FASHION | Four worst luxury purchases

Now that you know all about my five best luxury purchases, I also wanted to share with you my worst luxury purchases. I was going to put together a list of five, but I couldn’t really think of a fifth one and I didn’t want to just jam something in there when it didn’t deserve to be in there.

4. The Cross Design “Dream Bed” dupe

This isn’t quite a ‘luxury’ purchase in the traditional sense but I’m still including it because I spent a ton of money on this bed. I had fallen head over heels in love with the Dream Bed from The Cross Design. I LOVED that ultra luxurious, tuft headboard look, with its huge majestic wings. Well the issue is that the real Dream Bed is $3500, and I was not about to drop that much money on a bed, so I went on Craigslist and saw a lady who made custom beds in her garage (I know) and can recreate the Dream Bed for me. Her price was $1,200, which wasn’t bad considering that it was completely handmade and custom designed for me, down to the height of the bed and the fabric choice.

Well the issue is it was built really poorly. The parts weren’t cut right and didn’t fit together well, the slats weren’t supporting our weight properly, and the foam headboard felt flimsy and didn’t have enough padding. It looked really pretty but it was definitely not the most functional bed.

3. Dior Diorama bag

I’ve always had a special connection to the house of Dior because I grew up with my mom using exclusively their beauty products. I’ve wanted to collect a Dior bag for a while and I fell in love with his bag when I saw it on Instagram. The issue is that I fell in love with this dark rose / raspberry colour that was no longer available, but I appeased myself by buying the grey one because Dior is all about the dove greys. Well sadly, I was super underwhelmed with this bag. While it’s beautiful, it’s just not as nice as the other flap bags I own. The other thing that really bothered me was the fact that the chain is part metal part leather, and I’m super OCD about wanting the leather part of my chain to be on my shoulder, right side up, so then I’d spend a lot of time adjusting the chain. I just didn’t enjoy using it, or the blah colour. I still wear it, primarily when I travel, because it is a comfortable bag to wear, and for a designer bag it’s pretty low key. But I don’t love it. For such an expensive bag, you really should love it.

2. Shoes

I have several pairs of shoes that I bought…. and never wore ever. Among them are a pair of Louboutin Simple 85 pumps that are not even that comfortable, but I bought because I didn’t have a pair of classic nude high heel pumps that would go with any outfit. The Louboutin red sole is super flashy and I didn’t feel comfortable wearing them to the office, and then on weekends I’d rather wear something more statement or comfortable.

One pair I did wear but are just super uncomfortable are the Chanel two toned slingbacks. I got these on sale for 40% off and was suuuuper happy about them, but they are just insanely uncomfortable. They pinch my feet so much and the leather is pretty stiff so they just don’t stretch out. I might buy some shoe stretchers just to help it along a bit, but otherwise they are really not that wearable. They look beautiful though, and I still love that I have them.

1. Chanel Just Mademoiselle tote

This was my first ever luxury bag purchase and it’s also the one I regret the most. I bought this bag in 2012 after I started my first full time job. I have no idea why I bought it, it was totally on impulse. The lambskin leather makes me super worried to use it, and the soft leather also means the bag is not structured at all (I prefer structured bags that don’t lose their shape). I just barely ever used it. I ended up gifting it to my mom but she gave it back to me because she also found that it didn’t work well for her lifestyle. For now it’s just sitting in my closet.

What are some of your worst luxury purchases or regrets?

HOME | Master bedroom decor

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I haven’t done a home post in a while so I wanted to share some aspects of our master bedroom with you. This is the room in the house that I am most close to being finished in terms of decor. The only thing that may be added in the future is something above the bed to fill out the space more, but I’m still trying to decide if we really need that.

The master bedroom was the one room in the house that I had a clear vision for how I wanted it to look. It’s also the room that I am the most happy with overall. We were very lucky in that the room itself had very good basics to work with – the size was just right, with the right configuration of where the window and doors were. I was also given a lot of freedom creatively to design the room.

Bed – customized via Candace & Basil
Mattress – Mr. Mattress, in the model Bennett
Side tables – Ikea customized with brushed brass knobs from Amazon
Sconces – Hang Out Lighting via Etsy
Edison bulbs – Amazon
Wall clock – Amazon
Accent wall paint – Sherwin-Williams Naval
Wall paint – Sherwin-Williams Icicle

I’ve written extensively about our bed so I won’t go into too much detail about this. In summary, we are both ecstatic that we went with a king size bed because now we both have a lot of room to move around in our sleep. There’s also enough room for our cat, Noodles, to sleep with us if she wanted to.

