2014 Brand of the Year: Kat Von D!

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When I first heard about Kat Von D’s new makeup line with Sephora, I was thrilled! I’ve been a fan of her and her show for a long time, so I was curious how her cosmetics line would perform. I’ve heard good things, and when her Studded Kiss lipstick line debuted, I knew I had to get my hands on some of them! Two of the lippies of hers that I reviewed last year, Wolvesmouth and Backstage Bambi got some of the highest scores of all the products I tried in that time period. Also, Wolvesmouth became one of my favorite lippies, and my go-to product during special occasions. I splurged on a special set of mini lipsticks from the Studded Kiss line during the holidays, and bought a mega palette of her eyeshadows as well, so I look forward to seeing if the brand continues to impress me in 2015.

What brand did the most for you last year, beauties?

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Best of Beauty 2014

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Another great year of beauty blogging has gone by! These 12 products were the best of the best this year, all scoring an A- or higher. Here they are, categorized by type.

Face Products:

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Eye Products:

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Lip Products:

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I’m glad it was such a great year for lip products, as these are my favorite kind of cosmetics! I also got to try a ton of great brands throughout the year and was very pleased to see some new brands rise to the top of my favorites. I have many products left over from my autumn hauls and the holidays, so there will be plenty more reviews and cosmetic goodness to come on PV in 2015, so stay tuned!

Definicils was the best product I tried last year, having been the only product of all the ones I reviewed to receive a perfect score. Lancome is another brand I haven’t had much experience with, but since I’ve adored every mascara I’ve tried from them, they’re definitely more on my radar.

What products did you love this year, beauties?

NYX Macaron Lippie in Blue Velvet Review + Swatches

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Color:
NYX describes Blue Velvet as “electric blue.” To me, it’s a cool-toned medium dark aqua blue, with the satin matte finish the brand described. I certainly don’t have a shade like this in my collection, and I think blue lippies in general are hard to find, so I appreciate BV’s uniqueness. (5/5)

Wear:
This lipstick wore pretty well, only starting to look a bit sheer (up close) at the 5 hour mark. Throughout wear time, BV was comfortable and didn’t dry my lips out. (4.5/5)

Formula:
This had the same creamy formula as Black Sesame. How smoothly this applies, though, depends on the condition of your lips. Smooth lips = smooth application. My lips were the slightest bit dry when I photographed this, and as you can see below, it caused the lipstick to go on patchy and bunch up in places. I liked that this was fully opaque and dried down more than Black Sesame. It never got tacky, but it didn’t feel too wet, either. Also, this is opaque to a fault. I applied this for just a moment to photograph it, and it left behind a stain and clung to the lips in a ring around the mouth, to the point where a scrub was necessary to remove it. (3/5)

Packaging:
This line of lipsticks skimped on packaging. The black plastic tubes feel cheap, and sometimes the product rattles around inside. Also, the inner tube is clear, which i very low quality looking (as one tube actually somehow had product smeared on the inside of that tube, so I can’t remove it but have to see it). I don’t think the plastic is durable enough to withstand a lot of travel or accidental drops without cracking. They are small enough to store easily, though. (3/5)

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Price:
As I’ve mentioned before, Macaron Lippies are the most cost-effective per-ounce cosmetic product I’ve ever seen! They’re $6 USD each for 0.16 oz of product (just 3 cents per ounce). But quality is an important part of this aspect of rating a product. I think Blue Velvet is wildly pigmented and unique, and if you have the patience to work with it (conditioning your lips, using a brush for extra precision), then it’s worth it. (4.5/5)

Wow Factor:
I don’t know if I’ve said it enough in this post, but I haven’t seen anything like Blue Velvet. The rarity of a bright blue lippie got my attention! This one was nondrying, felt nice going on, and was comfortable to wear without drying my lips out or fading. However, the temperament of this line of lipsticks is very frustrating (your lips have to be FLAWLESS, or else it’s a mess). (4/5)

Overall:
There’s a lot to like about Blue Velvet. It’s comfortable, smooth, non-drying, eye catching and utterly unique. It’s also very affordable and great for niche consumers (like cosplayers, or people looking to do a Kesha tutorial on Youtube). Well-moisturized lips are a must, though, and a lip brush would help this go far. It’s not a bad lipstick, if you’re prepared to make the effort to work with it. (4) B-

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Availability:
-nyxcosmetics.com
-Ulta
-Target

Useful Information:
-This product was purchased by me.
-There’s 12 shades in the Macaron line.
-Macaron Lippies are cruelty free.

