, when I opened my favourite Wednesday magazine (Stylist) this morning they'd even featured it too! As I said in my previous blog post Avon have really changed for the better. Could you imagine ground-breaking technology from your door-to-door-lipstick-lady ten or even five years ago? Nope, neither did I. Go get some. Now.


MAC - round two.

So over the weekend we started a fight against one of the world's biggest cosmetic brands, MAC. Unlike a drunken idiot on a Saturday night, we had good reason - see my post below for more information if you've been asleep for the past few days and haven’t noticed what's going on! This morning I woke up to the below statements from MAC and their collaborative partner Rodarte:


We understand that product names in the M•A•C Rodarte collection have offended our consumers and fans. This was never our intent and we are very sorry.  We continue to listen carefully to the comments we have received and have the following plans to address concerns:

1. We are committed to donating $100,000 to a non-profit organization  that has a proven, successful track-record helping women in need and that can directly improve the lives of women in Juarez in a meaningful way. 2. We are changing the product names in the M•A•C Rodarte collection.

As we have done in the past, please be assured that we will communicate details regarding our progress in this matter.


We recognize that the violence against women taking place in Juarez needs to be met with proactive action. We never intended to make light of this serious issue and we are truly sorry. Helping to improve the conditions for women in Juarez is a priority for us and we are thankful for all the comments calling attention to the urgency of addressing this situation.

It took nearly 60 individual bloggers (that I know about) only a few days to cause MAC to stand up and take notice. But have they gone far enough? The general reaction today seems to be no. Although $100,000 is a lot of money for you and me, for one of the biggest health and beauty companies in the world it's practically pocket money. Baring in mind a counter in your local department store takes around £12,000 on your average Saturday, this basically equates to a minimal amount of sales that they've pledged to donate just to shut us up. I think we'd all of been far happier if they'd decided to donate a much larger percentage of sales, rather than a lump sum which doesn't really mean anything - if the range is a sell out they still end up quids in.

However, it's the name changes which I'm more pleased about, knowing they have listened and understood our concerns and reacted accordingly.  Having worked in the industry for many years I know how much time, effort and money is involved in changing the name of a product at the last minute. Guaranteed that the reason they've pledged the relatively small amount they have is so they won't lose any further money through the changes necessary to get the product range to market. They don't want to end up with negative sales, which I can understand - after all they are a business. But I'm surprised that someone in their PR team hasn't taken a stand and said that for the good of the company, its reputation and customer relations they should give more and worry about the bottom line later - it isn’t like they can't afford it.

So I have a mixed response to the outcome. I'm happy that we've managed to make an impact and shown MAC up for being irresponsible and insensitive. I'm a little underwhelmed by what they're pledging. The most important thing to come out of this? We're all talking about the dreadful situation in Mexico, and that to me is priceless.


The sweet smell of Lush?

After a disastrous press event last week where I left in a humph, Lush sent me a proper press pack and some samples of their new Gorilla Perfumes. I've read through the press releases, processed the information and can happily say with all confidence... I now know who Mark and Simon are!! (If you don't find this amusing then you definitely need to read my previous post.) I now feel fully briefed so we're going to give this another go.

The two founders of Lush are father and son and both have a background in fragrance. This is why they chose to develop a range of perfumes with real back stories, taking inspirations from places they've been and people they've met. They believe that their products should be seen as works of art, hence the 'exhibition' styled event that I got to visit last week... all is now clear. It's refreshing to find people that want to take a step away from elaborate marketing campaigns and celebrity models, focusing on the smell and the way it makes a women feel. I loved the stories behind each individual fragrance; it makes it all the more precious.

So, what of the actual perfumes? I was sent four of the eight fragrances and this is how they rate...

Imogen Rose
Named after Simon's daughter and taking inspiration from the beautiful rose harvests in Turkey, this fragrance is very musky, floral and reminds me of a talc-covered baby! Not normally my cup of tea, but definitely growing on me, this would be perfect for someone who wants to lighten up their normal heavy, floral scent for the summer months.

