Shop: Macau

I thought that I would never report about shopping in Macau especially with my second time in this “specially administrative region of China.” Hong Kong maybe, but not Macau. On one sunny, but chilly day in February exploring the streets of Macau, I found a noteworthy street vendor amongst the uninteresting, cheap, and knock-offish public markets set against the backdrop of  St. Peter’s ruins. In a crowded alleyway of overly pushy street vendors vying for your business, this “shop” with its quietly skilled and creative driving force caught my attention.

With my embarrassing knowledge of phrases in Mandarin, a major dialect Cantonese speakers must learn as Cantonese is secondary to mainland Mandarin, he understood that I was a “Korean person” and that I did not understand most of what he was saying so he made relatable gestures of hand-sewing the beads and crystals into his designs of purses and even shoes, and pointed out that he was famous from a Macau guidebook. The purses displayed in his humbly protected glass-casing were beyond a second take. They were more like Judith Leiber’s renowned crystal-encrusted clutches, but a bit more down-to-earth and more attainable.

This is the vintage-esque purse I purchased from him. I could almost say that it was from my grandmother, or from a prestigious auction!

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Beauty Essential: BB Cream

It all started in Germany by Dr. Schrammek for her patients who underwent chemical peels and laser resurfacing to soothe the skin and minimize redness. It was called, “Blemish Balm,” now known as “BB Cream.” This little tube caught wind in Asia and from then on, various recreations caused the largest sensation in Asian cosmetic history, especially in Korea. My stewardess girlfriend at Korean Air introduced me to the original Blemish Balm more than a few years ago telling me that flight attendants have been using it as a makeup base to prolong their makeup across time zones.

The original formula felt very water-based as it needed a lot of warmth in the fingertips to spread evenly, and it rendered some getting use to, but after a few applications, I used it religiously as it paired so well with Bare Escentuals mineral makeup or by using it alone just with a setting powder. After a year or so of searching for it in German pharmacies and in specialized cosmetic stores around the world, I fell upon Korean BB Creams during my many travels to Seoul.

At that point in time, I was bombarded with a plethora of different BB Creams from high-end to low-end cosmetic companies marketing their new revelation in makeup. Most of these companies offered UV protection, something that was never introduced in the original Blemish Balm. But what really caused the cult following of BB Creams in Asia was that it was not a thick, pore-blocking foundation as it acted partially as a primer, sunscreen, and tinted moisturizer with the benefits of targeted skin problems such as acne for oily skin, rosacea, and even fine lines and wrinkles for more mature skin and dry skin. The sensation even crossed boundaries within genders as it became part of the skincare regimen with teenage males who were insecure about their hormonal and unpredictable skin.

My favorite BB Cream I encountered was from a fluke of circumstances from my mother’s cosmetic bag. Her Hanyul BB Cream made by Amore Pacific (the most luxurious and sought after Asian cosmetic company to hit the counters of Sephora and Neiman Marcus) fit me nicely! The only reason my mother forked it over to me was because it did not match her skin tone. It is actually made for dry/mature skin but the coverage is impeccable alone and balanced my oil-proned/combination skin. I think this product reaped many more benefits than Chanel’s Mat Lumiere Makeup with SPF 15 which I truly believed in, but realized that it sucked the life out of my skin of its essential nutrients.
About less than a year ago, I was intrigued by Clinque’s BB Cream that was first introduced to the US. As a beauty addict gullible of packaging claims, of course I had to try it to see if it met the standards of what I have been using. It failed in many ways. It claims to be an anti-aging solution with its SPF 30 and that it is suitable for all skin types with its oil-free formula, but I could not contest its benefits as advertised. Yes, it might have SPF 30 content, but I could find that in many sunscreens and even moisturizers. The disappointing caveat was that it caked upon application no matter how light or how heavy my hand was. I thought with regular use, my skin would adapt to its claims. It didn’t. It did not fair well as a primer nor tinted moisturizer.
Recently with my travels and frequenting Duty Free shops, I discovered that Estee Lauder and Dior have come up with their own formulations of BB Creams. I wondered about how they would advertise in the US market in magazines and ad campaigns as most Americans have not been exposed to BB Creams, its origination, and let alone, its acronym. With my respect and experience towards these true-to-claim companies, I think they will come up on top in competition. I cannot wait to compare their differences.

