Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ayla Beauty: radiance inside and out

Glowing guest and darling skincare consultant, Nora Decemberle, at the Ayla Beauty store opening party.

This small shop in Pacific Heights was once a carriage house and is next door
to San Francisco's Healing Arts Building.

A couple of months ago, I was at the hairdresser's flipping through C Magazine, and saw this blurb about Ayla Beauty and was intrigued by the description of customized skincare consultation and hard-to-find beauty products without harmful ingredients. On the website, the link for "Get A Kit" immediately caught my eye. For $20, including shipping, I filled out a detailed questionnaire about my concerns and goals for skincare and I was sent six samples handpicked for me. Fun! Even though the experience was online, it felt very personal. A couple of days after I submitted the questionnaire, I received this email:

Hi Lesa, 

I'm excited to be your Ayla guide. Contact me whenever you need product recommendations or advice about skincare in general -- I'd be delighted to help.

Here's a list of the items you'll find inside your package, which shipped today. 

Elave Age Delay Cleanser: An anti-aging, exfoliating cleanser containing glycolic acid that gently rejuvenates dull, clogged, or dehydrated skin

Sentara Plump Effect Bio-Relaxing Serum: A deeply hydrating but completely non-greasy serum that plumps up wrinkles with a combination of seaweed, ginseng, and hyaluronic acid

S5 Restore Cream: A fast-absorbing, cushy cream that’s clinically proven to increase skin’s moisture content, reduce wrinkles, and drive away dullness

VOYA Me TimeA seaweed-infused lotion for Balanced to Dry skin that plumps and firms as it provides antioxidant protection and boosts radiance

Suntegrity BB cream SPF 30: Our favorite BB cream, this one combines moisturizing, anti-aging, priming, and skin perfecting benefits in one product along with some of the best sun protection you can get.

You'll also receive a card with tips for testing new products as well as a suggested AM/PM regimen. Some of our samples are hand-filled (we want to provide the perfect product matches for you, even if we don't have ready-made samples available). Because they're only labeled with the product names, you may want to refer to our website for any additional usage instructions -- you'll find all of that information on each product page I've linked to in this email.

For a dose of extra exfoliation you can leave the age delay cleanser on for 2-3 minutes and gently rub off with a damp muslin or washcloth. I chose two moisturizers for you as I thought you might like to compare. You can alternate between the two of them at night. The BB Cream should give you enough moisture during the day but if you feel a little dry, of course feel free to add a dab of either moisturizer to the cream.  

Finally — I'm a big believer in caring for skin from the inside out as well. Here are some tips that might be helpful for you:
1. Taking omega-3 supplements can help keep your skin balanced and radiant, and it will help with age-related inflammation, too (which can be linked to acne). My favorite brand is Nordic Naturals, which is sold online and at Whole Foods.
2. We love nutritionist Ian Marber's straightforward approach and unique recipes. You might enjoy reading our interview with him on anti-aging nutrition.
3. Dr. Jeannette Graf also did an interesting series of interviews with us on boosting radiance in skin from the inside out. You can read them here and here.

I hope you find something in your kit that you love! Please feel free to contact me anytime with questions. Otherwise, I'll follow up with you in a bit to see how things are going.

Then a couple days later my samples arrived, nicely packaged in a drawstring muslin bag.

Oops, I realize this photo has a mix of my original samples, plus a few I got at the opening party.
 But you get the idea!

With this detailed card from Nora:

Then I was emailed an invite for "Champagne, chocolate, raffles and radiance" at the opening party for the Ayla store. Of course I had to go - champagne, chocolate and beauty products!?!!- a few of my favorite things, plus I wanted to meet the owner Dara Kennedy and my beauty buddy Nora. I already felt like I knew them. When I arrived at 1825 Bush Street, I walked past the tiny building tucked in the side of the Healing Arts Building, but once I found it, I entered a hubbub of happy vibrant women.

Kerry Wall was the beautiful representative of The Organic Pharmacy. Started by a homeopathic pharmacist in the UK, the cosmetic line only uses the best carefully chosen pure ingredients. Kerry gave me a little makeover and I course I had to buy a few things. I couldn't resist their makeup line "Organic Glam". It's not an oxymoron in their hands.

