i'm happy to report that i got a very nice message from ellis faas cosmetics, offering to replace my fallen soldier and- more exciting- indicating that they are working on perfecting their pens and making them better than ever. so with that renewed sense of confidence... i'm ready to explore the world of ellis.
there's something undeniable sexy about ellis faas distinctive silver pen applicators. they're so ultra-modern looking, so slim and tapered and elegant. despite the fact that they're in a price range that would make even a guerlain connoisseur blush, they just call to you, particularly if you're a beauty "maven" who's seen everything in a tube or pan and longs for something a little different, a reinvention of the colour wheel.
i'm lucky, in that the spiffy new sephora location in downtown montreal is one of the only ones to actually carry ellis faas products. the collection is available through sephora on line everywhere, but there really is nothing like being able to try out the products in person. but for those of you who can't, i'm here for you.
the brand was developed by danish model ellis faas and supposedly takes its inspiration from the palette of the human body. either there are some pretty scary bodies in denmark, or that inspiration is interpreted broadly. what i will say is that the colours do have a tendency towards warmer tones. there are a few cool shades [particularly some of the creamy eye shades introduced this past spring, which unfortunately haven't been added to the sephora assortment], they're the exception rather than the rule.
almost everything is a cream product housed in its own little dispenser pen with a plastic fibre brush applicator. the applicators are small and are better, i find, for applying lip products than eye products; they don't tend to smooth the eye products evenly. they're decent enough for initial application, though.
because of the price points, the fairly narrow shade range and the quirky applicators, i'd classify this as a cosmetic lovers' brand. it might appeal to someone who likes to buy occasionally, but i think it's aimed chiefly at those who might have become a bit jaded. and, yes, despite the preponderance of pretty, i do sometimes feel jaded. so i couldn't resist checking out a couple of these products when i found them displayed so nicely.
ellis' eye and lip colours come in three formulas each. for lips you have glazed [a sheer but pigmented gloss formula], milky [a semi-opaque liquid lipstick] and creamy [opaque near-matte liquid lipstick]. the eye shadows come in milky [semi-sheer], creamy [opaque and satin-matte] and lights [intensely frosted and sparkling]. the products are identified by a letter, indicating what they're for ["e" for eyes, etc.] and a number, the first digit of which indicates the family it belongs to and the final two of which indicate the colour [l101 would be creamy lipstick colour 01, l204 would be milky lipstick 04, etc.]. there are very basic colour descriptions given, but things mostly seem to work through the numbers, another indication that there's something more "professional" about the products.
for my foray into faas, i chose l202, milky lips in a shade described as "dark blood" and e303, eye light in "bronze". both are on the intense end of the spectrum. none of the eye lights are what i'd call particularly natural, but the lipstick is certainly one of the darkest and most intense they have.
l202 does indeed resemble a dark, somewhat dried bloodstain. although it is not completely opaque, as expected, it's dark enough that you really can't see a lot of my natural lip poking through. although in the close up shots, the colour appears to settle into lip lines, it's important to remember that these are taken with a high definition camera. i actually found that the shade left my lips looking rather exceptionally smooth.
|l202 :: natural light|
|l202 :: with flash|
i absolutely love the applicator for lips. it dispensed the perfect amount of product and was exceptionally easy to control. even without a lip liner, i found that i was able to get a really nice, crisp line around my cupid's bow and extremely even coverage. the formula is quite liquid going on, which allows you to smooth it on, but it settles to a demi-matte finish after a few minutes. once it's set, it hangs on for dear life. i imagine that lighter colours might wear less, but this lasted hours on me with very little fading. i can honestly say that i have never had a lipstick outperform this one. and what's truly remarkable is that this formula feels like... nothing. it's impossibly light for something so incredibly pigmented.
|l202 :: natural light|
|l202 :: with flash|
in terms of comparisons, it's somewhat surprising. i love rich, deep reds, which this certainly is, but it falls somewhat short of being full-on vampy, at least by my standards. it's a very sophisticated deep red with a lot of brown in it. it's warm, but it's a different sort of warm because of that brown- rather than orange- element.
the first two that leaped to mind where the limited edition mac shade "kittenish", which is a brownish red and chanel's "fatale" which is also a warmer-toned deep red. neither of those shades came particularly close at all. "kittenish" looks more sheer in comparison and it's noticeably darker, but it also looks much cooler than normal next to l202. likewise, "fatale" looks almost cherry-ish alongside our friend ellis.
|l to r :: mac kittenish [l.e.], l202, chanel fatale :: natural light|
|same as above :: with flash|
so obviously, other warm reds weren't necessarily the place to go for analogues. realising that, i turned to browner shades. chanel's "baroque" is a brown lipstick, but it lacks any red [it's more a plum shade with a lot of pink in it]. i really thought i'd come pretty close with guerlain's "gardner", which is probably the warmest, rustiest red i own. up 'til now. i expected that "gardner" would be lighter but damn... they look nothing alike. well, "nothing alike" meaning you would never mistake one for the other.