NYX Macaron Lippie in Black Sesame Review + Swatches

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Color: NYX describes this lipstick as simply “light gray” with a “satin matte finish.” I agree on both counts. Black Sesame looked like a light concrete gray to me, and does have that semi-matte texture. When I looked at this line, this grey seemed the most interesting to me, and one of the more wearable of the unusual shades. I certainly don’t own anything like this! (5/5)

Wear: With how great the pigment comes out, I was expecting this to last longer. However, Black Sesame only made it three full hours of wear. By four hours, it began to look sheer. (3.5/5)

Formula: The texture of this lipstick is really nice. It goes on creamy and smooth, and applies easily and evenly. It didn’t tug on the lips or go on patchy. It also had great opacity. However, it has a slick feel that never becomes tacky. This bothered me a lot as it was very unpleasant (although if you hate thick/tacky lipsticks, this would be great formula to try). This also have a nice vanilla scent. (4/5)

Packaging: The packaging felt cheap to me. It’s plastic, and with some of the lipsticks in this line, the tube can rattle a little bit. I also received one that had lipstick smudged on the inside of the clear plastic tube (not cute). It just doesn’t seem like a lot of effort was put into packaging. It’s functional and theyre easy to store, but these seem prone to cracking or other damage if dropped. (2.5/5)

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Price: A single Macaron Lippie is $6 USD for 0.16 oz of product. This is a more generous weight than even MAC lipsticks (which are only .1 oz and almost 3x the cost of one of these). Macaron Lippies are also the cheapest per ounce I’ve ever seen a cosmetic product, coming in at only 3 cents an ounce! But as always, I factor in getting your money’s worth as well as the monetary value. Black Sesame is a beautifully unique shade, and applies and builds well for full opacity. So i certainly think this delivers on quality for the price! (5/5)

Wow Factor: There’s a lot of positive things to be said for Black Sesame. It has great opacity and is easy to apply. It has a creamy  feel going on. A lot of brands come out with shades that look bold in the tube but are very sheer and watered down; this Black Sesame isn’t like that! However, I didn’t like the oily feel this had on my lips, and the wear was a little disappointing. (3.5/5)

Overall: This is definitely a unique, bold shade I can see many women being interested in. The neutral tone and intense pigment makes me believe this would be flattering across all skin tones. The formula nice and the price can’t be beat, either. Just be mindful of the feel the thin formula has on the mouth, it’s not for everyone. (3.1) C-

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Availability:
-nyxcosmetics.com
-Ulta
-Target

Useful Information:
-NYX is cruelty-free.
-This product was purchased by me.
-There are 12 shades in the Macaron line.
-This line of lipsticks can have bold, but fussy, pigment. To ensure even, smooth application and the best wear possible, have your lips buffed (using a toothbrush or scrub) and moisturized pre-wear.

Graze Box 05 Review (And Why I Unsubscribed)

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I was always fond of my Graze Boxes. The last one I received, a week before Christmas, came with this cute tree and reindeer pattern that I thought was a special touch.The inside contents were just as good! The box’s items were delicious, so I was extra sad to part with the brand (which I did only because I’m not working right now and can no longer afford it 😦 )

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The box was delicious and had a great mix of sweet and savory items. The snacks I received were Chili Honey Almonds, Smoky Chipotle Dip With Rosemary Breadsticks, Deconstructed Carrot Cake, and Summer Berry Flapjack.

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First, I tried the Chili Honey Almonds. These were a good source of protein and vitamin E and magnesium. Spiced nuts are one of my favorite snacks, so I really enjoyed these. The almonds were glazed with chili and honey (obviously), and I loved that I got that kick of heat and the sweetness. Both flavors were distinct and present (sometimes Graze is a bit too light handed with their flavors).

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Next, I tried the Smoky Chipotle Dip with Rosemary Breadsticks. The benefit of this one is that it’s light, 100 calories. The breadsticks have a sweet herby smell. I liked that the dip was smoky but light and flavorful, kind of like barbecue sauce. A friend tried this as well and said the dip tasted like sweet and sour sauce. The brand describes the dip as a relish, which I agree with. It has that kind of texture, only slightly runnier. The breadsticks left less of an impression. They weren’t as crunchy as I expected, but they were good carriers for the dip and didn’t taste bad on their own.

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Next was the Deconstructed Carrot Cake. I absolutely l-l-loved this! The benefit of this is that it has a ton of vitamin C (70% of your daily allowance!). This was a mix of carrot chews, ginger fudge, walnuts, and cinnamon flavored raisins. It had a really yummy, spicy fragrance, like a real cinnamon carrot cake. The carrot chews had a gummy,chewy texture and tasted a bit artificial on their own (it wasn’t bad, just a bit fake-sweet). I was worried that the ginger fudge wouldn’t taste different than the vanilla fudge from the last box’s salted cookie, but it actually had an intense ginger flavor that I really liked. The walnuts were plain (which is fine by me, I love walnuts), but I felt like they absorbed some of the other flavors, which made them extra delightful. And lastly, the cinnamon raisins were tasty, but the cinnamon flavor was fainter than I had hoped. When eaten together, the taste is just extraordinary, definitely reminiscent of carrot cake. I love Graze’s deconstructed dessert snacks, and this one was definitely a hit with me.