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The mattress itself is the Bennett from Mr. Mattress, a local Vancouver mattress store. I’m fairly certain they ship across Canada. This is our second Bennett mattress from Mr. Mattress (our first one is now in the guest bedroom) so you know how much we love this mattress. We’ve recommended everyone we know to shop there and try out the Bennett and several people have also purchased it based on our recommendation, so that’s just more proof that it is an amazing mattress. I find that mattresses are rarely double sided now, and most modern models also come with a thick pillow-top which can be comfortable initially but are more prone to sagging. Since you are no longer able to flip the mattress over, you’d have to replace it sooner rather than later. Mr. Mattress’s models are all double sided so you can flip them, and they don’t come with that thick pillow-top so they tend to last longer. I haven’t noticed much sagging in either of our beds either, so they’ve lasted quite well. If you want a soft pillow-top to sleep on, it’s much cheaper just to add your own and you can just replace that instead of having to buy an entirely new mattress.

Our side tables are from Ikea. They were a very generous housewarming gift from my brother, who purchased them for us when we moved into our condo over three years ago. We had kept the original black knobs for most of the time we’ve had this, but I’ve always wanted to change them out to something more modern. With our navy blue wall, I wanted to add brass accents throughout the room, so I ordered these brass knobs from Amazon. They were about $5 each but make such a big difference in the overall look and feel of the room.

The sconces were something I had been researching and looking at for several months before I finally found the right ones for the right price. I ordered these customizable sconces from Etsy. They are made in Chicago and come in a variety of different colours and finishes. I picked an all brass look with navy cord. We didn’t want to get the hard wired style because I figured having plug-in will make it more versatile to change out later, if we wanted to. The navy cord blends in with the wall so its barely noticeable, and installation was also relatively easy.

The LED Edison bulbs are from Amazon. I looked for a really long time to find LED Edison bulbs that have that coil-effect on the inside, similar to old fashioned Edison bulbs. I almost contemplated getting actual Edison bulbs but since there was no lampshade with the sconces, I would 100% burn myself all the time from the heat. I’m glad I found these LED ones because there is almost no heat generated from them.  The energy footprint is also minuscule at simply 4.5W per bulb.

Our bedsheets are primarily from Fieldcrest Home, which were purchased from Target. We have the Damask Stripe and the Hotel, both in white. We absolutely love the sheets from Fieldcrest – I’ve written about them extensively on my Instagram here and here. We also purchased a set from Bluebellgray on clearance, which I wrote about here, but they aren’t as luxurious. I would not pay full price for the Bluebellgray ones, but highly recommend Fieldcrest as the price to quality ratio is just fantastic.

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We purchased this @fieldcresthome Damask Stripe 500 thread count duvet cover set from @target for our new king bed. I LOVE well-made, thick, high(ish) thread count bed sheets. I find that they are so much better in quality than normal sheets, and I end up sleeping better overall and wake up feeling more refreshed. 1️⃣ They feel like 500 thread count. I've had high(ish) thread count sheets before that are super thin and flimsy, these are not it. If you look into how thread count is calculated, you can see that it is often manipulated to show a higher thread count without the quality behind it. These are thick, luscious, and super soft. 2️⃣ They come with wonderful corner ties! I recently discovered corner ties and they have been incredible. 3️⃣ Fieldcrest duvet covers are larger than most down duvets on the market, so you end up with "spare" cover without any duvet inside it on the edges. Fortunately, having the corner ties really help alleviate this issue, and we haven't noticed any shifting. 4️⃣ They are $99.99 USD normally, from Target, but they often do sales. I waited for a sale and got this for $74.99 USD. It's pricey, but nice sheets last for a LONG time. 5️⃣ We don't use a flat sheet so instead of buying sheet sets, our fitted sheets are just the regular Target Threshold 300 thread count ones that are around $30 USD or so for the king size. We've been using this brand since 2012 and love the quality. ➡️ Let me know if you have questions!

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The duvet itself is from Costco, our pillows are from Bed Bath and Beyond and Ikea, our navy accent pillow was a collaboration between local Vancouver artist Dana Mooney and Joue Designs (now discontinued), and our fleece blanket was from Winners.

I always love to read about people’s homes and how they like to fill it, so I hope this was an interesting read!

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FASHION | How to buy Max Mara and other designer brands for European prices without travelling to Europe

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Today I wanted to let you in on a secret… I purchased my brand new Max Mara Manuela Icon Coat for 40% off the Canadian retail price. It was shipped directly to me via DHL, duty paid, from Italy.

Background

When I was researching Max Mara, I had the realization that the products are significantly cheaper in Europe compared to North America. The Manuela coat retails for C$3,490 (plus tax) in Canada but only EURO 1,400 in Italy, plus you get a nice 18%-ish percent VAT refund too, so the coat ends up being just approximately C$1,700. Of course you may pay duty upon entering into Canada, but sometimes you get lucky and just get waved through by the customs agent. Of course, the smart thing to do was to wait until I had plans to go to Italy to make my purchase, but we have no plans to go back to Italy since I was just there last summer. I also wasn’t going to plan a trip just so I can buy this coat since that just made no sense.