|l to r :: chanel baroque, l202, guerlain gardner :: natural light|
|same as above :: with flash|
e303 was a real leap of faith for me. first of all, it's a cream/ liquid shadow. normally, i hate cream/ liquid shadows and they hate me. i find that they crease and smudge, which is bad enough, but they also tend to cause allergic reactions. i've been able to make mac's paint pots work for me and i'm able to get some wear from benefit's creaseless creams [although those can cause a bit of irritation]. that's it. the other thing about the eye lights is that their exceptionally frosty/ glittery, which can do bad things to the eyes of those of us no longer in the bloom of youth. however, i was pleasantly surprised on both fronts.
first of all, the thin formula doesn't feel sticky or heavy. it's quite fluid when applied but it dries- very quickly and feels like nothing. i tried applying it in a thin layer and smoothing it out and applying it more thickly to get the full -on dazzle, but it never got to the point where it felt heavy on me at all. and there was no irritation, save for when i actually got a bit in my eye. [pro-tip: don't.] and the frostiness is really different than othre products i've tried. rather than reading as a tradtional frost eye shadow, the eye lights read as intensely, deeply infused with shimmer. lots and lots and lots of shimmer. although it sparkles like a chunk of iron pyrite, it doesn't emphasise my flaws the way very frosty shadows can. which is nice, because i'm pretty good at emphasising my flaws all on my own.
|e303 :: natural light|
|e303 :: with flash|
the colour is very interesting. applied more sheerly and blended, i'd say that it is a bronze-brown, but as you build up the colour, it shows more and more gold. there's always a molten coppery-ness to it, but at maximum volume, i'd definitely say it was gold and not bronze. [and i'm canadian- we know bronze.] it does work very well as a base colour for other shades as well. try putting a warm pink like mac's "da bling" over it! here's a look at a heavier application [and no, that isn't l202 that i'm wearing]:
and here is what it looks like sheered out [with aforementioned pink shadow over it on the inner half of the lid]:
as far as blending with other shades... i wish you well in your efforts. the formula dries very quickly, which means that you're probably going to be occupied with getting a nice smooth application for those few magical seconds. after that, it ain't blending with anything. that doesn't mean it's impossible, but it's just one more challenge ellis has set out for her faithful. personally, i find the colour so incredibly rich that most of the time, i wear it on its own.
there are comparable shades, particularly mac's "rose gold" pigment [which is much smoother and more metallic and urban decay's "half-baked" [which is quite similar in base colour but doesn't have the prismatic sparkle]. since both of those are more gold, e303 does have a bronze-copper tone in comparison, a little more orange to it.
|l to r :: mac rose gold, e303, u.d. half-baked :: natural light|
|same as above :: with flash|
|e303 after 13 hours of wear|
and now, the bad news.
i was already a little skeptical of the pens, not because i disliked working with them, but because they're made of a cheap, lightweight plastic. for the price, i was expecting something metal, something sturdier. the third time i used e303, i was annoyed to discover that some product had leaked out a join in the magical pen that housed it. i carefully cleaned the pen and the brush and tried to prime the shadow, but virtually nothing came to the brush, while a lot oozed out onto my hand. i opened the pen as delicately as i could- they come right apart- and found that there was a lot of product pooled in the lower portion that lead to the brush. so it didn't make sense that product wasn't coming out unless there was a clog. i figured i'd just try cleaning the brush more carefully, but when i tried to put everything back together, i couldn't.
fortunately, i bought the item at sephora, who let me exchange it without any issue, nice folks that they are. so now i have a new one, but i'm very, very skeptical. something in that price range just shouldn't fail after being used twice. the reason that every company has been using pots and tubes since time immemorial is because they work, they're reliable and they don't waste product. if you're going to go in a different direction, especially if you're going to price it at a premium, you need to be sure that your widget is pretty bloody amazing.
i wrote to ellis faas through the contact address on their web site, basically saying that i was disappointed this had been my first experience with the brand and that i was otherwise really impressed with their products. i made it clear that i wasn't asking them to replace or refund anything, since sephora had my back, but i'm still a little surprised that i never received so much as a "thanks for your note" in response. nada. it's one of those things that isn't wrong- they weren't implicated in the immediate sale, so there was nothing for them to do- but in an era when luxury customers are used to luxurious treatment, it seems lacking. [and no, i did not curse in the letter, or tell them where they could stick their pens, or anything else. i can be pretty diplomatic when i want to be.]
|e303 and l202 together|
so the bottom line? the formulas are almost impossibly good. the lip shades, while not having a lot of nuance to them, are surprisingly original and although the colour range is definitely warm, there are colours that can flatter cooler lasses. the pen applicators look great and are pretty easy to work with once you get the hang of them. but they're risky. every time i use one of these products, i'm waiting for things to go wrong, which makes me less inclined to use them than i would otherwise be. if you want to try something different, i'd recommend getting them through sephora, since you know you'll be able to return it if something goes wrong.
[i do recommend visiting the ellis faas web site, though, since it's both a work of modern art and incredibly useful, being one of the only sites i've seen that features swatches of products on actual skin. the image at the top of this post is taken from the site.]