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Karen Walker Fragrance Launch & Interview Excitement!

Karen Walker launched three new fragrances, starting in New Zealand - and Ever So Scrumptious was invited to try the scents and meet Karen Walker herself. For international style-lovers, Karen Walker brings fresh, wearable Antipodean quirkiness, especially with her successful eyewear line. For style-conscious New Zealanders, Karen Walker is the gateway to investment style with "accessible luxury" - I note that Karen Walker jewelry is often the first silver or gold piece a young woman owns. And now the brand has branched out into another area of accessible luxury with fragrances. Fun out front at Karen Walker for Kirckaldie and StainesThe fragrance launch event in Wellington was everything fabulous about style in New Zealand. Cheerful redheads flourished giant balloon letters to greet us, making our day more surreal. Inside, several stands with the three perfumes awaited us, with vivid cards for spraying samples. There was a sparkle of excitement amongst the handful of people, always renewed, who waited in a loose queue to meet Karen Walker in person. Where else is a globally famous designer going to be so accessible? Karen was polished and relaxed, pausing to grab shopping bags to package up inflatables, or to hand out macarons to astonished fans.
Karen Walker serving up macarons at the launch of her new fragrances in Wellington

Karen Walker clearly felt at home in Wellington

A little rough-voiced after chatting with well-wishers and fans for two and a half hours, Karen made the time for a short interview with me about the fragrances.[Read more]
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Fragrance Exploration: Accessory and Perfume Swap

The second part of our fragrance day, an accessory and perfume swap, was an intriguing glimpse into how perfumistas and the Internet have changed the cultivated edges of a beauty industry. First, let me announce our giveaway winner, chosen at random - Hester! Thank you everyone!

So what is it like to throw a fragrance and accessory swap? The swap came together naturally, with Made Marion Craft hosting us at their store and a local fragrance appreciator sharing her knowledge of how to sample perfumes. On the swap afternoon, we had a table of necklaces, other jewelry, scarves, gloves,and hats; some shoes; a merry widow; four full-to-1/4-full bottles of fragrance; and about 150 perfume and fragrance oil samples.
I'll have this one and this one and this one....

This is what 150 perfume samples looks like.

150 samples? Whaaaat? Allow me to explain. These sample vials, ranging from 0.5 to 2 ml of fragrance, are what enable today's online perfume fans. You can acquire samples and "decants" from most online fragrance vendors and there are two or three places that will send you samples from thousands of fragrance lines - all for a price, of course. But that price is modest compared to buying a full bottle of all those scents  ($2 to $6, depending). (Surrender to Chance is the favorite amongst NZ buyers; Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab was one of the originators of this practice.) These samples are now a kind of currency amongst fragrance fans, and they are swapped or sold on for modest sums. The more rare, artisanal, and complex the sample, the more the perfumistas are intrigued. Once in a while, a sample leads to a full bottle purchase - which is often decanted in part to share with one's fragrance friends. Fragrance producers large and small, realizing this, have gotten a lot tighter about handing out fragrance samples - I noted this comparing my NYC shopping trips in 2011 and 2013. At the same time this has given a boost to artisanal and unusual fragrance producers - their works are now mailed around the world. Many smaller producers, and I'm using BPAL as an example here again, have bloomed thanks to these samples and related e-commerce. So we were all rapt for a demonstration of how to decant perfumes into samples ourselves, using a combination of decanting supplies and scientific equipment. Our demonstrator, Alison, took us through three methods: using disposable droppers, using small funnels, and using a scientific pipetting kit. Use recycled styrofoam to hold your sample vials in place, and tinfoil to make an improvised funnel!

The happy miscellaney of sampling fragrances: styrofoam, tinfoil, disposable droppers, travel bottles.

