Monday, 28 February 2011

Death by Hairspray with Charles of London

Saturday night with the team at Charles of London, in a few words: mayhem, madness, organised chaos, rebellion…a definite “if you don’t like it, what the fuck are you doing here?” attitude. It was pure punk, totally anti-establishment right down to the ripped tights and general nakedness…yes there was fashion, a lot of fashion, mostly falling fashionably so as to expose as much flesh as possible. From a makeup perspective, the only approach was to be ready for anything. Anything! Something prompted me before I left the house to chuck in my trusty roll of black PVC tape – boy, did that come in handy. Improvised crucifix nipple-pasties and facial bondage…I’m not going to bother with wordy illustrations, because there are lots of pictures for you to see below!

So besides the PVC tape, the two other things that came in most handy were my uber-cheap uber-plastic mass-produced-in-China lashes at ten pairs a box for a few quid (perfect for splashing out on lashing!) and my Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics black iron oxide pigment. Yes, vegan makeup went punk, as I mixed it with various different mediums (creams, liquids) to use as face paint, eyeliner, fake lash extender, lip-liner…it worked a treat and a little went a very, very long way. There were also a few Barry M glitter pots knocking about in my kit that saw the light of the night. And how could I forget my slick Illamasqua cream blusher in Libido (think bloodsucking vampire red)? Lips were mainly stuck together with duct tape – the perfect homemade ladies’ moustache wax!

Without further ado, then, here for your pleasure are lots of behind the scenes snaps of Charles of London runway prep at The Castle. All photos by Lucy Brown.

Click here for the Charles of London Website

Girls behaving badly...

...very badly...

...even Mark Charles is aghast! Tut, tut.

He kept this up for hours! 

I wish I'd stolen those boots while she was passed out...

Thanks to the amazing team at Freakartshow Collective, notably: Boro Young, Paulina Palian, Marta Wozniak (MUA), Marcio Abraao (MUA), Lucasz Wyzgol (Hair)…and huge thanks to Mark Charles and team for a most memorable runway!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Did I hear someone say Fashion Week?

You may have noticed that it is London Fashion Week (unless you live on a mountain with no access to technology, or choose to ignore it in an attempt to be cooler than the cool kids), so I’m seizing the moment to indulge in a little shameless self-promotion.

Through my friend and awesome photographer, Fernando Lessa, I had the wonderful opportunity to work on three shoots with him for London Fashion Week A/W11. The pictures are published in the British Fashion Council's Little Black Book, which is an industry guide to all the shows and not available for purchase (meh!).

When I agreed to this, I was so excited that I didn’t pause to think about the reality of doing three shoots in different locations all in one day. The thought did occur to me in the days preceding the shoot, but it was just one of those not-to-be-missed-you-have-to-make-this-work situations, if you know what I mean.

I was commissioned to create three different looks for the designers, who were Florian Jayet, Carlotta Actis Barone and James Hillman. Florian wanted a deeply dramatic, Audrey Hepburn meets fetish look and James (who designs menswear) required a moody investment banker meets Sweeney Todd look – and I knew I could design and execute both well enough. Carlotta, however, wanted her model to look fashionably frozen! This necessitated (or perhaps gave me an excuse!) to go shopping for glittery, sparkly and white things! I trawled various makeup shops, a few stationery stores and a few bead stores and got my goody-bag together. Then I cornered my friend Kat, who was staying over, and used her face for my various experimentations. Once I was satisfied that I could pull it off on the day, Kat was released with an ample supply of baby-wipes (yes, she is still talking to me).

We started nice and early (grrrr) at the studios, and after initial introductions and discussions I was banished to the makeup room with my model Alice from Cosmic Models. I adorned her with pretty much all the sparkly bits-and-pieces in my goody-bag and she came out looking like THIS:

Suitably frozen methinks!

Once dressed I had to apply more white and icy effect to her arms and d̩collet̩, and after she squeezed her feet into shoes two sizes too small (models DO suffer), the shoot was a go. Fernando and his camera killed it Рas always Рand the results speak for themselves:

Shoot for Carlotta Actis Barone 

Barely on schedule, I started on Peter (also from Cosmic Models) who was modelling for James. This was the banker meets dodgy 19th century barber look, which was lovely and moody and made him look very sultry indeed. Combined with James’s immaculately tailored suit and shirt and the most awesome lopsided top-hat I have ever seen, his character really came to life. They all crammed into the van to go to the equally dodgy location while I was accompanied by Pierre (the hair stylist) to go and meet our final model at Pierre’s salon, Leticia Haute Coiffure.

