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making faces :: an armani armada

forza italia
hold on to your seats, folks, because armani has unleashed an italian armada upon us. the brand has been in the process of reinventing its entire line over the last few years, with their updated lipstick and lipgloss formulas, as well as their divine, sparkling potted eye shadows. now is the time when they take the big plunge and redo their single eye shadows [they've already launched some beautiful four-colour palettes] and their blushes. it didn't take me long to indulge, however it has taken me long, very long, to get around to writing this review. lucky for me, everything is permanent, so it's not like they've run out of product.

for this initial review, i have one of each new product, an eye shadow and a blush, which i grabbed with my grubby little hands as soon as they hit counters. seriously, the counter at the bay wasn't finished filling the sample display when i descended on them. [i don't think they know quite what to make of me, since i always seem to go in knowing exactly what i'm looking for.]

i should warn you that there is some serious face spam, to follow.

i'll start with the easier review, which is the blush. i do love a bold cheek against my pale skin, so i gravitated towards #509, eccentrico. it's unabashedly bold, equal parts pink and red with a very fine shimmer that translates to more of a sheen in use. you need very little product to get a big hit of colour and fortunately, if you overdo it, it's a very easy product to blend out. [it also responds well to being subdued with highlighter.] my preferred tool for application is a mac 188 brush, which picks up and deposits less product than a denser brush. i don't find that most other bright blushes have quite this level of pigmentation.

eccentrico 509

in my collection, the only shades i had that could compete with it are mac "azalea" [cooler, pinker and frostier] and mac "salsarose" [redder and warmer].

l to r :: mac azalea, eccentrico, mac salsarose

this is a really nice formula and about the only thing i can say against it is that with the exception of "eccentrico", the range of colours is mostly light and muted, so they're unlikely to work on a wide variety of skin tones.

moving on to the realm of the shadows...



the first thing i want to do is complain about the fact that armani chose to make some of the most beautiful, exciting colours available only in europe. i understand that there are sometimes issues with dyes being approved in europe but not by the fda for the united states, however, those rules generally don't apply to canada. so all they're doing by aligning canada with the u.s. is leaving money on the table. they do seem to have taken some measures to correct this, in that i spotted some, but not all, of the missing shades at holt renfrew. i do hope that we see the remainder here and i do hope that they get their canadian marketing more up to speed.

with that out of the way, i can say that even the limited range has a nice base of neutrals with a few pops of colour. there are also a range of finishes, from completely matte to quite shimmery. i started out by choosing one that's on the sparkly side, but that still felt pretty flexible in terms of how it could be used: "écailles [aka #11]. it's a medium silver grey and i really liked the fact that it had a slightly tarnished look to it, so it wasn't just a plain silver, which is easy enough to find. in some lights, it looks a little pink/ purple. in others, it looks a little green/ brown. the point is that it is quite fascinating to look at and shifts like smoke depending on the light.

écailles, direct light
écailles, indirect light, in a vain attempt to show how it shifts

it is fairly similar to mac's "silver ring", which is a bit lighter and cooler and lacks the faintly magical sparkle of "écailles". the truth is that they look very different applied, which i'll explain shortly.

l to r :: écailles, mac silver ring

swatched, the colour is rich and smooth, however i didn't find that to be the case when i applied it to the lid. it works well enough when applied over the whole lid as a wash of colour. this is really the only way it looks anywhere near as pretty as it does in the swatch. i could never get it to look anywhere near as opaque as it does in the swatch.

used in combination with other colours, it loses some of its allure. the base colour, already on the light side, is prone to fading and the less there is of the product, the less it seems to hold together. it held up fairly well, with noticeable but not terrible fading after a day's wear when used over the whole lid. but as an accent, it faded a lot, sometimes to the point of invisibility. this is something that's best illustrated through pictures, hence my warning about the face spam.

look #1




[this one also shows "eccentrico" on the cheeks.] i wanted to go for a sort of smudgy "i'm in my forties but i still wanna act like the rock star i absolutely never was" kind of look. i find this sort of thing works well when it's very hot, since you don't need to worry about your makeup melting and looking messy if you make it look that way to begin with. see? clever clever me! i've posted about this before.