Dara is on the far right answering the many questions and making recommendations. 

Dara with happy clients. 

Many products to sample!

The Organic Glam products I purchased that I've been enjoying everyday since. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Roger Vivier: the shoes and the women who love them.

Books are my weakness, especially beautifully photographed art and fashion books. Luckily I share this addiction with fashion friend Karen, so we loan our expensive books to each other. Admittedly, it's a bit one-sided as Karen has a bigger book collection and loans more to me. She's so generous in fact, that I recently gave her this beautiful book, Roger Vivier, for her birthday and after peeling away the clear plastic that sealed it (proof that I hadn't read it first!) and oohing and ahhing at the photos, she immediately handed it back to me as a loan. I sheepishly accepted, but I want to get this posted asap before guilt sets in.

Vivier collaborated with Christian Dior from 1953 to 1962.

The book is not only stunning to look at, but it is a pleasure to read with heady essays by French writers like Virginie Mouzat and Olivier Saillard and interviews with Vivier fans Cate Blanchett, Catherine Deneuve and brand ambassador Inès de la Fressange.

Catherine Deneuve and Inès de la Fressange in 2012.
Both wearing Vivier's buckle shoe,  designed forty-five years ago.

Roger Vivier's career spanned sixty years. And the shoes tell a consistent and cohesive tale of excellent design. I'm not suprised to learn that Vivier studied sculpture at Paris's Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1924. Shoes at their best are small sculptures. From the beginning, he designed shoes for the royal and the famous. Coronation shoes for the Queen Mother and Queen and stars such as Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and Marlene Dietrich. 

"Comma" heel. Spring/Summer 2005 collection. Designed by Bruno Frisoni.
Frisoni has been Vivier creative director since 2002.  

Credited with designing the first stiletto heel by using a stainless steel shank, he named his heels like a sculptor names his work: Fuyant (fleeting) 1954, Toupie (spinning top) 1955, Egtrave (bow stem) 1958, Choc 1959, Virgule (comma) 1963.

"Choc" heels, 1959. 

Catherine Deneuve famously wore his black patent leather shoes with large gold buckles in Luis Bunuel's film Belle du Jour, forever associating them with sexy allure. Vivier originally designed them for Yves Saint Laurent's Fall/Winter Mondrian collection 1965-1966. The style still thrives today.

Ecume des Modes shoe, designed by Bruno Frisoni,
Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2009-2010.

French journalist Virginie Mouzat contributes to the book with her essay A Martyr by Consent : "At this phase in the construction of feminine representations, high heels — in France, we call them talons — read almost like undergarments that we wear in plain sight and knowledge of everyone around us. In some ways, wearing them is almost like wearing lingerie for the feet. For those with a weakness for shoes, the same shiver runs down their spine whether they happen upon a closet full of high heels or a drawer filled with women's lingerie. Something on the order of the profane occurs. Fetishism? The word burns the lips. Of course, that does have something to do with it. And the displacement of the libido onto this accessory not only burn the lips, it also burns the credit cards. Wearing talons is like consensual martyrdom, and this consent confers upon the act the pleasure of its ambivalence, whether we want it to or not." J'adore such highbrow philosophizing about heels!

Cate Blanchett wearing Prismick flats, Spring/Summer 2012.

In the book, there is an interview with Cate Blanchett and Bruno Frisoni. When asked if she can tolerate wearing uncomfortable shoes, Blanchett says, "If I'm only walking down the red carpet or if I'm doing a photo shoot, absolutely. But not in everyday life...That's what I love about my Vivier shoes. They are sculptural but they are really wearable. Shoes are, to a certain degree, fetish objects. I think in some designer's hands, they can work with the cruel side of the fetish rather than the exotic, exquisite side of the fetish—the exquisite is what Bruno does at Vivier.

Blanchett sums it up: "There's a kind of glorious eccentricity to them yet they are still so effortlessly chic."

The archive room, maison Roger Vivier, 29 rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré. Looks like it could use some straightening and wouldn't I love the job of doing that!