Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Local Spotlight - Waxman Candles

Waxman Candles, which is located on bustling Massachussetts Street, is a Lawrence original that's been around since the 1970s. Waxman founder, Bob Werts, came from New York City to attend school in Dodge City, and while in college, one of his favorite hobbies was experimenting with candlemaking. After graduating  with a business degree, Bob decided that candlemaking would be his calling. Bob's dad was skeptical upon hearing about his son's idea for making a living, and let him know as much. Bob pressed on, though, and  armed with a tiny candlemaking starter kit, he got to work creating as many types of candles as he could, learning along the way.

I acquired these background tidbits about the store from Jill, an employee at Waxman who was incredibly helpful and willing to answer every question I asked. Jill, who has been at Waxman for 10 years, said that she loves the company and the people she works with. She gave me the rundown on how the store has continually expanded its product offerings over the years, incorporating more scents and types of candles based on customer preferences, while maintaining the same staples that made Waxman a success from its inception.

Waxman is a candle store unlike any others that are currently on the market. For starters, the names and scents of the candles for sale at Waxman immediately distinguishes the company from the boring, tried-and-true fragrances that you'll find almost everywhere else. Honestly, how many more vanilla-, fresh-, berry-, rose-, cookie-something scents does anyone in America need? Answer: None. So it was refreshing to see tins emblazoned with titles such as, 'Love Potion No. 9', 'Nirvana', 'Aphrodisiac', 'Asia', 'Tea Party' and 'Sexy'. Infinitely appealing these names are because they pique onlookers' curiosity; what exactly does sexy smell like? Then you unable to resist picking up the candle and taking a whiff. For the record, I would describe the smell of the Sexy candle akin to what a freshly showered man wearing a well-tailored suit would smell like. This description is at least somewhat legit, as three other people sniffed it and this is the image we agreed that it matched. But you should go and smell Sexy just to see what image pops up in your mind.

Near the front door to Waxman is a tall shelf that holds can candles, which Jill said were incredibly concentrated. When you burn the can candle scent, you'll smell it immediately, and it will last. When I asked her what the secret was to making these candles more potent than any other on the market, she said that Waxman infuses the wax with the scent while it is still a liquid, whereas many other candle companies - including large, well-known ones - actually don't infuse the wax with a scent at all, and instead spray their scents onto odorless candles, which is why the fragrances in those candles can't be detected if you walk just a few feet from where they are burning. That little tidbit of information blew my mind.

My favorite can candles

In the middle of the room are dozens of individual, small votives stacked in bins at the center of the room that contain the most popular Waxman scents. Each votive retails for $1.75, or can be purchased as a set of 12 for $16.

Burning wood aka Bonfire is one of my favorite scents

And, being that that Waxman is located in Lawrence, there is a lot of pride for the city, as can be seen in the Lawrence-scented can candle and the faux cobblestone bricks that mime those still found on downtown and neighborhood streets. There are also plenty of candles that pay homage to The University of Kansas, from the tiny Jayhawk molds to the Campanile.

Then there are layer columns, in which two-to-five scents are stacked upon each other, with all of the scents mingling together once the candle is lit. The columns offered are: Kitchen, Wet, 5th Avenue, Deep Forest, Feng Shui, Summer Sunshine and Kansas.

Should your want a little bit of entertainment to go along with your richly scented candle, perhaps you should buy one of the candle molds that Waxman offers. From Hershey's Kisses to olives to treasure pyramids to cupcakes, there was a serious variety of everyday objects that one could pick from. Jill said that ideas for molded candles are thought up by the staff, and that all molds are created at Waxman. I can't be completely certain, but I'm pretty sure that she said that customers can commission custom molds. I think I might commission a macaron-shaped candle on my next visit.

The scented oils had perhaps the largest selection of scents to pick from, with my favorites being Hazelnut, which smelled like a freshly brewed cup of robust coffee, Nillaberry, which smelled like a mixture of vanilla, gummy worms and jelly beans, Roasted Chestnut, which smelled like coffee and chestnuts, Cinnamon, which smelled like Red Hots candy, Bayberry, which smelled like I was standing on the edge of a lake with a breeze of holly berries and Buff, which smelled like the air after a spring rain.