Luckily for me and my awesome internet research skills, I stumbled across a site called Italist. This company is based in LA but they work with stores and boutiques in Italy to bring you products at Italian-local prices, VAT-free, shipped directly to your house anywhere on the planet for free.

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Shopping experience

Shopping on the Italist is very confusing. It is not for the faint of heart or for someone who wants an easy shopping experience. You place your order online, then they will confirm stock with their boutique partner, and if the item is in stock, the boutique partner will ship it out within the next day. Since the stock listed on their website isn’t theirs, stock isn’t guaranteed and your order is only confirmed if the boutique partner confirms it. I messaged Italist on Instagram and they said one out of every 200 orders is cancelled due to lack of stock, since their inventory system refreshes every hour.

In addition, because product information is provided by the boutiques, sometimes it is very vague and you don’t get all of the details. You really have to know your brand, research the product you want, before making your order on the Italist. For example, when I found my Manuela coat on the site (screenshot below), the item wasn’t even labelled as the Manuela coat – it actually made zero reference to the word “Manuela”‘ and was just called the Tie Waist Coat. However I was familiar with the description of the coat and various details that make it the Manuela coat, so I knew it was that exact coat. I also confirmed my knowledge by comparing the the photos of the coat on the website with stock photos on the Max Mara website, and with my own photos I took when I tried the coat on in store.

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The listing of the coat I bought was taken off once my purchase went through (there was only one available from that particular boutique so once inventory was sold, the listing was removed), but the current listing for the Manuela coat is available here and just calls it the “Max Mara Coat.”

Also, you might see multiple listings of the same product, making it even more confusing to the shopper. This is because there are multiple boutique partners selling the same style. If you are looking for a particular size and one boutique partner doesn’t have it, just search for the style in their search bar and you will likely see another boutique partner offering it in your size.

Since it was my first time ordering, I took screenshots of the product page so I can compare the end product that I received with what was listed on the website. This is just me being overcautious, but also it was for good reason. Italist does not accept free returns. I know that being in North America, we are used to free shipping and returns as that is just the nature of retail here, but in Europe, a lot of places do not accept returns, especially smaller boutiques. Since Italist offers low prices for products based in Italy, free express DHL shipping on a duty paid basis, returns are a hassle. You have to pay for the shipping back to Italy, and because it has to go through customs again, it is a huge hassle to get the customs refund and your ultimate refund for the product. This is another reason why I suggest doing a lot of research outside of Italist before you make an order. I would essentially treat each order as final sale.

Before you buy, definitely read up on their “How to Shop” guide, which has everything you need to know to shop there.

Price savings

Now why would anyone go through that trouble and such inconvenience? Because you get huge price savings. Like I said before, the Manuela coat costs C$3,908 in Canada with tax. I paid C$2,300 for mine in the classic camel colour. This is the tax in, with free shipping, the all in cost. If I had travelled to Italy, bought the coat, got the VAT refund, paid duty upon entering Canada, my end cost for the coat would be about the same as what I paid on Italist. Plus I saved all of the travel costs and the hassle of bringing a giant coat back in my luggage.

Let’s look at another example of a Max Mara Icon Coat – the 101801 “Madame” coat retails for C$4,650 (plus tax) in Canada. On the Italist, you can purchase the same coat for US$1,550-$1,800 (plus import duty). After converting this to Canadian dollars, it’s about C$2,400 before import duty, which is usually about 20% of the base value of the product. Essentially you save almost half the Canadian price.

I only researched Max Mara on Italist, but from reading the Italist thread at Purseforum, people have purchased other brands from there. Most of them were successful and very happy with their purchase, but there were a few people who had minor issues and had to work out a return with the company.

In addition to the Italist, there is also the Clutcher, which is a similar concept shopping site, as well as Elsa Boutique, which is a boutique based in Italy that ships to countries around the world. I was considering ordering from these but in the end the Italist had the style I wanted at the right price so I shopped with them. I haven’t ordered from the Clutcher or Elsa Boutique so I strongly suggest doing your own research before placing an order as there is always some level of risk when you order from a website that ships products from overseas.

I’m always a strong advocate for smart shopping. I love buying designer products but if you do it in a savvy way, you can find incredible deals, leaving you more money in the bank for savings (or to buy other things).

Hope this was helpful! Also, I don’t use affiliate links so none of the links here give me any kind of commission if you click on the links.

FASHION | First impressions of four Max Mara coats: Manuela, Doraci, Flint, and Ted

Max Mara Manuela camel coat

Can you believe it – I don’t own a good camel coat. I have a few in black and also a beige trench coat, but none in camel. I recently started looking to Max Mara, and I wanted to share my thoughts on trying on the various coats that I’ve been trying on from the brand. I was looking to spend as little as possible while still getting a good quality product, and Max Mara also has a few diffusion brands that that are a lot more affordable compared to its main line.

