Saturday, 10 December 2011

Vivi Magazine

I loathe the term "guilty pleasures." It instantly conjures up those adverts for chocolates that feature a skinny woman giggling (dubbed giggling, no less) at her own naughtiness (ohemgorsh, calories! teehee!) in sneaking a dainty nibble of The Bad Stuff... ooh la la what self-indulgence!

That said, I have no other way of describing my addiction to Vivi magazine. Even if you can't read Japanese, the violent pink colour-scheme and layout of the website should be enough of a tip-off. This is a popular and populist rag, featuring mostly high street brands and providing teens and twenty-somethings with a brainless primer on What To Buy/Wear/Eat/Do/See To Fit In But Not Stand Out (This Month). It is so popular that there is a Traditional Chinese version published in Taiwan, released two weeks later than in Japan with translated contents and tweaked ads for its local markets in Hong Kong, Malaysia, China etc.

Despite my staunch -- staunch I say! -- refusal to subscribe, I somehow end up with at least ten issues out of twelve every year, sheepishly calling on friends travelling through Asia to fetch the latest edition in either language, and snapping up back copies in Japanese second-hand book shops, which get hastily bundled into my bag for the duration of the tube ride home. (And I read everything on the tube, from graphically illustrated feminist treatises on FGM to children's and science fiction books with their original covers.)


Sure, there are some cute and covetable things

...but they often just make me feel crabby and crabbed. The styling ranges from uninspired and irritatingly derivative (by which I mean: hey, someone as visually inept as I could do that!) to meh...pretty.

It's basically a catalogue of (usually mixed-race) house models and their signature facial tics:
Asian duck pout (Lena in the 2nd and 3rd pics is a beautiful girl and serial offender)
  stuck out tongue tee-hee-hee face (Mitsuki)
"oops!" face
not to be confused with "kyoot widdle kitten" face, despite superficial similarities
or "I-suddenly-needed-to-fondle-my-face" face  
that timeless classic, sex-face

And plenty more, such as whimsy!face and "oh, who, me?" face, and let's not even get on to the poses because I'm getting stabby.

It was a dark day when I admitted to myself that I am an actual fan of one of these house models: the British-Japanese Elli-Rose. She's a slightly odd fit for this magazine but I suppose they needed someone to sell bad girl and rock chick (gag) looks... anyway, she looks like fun to bitch with and bum cigarettes off behind the bike sheds.
Sometimes, the Vivi PTB decide to put her in something cutesy like the other girls, and hilarity ensues.
A sweet retro outfit -- why does she look like she just shot hubbie dearest, downed all the Valium and is now on the lam?
What's a dolly without a "WTF I DON'T EVEN. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME." expression?

After a Tom Ford nail polish's worth of bitter bitchery (I mock what I love! It's my way) I'd like to share this editorial from the November 2011 edition of Vivi, which reminded me of why I will continue to flip'n'snark through this magazine for my Japanese mainstream pop culture fix, rather than its more popular competitors Ray, CanCam etc. The latter two are bibles of mote-kei which roughy translates as, 'how 2 please all da boys but not make da other girls hate u (2 much)!' and whose every page is filled with guidance as to What Teh Mens Like. And for all its flaws, I will take Vivi's version of "girl power" over that any day.

"Jackie and Mary's Love Story", an editorial peddling yuri preppy clothes.
Part 1: Mary stalks has a sweetly innocent crush on tomboy Jackie.
Part 2: Alas, Jackie already has an Emma-Watson-ish beret-sporting girlfriend (the snob!), with whom she can only communicate via placard, and who prefers studying (the geek!) to going to the da party with Jackie anyway.
Part 3: Mary haz a sad. Jackie haz a sad. Two piners meet on the bleachers, totally by accident and not because Mary stalks Jackie. Hey, we could go to da party together!
Part 4: They do.
Part 5: And live happily ever after.

Disclaimer: all scans / photographs made by me from various 2010 and 2011 editions of Vivi magazine in Japanese and Chinese.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Part One of THREE -- 4D Eye Palette swatches

Today I offer swatches of the 4D Eye Palettes, one element of my trio (ho ho) of purchases from Japanese beauty brand, 'natural, honest and creative' THREE.