Jade, another Waxman employee, let me check out the back of the store where the candles are actually made. He said that since the candles are made on a smaller scale than other candle companies, Waxman makes their own equipment. He walked me through the process of creating candles from start to finish, and showed the latest batch that had just been formed.

If you want authentic, ethically made candles with scents that you literally will never be able to find anywhere else, stop by Waxman. A candle is the perfect gift for any occasion, and is a perfect buy just to treat yourself, and with the variety of options offered at Waxman, there isn't a reason not to stop by. And with the staff that is as friendly and willing to answer questions as Jill and Jade, it's no wonder the shop has been thriving for so many years.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Best Dresses at Cannes

The 12-day-long international film festival is wrapping up today, and there has been a myriad of glorious designer offerings from the red carpet walkers. From premieres to parties to charity galas, the attendees have pulled out all of the stops in order to dazzle us by wearing the most luxurious gowns (and tuxedos) available to man.

Here are the celebrities that took my breath away when I saw what they wore while in the beachy, sun-soaked heaven that is Cannes.

First comes the slew of stars who dazzled at the amfAR gala, a charity function that raises money annually for aids research.

 Berenice Bejo in Giambattista Valli Couture
 (photo c/o zimbio.com)

 Carine Roitfeld in Givenchy
 (photo c/o zimbio.com)

 Diane Kruger in Chanel Resort
(photo c/o zimbio.com)

 Doutzen Kroes in Versace
 (photo c/o zimbio.com)

 Irina Shayk in Roberto Cavalli
(photo c/o vh1.com)

 Liya Kebede in Roberto Cavalli
(photo c/o vh1.com)

 Nina Dobrev in Elie Saab
 (photo c/o justjared.com)

Rose McGowan in Versace

And now let us applaud Diane Kruger's endless stream of stunning gowns. Not once did she have a fashion misstep throughout the 12 days of back-to-back events that she attended as a judge, and here are a few of the looks she sported. 

 Wearing Prabal Gurung
 (photo c/o tomandlorenzo.com)

 Wearing Vivienne Westwood Couture
 (photo c/o justjared.com)

Wearing Giambattista Valli Couture
(photo c/o tomandlorenzo.com)

And fianlly, a thumbs-up to Kirsten Dunst's hair and makeup, as they were styled to perfection. 

 (photos c/o glamour.com)

(photo c/o stylebistro.com)

Friday, May 25, 2012

At the Vanity - The best of branded makeup collaborations

Peanut Butter and Jelly.

Carrots and Ranch.

Steak and Eggs.

Diet Coke and Bitters (I'm I alone in my love for this combination?).

All of these pairings beg the question, Why have just one good thing when you can have two?

And thus is the reason why makeup collaborations between brands and respective artists, movies, designers or other excite the masses and generally cause a fervor among consumers to buy, buy, buy the limited edition products produced for these short-lived promotions. It's quite a good marketing technique, really, to make all products of these collaborations seem as though they are on the cusp of being sold out so as to urge shoppers to run - not walk - to snatch up said items. After all, it's a source of pride to have gotten hands on a lipstick that was one of only 1,000 created worldwide.

The best makeup collaborations happen when two powerful brands come together, with each bringing its individual aesthetic to the table to design products that embody the essence of both brands, thereby creating a powerhouse of products that seem impossibly cool. The collaborations that tend to flop are the ones whereby two brands pair up with each other, but neither seems to be the right fit for the other. It smells like a poorly thought out money-making scheme more than an attempt to fuse creative visions. An example of a flop would be OPI's Muppets themed collection, simply because the clientele that likes OPI is probably different from the clientele that is rushing to see the Muppets movie (I don't think toddlers paint their nails). That being said, OPI has done very well with other collections, like it's decision to pair with Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and the movie Burlesque.

If there is one shining star that leads the pack, a cosmetics collaboration master, if you will, it would have to be MAC. In the past few years, MAC has paired with Dita Von Teese, Eve, Lil' Kim, Ricky Martin, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Cyndi Lauper, drag queen RuPaul, socialite Iris Apfel, socialite Daphne Guinness, graffiti artist Fafi, Barbie, fashion label Lilly Pulitzer, Disney, Hello Kitty, fashion label Alice + Olivia, fashion designer Manish Arora, now-defunct fashion label Heatherette, Wonder Woman, Miss Piggy, fashion label Liberty of London, caricature Dame Edna, fashion designer Gareth Pugh, fashion label DSquared, actress Racquel Welch, fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, plus more on imaginative, colorful collections that always contain a blend of both MAC's USP as well as the entity its collaborating with.