I tried on four models of varying price points: Manuela (from the main Max Mara line), Doraci and Flint (from S Max Mara), and Ted (from Weekend Max Mara). Overall I found that most of the coats I tried on ran very true to my designer clothing size (IT 42 or UK 10 – I normally wear US 8 or UK 12, but for some reason for designer coats my size is UK 10). Only the Manuela coat is made in Italy, everything else is made in Central Asia or China. Despite the other coats not being made in Italy, I found that the craftsmanship in general to be good.

Max Mara so many different styles of coats that come out every year; it only has three classic Icon Coats that that are released seasonally, and the Manuela (C$3,490) is one of them. It is made of camel hair and the only coat of the ones I tried that is lined. I tried this one with both just a simple knit top underneath (first picture above), as well as trying to layer with a thick oversized cardigan underneath (pictures below). There is a reason this coat is the classic style because it is such a versatile coat. Regardless of how much you layer underneath, it still looks really streamlined and classy. It is extremely warm, even without any layering, but I do like the option. I thought it was going to be heavy but it actually is actually relatively light for its size. The camel hair is interesting – I’ve never owned a camel hair coat before (I usually wear wool or cashmere) and it’s slightly longer fibres so it feels very luxurious. In terms of length, it hits me mid-calf which is a bit longer than I would have liked, but it is a length that works on me.

Max Mara Manuela camel coatMax Mara Manuela camel coat

The Doraci (C$1,690) was the coat that got me interested in Max Mara. It is an unlined virgin wool coat that has a Peter Pan collar and is a bit more oversized. I found it on an Italian website (with free ship) for strangely something pretty affordable so I almost bought it. It’s the least versatile of the styles here because it’s not lined so if you wear anything thick underneath, it’ll ruin the drape of the wool. While it is super lightweight and comfortable on, you can really only wear it under certain circumstances as it doesn’t hold up well under the super cold, and I also wouldn’t wear this in the rain. Because of the lack of versatility, I was turned off by the design. I do really like the unlined wool coat look because it is so effortless but you still look really put together.

Max Mara Doraci coat

The Flint (C$2,050) I tried on just for fun because I wanted to see what the beige colour looked like on me. The length and colour combination made it look too much like a bathrobe. I also didn’t like the slits on the side or the hood. If I were to buy a wool coat in this colour, it would have to be way shorter in length. This is also made of 100% virgin wool and was super soft.

Max Mara Flint coat

The Ted (C$1,190) was my original 2nd runner up. It’s the most similar to Max Mara’s classic coat silhouette, and it’s also the most affordable out of all the coats I tried on. Sadly I felt that the virgin wool was a bit scratchy and not as soft as the other coats I tried on. Even though the Doraci and Flint are made of the same material, the Ted is noticeably rougher and less flowy. I had to size down for the Ted coat because the kimono sleeves made it look bulky when I took it in my original size. I’m wearing my original size (IT 42) in the pictures because they didn’t have 40 available in the camel.

Max Mara Ted coatMax Mara Ted coatMax Mara Ted coat

I’m glad I went and tried these on in store. I really dislike store shopping most days because I don’t like having to wait around for a fitting room or wait around for service, but I had a really pleasant time the three times I went back to try on the coats. The service at Max Mara was fantastic and everyone was so kind even though I really was just there for research. It made me feel a lot better about buying products from their brand. Hope this was somewhat useful to someone looking to buy a Max Mara coat!

SKINCARE | Blush and navy wedding skincare featuring Suqqu, La Prairie, Laneige, Halo Beauty, and Nivea

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Ever since we picked blush and navy to be our wedding colours, I’ve been subconsciously drawn to skincare products packaged in these colours. Today I wanted to share with you some of the products that I’ve been (still) enjoying in my skincare routine as I prepare my skin for our big day!

The first is Suqqu Moisture Repair Essence N. This product I added to my routine in early September as the weather was just starting to turn cold in Vancouver. My skin isn’t perpetually dry and dehydrated and I needed an extra moisture serum step to help boost my skins hydration level. I purchased this in London when I was there last summer, and so far I’ve really been enjoying it. It’s such a lightweight hydrating serum that works perfectly over my retinol. I love this under my La Prairie moisturizer too. With my dry skin I’ve been expecting it to peel once I restarted using retinol, but I haven’t had any redness or peeling.

I previously wrote about the La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream Sheer, and I’m still loving it. While with the colder weather, it’s not quite enough hydration for my dry skin (hence the layering with the Suqqu serum), I love how it absorbs so quickly into my skin leaving no residue behind. While I love a rich moisturizer, some of them do leave behind a residue, but thankfully this does not. My skin feels firmer and smoother with every week of using this cream, featuring the new Caviar Premier which launched earlier this year.

I have perpetually dry lips but when I was in Vegas earlier this year, I picked up this mini size of the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask. I LOVE THIS STUFF! It’s been absolutely amazing for my dry lips. My lips used to peel and crack regularly but with this lip mask applied every night, I haven’t had any issues at all with dryness. I also bought the day gloss / balm and while it’s great for on-the-go, I still prefer this one since it works the best on me.