When swap time came, the 150 samples were like a bunch of flowers to some very avid honeybees. The jewelry and even the partial bottles were neglected for the sample box and bowl. During the swap, there wasn't much perfume in the air - it wasn't the best time to open the sample vials. Jewelry started attracting attention again at the end of the swap, and the shy question was: "It's OK if I take this apart and remake it?" Of course it was! Send it forth to find its destiny! With this answered in the affirmative, the remaining jewelry was swiftly reduced by half. Was a fragrance swap a good idea? Yes. The biggest challenge in throwing a real-time fragrance swap in a smaller metropolitan area was getting enough perfume aficionados informed, then in the same place, at the same time. A couple of people said they'd be up for an accessory swap but were allergic to fragrances. What's up next for fragrance exploration in Wellington? In the springtime, another swap probably, and we are looking at a visit to Fragifert - I look forwards to trying their NZ botanical perfumes.
Wierdly my camera now smells like perfume after this weekend

If you're sampling lots of fragrances to share, you may want rubber gloves!

The lovely Bridgette
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Fragrance Exploration, Wellington: Kirckaldie and Staines + Mecca

This past Sunday, a group of ardent perfume fans descended on Wellington's most venerable department store, Kirckaldie and Staines. We were there to sniff, share, and experience a range of fragrances while bouncing opinions and experiences off each other. We were very fortunate, because Kirk's had set up an hour's perfume encounter for us, and we also experienced fragrances at the Mecca Cosmetica area of Kirk's cosmetics floor. Even at 10 AM on the Sunday morning after Daylight Savings, there was still a crowd waiting to get into Kirk's. Some of us were soignee; I was tired and blinky. We were met by the front door fountain by Mark Conroy, a tall, blue-eyed, career fragrance expert. He greeted us all smoothly, blinky and beautiful alike, and invited us in. We trooped past the space-age lighting of the cosmetic area to Kirk's fragrance department, and the fun began.

The fragrances of history, waiting for us at Kirkcaldie's

PFMarkConroy

Mark Conroy prepares a scent strip for our delectation

PFSmellMe

"No, wait - smell it on my wrist!" Coffee beans to the right, scent strips everywhere.

After listening to our group and getting an idea of who we were, Mark took us through classic French scents from Chanel, YSL, Guerlain, and more. "It's good to smell some of these as reference notes," said Mark, handing around slips of paper sprayed with Mitsouko and Chanel No. 19. "The Italians have a very different approach to scent," he noted, handing around Acqua di Parma, which I fell in love with instantly. Thanks to Mark, by the end of the hour, I'd learned that while I  like the idea of a "green" perfume, I'm more drawn to perfumes with a citrus or amber note and a woody base. In between sniffs, we refreshed our noses by smelling... coffee beans!
The lovely Bridgette

Sampling scent strips - the way to try

Just as marvelous as the perfumes was being able to share them with like-minded people.* Suggestions and ideas and personal perfume histories were shared. "You know what you'd really like? Can we try...?" I gained a sense of how perfumes really do act differently on different skins, and how they express personality and a subtler sense of beauty. And I learned about scrubbers - perfumes you can't wait to scrub off your skin! We wrapped up with some more modern fragrances, such as the Elie Saab line - extremely popular right now, but very different from the weighty classic scents. We started asking about prices - and we were agreeably surprised. Kirk's fragrance range has become more affordable thanks to some international market changes. Some standouts from our hour of exploration:
  • Bvlgari Blue –  One of us said,  "This is what I wear when I need to wake up on a dismal winter's morning." It starts out as GINGER and more ginger, and dries down beautifully.
  • 24 Faubourg by Hermes – I was very taken with the cashmere-sweater-nuzzleable quality of this, along with the markedly pretty bottle. As the blogger Perfume Queen says about this fragrance, “Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you the smell of money and happiness.”
  • Miss Dior Originale by Dior  – Several of us were smitten with this revived classic. Mark told us the charming story of how the fragrance was created for Dior's sister.
  • Thierry Mugler Angel – One of several love-or-hate ones, this elicited long stories about when-I-wore-Angel and the comment “This smells like…like the sound of a 90s modem.”
  • French travel perfume bottles – Kirk's stocks leakproof travel perfume bottles in two shapes. Transfer some of your favorite into these to take it with you securely. High-end yet affordable, most of us picked up one or more of these.
SO COOL

Getting ready to fill a travel perfume spray straight from the fragrance bottle. How cool is that?? The narrow pen-like shape is airport security friendly, too.