Photo of dodgy location and team at work!

We were met by a lovely model from Elite Models (I cannot remember her name which is very bad!) who had by far the most immaculate porcelain skin I have ever seen. MUA heaven! Working on her was a breeze and the fetish aspect of the makeup looked amazing with her pristine girl-next-door features. We finished with time to spare, against all my original expectations. We then headed down to the aforementioned dodgy location, right on the banks of the river Thames where the crew had to compete with the incoming tide. By that time James’s shoot was all done and dusted and these are some of the final images (I love the fantastic moody background with Tower Bridge!):

Shoot for James Hillman 

With exhaustion setting in, Florian’s shoot got underway. There was much changing of the gag-headdress and gas-mask causing major makeup smudgery and requiring rapid reapplications, so I was kept busy most of the time. Fernando sacrificed his trainers ending up knee high in river water (ugh) to get the best shot. Now THAT is dedication. And he definitely got some great shots:

Shoot for Florian Jayet 

So, with our goal achieved and the designers happy, we all hit the pub and got slightly trolleyed!

All credit to the amazing team, who were namely:

Designers: Florian Jayet, Carlotta Actis Barone, James Hillmann
Designers represented by Andrea at Fashion Mode
Photographer: Fernando Lessa
Photography assistant: Sarah Johnston
Models: Alice and Peter at Cosmic Models and model from Elite Model Management UK
Stylist: Ashley Hart
Makeup: Sarah Frasca
Hair: Pierre at Leticia Haute Coiffure

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Obsessive by Name, Obsessive by Nature

It is so mindblowingly exciting when spontaneous magic happens…and so rare. Yesterday I worked on a totally impromptu shoot with rockin’ photographer Paul (Floyd) Baichoo ( and the human chameleon lady Karolina Maria Renor…and ‘something’ happened. It is difficult to explain, complete madness and mess, but when the images come through they will illuminate all. I will post them here shortly!

So I had the opportunity to test-run some new products that I splashed out on a few weeks ago. The brand is called Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics (OCC), which suits me as I definitely have OCD. They are US based (as these brands always seem to be), but I found two UK online stockists and went a little click-crazy. The colours are so vivid, you just want to paint graffiti with them (which is kind of what I did yesterday!).

These products are cool in every way. I love the basic packaging and simple idea behind this brand. They have amazing multi-use pigments that you can do pretty much anything (painterly) with. I bought all the primary colours and black and white. They remind me of tiny versions of the powder paints we used in primary school – just mix to create whatever colour you want. The quality is far superior to poster paint, needless to say. I mixed some of them dry and some of them wet, to get different effects and intensity.

I also bought the same colour series in the OCC Lip Tar (LOVE that name), and these too can be mixed however desired. There is also a clear Lip Tar that you can mix any of the pigment powders into. This approach to makeup suits me perfectly, as I always find myself mixing and creating new colours and textures when working. This way of working also broadens the scope of makeup possibilities to nearly anything your mind can conjure!

Oh, and unbelievably, these products are all 100% natural and 100% cruelty-free. This brand sets an excellent example for all those chemical-saturated animal-testing brands out there that top quality, professional, industry-standard makeup can (and should) be 100% ethical. And it also means these products are kind and soothing on the skin – especially important for professional models that are caked in chemicals on a daily basis.

The products I messed around with were the Multi-Purpose Pure Pigments in Titanium Dioxide (white) and Red Iron Oxide (oxblood red), which I mixed with some Loose Colour Eye Concentrate in Pollencount (mica-enhanced daffodil yellow). I bought some cheap mixing palettes from an art shop to do my alchemy. The powder mix made a gorgeous iridescent peach, which I blended into pure Red Iron Oxide on the eyelid for dimension. I used the white Titanium Dioxide wet to create small brushstrokes that were pure white, just like wall paint. It’s so thick and gooey, and stays put perfectly.

Red Iron Oxide                       Titanium Dioxide                          Pollencount

I used the Lip Tar in Feathered (pure white) on the lips. You cannot believe how little of this stuff you need for full, thick coverage. A dot will do! It is packed with peppermint oil which is yummy on the lips. The people at OCC do like their cannabis – there is a lot of it in most of their products (hemp is one of the most under-rated miracle plants)!

Lip Tar in 'Feathered'

OCC products are tip top quality; you seriously cannot get any better. Therefore they are worth the price, especially considering that you need the tiniest amount to create full on Warhol-esque faces. I am on a mixing mission now to create loads of new, amazing custom colours. Also, the OCC methodology cuts down on kit space, as you just need the primaries and black and white, some mixing mediums and some glitters. No more bulky kit! Now I just need to save up for their pro airbrushing kit (salivate!). More full reportage will be posted here in due course, so watch this space.