Smell of Freedom
This fragrance is built up of three individual scents, mixed together to form a final smell. The Smell of Freedom tells the story of three inspirational people Simon met on his travels, all who have experienced some kind of hardship which forced them to fight for their freedom. The result is a citrus scent with hints of ginger, as well as a slight hint of rustic dirt - but in a good way! I could imagine wearing this to festivals or somewhere where you want your fragrance to blend in to the background, whilst still being distinctive.

Orange Blossom
My favourite of the bunch, this does what it says on the tin. A very fresh, orangey scent with hints of honey and wood so not to make it too citrus-ey. I love my citrus fragrances so this is perfect for me and one I'll be wearing all summer long. Simon wanted to keep this one simple, and it works.

Mark wanted to create a really dirty, sexy scent that encourages you to lose yourself in the moment. This fragrance is sweeter than the rest, very floral and girly without being sickly sweet aka Britney Spears. Again, floral fragrances aren't normally my thing, but this certainly has a something-something that I like. I'm sure this scent will fly off the shelves.

All the fragrances offer you something different. What I like about them is that they change throughout the day by reacting to your body, so you'll never smell manufactured or same-y while wearing them. You can even mix and match, creating your own individual scent from the collection. It's refreshing to know where these ideas come from and that so much thought has gone into producing them. They've even made sure there are various sizes and forms available to suit every need and budget - from small atomisers to larger bottles, fragrance bars and scented candles, all bases are covered. They're not released until August but put the date in your diary and go try them out for yourselves. Lush, you have been redeemed!

Avon Lady Calling...

If you think of a qualitative, modern, fresh, exciting and fashion-led brand, who do you think of? Benefit? Topshop? Toni & Guy? A brand definitely not top of your list (or probably even near the end of it) is Avon. Think of the A-name and the image would be something along the lines of the lady from Edward Scissorhands selling door to door moisturisers and lipsticks to old biddies. We all have memories of the Avon lady; mine is strongly associated with my Nan who's been buying from the catalogue for as long as I can remember (and inevitably a long time before.) As a teenager I was always allowed to pick something from the Avon catalogue as a treat when I went round, so I had cherry lipglosses and flower-shaped body lotions a-plenty. Every Christmas I still get something in my stocking, although now it's from the more 'mature' section and I get things like room sprays and face masks... I don't know what she's trying to tell me!

Having this perception of such an iconic brand in my mind made me even more surprised, and near to falling off my chair, when I recently opened a box of treats from the Avon lady herself (namely the PR department!) Gone are the floral, old fashioned designs and out of date packaging. In are the Chanel-esque black compacts which could give the high street's best a run for their money. Avon has most definitely had a make-over.

I've been aware for some time that something was on the change. My first reaction when I saw Reese Witherspoon gracing my TV promoting an Avon mascara was 'what the hell?!' But knowing that Reese is the cream of the celeb crop, I was positive she wouldn’t endorse any old goof - if it was good enough for her then surely it was good enough for me. Now Avon have surprised us all by moving seamlessly into the 21st century by launching an online shop (so no need for that Avon lady!) and actually having some great products and fab technologies. Flicking through the catalogue there's page after page of something I want (and need.) From the 3-step mascara to the Lotus Shield frizz treatement, these products are rivalling the mass market brands whilst still remaining cheap as chips.

Avon used to be one of those brands which you were embarrassed to have in your bathroom. When people come round I always used to hide the big bottles of bubble bath and those little samples of lipsticks which used to appear from somewhere. Now it's a make-up brand that wouldn't look out of place next to the more premium ones on the high street. You'd be proud to take out your Avon compact and powder your nose now - and in the world of Primarni, you'd be proud to shout about the price too. (Just check out some of the luscious pics below - I rest my case!)

I can't wait to get stuck into all my Avon goodies over the next few weeks - expect lots of posts and reviews, not only from me but also from my friends and family who've already been quick to grab handfuls of these gems. (If there's ever a test of how much it's changed then that's it!) If you do one thing this week then grab yourself a cuppa, turn on your laptop and checkout www.avonshop.co.uk - I promise you won't be disappointed.