And some of the upcoming collections include partnering with fashion label Ruffian, singer Beth Ditto, former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld and creating a Marilyn Monroe-themed collection.

But there are other brands that have had some stellar match-ups as well, such as:

1. Lancome's fashion designer Pout-a-Porter series of lipsticks
 Lancome paired with a different designer for five years to create single, small batch limited-edition lipsticks based on colors in the chosen designer's latest runway show. Behnaz Sarafpour, Proenza Schouler, Peter Som, Thakoon and Chris Benz are all designers that paired up with the French cosmetics brand. I fell prey to the appeal of the Proenza Schouler lipstick, fittingly named Proenza Pink, which was marketed as a surfer-on-acid look. In retrospect...I'm not sure how that description lured me in, but I was smitten. The milky Pepto Bismol lip color sent out a siren call in my direction, forcing me to place a $40 order at Macy's in New York City so that when it shipped, I could be the proud owner of a lipstick that smelled wonderful, mimed the color of lipwear that I'm sure Twiggy would have worn in the sixties and which saluted a great fashion label. When, after a year's hiatus from the Pout-a-Porter line, Lancome created partnered with Chris Benz to create the most lustworthy pinky-coral lip color on this green Earth, I had to have it. Unfortunately, even though I had my name on the list for the lipstick, the Macy's Lancome clerk lost my name and I didn't end up getting one (insert sad face).

Chris Benz's Chris & Tell lipstick  

Peter Som's PS KISS

 Thakoon's Pixel Pink

 Prozena Schouler's Proenza Pink

And my own much-loved Proenza Pink lipstick

2. Urban Decay's Book of Shadows, Tim Burton's Alice in   
  Wonderland edition
Alice in Wonderland (both the cartoon and live action versions) is one of my favorite movies due to its quirky, fantastical, funny and utterly imaginative storyline. Paired with Urban Decay, a line that is known for its urban, ultra-pigmented, break-all-of-the-rules USP, this was a product that I couldn't resist. Unfortunately, neither could anyone else, as I found when I traipsed to three different Sephoras only to find that the palette was never in stock. Gah.

Seriously...look at how great this set-up looks. 
 (photo c/o beautynomics.com)

 The names themselves are selling points. 
(photo c/o temptalia.com)

3. Nars pairing with Thakoon for a line of six nail polishes
The Nars line is about mixing a minimalist, elegant aesthetic with pigments that are almost incomparable to many other brans in terms of their intensity of color payoff. The Nars brand also incorporates risque elements, be it from the names of some of the products offered (Orgasm and Deep Throat are names of two of the most popular blushes) to the pairing of seemingly counterintuitive hues (such as the lime green and royal blue match-up in the Rated R Duo Eyeshadow compact). Thakoon, who has appeared twice on this short list (!), also prefers to create understated, elegant clothing designs, but chooses to go big and bold when it comes to the hair and makeup that he sends his models down the runway with. His past collections have featured models with sweeping red eyeshadow, baby pink Marie Antoinette-esque chalk-caked bouffants and tomato-colored lips. Thus it makes perfect sense that a fusion between these two like-minded brands would result in such marvelously bright and seriously opaque nail polishes.

Lal Mirchi, the most amazing shade of the bunch, in my opinion
(photo c/o scrangie.com)

4. DuWop with Twilight
I've been a fan of DuWop's Venom products since the beginning of high school, when I first tried the lip-tingling cinnamon-infused product after having purchased it in a Sephora while on vacation (the store wasn't in our proximity yet, so I had to state-hop). Lip venom uses pepper and cinnamon to make the blood rush to the wearer's lips thereby creating a flush and giving a plumped-up, bee-stung effect to the pout. The brand has an entire line of venoms, from the original clear formula to one that is infused with gold glitter, another with pink glitter, a blue-tinged formula to make teeth look whiter, and now a blood-colored stain-meets-gloss that invokes a vampyric quality. Even if Twilight, or vampire mania for that matter, isn't your thing, this collaboration is still a great pairing.