I bought my OCC products here:

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Pugh on your face!

This short video from the super-duper designer Gareth Pugh really articulates how fearlessness and ingenuity (and being a bit bonkers!) can break barriers and create something new and truly exciting. There's not much else I can say except 'genius' (and what a great sense of humour)! I just wish Mr Pugh would put more of his mad makeup antics up on youtube...

Here are some shots of his work so that - if by some unfortunate glich in the matrix he has not yet popped up on your radar - you will definitely want to know more...


Gareth Pugh A/W 2008 RTW (makeup by Alex Box)


Gareth Pugh S/S 2007 (makeup not required!)

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Balm Balm - where have you been all my life?

Balm Balm Rose Geranium Face Balm has won numerous awards, is Balm Balm’s best selling product, costs just £5.99 for 30mls and is currently sold out on their website! Fortunately, I ordered some a few weeks ago so I have a precious tube in my possession. I thought I would use it for a few weeks before reviewing it, to get a good idea of its effectiveness. The results certainly match up to all the hype, and I am now addicted!

I hate pink, this is the only pink object I possess...
besides various lipsticks, glosses and blushers!
To view online click here.
 At first, the idea of a face ‘balm’ was a bit foreign to me, but don’t let that put you off. Being a balm means you just need to use a tiny bit to get maximum effectiveness. The product feels very rich, but my skin just sucks up all the lovely ingredients. On occasion I have slathered on a bit too much (seduced by its yumminess), but even then it is mostly absorbed and I can just wipe off the shine with an unbleached Muji cotton pad.

So what is it about this product that has so quickly converted me? Could it be the uplifting fragrance, the immediate soothing effect, or is it the noticeable reduction of fine lines and wrinkles on my forehead and around my eyes…or perhaps all of the above? This product works wonders, is good for day or night, provides a great base for makeup and has multiple uses. You can use it as a cleanser, as a rough-skin softener, a cuticle cream, a lip soother…it sits up there next to my Weleda Calendula Weather Protection Cream. This is a dry-skin must-have, but note that it is excellent for oily skins too due to the Jojoba and Rose Geranium Oils that it contains (see breakdown below).

Because of the almost magical effectiveness of this balm, I decided to do more detailed research into the individual ingredients and how they work on the skin.

Shea butter comes from karite nuts harvested in West and Central Africa and is high in fatty acids. Fatty acids (Omega-3 acids) help the skin to retain moisture and elasticity. It naturally retains vitamins A and E which help reduce fine lines and have antioxidant (UV-resistant) properties and also makes it an effective treatment for eczema and psoriasis. Raw shea butter can also be used as a conditioner for hair and a treatment for burns and rashes.

Sunflower oil has natural antibacterial properties that makes it particularly good for protecting the skin from infection. It is a non-comedogenic oil which means that is will not cause spots even on oily skin, and therefore is a wonderful treatment for acne. As well as containing vitamins A and E (antioxidant), it is also high in vitamin C which increases collagen synthesis (plumping, reducing wrinkles), and vitamin D which is a known immune-booster (again helps with acne).

Beeswax is an excellent emulsifier and stabiliser for skincare products, helping to bind ingredients together into a usable formulation. It also naturally has antibacterial and moisturising properties. Beeswax will not clog pores (a common misconception).

Jojoba oil is actually built from liquid wax esters (chemical compounds). As well as being antibacterial, it has the unusual property of encouraging the skin to produce less oil and so is excellent for oily skins and helps in the treatment of acne. It also contains zinc which helps the skin to heal and minimises scars, and chromium which reduces the rate of skin infection.

Calendula is an anti-inflammatory herb that helps to reduce redness, itching, swelling and pain, as well as being a natural antiseptic, thus helping to prevent infection.

Rose Geranium oil is an effective treatment for skin inflammation, dermatitis, burns, itching and peeling. It is also particularly good for oily skins.

Do not despair that you cannot buy this balm it on their website right now…I have seen Balm Balm products on the shelves of Whole Foods and Waitrose. I will let you all know when they have more online stock too.

Monday, 7 February 2011

100% Pure: 100% Perfect Everyday Makeup

I now use 100% Pure cosmetics on a daily basis, for two main reasons: firstly, I reckon that for my everyday makeup, totally natural, non-toxic and cruelty-free products are the way to go. Secondly, they work.