This newish brand didn't really seize my interest when I first started seeing their ads and products popping up in Japanese magazines in 2009. The words 'natural' and 'organic' (I believe 'holistic' also featured heavily in the original patter...) coupled with the higher-than-high-end prices were not encouraging, especially as the brand was and is only available in Japan.

And now I eat my hat (or my now empty and useless wallet), because the eye makeup at least does form a genuinely unusual collection of textures and products that made the THREE counter stand out in the crowded and competitive world of Japanese beauty halls. Creative Director Rie Omoto's trademark 'deconstructionist' approach to makeup is embodied in a permanent line-up based on a selection of creams (in pencil form) and loose pigments in a variety of textures and shades -- designed to be layered in many combinations. There is also a collection of single pressed eyeshadows, again with an excellent range of finishes and colours.

The 4D Eye Palettes (¥6300 for 8g, currently available in four variations, with four more due next spring) also encourage much play with layering.
The top right shade in each quad is a cream base. Unusually, it is also the darkest colour, and has enough pigment and complex micro-shimmer to wear on its own as a wash (as you can see in a recent FOTD) or as a liner with a stiff synthetic brush.
The bottom left shade is a pigmented, satin-finish pressed shadow, the most smooth-feeling and blendable of the four.
The other two are refined glitters -- one offering medium pigment (top left), the other sheer (bottom right), both showing up well on me used 'neat' (dry with a stiff/dense brush over a bare lid). They also may be used wet (foiled) for even more impact and make very pretty sheer washes of colour with a fluffy blender.

All of these shades (including the cream) are on the dry and silky side (versus buttery and soft) in the grand scheme of eyeshadow textures, which depending on your preferences may be a good thing. It does make it easy to whack on all four shadows on top of each other without muddiness or excessive buildup of texture becoming visible on the lids. The cream is drier but has more slip than MUFE Aqua Cream or Benefit Creaseless Cream eyeshadows -- as blendable as the new Shiseido Shimmering Cream Eye Colours.

Swatches of store testers -- patted on with fingertips, pictures taken in bright artificial lighting without flash. Fuzzy pics are deliberate, yo.




All four quads, with the Holiday 2011 Coffret swatched along the top (sorry for the abysmal quality but I think this picture catches some different nuances)

Now for the quad I chose: 02 My Blue Heaven (blue-brown combinations ARE my heaven. Throw in a green and....)
new -- artificial lighting

post molestation -- natural light (sunny)
Applicators: a stiff synthetic brush similar to the MAC 231, a pointy dense sponge-tip applicator, and a fluffy-ish filbert which works adequately for blending and laydown in a pinch.

Swatches L to R:
Cream as a base with 1. bottom left, 2. top left, 3. bottom right shades patted over it
Bottom Left -- one swipe. Yellow-based brown with warm pink shimmer
Top Right (cream) -- one swipe. Cool deep mossy green warmed by gold shimmer.
Top Left -- one swipe. Multi-tonal bright sky blue glitter.
Bottom Right -- three swipes. Multi-tonal pale neutral gold glitter.

natural light, direct sun

artificial light+flash


(copyright: me; all errors: mine) 

Talc; Camellia sinensis; Argan oil*; Sesame oil*; Silk powder; Jojoba Seed oil*; Rosehip oil*; Evening primrose oil*; Shea butter*; Safflower; Beeswax*; Vitamin E; Dextrin; Charcoal powder; Microcrystalline cellulose; Methyparaben

+/- Calcium sodium borosilicate; Glyceryl stearate(?); Dimethicone; Mica; Calcium aluminium borosilicate; Iron oxide; Titanium oxide; Cetearyloctanoate; Nylon-12; Dimethicone/vinyl dimethicone cross polymer; Synthetic phlogopite; Methyl methacrylate crosspolymer; Isononyl isononanoate; Magnesium stearate; Silica; Oryzanol; Carmine; Blue gardenia; Yellow gardenia; Polyglyceryl-2 triisostearate; Petroleum jelly; Disodium Stearoyl Glutamate; Trimethoxysilyl dimethicone; Hydrogenated polyisobutene; Triethoxycaprylylsilane; Hexadecanoic acid; Triethylhexanoin; Polyethylene; Microcrystalline Wax; Aluminum hydroxide; CI 77510; CI 19140; CI 73360; CI 15850

*certified organic

Incidentally, how pretty is the paper on that box? I'm a depotter but there's something very pleasing about the understated THREE packaging, especially those little textural details. More pictures here for interested parties.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Drivel About Frivol

Recent discussions on makeupalley and thought-provoking posts (on arsaromatica for example) have helped me crystallise some things about What Makeup Is To Me (right now, subject to drastic change in the next five minutes).