After one more hit of coffee beans to clear our sinuses, we went over to Mecca, ten yards away on Kirk's first floor. The lovely Charlotte gave us a review of their perfume lines. Standouts from our Mecca visit were:
When store lighting and outdoors lighting collide, we all look like lemons

Getting ready to sniff some more at Mecca Cosmetica with Charlotte (left).

At the end of our visit, perfumes and travel perfume bottles were bought, and notes were taken away for future purchases. "I don't really buy a fragrance the first time I smell it," one of us declared. That's why, even in the age of the Internet, the glass-and-light perfume counter is still the place to go, and for those of us introduced to perfumes online, there's nothing like getting together with like-minded souls.
"Suede and peaches, you say?"

Sniffing thoughtfully with friends: what the morning was about.

For those of you who weren't able to make it, and who live in New Zealand, I have a little giveaway. Courtesy of Kirk’s and Mecca, comment below, here on the blog, to be in to win:
  • A voucher for a complimentary makeup application at the cosmetic house of your choice at Kirkcaldie and Staines.
  • Nine carded/boxed perfume samples – Si by Giorgio Armani, Miss Dior by Dior, MaDame by Jean Paul Gaultier, Coco by Coco Chanel, Pleats Please by Issey Miyake, Eau de Sisley 1 by Sisley, Calyx by Clinique, and (drumroll please) two Serge Luteyns samples – L’Eau Serge Lutens and Chergui.
A random selection generator will be used to choose the winner, who will be announced this Friday. SUPER thanks to Kirk's - they were absolutely delightful all the way and treated us magnificently. I'll be back, once my bank account has recovered.
Kirkcaldie and Staines, YOU ROCK.

The fragrance team at Kirkcaldie and Staines - we weren't posing, this just happened.

  *It's not all women - several men were interested in the event, but couldn't make it.
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Miss Burlesque Is Magic

In 2010, I did something that would, all unknowing, change my life - I went to the Miss Burlesque NZ competition. Seeing the fun, creativity, and femininity, the fire of burleque was lit in my bosom - I, too, yearned to be on the spangled stage, Doing That. I was only distracted by a dapper man I saw across the crowded room at the event,  standing with the hepcat swing-dancing contingent. Why aren't I with him? I thought, with fleeting sorrow. Five months later I was floundering through burlesque dance classes and realizing that my 90s club-kid experiences might, unbelievably, be useful in a new sphere.  A year later, I had emceed my first burlesque show. And a year and a half later, I reconnected with that man in the audience, and...we had our engagement party last week. Now, in a glorious full circle, I am one of the emcees of the 2014 Miss and Mr. Burlesque NZ competition! It's the fifth annivery of the competition this year, and I have a ticket to give away - leave a comment to be randomly selected as the winner! The winner will be announced on Friday. You can also buy more tickets to Miss and Mr. Burlesque NZ 2014. And if you, too, want to take some first steps onto the stage, there are classes available with burlesque star Sina King over the competition weekend. As my experiences show, you never know what will happen! MsMrBPoster    
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Fragrance Explorer Day – April 6th

