Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Having A Snoop At Another Beauty Blogger's Handbag Essentials - Emma of Ol' Green Eyes

Blogging isn't the friendliest scene in Dublin. I've never, personally, had a bad experience and get along with everyone but I have witnessed nastiness and I had never made any close friends that are bloggers. I'm friendly with lots of people but there wasn't anyone that I had clicked with or knew well and that was partly my own fault for being too shy to put myself out there more.

And then, one event, I ended up talking to Emma of Ol' Green Eyes. We had often hung out at events before and I genuinely really liked her and whatever got into me that day, I did put myself out there: I asked her if she wanted to hang out sometime. This doesn't seem like that big a deal but making new friends as an adult isn't easy! She agreed, we went for coffee and I put forward the idea of doing a collab, which is how we ended up in Dublin's trendiest new eatery and bar with both of our makeup bags spilled out across the table.

Both curious about Roberta's, we headed there last week to grab a cocktail and some fries (Lesson learned: they may give you fries to snack on with your drinks so hold off on ordering unless you want to end up with three portions, like us. If you do want that, go ahead.) and compare our handbag essentials. I mean, who doesn't enjoy a creep at what others deem must-haves, right?

Once we had our food and drinks and had chatted a bit, Emma started unpacking her products and spreading them out before us in an aesthetically pleasing manner, much to the amusement of our very friendly waitress. I immediately spotted Escentric's Molecule 01 perfume and had many questions. Did it really smell different on different people? (A little, apparently) Could you really not smell it on yourself? (Only immediately after application for a while) And most importantly: Is it worth the hype? According to Emma, her whole office had it first and she kept asking what they were wearing, loving it. Then she gave in and bought the (much more reasonable/affordable) refillable 30ml bottle, only to be met by others grabbing her wrist and wondering what she, too, was wearing. So, not hype without fire then. While it is one of her go-to scents now, she does admit that it is partially only in her bag atm because of its handy size.

Another non-makeup essential that Emma totes around is Rituals' Indian Rose and Sweet Almond hand cream. Ritual is one of her favourite bodycare brands as it stands but this is an essential. Not only does it smell delicious (and it does) but she swears by its effectiveness. In fact, after flying to New York recently and washing her hands with the harsh soap on the plane multiple times, they were in need of some TLC and her first stop upon landing was the Rituals store.

If we're talking lifesavers and skincare rescues, then YSL's Lip Perfector needs a mention as it is another item Emma swears by. In fact, in the slew of lip products (why does every beauty blogger always have, like, ten lip products on them at any given time - this coming from someone who doesn't wear much makeup very often and who still does the same?), this was the key item. Under matte lip products, it is a lifesaver and as a lip balm, it is perfect. Plus, Emma says she uses it at least twice a day and has been using the same tube since last year - that's some long-lasting product!

Emma is a woman after my own heart in many ways and doesn't like to have to re-do her whole face on the go. Instead, she tries to ease the process of makeup wearing off over the course of the day. As such, many of her must-haves were key to preserving and cleaning up makeup. For sorting out oiliness, she swears by Essence's oil paper that may come in a tatty little cardboard box but does exactly what it needs to and for just over a euro. After stealing it from her sister constantly, she began to carry some around all the time and has yet to be swayed by any more expensive alternatives. A bargain and effective? The dream, right? Finally, Emma has only recently discovered Mac's iconic Fix + and has fallen in love. She uses it to revive her face and makeup throughout the day and says she totally gets the hype now.

There was plenty of other stuff in Emma's makeup bag to rummage through - Mac's Lady Danger and a genius lip brush from Sephora, among other things - but the above items were the ones that seemed really to be her ride or die products. And once we had adequately made a show of ourselves photographing the place and endless beauty products we had covering the table, we finished all of the fries and swanned out of there, a little bit closer for having revealed our deepest, not-so-darkest beauty secrets.

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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

NCAD Fashion Graduate Exhibition 2017

As a great lover of Irish design, I've always paid attention to the grad collections coming out of NCAD each year but this year was the first where I attended the graduate exhibition. Which is precisely why I was so taken aback. I, mistakenly, believed I could just pop in and out of the show and catch up with the bestie while doing it.

Not so. There was so much to see. I had always focused on the fashion graduates and hadn't really considered just how many talented art and design creatives were coming out of the college each year.

By the time I made my way to the fashion section, I was already well and truly blown away - and mighty envious at how bravely and fiercely everyone had exposed themselves and their work - but it was definitely the highlight for me.

Each year, the college produces some incredible talents but there was something about the spirit and overall combination of the collections this year that struck me as special. I was intrigued by all of the collections and hope that the designers in question don't all have to leave us, but get to work as bright talents here. However, I did have my highlights and favourites.