It all boils down to this: taste is a verb as well as a noun.

Some see playing with makeup as a series of edits to evolve the ultimate repertoire of 'individualised tweaks' to suit your natural canvas (which for me includes not only physical features but lifestyle and preferences): experimentation is a means to an end, and ultimately taste acts as a concentric force, drawing in the best and discarding the inferior. There is much pleasure to be had in this process of refining -- nothing like a bit of asceticism to sharpen certain aesthetic pleasures.

Excentric is the physical opposite to concentric, and exerts its own pull. It can be thrilling to escape the self through makeup, to let it wear you, to enjoy it as a costume, to throw yourself into a new trend which does not remotely flatter and perhaps most subversively of all, to employ the deliberately deceptive potential of artifice in 'no-makeup' looks, to make yourself look subtly more right for whatever situation.

Ultimately, this hobby is capacious enough to contain both types of potentialities and many more besides; my own keyword of choice sits at an angle to both excentic and concentric tendencies and intersects with both -- eccentric. And, likewise with a long and very English history, amateur with its Latin root amāre, 'to love'.

To pervert Oscar Wilde, lipsticks are both the elements of autobiography and the instruments of fiction.

Two recent looks
1. Inspired by catwalk minimalist trends, dispensing with some of my preferred elements (bright blush and lipstick, dewy skin) and comfort-blanket 'flattering' tricks (curled lashes, mascara, liner, additional shades of eyeshadow to contour and create the illusion of more symmetrical features).

I look bloody miserable because it's fashion, innit?
Kevyn Aucoin SSE SX-01 over blemishes and lips
Suqqu loose powder Natural (not the most matte of powders, but I did the bet with what I had)
KATE brow gel BK-3
THREE dark green cream eyeshadow from 4D palette 02 (top right) applied in a vague haze

2. Experimenting with false lashes (which I've worn less than three times in my life) and an uncompromised mix of stark brights.
Shu Uemura Stage Performer Instant Glow and Nars Sheer Glow Siberia
Lunasol Undereye Concealer 00
Sugarpill Dollipop as blush, taken up to the temples
Sugarpill Buttercupcake, Flamepoint, Poison Plum and Bulletproof on eyes
Shu M White gel liner on waterline
Shu Tutu Flare lashes and Ultimate Natural mascara
Laura Mercier bright peachy pink lip glacé (freebie with Allure Korea)

Friday, 2 December 2011

Majolica Majorca Eyeshadow swatches -- singles and new quads

Japanese drugstore brands can come and go in the blink of an eye and Majolica Majorca (launched in 2003 by Shiseido) ranks as a veteran by now. Although it was one of my gateways into Japanese makeup, and their Lash Expander Frame Plus mascara remains a staple, its competitors Lavshuca and KATE (from Kanebo) and Visee (from Kose) have since supplanted it in my affections.

Swatching some of the newer releases, I was struck by how improved the eyeshadow formula was -- in terms of pigment and buttery feel, not far off the best textures from other drugstore lines, like KATE Dual Blend Eyes, Lavshuca Melting Eyes or Visee Glam Nude Eyes.

All swatches patted on with a fingertip.

BR793 and GR791, two permanent quads originally released in Autumn 2010. These are nominally in the Jewelling Eyes series, but are completely different (richer and more pigmented) from the rest of that range, as well as featuring more interesting colour combos. HK$138 for 4g.

artificial light

artificial light + flash

Unusually for a Japanese drugstore brand, MM also continues to make singles -- Eye Shadow Customize, retailing for HK$52 each. While certain cult shades like SV821 (supposedly a 'dupe' for Shu ME Silver 785, though I didn't find them too similar) have been discontinued, there are still some gorgeous neutrals to be getting on with.

artificial light

artificial light + flash
WT920 is pinker and has a less intense frosty/metallic finish than WT963
BE286 a delicate neutral rose gold
GD822 extremely buttery warm old gold
BR665 olive bronze with gold shimmer
BR784 cool yellow-based brown
BK922 gunmetal satin base with iridescent grey, blue and silver shimmer