In terms of general skin, nail and hair health, I started using Halo Beauty Hair, Skin and Nails Booster this year. I was using it off and on (which you’re not supposed to do since it won’t maximize the benefits), but when I am using it, I definitely see and feel a difference. I was on the keto diet earlier this year and I had been experiencing some hair fallout. While I feel like this didn’t stop the fallout, this did make my hair grow back at an alarmingly fast rate. I also noticed the random dry patches on my skin have been disappearing. Recently I’m back on HSN Booster on a regular basis because I’ve been really stressed out from work so my scalp has been really dry and flakey.  I’m hoping that this will help.

Lastly, an oldie but goodie is the Nivea Firming Body Oil. I’ve taken FOREVER to use up this entire bottle, and sometimes I do forgo this in favour of other, more interesting body lotions, but I always come back to this one eventually because it works. I love how fast it dries on my skin, how it doesn’t leave a residue, the amazing and comforting smell, and how it’s great for the colder months. I wanted to pick up another bottle but I don’t think they sell this anymore… so sad!

As I continue further into my wedding prep and get closer to the big day, I’ll be sharing more skincare prep ideas and product reviews with you! I’m so happy to be back writing skincare reviews, it really does bring me the most joy and I hope you enjoy reading them too!

La Prairie and Nivea were PR samples. Everything else was purchased with my own money or received as a retail gift with purchase. All opinions are my own.

MAKEUP | Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Foundation

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I wasn’t intending on reviewing this foundation, but I’ve been seeing nothing but raves about it (mostly from girls who received this in their Influenster box or as PR samples) so I felt it was only right to share my views. I’m talking about the recently(ish) released Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Foundation. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE CHARLOTTE TILBURY. I have to yell that at the top of my lungs because it is true. Her products have quickly become an absolute staple in my makeup kit, for example her pressed powder is the first pressed powder I ever finished. I also use several of her other complexion products because most of them are AMAZING. That being said, the Airbrush Flawless Foundation has failed me in many many ways.

The TL;DR version of it is that it oxidizes poorly, sinks into pores, and doesn’t sit well on my dry skin.

The shade I have, which I received from Sephora as a deluxe sample with purchase, is 4 Neutral. When it goes on my face, it is way too light, as if I’m wearing a mask, but 20-30 minutes later, the shade has oxidized to the point of it being perfectly suited for my skin. A foundation should not oxidize that much, especially since I have dry skin so it’s not like it’s mixing with the oils on my skin to create something else. The brand says this is the foundation ‘adjusting’ to you skin, but really it’s just oxidizing. I don’t own any other foundations that oxidize like this, which is several shades deeper than what it looks like out of the bottle.

The first thing I noticed wasn’t even the oxidization, but rather how much this stuff sinks into pores. Again I reiterate I have dry skin, and I generally have pretty poreless skin. I’ve never owned a foundation like this that accentuated all of my pores, especially on my nose and cheek area. Thankfully I wear glasses so that area is a bit harder to see, but I know it’s there, and it’s not pretty. Charlotte Tilbury says to use this over the Magic Cream, which I haven’t tried yet and don’t plan on trying. I don’t need to use a specific skincare routine to make my foundation work – it shouldn’t be like that. I did try this over the Wonder Glow, which is Charlotte’s primer, and even then it sunk deep into my pores.

Charlotte advertises this as a hydrating foundation for those with dry skin. Unfortunately I didn’t find this to be the case at all. My skin felt dry and tight when I used this, and not skin relieving or hydrating. Even the long-wearing foundations I have that aren’t supposed to be hydrating feel more comfortable on my skin than this one. I didn’t change up my skincare routine at all when I used this, and even added a hydrating serum at night (which was washed off in the morning) to help my skin feel more comfortable. Unfortunately my skin was still dry feeling.

I’m not really sure how Charlotte got it so wrong this time. I have the Hollywood Flawless Filter and I love it. I also have the Light Wonder foundation and I also use that once in a while; it’s not my go-to foundation but it fills a need in my foundation collection.

If you’re looking for a foundation, stay far away from this one. I rarely write about a product with no redeeming qualities, but unfortunately this is one of them.

FASHION | Top styles trending this season per Holt Renfrew, Aimee Song and Coveteur

With fall officially in full swing, I was invited to a fall trends report presentation at Holt Renfrew Vancouver where fashion blogger Aimee Song discussed the latest trends for the season with Coveteur Co-founder Stephanie Mark. They touched on several trends but I wanted to share my personal favourites with you.

1. Warm neutrals

Warm neutrals such as warm beiges, leopard print, burgundies are my ultimate go-to when it comes to fall dressing. This appears to be in consensus with Aimee, Stephanie, and Holt’s fall trend report too. These colours just make me feel super cosy, and are also reflective of the beautiful fall tones that are bestowed upon us at this time of year. While I don’t rock leopard print that much apart from my footwear, burgundy is my favourite colour to wear.