The first of these was Danielle McGregor, who I ended up chatting to and later interviewing. Not only is she an absolute dote but her menswear collection was - both aesthetically and conceptually - right up my alley. Inspired by her interest in the idea of masculinity and the wardrobes of the three generations of men in her life, it acts as an analysis and challenging of what "masculine" dress is and can be. Presented in soft pinks and pastels, florals, mesh, both formal structure and overalls and emblazoned with the ironic label "Mansize", it is both a very cool and wearable streetwear-inspired collection and a thoughtful reflection on the modern man.

If Danielle's collection is intellectually charged, then Colin Burke's collection is very much propelled by emotion. Inspired by his granny, Maureen, the plush collection incorporates her cherished possessions and reinvents them; crocheted broached daffodils are layered with print and a Connemara shawl is reimagined through the deconstruction of a farmer’s jacket. And while Danielle questions "masculine" dress, Colin embraces typically "feminine" aspects of dress, exaggerating silhouettes and eschewing practicality for dramatic effect - something that was also visible in his theatrical tulle creations that I saw at the Galway Fashion Trail last November.

Finally, the collection that most caught my eye in terms of wanting to actually put the clothes on my body was by Christopher Cannon. Or, rather, these clothes were the clothes that the version of myself I long to be would wear. These are clothes for a far more elegant and poised version of me. An alternate universe where I'm less tomboyish and clumsy and more polished and effortless. Based around his personal relationship with clothing and experiences as a drag artist, his palette of blush tones is a thing of refined beauty and his silhouettes are classics with a tasteful twist.

Having spoken to Danielle and heard her concerns about the lack of work for young creatives (I hears ya!) in Ireland and desire to keep more of them here, I can't help but look back at the images I took from the exhibition with my own concerns. We produce so much more artistic talent than such a small nation should, I can only hope that we have to send less of it away to others and can nurture more wonderful artists and designers into maturation at home. Imagine what Ireland of the future could look like (and how well dressed it could be) then?

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Christopher Cannon

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Colin Burke

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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

New In Primark Beauty...Is it actually any good?

I've actually been a bit of an advocate for Primark/Penney's beauty products for a while now. It's come a long way in the last few years but certain parts of the collection have always been good. One of their mascaras was my go-to for a long time as it had good hold and was quite subtle and natural. I knew others who wanted more curl, volume and drama but I'll go for subtle over clumpy any day and at a little over a euro, it was hard to beat the price. Similarly, I've liked their brushes a lot since the overhaul of the line in the past year or two. They are at a really good price point and are pretty damn good even by if measured against the standards of more expensive brushes. Oh, and they did a lipmarker (seems like it's no longer for sale, sadly) that DID NOT BUDGE and was great for doing a perfect gradient lip with a dark center inside the lips.

Considering the prices and the fact that they are cruelty free (as far as my research has told me), there aren't many brands that can compete with this level of cheap and cheerful on the Irish market. However, I've also had enough disappointments to be wary (the nail polishes are dire but, then, so are most super-cheap polishes and the nail polish removers, meanwhile, are actually quite good). All this considered, I am always keen to try their new and more interesting launches.

Their new sheet masks, for example, had me intrigued, especially as I'm a bit of a connoisseur. I was actually meant to test them out when they first launched but the samples got lost in the post and then I wasn't physically in a store until after the press day but I finally got my hands on some and I had a lot of thoughts and feelings after trying them out.

1. They're actually made in Korea which is nice to see and makes me immediately trust them more. Too often western brands copy the "idea" of k-beauty products but seem to have actually no idea what they're doing.

2. The packaging, however, is similar to Sephora's sheet mask line and I can't help but wonder why. Larger, rectangular packs are standard in Korea and most western brands following the trend have stuck with this. I can't tell if the choice to copy Sephora is a marketing thing to make them seem more appealing, if they are made in the same place (if so, drastically different price points) or if there is some other reason. Having tried one of the Sephora masks before I can say that both seemed to drip with essence less. They also have less space for the additional essence that most sheet masks leave behind and I which I schmear all over my arms and neck after using the mask...Maybe it's a cost cutting thing?

3. At €1.50, the price point pretty much matches the Korean standard and makes me happy. The idea behind Korean skincare and sheet masks, in particular, is that it should be affordable and you should be able to mask several times a week. Most western brands, however, jack the prices up (and the quality isn't even as good) - I'm looking at you, Garnier.

4. The mask itself is not made out of the highest quality material. It's definitely the kind I've seen from more western-focused versions before. It's stiffer and less pliable. As a result, it feels less comfortable to wear and I feel like it's less effective as it isn't molded to the shape of my face and really getting that essence in all over my skin. But, as I say, I've seen this before and it's not terrible, just less good.

5. It smells nice, if a little strong.

6. The size is quite good, not too big or small - even if the less pliable nature of the material used takes away from this somewhat.

