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making faces :: classic armani is classic

have you ever tried reading lesser books by great writers? not just the books that aren't quite as well known, but the stuff that they really just cranked out to make some money when they'd squandered all their earnings on drink and debauchery. what you discover most of the time is that while they had an undeniable talent, there's a reason why their classics are the ones that have inscribed themselves on the collective imagination. those classics touch something in our psyche that goes beyond simple skill and that is the reason why certain titles persevere while others fade.

for fall 2012, armani would like to remind you that as it is with literature, so it is with beauty. there is a reason why certain looks have established themselves as iconic in our culture and it's not about trends or quirks or gimmicks. it's about the fact that certain looks are simply, effortlessly classic because they remind of us of other, greater emblems of beauty going back many years.

armani's collections are always 'succinct', but this one seems especially so, in that the bulk of the products are bound up in two palettes of three shadows and one blush each. "neo-black" is made up of more stately neutrals, while "neo-brown" is more earthy. there are three new lipsticks- a deep red, a rich rosewood and a soft beige- and a black and a brown eyeliner. simple, sleek and small.

this is my restrained face
in all honesty, if i could have afforded to, i probably would have bought the whole collection, but things being what they are, i limited myself to the neo-black palette and #408, the deep red lipstick. because, if you're going to go classic, nothing is more timeless than a smouldering neutral eye and a bloodstained lip. i grew up worshiping at the altar of silver screen sirens  and this combination looked like someone had distilled my ideal of beauty into a couple of perfect little shiny black packages.

i'll start with the lipstick, because it'll be quick. i've already gone on so much about my passionate, boundless, erotic love for rouge d'armani lipsticks that i'm nearly certain i've run out of adjectives to describe them. pulchritudinous? meritorious? resplendent? it vies always with guerlain as my favourite lipstick formula and the idea of having one in an autumn-appropriate deep red was almost too much for me to take. i might have actually gone through the motions of swatching it on my hand in the store, but honestly, it was a mere formality. i knew it would be coming home with me.


and, yes, the shade lives up to all the brand's established promise. it's a gorgeous cool red shade that stops short of being berry or purple and, while it's not completely opaque, the colour is as deep and pigmented as you could wish. it's a funny thing with rouge d'armani shades in general- i find that they sometimes look less than opaque  on application and then seem to become more so as they set.

natural light
with flash
i have a lot of deep reds, which means i certainly have comparable colours, but nothing that's quite there. bobbi brown "black cherry" is close in colour, but is more sheer and a lot glossier. mac's limited shade "digna" is also fairly close, although i'd say it was more opaque and cooler still.

l to r :: bobbi brown black cherry, 408, mac digna [l.e.] :: natural light
same as above :: with flash
the nice thing about this sort of shade is that- for me at least- it falls short of being a full-blown vampy shade; it doesn't have enough black in it for that. but it is deep enough to be quite dramatic and very, very "old world" classy.

now, i wasn't planning on getting one of the sleek little palettes, made up of three shadows and a blush, not because i didn't like them, but because i hesitated to shell out $95cad for a single item. then dom felt it necessary to point out that the price is actually pretty good, when you look at what it would cost to buy three shadows and a blush from armani separately. i'd already thought of that, but refused to follow the line of thought to the cash register because it felt like i was justifying something. but having someone else justify it for you is totally different because then you know it's actually the correct way to be thinking about things.

so "neo-black" came home with me.

the three shadows truly live up to the "classic" billing. they're very neutral, so they're suited to a wide range of skin tones. the formula is jaw-dropping. i'm actually surprised to admit that this is my first armani "normal" eye shadow purchase [i just get seduced by the eyes to kill powders], but i've swatched shades before and even by comparison with their other shadows, the quality is pretty remarkable.

the first shade is a very shimmery greige, a colour that armani is known for. as the name implies, it's a tipping point between grey and beige. it's the sort of neutral that can work for anyone, because it's not especially warm or cool, although i will say this one edges a little warm. [you can see the more gold tones in the shot with the flash.]

i was concerned that this one would look too frosty on me, but applied to the lid, while there is plenty of shimmer, it still looks pretty sophisticated. i also thought that it was too dark to work as a highlighter, but as it turns out, despite the intensity of the colour applied, it sheers out to a lovely whisper of colour that's neither too dark nor too sparkly to work along the brow bone. all the shades apply this way, actually: quite intense with minimal effort, but easily sheered out for a softer effect [without blending away].

natural light
with flash
there are lots of neutrals around, so it's unlikely that you have absolutely nothing similar already. mac's "call me bubbles" is more muted, less shimmery and lighter. marcelle "champagne bubble" is much lighter and more sheer. mac's "sweet satisfaction" is darker and warmer. ok, so i actually didn't have much that was similar, chances are you have something. regardless, it's the quality that's going to make the difference here. i love all the comparison shades i mentioned, but even the richly pigmented, smooth "sweet satisfaction" couldn't hold a candle to the armani colour.

l to r :: mac call me bubbles [l.e.], neo-black, marcelle champagne bubble, mac sweet satisfaction :: natural light
same as above :: with flash
the middle shade of the trio is kind of a head scratcher. it's a dirty brown green with a definite undercurrent of olive and some gold sparkles. the sparkles don't really translate on the eye, but the colour doesn't look flat, either. i think that this would read khaki on someone with olive toned skin, whereas on me, i notice more of the grey. it's incredibly deep on first application, but it blends very nicely. applied more intensely, you can see little flecks of light. it's like watching the sun glint against the surface of a heavily shaded swamp.