MAC: border control?

MAC is one of those brands that always seem to get it right. From their premium and luxurious concession counters to their fabulous marketing campaigns, they always seem to be one step ahead of the pack. As a result they've created one of the most desirable beauty brands that can command high price points and has an air of exclusivity rivalled by none. Their annual Viva Glam campaign always attracts huge amounts of publicity, celebrity endorsements (including the fabulous Fergie, Lady Gaga and even Cyndi Lauper) and a rush to store to be the first to grab the highly-sought-after shades. But with their latest step into the controversial, have they gone one step too far?

MAC is launching their Fall 2010 collection in association with designers Rodarte. Their collections are based on inspirations from the bordering towns of Texas and Mexico, where women are exploited, raped and frequently murdered with little or no interest paid by the police. Juarez is known as the world's deadliest city, with around 6,000 murders being reported this year alone, and is saturated with factories and drug gangs which are causing the city to become a blood bath.

The new collection features product names including 'Quinceanera,' 'Ghost Town,' 'Factory' and 'Juarez'. Add this to the ghostly, eerie model image accompanying the range and something doesn't quite sit right. I could understand this campaign if the aim was to raise awareness, funds to help or even get people talking about the issues that surround the town - but this doesn't seem to be what happened. Until the controversy hit this weekend MAC intended to keep 100% of the profits and use the impoverished town's name to shamelessly promote their new collection.

The only way I can compare is if Rimmel launched a lipgloss entitled 'Raoul Moat,' if Maybelline developed a '9/11' eyeshadow or if Bourjois released a 'Concord bronzer'. These products would have around the same amount of taste. MAC have definitely got us talking about the range, and this will inevitably transfer into sales - who would like to bet on the range not being a sell-out? - but have they lost customers through this huge mistake, or just got the reaction they were intending to create?

The storm surrounding this issue has forced MAC to both apologise and donate a percentage of sales to the cause, although the form or purpose of this is yet unknown. Here's the statement released from the PR representatives at MAC:

"We understand that product names in the MAC Rodarte collection have offended some of our consumers and fans. This was never our intent and we are very sorry. We are listening carefully to the comments posted and are grateful to those of you who have brought your concerns to the forefront of our attention. MAC will give a portion of the proceeds from the MAC Rodarte collection to help those in need in Juarez. We are diligently investigating the best way to do this. Please be assured that we will keep you posted on the details regarding our efforts."

Our blogging community has decided to take a stand, discuss the issues and raise awareness of the controversial decisions taken by the product development team at MAC. Take a look at the blogs below and let us know your thoughts. This issue won't die down any time soon...



Christmas Come Early!

In the world of fashion and beauty Christmas most definitely comes early - approximately July time. This is when the big brands finalise their seasonal collections and release them into the wild (us press lot) to be either ripped to shreds or praised with glory. Yesterday was the turn of my favourite knicker-brand, La Senza, to launch their Xmas goodies and like a child on 25th December I wasn't disappointed.

Any launch that starts off with beautifully decorated cupcakes and champagne cocktails is good with me; I'm open to conditioning! These delicious goodies could've distracted me from the reason I was there, but the undies were so fabulous there was no directing my attention away. In previous years La Senza have created collections that although impactful, OTT and detailed, weren't very wearable (and also a bit itchy/scratchy!) This year they've taken it back to basics and created smalls that are amazingly detailed and luxurious, but still very wearable and practical. All of the pieces look far more expensive than they actually are (very Agent Provocateur!) and instantly add a bit of glamour to your wardrobe, even if that part of the wardrobe is the 'restricted section'.

My favourite pieces included the deep purple satin which will instantly make you feel like a glamour puss, as well as the dusty silver teddys - something I wouldn't normally go near, but these are stunning. La Senza delivers on all fronts, even on their cult classic comfy PJs and slippers! Although these don't launch in store for a few months make sure you add them to your wish list now, before they sell out, if you can wait that long. In the words of Slade: I wish it could be Christmas every day. Then maybe I could have some pretty knickers right now.

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