All things considered, the masks are pretty good. The price and ease of access are two big pluses but the quality of the product could be better. I'd definitely use them again but I'll probably still reach for my Korean masks first - especially as the Asian supermarket where I often get groceries sells Korean sheet masks at Korean prices.

The lip scrub that I picked up, however, is a real revelation. I don't know when it launched or if it was recently but I love it. First of all, again, the price is great, at €1.50. Secondly, the stick/tube format is brilliant. My lip scrub before now has been a big, unruly tub of the stuff from Lush and, while I like it, I always felt like I made a mess when using it and that the application didn't work so well. I'd get a bit on my finger and rub it across my lips but it would fall off my finger when I moved it and just wasn't that effective. This Primark one, however, is super-handy. It's encased in a balm that smells great and once you apply a few layers, the grain of the scrub starts to come through with it. This is nice as the lubrication makes it gentler on your skin but it also means the product goes on directly without wandering away. The stick format makes it easy to direct and use. I've been using it a good bit and I'm already a fan.

Finally, these Unicorn make-up brushes were all over the gaff when they were first launched and, I'll admit, I mostly bought them because they were cute. However, I do really like their brushes in general. Having tried them over the weekend, I'll say that they're probably not as good as some others from Primark that I've used but - at 9 quid for 5 good brushes - they ain't half bad, either. Admittedly, I didn't try the foundation brush as I'm currently using a cushion foundation but I liked the powder brush and fan brush quite a bit. Both could probably be more densely packed but the looser packing of the bristles meant that they gave the very natural look that I favour, particularly the fan brush for the highlight. The eyeshadow brushes were grand, the flatter brush worked well for laying down a base colour and the blending brush did a nice job but, again, could have been more densely packed and a bit fluffier. Basically, if you're seriously into make-up, these brushes might let you down but if you want brushes that do a decent job, look cute and don't cost a lot, they work well.

Ultimately, these new bits reaffirmed my thoughts on Primark Beauty: it's inexpensive and decent. They make beauty trends accessible to everyone, no matter the budget, and are getting better all the time but for experts or professionals, they will probably always leave a little to be desired - I guess that's just a case of getting what you pay for. As I'm not a professional, a lot of their stuff suits me just fine. Plus, my new brushes look damn cute on my dressing table and isn't that all that really matters at the end of the day...?

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(These items were purchased with a voucher gifted to me during the recent Primark press day. All opinions, however, are my own and I was not paid to review these products.)


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Friday, 2 June 2017

Primark (Penneys) AW17

If you've been trying to venture into a more colourful wardrobe (I mean, how easy is it to look like a funeral director?), then Primark AW17 is where it's at for you. In fact, AW17, in general, is going to be colourful if the runways have anything to say about it. And, luckily, they've taken that on board at Primark and are serving up some serious looks that will tempt even the most modest tonal dressers.

When I step into the neon box that is the Primark HQ press office, I get flashbacks to the Dilara Findikoglu show that actually took place in a Soho strip club, but only in the sense that the mood lighting is very red light district. The neon strip lights along the rails and rich atmospheric lighting immediately give you the sense that this is not your average bear. This beast is playful, sexy and spares no time for being drab or practical. Of course, there are grey and black pieces throughout but they tend to be wrought in vinyl or silhouettes that borrow from military or country estate origins ... it may well be the lighting but I'm seeing everything through a kink-tinted lens ...

It's probably the lighting. Because there is a lot of cute at hand. Particularly the prevalence of Gucci-esque pearl details and florals.

But it is hard to look past how sensuous it all it. Velvet is still here to stay, sheer panels and completely sheer pieces abound, embroidery (that invites touch to be read like braille) is all over the place, and there is a great variety of materials at play; vinyl, silky slinky fabrics, fluffy jumpers and fall-off-the-shoulder cardigans, stiff felt, a faux-leather beret, shaggy faux-furs.

In fact, the whole thing looks a little like a child's dress-up room, in the best possible way. There are endless influences, eras and quotations at play and they are all begging to be mixed and matched eclectically, playfully. AW17 is a time to take risks and have fun with your clothes.

So, whether you want to introduce winter boho, alpine cosiness, Chinoiserie, eighties metallics, sexy structures or slick streetwear into your wardrobe, Primark is the place to head next season.

Things to watch out for:

Accessories: They've outdone themselves this time. We're talking the plushest slides, cutest combat boots, luxe bags and an immense eye for detail.

Super-flares: They were everywhere at fashion week and now Primark are serving up some of their own. The black skinnies with pleated, cropped kick-flare and lace detail? Gorgeous.

Menswear: It's always a smaller display but I was super into the streetwear aesthetic. Think cool tees and sweats, more detail than menswear normally is afforded on the high street, bombers to throw on and amp up the cool of any outfit, and grungy knitwear.

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