Contact Form Shortcode Error: Form 2 does not existFor those of us in Wellington, I have put together a Fragrance Explorer Day, on Sunday, April 6th. I was inspired by seeing how much fun fragrance lovers overseas have at events like Sniffapalooza and perfume master classes. FragranceExplorerDay Discussing the event with several fragrance-loving friends, and with some friendly retailers, I've done my best to keep it accessible and interesting. The morning is shopping-oriented, and the afternoon is dedicated to a demonstration and a swap. And there wil be time for people to just talk and get to know each other. Some people are signed up in advance - serious fragrance aficionados. Some of us are into vintage and "rescued" scents. Everybody over 18 of all genders is welcome to attend. 10 AM - 11:30 AM - An in-depth hosted visit to Kirkcaldie and Staines with a fragrance talk, followed by sampling their selection of Guerlain, Chanel, and Estee Lauder scents, and exploring their Mecca Cosmetica fragrance area. This is free! Plus, if you choose to acquire a Kirk's fragrance on the day you will receive a gift with purchase. Please sign up ASAP for the Kirk's visit - this is strictly limited to 15 people, and only 10 places are left. Use the form below to sign up! 11:30 to 2:00 PM - Rest your nose, stop by a cafe for lunch with us, and we might sniff in at one or two other places. 2:00 PM - At Made on Marion Craft, there will be a fragrance and accessory swap. The swap starts with a fragrance sampling/pipetting demonstration to help us share our perfumes, and the swap itself begins at 2.30. The swap has a koha (cash donation) entry that will be donated 100% to Women's Refuge Wellington. Swap items will be tallied up for swap credit. You are welcome to bring: perfumes, fragrance oils, costume jewelry, bags, scarves, hats, and gloves. Perfume samples and partially used/tried fragrances are welcome. The swap is limited to 30 - 35 people - again, use the form below to sign up. Note: Your contact information is confidential and I will not distribute Fragrance Explorer information to anyone for commercial purposes.
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Oamaru Victorian Heritage Weekend: Oamaru Itself

More photos from Oamaru Victorian Heritage weekend - this time, focusing on Oamaru itself. With the delicious food, the quirky establishments reusing abandoned buildings, and the grand event, Oamaru feels like it has been taken over by a tribe of artistic best friends who turned it into the New Zealand medium-small town of their dreams.
OamaruTravel-EandRadios

Here I am getting my 1893 on at the walk-in vintage radio museum. My costume is thrifted, except for the Chinese silver belt buckle and the hat made by my friend Khaybee.

OamaruTravel-CheeseboardandScones

The $5 cheese tasting plate at Whitestone Cheese, with glimpses of their brick-sized cheese scones.

OamaruTravel-DinneratFleurs

Blue cod with bacon, the fish of the day, and St. Germain cocktails with elderflowers at the fabled Fleur's in Moeraki.

OamaruTravel-Moeraki

Not only did we not have a lot of time to visit the Moeraki boulders, but they were clogged with other tourists on a fine spring Saturday. I would have liked to spend more time contemplating them, in fine rain, with just my immediate companions on the beach. Here, some of the boulders have eroded, while one of the remaining naturally spherical stones stands alone.

OamaruTravel-Pennyfarthings

Pennyfarthings and cyclists at the parade.

Grainstore_Gallery_Goodness

A glimpse of the opulence inside the Grainstore Gallery.

What a prodigious engine! One of the interactive steamworks outside Steampunk HQ.

What a prodigious engine! One of the interactive steamworks outside Steampunk HQ.

OamaruTravel-SteampunkHQ

Inside the strange post-industrial art installation called Steampunk HQ. Machines wheeze, images flicker, and steam alternates with stone-chilled air.

OamaruTravel-CostumeEventDandK

Our travel companions were beseeched to join in the costume parade on Sunday, held indoors at the Scottish Hall. Khaybee has resumed her handmade late Edwardian hat, adorned with roses, birds, and feathers.

All this machinery was irresistible to the adventurous!

All this machinery was irresistible to the adventurous!

I haven't even noted the Explorers' Club - a useful base for the weekend - the two historical dances, the bookbinders and artists, the stone-carving competition, or the steam engines and vintage vehicles and hot air balloons. Thrifting at the op shops might have been rewarding, too. If you're snapping away with your camera, drop some coins into the donation boxes that are at many venues. And do make your lodging reservations (and reservations at Fleur's) in advance, especially for event weekends like the upcoming paired Oamaru on Fire/Steampunk Weekend next May/June. The only negative thing I noted about Oamaru: I had terrible, terrible hayfever the whole November weekend. Peonies and roses were in bloom in the town, and the pasture in the surrounding countryside was in its full glory. Bring all your medications. I should have avoided dairy, but between the cheese and the incredible ice cream handmade at Deja Moo, well...
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Oamaru Victorian Heritage Weekend: Oh, The Costumes

Two weeks ago, I was at the Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebration weekend. Oamaru says it's New Zealand's only Victorian town. Looking through my photos, I'm reeling at the amount of fantastic Victorian costuming on the streets. With no further ado: many costumed photos.
OamaruCostume-ModestMaids

I believe these elegant costumes and costumers came down from Auckland. Downcast eyes = so period.