Here is a quick overview of the products I use:

100% Pure Flawless Skin Foundation Powder SPF 15

This is an opaque foundation powder made from rice powder. I apply it all over my face using a stipple brush. If I have any redness I just apply a few more layers in those areas and that does the trick. The finish is matte and sheer and because it is so easily bendable it is virtually impossible to tell that there is any product on my skin. It also provides a great base for concealer if needed (see 100% Pure concealer review here), which I top with another light layer of foundation powder to set it for the day (applied with fingertip if it is just a tiny area).


100% Pure Black Tea Pigmented Silver Star Gel Eye Liner

Lovely, antioxidant black-tea is the core ingredient of this liner. The colour is dark silver and a bit shimmery, which makes it very versatile. I apply it (with an angled brush) on my water line and under the outer half of my lower lash-line, and then I drag it around the outer corner of my eye onto my top lash-line. Then I smudge it a bit for the casual look, which means I don’t have to touch up at all as I’m not going for uber-neat anyway. I like that it comes in a practical pot, just like M.A.C. Fluidline. It is not quite as durable as M.A.C. Fluidline, but I’m going to buy the blacker version and give that I go as I am still actively seeking a Fluidline replacement.

Overall, this is a great daywear product.


100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Mascara – Blackberry

For a chemical-free product this mascara is pretty budge-proof. It certainly compares with other off-the-shelf mascaras that claim to be water resistant. It is easy to apply and has a decent brush, but my favourite thing about this mascara is the colour. It is a deep burgundy plum, giving that extra ‘pop’ that plain black just can’t deliver. And it lengthens my stubby lashes noticeably, so huge brownie points there. It smells great too (if you hold it to your nose!).

Of course I use my Weleda Calendula Baby Lotion on my lips and hair (see review here), and I'm good to go in under 10 minutes!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Any further questions?

(Investigation by BUAV)

The Ugly Truth

In November 2010, the UK Home Office released a report on Wickham Laboratories, Hampshire, which substantiated many of the findings of the BUAV's 2009 undercover investigation, The Ugly Truth.The BUAV's investigator worked undercover for eight months at Wickham Laboratories and secretly filmed the treatment of animals inside the facility.

Following our revelations, the Home Office report found breaches to the animal testing licenses issued to the company and infringement proceedings are being considered against it.

The report's key findings include:

  • Mice routinely died in cruel poisoning tests rather than being “humanely” killed by staff – a clear breach in the institution’s Government project license;
  • Staff incompetence in the way mice were killed led to their suffering – including the practice of neck breaking with a pen on the corridor floor;
  • Key staff did not carry out their legal responsibilities under the Animals Scientific Procedures Act, including the Named Veterinary Surgeon not ensuring rabbit welfare;
  • Staff training in the monitoring and killing of animals was poor;
  • There was a lack of enforcement of available non-animal alternatives.
  • In addition, the report highlights a potential conflict of interest with the Named Veterinary Surgeon, responsible for animal welfare, being a major company shareholder. Despite the above findings, the BUAV are disappointed that the Home Office have failed to properly investigate whether the drugs tested at Wickham Laboratories necessitated animal tests, in particular whether such tests were required by national and international regulators.

Following the BUAV’s investigation, it has emerged that one of the companies commissioning tests on rabbits at Wickham has since moved to non-animal alternatives and the UK Veterinary Medicines Directorate have launched a review into the use of rabbits for pyrogenicity testing. The Home Office investigation is a missed opportunity to review the need for animal tests across the institution and has seen the Government wash their hands of their responsibility to enforce non-animal methods.


The BUAV carried out an investigation inside a major UK animal laboratory. A BUAV investigator worked undercover for 8 months at Wickham Laboratories in Hampshire and secretly filmed the appalling suffering inflicted on thousands of animals inside the facility.

Our findings are shocking and show that crude, archaic and extremely cruel animal tests are still allowed in the UK in a continual cycle of pain and misery for the routine batch testing of products.

What we found at the lab

The UK government is failing in its legal obligation to enforce the use of non-animal alternatives where they exist and to ensure that, if animals are used, then it should be the minimum number and with the minimum amount of suffering.

Despite a UK and EU ban on the use of animals for cosmetic testing, there is a loophole in the law which allows animals to continue to suffer dreadfully in tests for a product that, although licensed for medical use, could very well end up being used – quite legally – for cosmetic purposes.

The appalling suffering inflicted on thousands of animals in cruel, crude and archaic tests. Animals kept in small, virtually barren cages that failed to meet their behavioural and social needs.

The suffering and death of hundreds of mice every week in the cruel and controversial LD50 poisoning test for the highly toxic substance botulinum toxin, commonly known as botox.