This season we’re also seeing a continuation of the monotone look where your entire outfit is a variation of the same colour. I absolutely love this trend, as it is easy to put together but still look very trendy.

2. Power dressing

I purchased my first Balmain blazer earlier this year, and I love a good blazer to wear over top any outfit to make me look more polished and put together. One of Aimee’s favourite things to wear is an oversized blazer. She suggested sizing up (she normally takes a large) if you’re looking for a more relaxed casual vibe but still look polished. I personally prefer something more tailored, or even fitted, as I find an oversized blazer can look overwhelming on me. In recent years, I’ve seen blazers created with more unique features, such as a peplum detail, a ruffle back, or a waterfall front.

Power dressing doesn’t have to mean sticking to the classic blazer. You can achieve this look by incorporating other tailored items in your wardrobe. I recently discovered culottes by Max Mara which are super comfortable yet polished. One point that Aimee and Stephanie touched on, which I agree with, is power dressing is all about wearing clothes that make you feel comfortable and powerful in your own skin. As long as you’re comfortable with what you’re wearing, you’ll give off that positive energy which will make you look and feel powerful.

3. Flushed cheeks

As a beauty blogger, of course I’m loving the fresh skin, flushed cheeks trend. Cream blushes are great at this time of year because skin tends to be dryer so you want to use something more emollient. Aimee suggested that a good cream blush will also act as a great all-in-one helper when you’re short on purse space or when you’re travelling, as it can be applied on your cheeks, lips, and eyelids. Something like the La Prairie Radiance Cream Blush, available at Holts, comes with a super high quality mirror in the compact so you can touch up wherever you go.

Which of these trends are you going to incorporate in your own style?

Photos courtesy of Holt Renfrew. Thanks to Holts for inviting me to this event.

GIVEAWAY | Live Clean body wash and hand soap gift set

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Live Clean makes my absolute favourite hand wash formula ever. I’ve been using this stuff for over 5 years and I stock every bathroom in my house with it. I wash my hands very vigorously and regularly so I need something that is effective on dirt yet gentle on my skin. In addition for being super sudsy, Live Clean hand soaps are also very soothing and nourishing on my perpetually dry hands.

Live Clean body washes are also a staple in my house, not only are they inexpensive and offer great value for money, unlike other drugstore body washes, they offer a great cleanse without stripping the skin. I keep the Coconut Milk formula in my guest shower (along with bottles of the Live Clean shampoo and conditioner) as the scent is warming and great for a pre-bedtime shower.

I’m so excited that Live Clean is offering this generous giveaway to Maddy Loves readers where you can win a set of three body washes and three hand soaps. The formulas I’ve picked are all amazing for keeping your skin beautifully hydrated and nourished for the upcoming winter season.

You can win these products

  • Rich and creamy, Live Clean Coconut Milk Moisturizing Body Wash gently cleanses while restoring moisture balance and renewed vitality to the skin. The natural oils found in Coconut Milk as well as Apricot oil and Vitamins C, E and B deeply care for skin and improve its overall softness and beauty. 500 mL. Suggested retail $7.49 – $7.99.
  • Live Clean Vanilla Oatmeal Soothing Body Wash is formulated to gently – but oh so effectively – cleanse and soothe dry skin, leaving it silky smooth and moisturized.  In addition to Oatmeal, with its antioxidant, natural healing properties, certified organic botanicals of Vanilla and Chamomile nourish the skin.  The fragrance?  Heavenly. 500 mL. Suggested retail $7.49 – $7.99.
  • Famed for its moisturizing qualities, Monoi Oil of Tahiti hydrates and nourishes the skin. Live Clean Exotic Vitality Monoi Oil Calming Body Wash has certified organic Jojoba Oil and fair trade Bamboo extract that penetrate deeply, softening and nourishing the skin. The result – skin that’s both cleansed and protected.  500 mL. Suggested retail $7.49 – $7.99.
  • Rich, creamy and lightly scented, Live Clean Coconut Milk Moisturizing Liquid Hand Soap is not just an effective cleanser, it hydrates and restores moisture balance. It’s enriched with Vitamins C, E and B to deeply care for hands and improve their natural beauty. 500 mL. Suggested retail: $4.99 – $5.99.
  • A light vanilla scent and the soothing powers of oatmeal come to life in Live Clean Vanilla Oatmeal Soothing Liquid Hand Soap. We’ve blended Vitamin E, Panthenol and certified organic botanicals of Vanilla and Chamomile in this richly lathering, hydrating liquid hand soap that gently cleanses and delivers superior softening and moisturizing, leavings hands feeling soft and silky smooth. 500 mL. Suggested retail: $4.99 – $5.99.
  • In Live Clean Exotic Vitality Monoi Oil Liquid Hand Soap, we’ve harnessed Monoi Oil, a natural blend of rich coconut oil infused with Tahiti’s native Tiaré flower, to hydrate your hands while you’re cleansing. Certified organic Jojoba Oil and Bamboo extract deeply penetrate to soften your hands.  500 mL. Suggested retail: $4.99 – $5.99.