OamaruCostume-Parasol

A fortuitous sunbeam...

OamaruCostume-AtTheCyclist

This lady caused a photography traffic jam when she posed for me!

OamaruCostume-CharmingFamily

A delightful family watching the parade.

OamaruCostume-SewingShop

The friends who encouraged me to come to Oamaru said that all levels of costuming were welcomed. Three historically accurate costumes.

OamaruCostume-MarchingBelles

Belles and beaus on parade on Saturday.

OamaruCostume-MarchoftheSuffragettes

March of the suffragettes! New Zealand gained women's suffrage in 1893. Note the purple, green, and white outfits - the colors of the suffragette movement.

OamaruCostume-Suffragettes1

A close up on some of the suffragettes, with bonus pennyfarthings.

OamaruCostume-SteampunkIrregulars

The steampunk contingent! -salutes-

OamaruCostume-HappyCrowd

A happy, happy crowd, in the midst of the Victorian district.

People on the street were extremely gracious about posing, even about being moved into the shade for better shots - thank you, everyone! There was a Costume Parade in the Scottish Hall on Sunday, for some prizegiving and for serious costume review. Unfortunately, while the costumed gentlemen and ladies were happy as posing flaneurs on the street, they got hasty on stage, so I didn't get the greatest photos.

Tomorrow I'll do a general travel post about the festivities and the Oamaru area. And you'll get to see my costume.

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New Zealand Burlesque Festival 2013: Evening Done Right

This October, I went to the New Zealand Burlesque Festival. I spent most of my time enjoying the events, performances, workshops, and vendors. Sunday night, for the Burlesque Mixer, I got my camera out to capture some of the event's style. With the holiday party season coming up, these photos are great examples of successful classy-yet-sexy evening wear for men and women. Fashion magazines layer item upon item into "evening out" ensembles. And Wellington, the same week as the festival, was full of World of Wearable Art lady visitors out on an urban spree. You could pick out the out of towners by their big vivid bags, colorful necklaces, freshly coiffed hair, and other accessories. Bless! The burlesque performers and lovers, in contrast, seemed to have followed the old dictum of getting dressed and then removing an accessory to avoid overdoing it. I didn't notice a single pair of fishnet stockings or seamed stockings all evening. Note in the photos that jewelry and bags are minimal, throats and arms curve unhindered, shoes have clean lines. The clothes fitted, and undergarments were on the job. Some people wore cotton retro dresses on the more casual side of cocktail, and others wore full evening dress. There were many items with one special standout - one guy wore silver leather sneakers, some men and women had vivid pink or blue hair. And when I was editing these pictures, I only had to tone down one shiny forehead: women were clean and powdered and men were immaculate.  BonitaDangerDollandRubyRuinationBonita Danger Doll (left) and Queen of the Festival Ruby Ruination (right). What I like about each of them is that they've each got one complex visual item - Bonita's leopard dress, Ruby's multicolored hair topped with her tiara - and everything else is very simple.

SalaciousSugar-ESSSalacious Sugar shows us the value of perfect, perfect fit and unusual colors.

ScarlettDelight-ESSScarlett Delight has brought in a vintage accessory seamlessly. I also like the fluid drape of her dress - far more flattering than the stiff taffeta lampshades that endure in formal wear.

MissRedd-ESSNot going to lie: satin is a difficult fabric to wear. MisRed Delicious, one of the core festival organizers, makes it work with, again, distinguished fit.

RachelRougeandBelle-ESSTwo evening classics - an LBD and black-and-red- are refreshed by Rachel Rouge and Miss La Belle. Vintage accessories add light and texture. They both have structured and complex hair, and Rachel's paler makeup is a fresh contrast against the dress.