The use of rabbits in pyrogenicity tests during which they are injected with a substance and forcibly restrained by their necks in stocks for hours at a time - individual rabbits are then routinely re-used in the test.

Some animals suffered in tests that are no longer required by national and international regulations. This makes a mockery out of the often made claim that companies have to do tests just because regulators require them.

Using rabbits in tests

Wickham has a colony of around 100 rabbits. They all have numbers and were given names such as Dexter, Melon, Uranus, Fork and Coral by staff.

As part of the test, rabbits could be starved for up to 30 hours. During the test, they are forcibly immobilised by their necks in stocks for several hours. The test substance is injected into an ear vein, sometimes resulting in painful damage to the ears. A temperature probe was inserted 7.5cm deep into the rectum and left for hours. Some rabbits struggled against their confinement and these invasive procedures. The laboratory acknowledges that struggling could result in injury, particularly to their backs.

The tests are uncomfortable and distressing for the rabbits. Some were killed at the end of the test, but others were returned to their cages to be re-used repeatedly in further pyrogen tests.

A miserable existence

The rabbits could remain at Wickham for many months to be used time and time again in tests. Although naturally inquisitive, social and active, these poor animals were kept on their own in small, essentially barren metal or plastic cages.

This caging was totally inappropriate for the behavioural and physical needs of rabbits. There were no opportunities for natural behavior such as digging and burrowing. Bored and frustrated, some rabbits displayed abnormal behaviour, including repetitive bar biting and pacing inside the small confines of their cages.


The UK government is failing in its legal obligation to enforce the universally accepted concept of the 3 R’s (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) for animal tests. Tests such as the LD50 test for botulinum toxin and the pyrogenicity test have valid in vitro alternatives and it is outrageous that they are not being implemented.

The Limulus amoebocyte lysate assay (LAL) is an ‘in vitro’ method that can be used for detecting bacterial pyrogens and is recognized by regulatory authorities in both Europe and the USA as an alternative to the rabbit pyrogenicity test. Indeed, European guidelines stress the alternative should be used in preference to the rabbit test in many cases.

The SNAP-25 assay, a method that does not use live animals but instead measures the activity of the toxin in a test tube, can be used to replace the botox mouse LD50 tests. The BUAV believes that under UK law this test should be used because the Home Office has a duty not to license tests when a non-animal method is available.

Furthermore, this test has been validated by an official UK government laboratory specifically for the type of botox used at Wickham and has been used by them since 1999. Inexplicably, the UK Home Office is not insisting on this test at Wickham even after all these years.

Email response from the British Union Against Vivisecion

Dear Sarah,

Many thanks for your email.  The BUAV fully understands that concern continues to be expressed over The Body Shop’s stance against animal testing following the take-over of the company by L’Oreal. The Body Shop operates as an independent entity with their values and animal testing policy intact. We recognise, however, that there are many ethical consumers who are concerned about giving their financial support to an overall parent corporation, such as L’Oreal, which has not committed to ending animal testing. 

The Body Shop is currently accredited under the Humane Cosmetics Standard (HCS) in the UK and continues to meet the stringent requirements for the international standard. The company will, therefore, remain certified under the program. In order to attain such status a company has to:

  • Guarantee that no animal testing is used for finished products or ingredients in any phase of product development by the company, its laboratories or suppliers; 
  • Obtain assurances from their suppliers and intermediary agents that no animal testing has been conducted on their behalf after a fixed date; 
  • Agree to allow independent verification of this policy and its application through an audit program.

At present, of all those companies approved by the Standard, very few offer a full vegan range and most if not all of these are only available by mail order. By restricting the Standard to vegan-only products we would, unfortunately, be perpetuating the myth that non-animal tested products are an unrealistic choice for the mainstream consumer.  Of course, as an animal protection organization we would prefer that consumers further refine their choice by buying vegan products. It is for this reason that companies that are approved by the Vegetarian Society or Vegan Society are given extra emphasis through product icons in the printed version of our Little Book of Cruelty-Free, enabling the ethical consumer to make their own personal selection.
We don’t restrict our list to those companies producing purely vegan products as we are a single issue organisation. One of the main aims of the Standard is to demonstrate to consumers who might otherwise not choose cruelty free products, that buying cosmetics or household products that have not been animal tested is both a practical and viable option. In order for the Standard to be successful in promoting the wide variety and availability of non-animal tested products, they must honestly reflect the full range available and this will inevitably include some non-vegan products. 

I hope this helps to answer your query.  If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind regards
Carol Petersen