All you do to enter is by going to this Instagram post and follow the instructions:

  1. Follow @maddylovesblog and @livecleancan on Instagram
  2. Tag as many friends as you want for multiple entries

View this post on Instagram

🎉🎉🎉GIVEAWAY🎉🎉🎉!! . . I am giving away a set of @livecleancan Body Washes and Liquid Hand Soaps. I love Live Clean hand and body products, I keep them in every bathroom in my house. I can’t wait to share my love for these products with you! . . TO ENTER: 1️⃣ FOLLOW @maddylovesblog and @livecleancan 2️⃣ LIKE this post 3️⃣ TAG a friend! You can tag as many people as you want for multiple entries . . Contest is open to residents of Canada. Contest will close October 11 at 9PM. Once I confirm the winner, I’ll tag him or her. . . GOOD LUCK! 🥳 . . . . . #giveaway #giveaways #contest #liveclean #freebie #giveawaycontest #bbloggers #bbloggersca #vancouver #yvr #handsoap #blogger #bloggers #beautybloggers #lifestylebloggers #livecleancan #downtownvancouver #canadianblogger #canada

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The giveaway will run until October 11 at which time I’ll contact the winner. It’s that easy! Good luck!

NAILS | CND Treasured Moments collection

If you’ve been following along for a while, you’ll know that CND makes my favourite nail polish formula – the Vinylux. I’ve spoken about them countless times in the past on the blog. I love how long wearing the formula is (they usually can last up to 2 weeks without chipping), the seamless and flawless application, as well as its lack of a strong nail polish scent. Once in a while I would go try out another nail polish brand and it would literally stink up my entire house, so I’m thankful that CND can deliver such a beautiful formula without the pungent scent.

Now that we’re in the swing of fall, CND has released a fall-appropriate Treasured Moments collection, featuring five gorgeous shades that were inspired by the memories of childhood and growing up.

The shades are:

  • Baby Smile – the most perfect peachy nude shade
  • Secret Diary – a rich violet
  • First Love – a creamy raspberry red
  • Cap & Gown – an olive green
  • B-Day Candle – a rich orange

I had the absolute pleasure of getting my nails done at Onyx Aesthetics Studio in Gastown, which not only is a CND salon, meaning that they use exclusively CND products, but is also the only nail salon I go to for special occasions where I need to absolutely trust the esthetician (for example for my engagement photos!). Whenever I get nail art done on my hands, I generally let the artist have free reign on the design. I’m absolutely in love with the Picasso-inspired art that the artist created on my nails. She used Baby Smile as the base, and accented with First Love and B-Day Candle. It was such a treat and I couldn’t stop staring at my nails.

You can purchase CND products at Onyx if you’re in Vancouver. Alternatively they can be purchased at your local salon, Chatters salons, and Trade Secrets stores.

Product received for review consideration. Manicure service and nail art were provided complimentary of CND and Onyx. All opinions are my own.

SKINCARE | Recent product hits and duds featuring Herbivore Botanicals, Apothekari Skincare, Caudalie, May Coop and Elemis

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I haven’t written about skincare in a while but I wanted to share some quick thoughts on a few products I’ve been using lately.

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Herbivore Botanicals Bakuchiol Serum

I got a free deluxe mini bottle of this when I placed an Herbivore order during their 30% off sale. I used this every night for a few weeks and I didn’t see any major benefits to my skin at all. It was lightly hydrating, and the texture was soothing, but other than that I wouldn’t say it’s a very effective anti-aging serum. I personally feel like if you are pregnant or are majorly adverse to using stronger ingredients such as actual retinol, or you have very sensitive skin, or you just want all of your skincare to be 100% clean, then you might enjoy this because you can feel like you’re using an effective anti-aging ingredient. Otherwise, I wouldn’t get this over something else that’s more potent.

Repurchase? Nope.

Herbivore Botanicals Pink Cloud Moisturizer

Another dud from Herbivore Botanicals is their Pink Cloud Moisturizer. I purchased this last November during the Sephora VIB sale, and started using it at the beginning of July, and by then the jar had already mostly dried up to a point of it being a thick cream instead of a more whipped texture. In addition to not being moisturizing on me at all, it also broke me out. I loved the subtle rose scent, which was the only thing it had going for it.

Repurchase? Heck no.

Herbivore Botanicals Prism Serum

I ordered this because I love chemical exfoliants and this one contains a blend of fruit acids. Well similar to the Pink Cloud Moisturizer, it sat in the box for 8 months (unopened) and turned a weird brown murky colour. I still used it for a few days (according to the Herbivore Instagram account, the product is still good to use, and the colour change is just cosmetic) but I literally felt nothing from this. Maybe if you’re just starting out with acid exfoliators, you could give this one a go, but the fact that it turned bad before even the one year mark, combined with how it didn’t do anything for my skin at all, dissuades me from recommending this to anyone.