to accomplish this, i used a lighter silver shade on the centre of the lids, because i lurv me some centre lid highlight. i brushed "écailles" on the inner and outer corners and into the edges of the crease. the idea was to have a medium deep metallic grey that was noticeably darker than the centre highlight, but didn't overwhelm the messy eyeliner look. and it worked... kinda. you can more or less see what i did in the photos, but this is twenty minutes after i applied my makeup and it still took a lot of work and at least two different brushes to get it to look like this. the problem was that every time i tried softening the edges or blending, the base colour would blend out to almost nothing and i'd be left with the "raver scabies" smattering of sparkle.

in case you were curious, the lipstick in this look is armani as well- their rouge ecstasy formula in #400.

look #2




can you even see écailles in these photos? no, you probably can't. i used it on the outer third of the lid, combined with a soft violet-tinged grey on the lids [mac "silverthorn", if memory serves, which it might not, which is why i should write this stuff down]. i thought the soft grey transition with a darker grey/ black shade to shape the orbit of the eye would look nice. but the transition part is kinda missing, because the medium shade just turned into "hi, there's a bit of sparkle in the corners that you might see if you squint and stare at my lids, which is what no one will do, ever, because it's creepy".

incidentally, this look was part of a challenge to myself to get mac "vegas volt" lipstick to work on me, because it was literally the first orange-toned lipstick i ever bought and no matter how beautiful it looks on my hand or how many ladies i see on specktra looking just ravishing in it, i never seem to be able to get it to work for me. irony points: i actually think the lipstick looks better than i can usually achieve.

and yes, i know i should use a lint roller to remove the cat hair before i take these pictures. you don't need to tell me.

look #3




the aforementioned "all over the lid because i don't know what else to do" look. i had avoided this because of the shades similarity to "silver ring" which looks horrible as an all-over shade, but after realising that it didn't look so dark in use, i figured i'd give it a try. and what do you know? it kinda works. ok, i'll admit, i like this look. it's absolutely the best way for me to use this shadow, because it involves almost no blending, which is really where "écailles" seems to fall down.

it occurs to me that this look involves breaking my "last of the spring collections" vow, because the gloss i'm wearing is chanel "murmure", which i hesitated about forever, but it's just such a pretty coral-pink that's perfect for light makeup looks or combinations with somewhat smoky eyes that i couldn't resist. but really, now, for certain, i'm over spring collections. definitely. probably.

strangely- and i have no logical or scientific explanation for this- this application showed the least fading. at the end of the day, the shadow still looked grey/ silver [although somewhat paler], which is better than it fared in either of the previous two looks. the only thing i can think of is that the brush i used was better suited to the texture. so in order: large dense fluffy brush from drugstore i've had for more than ten years > mac 217 + urban decay shadow brush [from look #1] > mac 239 [from look #2]

please note: that's not my general experience with these brushes. in fact, i like them all, but large fluffy brush from drugstore tends to apply less evenly than the mac or urban decay brushes, which is why i've been phasing it out in favour of hourglass brush #3, which i bought the day after doing this look and which i'm going to keep forever and be buried with.

my overall reaction? it's a pretty shadow and i do like being able to make it the star of a look. however, at $39cad, which is only a little less than the potted eyes to kill shadows, i'd expect it to be a lot more adaptable. full marks for the blush, though, which is luscious, long-lasting and luxurious.

note :: the picture at the top of this post is by benozzo gozzoli and is taken from his frescoes at the magi chapel.

for swatches of all [truly all, because it's the euro collection] the armani solo shadows, check out color me loud. she also has in depth reviews of many of the shades here and here and here. temptalia has reviews here and here and a listing of all the shades [with those available in europe noted] here. she also reviewed blush 503 ["daybreak"] here. belletristic beauty has swatches and a review of the shadows here and a review of blush shade 502 ["skin"] here.

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