natural light
with flash
it immediately called to mind mac's limited shade "gazette grey", which has a similar muddy base with sparkle thing happening. seen side by side, "gazette grey" is cooler and the colour payoff is a lot less. guerlain's "les fumes" has a similar shade, but it's more neutral and lacks the green tinge of armani. they're comparable in terms of quality.

l to r :: mac gazette grey [l.e.], neo-black, guerlain les fumes :: natural light
same as above:: with flash
and finally, we come to the black. i don't know why, but i just haven't accumulated much in the way of matte blacks. it's not that i don't want them, it's just that... well, the fact is that most matte blacks are kind of crappy. most are dry and stiff and don't look particularly black. this black does not have those problems. when i swatched it, the first thing i thought of was pulling an errant stick out of an extinguished campfire and writing with it. that first smear of sooty colour is as pure a black as you're likely to see in nature and that is exactly what the armani black looks like. i swear it was actually sucking light out of the room as i was photographing it.

natural light
with flash
i tried to swatch it against mac's "carbon", which is the only other true matte black i own, but after layering "carbon" several times- compared to the two quick swipes i did for armani- i got kind of bored. so i thought i'd illustrate the difference between a true matte black and a black that leans just a little off neutral [in this case blue] and has some shimmer, so i took a swatch of nars "dogon". "dogon" is a terrific shade- great pigmentation, smooth formula- but you can immediately see how a truly matte shade of blackest black is something that can't be imitated by any other shade.

l to r :: nars dogon, neo-black, mac carbon :: natural light
same as above :: with flash
the trio of shadows have an upstairs neighbour in the form of a powder blush. i was a little hesitant about the blush because i thought it would look a little off on me. it's, well, beige. i have to admit it, the blush is a fleshy shade of beige, deeper than a highlight like nars "nico", but still a very light shade as blushes go. normally, i like light blushes, because i'm fair and they actually work to add a natural hint of colour, but this one... well, it's beige for crying out loud. i couldn't imagine that it was going to look like much except a smudge of someone else's skin.

then i tried it on and from that second i realised that even if the lady working the armani counter only had one palette left and it was missing the shadows but still cost the same amount, i'd want this shade that much.

although it is a warm-ish beige, it doesn't look too orange on me. the pink undertone to my skin might help that, but really, the shade applies very much how it looks. but rather than looking like rubbery skin, it resembles a glow-y, candlelit version of my own colour and it really brings out my cheekbones when applied over them. on me, it's definitely a blush, because it adds too much colour to work as a highlighter or all-over finishing powder. honestly, i think that it would be a little tricky to use as such even on darker complexions, but for fair ladies, it's incredible.

natural light
with flash
what was more incredible was how well it lasted. generally, deep or bright blushes last the longest, while softer ones lose their impact after a few hours [at least on my face]. this one holds strong for much longer and keeps its radiant finish, which makes the face look... perfect. i don't know how to explain it other than to say that it really did seem to perfect my skin and my overall look.

because i'm not in the habit of buying beige blushes, the comparisons i came up with definitely leaned more pink. mac's "her own devices" beauty powder [limited edition, but somewhat similar to "tenderling" blush, which is permanent] is a warmer shade of pink. mac "strada" is cooler and more mauve/ pink.

l to r :: mac her own devices [l.e.], neo-black, mac strada :: natural light
same as above :: with flash
i won't tell you that there aren't similar blushes out there, but i will tell you this: i don't think you could find one better.

you do have to admit, that for $95, armani is giving you quite a bit. the difference, of course, is that they're forcing you to buy it all at once, rather than segment your purchases. think of it as buying in bulk.

as far as quality goes, there is virtually no comparison. these colours are so smooth, so velvety, so long-lasting, so rich... and what's more interesting is that they're so useful. you might have noticed that things have been a little quiet this week. that's because i was gone for a few days, attending a trade show in toronto for my job. as a test, i took this palette with me and, yes, even makeup addict me managed to go a few days just creating different looks from this little wonder. despite the fact that most of the time, i felt so physically damaged that i thought getting hit by a truck would be an improvement, i had to admit that my makeup looked pretty classy, understated and refined.

armani is available in canada exclusively through holt renfrew, but you can also order through major u.s. retailers like norstrom's and neiman marcus. all the items are limited to the best of my knowledge, which is unfortunate, but kind of expected from armani...

here's a look at the palette and the lipstick in action. what can i say? you've seen this sort of look a million times [and probably several times on this blog, since i love me the neutral eye and deep red lip], but i don't know if i've ever found products that made it so easy.

the base
armani fluid master face primer [it's scary how this smoothes and perfects my skin to the extent that it looks like i put on a light foundation despite the fact that it's clear]
gosh liquid concealer "light"
urban decay naked skin foundation "2.0"
laura mercier pressed powder "porcelain"

the eyes
armani e/s palette "neo-black" [shimmery greige, muddy brown-grey, matte black]
urban decay 24/7 eye liner "perversion" [black]
benefit bad gal mascara

armani palette "neo-black" [peachy beige]

armani rouge d'armani l/s "408/ rosewood red" [cool, deep red]


Shadowy Lady said…
thank you for the swatches Kate. Loving the palette and the red lipstick....and you can never have too many deep reds ;)

I really want to get the neo black palette to treat myself for losing all the baby weight :) I have lost all my summer tan now so back to my lighter shade (about MAC NW20) now. Do you think all the shades in the palette will work on me?
Kate MacDonald said…
It would look incredible on you, I am 1000% certain. Actually, I think the lipstick would look gorgeous on you as well.

Congratulations on losing your baby weight- feel free to share your secrets!

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