Repurchase? No

Herbivore Botanicals Rose Hibiscus Coconut Spray

The only item from Herbivore that I seem to be getting along with is the Rose Hibiscus Coconut Spray. It smells subtly rosy, which I am enjoying. It’s not super hydrating, which is a bummer, but it does feel really refreshing on the skin. It sinks in completely with no residue, making it a good candidate as a post-makeup setting spray too.

Repurchase? Maybe, but probably not because there are other products out there that can do better.

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Apothekari Skincare Bespoke Vitamin C 10% Serum

I received this from the Apothekari brand. I’ve known about this local Vancouver brand for years but it was my first time trying their products. The founder is a pharmacist and created this brand for people who are looking for active ingredients without certain harmful ingredients. The Bespoke Vitamin C 10% serum was custom mixed for me once it was confirmed that I wanted to try this product. With this product, they don’t mix everything together until it is confirmed that a client is ordering it, which means everything is ultra fresh.

I’ve tested several Vitamin C + Vitamin E + Ferulic Acid combo serums in the last few years, including the very famous CE Ferulic by Skinceuticals, and I honestly have to say this one is my favourite. The texture is funny, almost goopy like aloe gel, but it feels super soothing and hydrating on the skin. As a vitamin C serum, I apply this on my face pretty much every morning and it doesn’t feel sticky or leave my skin with an orange tinge. I would highly recommend that you check this out if you are in the market for a Vitamin C serum, especially if you’ve been interested in the Skinceuticals one for a while. This is $95 which is a lot more affordable than the Skinceuticals version.

Repurchase? Absolutely yes.

Apothekari Skincare A is for Anti-Aging Retinal Serum

Retinal is Retinaldehyde, a derivative of retinol. Per Apothekari, retinal is the “ultimate retinoid because it is the direct precursor to Retinoic Acid, the form of Vitamin A.” I haven’t looked too much into the science of it, but this is supposed to be a gentler version of retinol. In addition to retinal, it also includes one of my favourite skincare ingredients Niacinamide at a 5% concentration.

This serum is an interesting yellow, creamy texture. It goes on smooth underneath my moisturizer without giving me a yellow tinge. I love that it absorbs super quickly, and is not as drying as regular retinol. The effects aren’t as immediate as regular retinol either, which is good and bad depending on what your skincare preference is. I personally like instant gratification, which is why I’m obsessed with regular retinol. I do see that my skin is smoother and brighter over time, but it’s just not an immediate benefit.

Repurchase? Maybe. At this point in my skincare life, I personally prefer something stronger like retinol because my skin can take it right now, but I definitely will repurchase if my skin becomes sensitive later on and I need something gentler.

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Caudalie Vinoperfect Brightening Glycolic Essence

I received this from Caudalie PR and I love it so much, I have it saved on my Sephora Loves list. This is such a great lightweight essence lotion / toner for the summer months! I love the thinner texture which makes it great as a toner but also as a gently brightening essence. The scent is super subtle and very refreshing. I use this primarily in the morning but I also use it at night if I feel like my skin can use a bit of a kick. This is probably the most comparable essence lotion to the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence that I have found, which is amazing because this is a fraction of the price of SK-II.

Repurchase? Already on my list!

May Coop Raw Sauce

I love essence lotions and when I saw a promotion on May Coop’s popular Raw Sauce, I ordered myself a bottle to use in the mornings. This has a really thick serum-y texture which absorbs quickly. The trick is not to use a lot, otherwise you end up feeling sticky. I noticed an immediate boost in hydrating in just 1-2 days of use, and then my skin also feels way more comfortable and even. I had a pimple on my chin that was taking a while to heel but for some reason this really helped heel that as well. I haven’t used this enough to see the long term benefits, but in just the few short weeks I’ve had it, I’m already starting to be a believer.

Repurchase? Yes! It’s so affordable too.

Elemis Pro Collagen Marine Cream

This full size jar came in the Elemis advent calendar I ordered last year. I’ve been using this as a daytime moisturizer and I’m a big fan. It has such a nice lightweight gel cream texture, soaks in immediately, is super hydrating, layers well with other products, and creates a good base for foundation. While this is advertised as a day cream (there’s a separate night cream that’s supposed to be thicker), you can absolutely use this as a night cream as well. I don’t think I’ve noticed significant anti-aging benefits, but I do feel like my skin is nicely hydrated all the time and more plump. The only thing I don’t love about it is the jar – I feel like the formula is light enough to be in a pump or squeeze bottle. That being said, you can easily get every last drop of this cream from the jar.

Repurchase? Very likely.

PR products include Caudalie and Apothekari, everything else was purchased with my own money. I do not use affiliate links. All opinions are my own.