HoneySuckle-ESSSometimes evening is the time to try a trend - Honey Suckle's blonde-and-pink hair sets off her blush ensemble. Her dress has a lot going on, so her hair and accessories stay simple. And there's pale makeup again.

DliciaMinx-ESSAnother black dress ensemble that has me admiring the sensuous, balanced revealed flesh. It sounds like I'm about to pounce on D'Licia Minx, doesn't it? But these proportions are the definition of tastefully sexy - she has the 40% ratio just right.

SharpDressedMen-ESSSharp dressed men. Mmmm hmmm. Note how our redheaded friend has chosen lighter garments and shoes.

FlicCaracouandFriend-ESS  Flic Caracou and her friend interpret two contemporary evening frocks the same way, with dark shoes and stockings. It's more modest, so if you're a bit shy, take note.

FrenchieKissandJettAdore-ESSTwo of the stars of the weekend, Frenchie Kiss and Jett Adore. Jett is bringing the quirky circus to town - you can tell he's someone special who also has a sense of humor. And why does Frenchie look so very good? Apart from that million-watt smile, immaculate grooming and quality fabrics add to her aura of perfection.

SadieandVelvetWhip-ESSWhat happens when two women - me and The Velvet Whip - wear green sequins? We admire each other's excellent taste, of course.

NZBF2013CrowdA whole lot of party happened upstairs! This group shot happened in the middle of the festivities. By the end of the evening, everyone who came in stilettos was sitting on the floor. What stands out in this picture? Vivid hair, lighter frocks, shiny accessories and fabrics, and gray suiting.

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Friday Follies: Bohemian Rhapsody

I told you were were all going to be hippies this coming summer. Burning Man happened for the 27th time this week, and "festival fashion" is a thing. Not only is there a "burner look", but other festivals such as Glastonbury and Coachella are being mined for their style concepts. It's no use going to Burning Man and the like if your brain isn't switched on. I'm enjoying this regular coallation of science news links by Aimee Whitcroft, Wellington-based geek extraordinare and the coordinator of Nerdnite Wellington. Get it in your feed and feel your IQ soar. If the idea of wearing a wee wreath of flowers with your gumboots is too depressing, be inspired by my style crush of the week: "goth punk steampunky bohemian fairy" over at Couturgatory! Or, check out the deliciously raw jewelry from Shh by Sadie - the creator alternates between being in Wellington, NZ and Wales. I saw some of her goodies at Rex Royale on Cuba Street recently. Hoping she restocks her Etsy store soon...

Shh by Sadie is having an arm party and you're invited - click to view her full collection!

To rock your bohemian self, Aethercon is coming to Wellington again in the second weekend of October, with a theme of "post-apocalyptic steampunk." I'm emceeing the daytime events and costume competitions, so start planning for your post-crash utopian looks. There's also a steampunk ball that evening, with performers, plus costumes judged by visiting boylesque luminary Ray Gunn. Lastly, Bohemian Rhapsody by the Muppets.
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Home Sewn at the Dowse: Home Sewn by the Crowd

At opening night at Home Sewn at the Dowse, the crowd was quite as sumptuous as the exhibits. Here's some that I particularly loved.

Dowse-LovelyPairThis enchanting pair even held hands in the fashion show. Femmes represent!

Dowse-FlapperDapperEven if the orange backdrop wasn't the best idea on my part, these frocks (and a hat) were irresisitble.

Dowse-Joy  Who needs an orange backdrop when you are both ON FIRE??

Dowse-ShellandSarh

A gentler moment with two of my friends - two dresses and a cape that they made. Amazing fit and detail.

Dowse-Spots  This fellow blogger apologized because her coat was "made by a friend." No apology necessary!

Dowse-TrioThree ravishing gowns, each made by the wearer. Hand-embroidered silk flowers there on the right.

Dowse-TheFutureI love how she went ahead and started the future with this green silk dress that she made from a Cybele pattern, her purple hair, and the Rubik's Cube handbag.