Shop: Sydney, La Galerie Boutique

La Galerie, in the trendy neighborhood of Paddington, is and has been one of my favorite little stores to frequent whenever I am in Sydney. The boutique boasts an array of sexy cocktail dresses and casual dresses designed by local Aussie designers which is great to get your hands on if you’re from the Northern Hemisphere because it almost guarantees that you won’t be wearing the same dress as the girl a few barstools away. Owner, Sylvia Mesoina started her business during the wake of a worldwide downturn in 2007. She has since seen the ups, downs, and now the downs again with the tumultuous economy hitting her boutique as well as all of the other boutiques littered a long Oxford street. Once a bustling street of local style, many have boarded up shop and “For Lease” signs are visibly plastered on many of the storefronts that once boomed with business. La Galerie is still standing, but business is not like how it used to be even with Mesoina’s forte of superb customer service. I am hoping and praying that the economy picks up for this part of town because it is the uniquely unadvertised shopping walkway for trend-setters.

Here’s a brief conversation I had with La Galerie’s owner.

When did you open your boutique?

It was opened in October of 2007.

How is the fashion scene in Sydney?

I think that Sydney is quite a fashion forward city. Every one loves the variety of different styles, from their casual wears to the high-end designer look. Long maxi, casual dresses are very popular during summer. For the night life, every girl is in dresses. You rarely see a girl who goes to a club wearing jeans. Casual wear is also quite popular.

Do you feel it is up to date with the Northern Hemisphere?

Northern Hemisphere? Of course not.

Or do you feel it lags behind because of the seasonal difference?

Australia lags because we are not as advanced compared to Europe or the U.S. Our fashion trend follows those countries. The Australian population is not as big, and we don’t have famous designers to set the trend.

Do you feel Sydney and Melbourne has their own fashion personalities?

Yes, Sydney and Melbourne has their differences.

What kind of designers do you buy from?

I source mainly the local Sydney designers. Because my store is in one of the popular tourist areas for shopping, I get a lot of customers from overseas who are looking for clothing that is a bit different. And I also get customers from other states, from Melbourne, Perth, and such.

Has the world recession affected sales?

Yes, the recession definitely affected the sales. Everyone is more careful in their spending, but it doesn’t affect dramatically because I believe that people in Sydney still like to keep up with their fashion.

What’s the biggest trend you are selling the most?

The biggest trend that I sell the most is STRIPES. Everything in stripes sell well especially since the summer stripe trend hasn’t died yet coming into winter. A lot of clothing in other stores are all stripes, stripes, stripes.

Do you think your fashion design degree from the Whitehouse Institute of Design has helped you in marketing or buying for your business?

No, the design degree didn’t help at all.

What do you love the most about owning your boutique? 

I love it because I am surrounded by beautiful clothing. It’s a dream come true. We could never have enough clothes and we always want something nicer and new. I have a joy in dressing girls and transforming them into looking hot in their new outfits! And of course I love that I am my own boss.  

Go there:

La Galerie

26 Oxford Street Paddington, NSW 2234

Or shop online: http://www.lagalerie.com.au/catalog

Style: Macau

Image

I was quite amused and impressed with this lady dressed up so gingerly for her photo-ops in front of the Ruins of St. Paul in Macau. In such a Chinese dominated playing ground, her ensemble actually works, especially if you placed her on the streets of the ever-so vintage wannabe, quasi-hipsterish streets of San Francisco. Thought: I should turn this photo into B&W. Maybe then we could get a feel of what it was like in the 1930’s/1940’s in Macau except for that darn digi-camera smacked right into view.