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And finally, the Summer Berry Flapjack. I’m a fan of Graze’s flapjacks, since they’re dense and satisfying. The perk of this one is the whole oats. The “summer berry” aspect comes from “berry infused cranberries,” although which berries they didn’t specify. This had a tart cranberry smell. The taste was nice and sweet. I prefer these to other popular cereal fruit bars because these seem less artificial and sugary. These are lighter, but still chewy and a pleasure to eat.

So I’m very sad to see Graze go, because the last box I got from them was definitely a hit! Once I have more money coming in, they will definitely have a re-subscription from me. In the meantime, I can say earnestly that they’re a good brand going in the right direction with healthy snacking. I would definitely recommend Graze to anyone who was interested, because they have such a diverse mix of flavors and the creations can be pretty unique. They’re healthy, and remarkably inexpensive. What other food boxes have you tried, or heard good things about Beauties? Let me know!

Model Monday: Iris Strubegger

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Born In: Schwarzach im Pongau, Salzburg, Austria

Height: 5’11”

Shot By: Alexi Lubomirski, Anthony Maule, Craig McDean, Daniel Jackson, David Sims, Francois Nars, Glen Luchford, Gregory Harris, Horst Diekgerdes, Inez & Vinoodh, Giampaolo Sgura, Karl Lagerfeld, Mario Testino, Marton Perlacki, Mert & Marcus, Miles Aldridge, Paolo Roversi, Patrick Demarchelier, Phil Poynter, Sebastian Kim, Solve Sundsbo, Stefano Moro, Steven Meisel, Willy Vandeperre

Campaigns: Armani Collezioni, Balenciaga, D&G, Francesco Scognamiglio, Givenchy, Pepe Jeans, Pollini, Valentino

Editorials: The Face, American & British Harper’s Bazaar,  i-D, Interview, Numero, Pop, V, British, French, German, Japanese, Italian, Russian, & Spanish Vogue, W

Walked For: 3.1 Phillip Lim, Alberta Ferretti, Alexander McQueen, Armani Prive, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta. Calvin Klein, Carolina Herrera, Chanel, Christian Dior, Cynthia Rowley, Dolce & Gabbana, Dries Van Noten, Fendi, Givenchy, Haider Ackermann, Hermes, Isaac Mizrahi, Kai Kuhne, Karl Lagerfeld, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Narcisco Rodriguez, Oscar de la Renta, Proenza Schouler, Reed Krakoff, Rick Owens, Roberto Cavalli, Rodarte, Sonia Rykiel, Thakoon, Valentino, Veronique Branquinho, Wunderkind, Yves Saint Laurent

Covered: Amica, Tush, The Room, Italian, Japanese, & Spanish Vogue

L’Oreal HIP Bright Shadow Duo in Flashy Review + Swatches (DISCONTINUED)

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Color:
This duo contains a pale, sheer yellow matte and a medium shimmery teal. I was attracted to this duo because it reminded me of the NARS duo in Misfit. While I haven’t tried the NARS duo, I feel like the quality difference is clear. The yellow is nearly transparent, but the teal has medium opacity. Both lacked the “high intensity pigment” this line promises. I thought this would be easy to dupe, but the left shade is paler and more beige than similar hues in my collection. I didn’t have anything close to the teal (but teals in my collection are scarce). (2.5/5)

Wear:
The longevity of these shadows wasn’t stellar. At the five hour mark, both looked faded (and this was when primer was used. If you dare to go without primer, you’ll only get 2 hours before fading). (3/5)

Formula:
The yellow shade is so sheer, even with primer, it’s pretty much invisible on my skin (rendering it useless), I imagine it would look chalky on dark skin. The teal has better payoff, but still isn’t opaque, even with primer. The shadows both feel dry to the touch. Both shadows applied easily enough and didn’t look patchy or give me fallout, though. (2.5/5)

Packaging:
These duos come in round black plastic containers with flip top lids that snap shut. There’s also a compartment underneath that pops open, storing a sponge-tip applicator. I really wish they cut the bottom compartment and the applicator, since I never use the tool and the extra space comes open easily and takes up extra space, which means more plastic is needed to make ’em (which is bad from an environmental perspective). The packaging didn’t feel particularly cheap, though. These are easy to store, but I don’t think they’d be crack-proof if you dropped it/during travel. I do like that the pans are separated well, so there’s no powder crossover. (4/5)

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Price:
I admit, it’s been years since I purchased this (at Target), so the exact price isn’t fresh in my mind. But online estimates put this at around $8,25 USD. The product weight is 0.08 oz, making this duo $103.13 per ounce. That’s a bit pricey for a drugstore product, in my opinion. Of course, getting your money’s worth is just as important as price per ounce, if not moreso! And this duo definitely isn’t worth it. The payoff, even with primer, is too weak. (2/5)

Wow Factor:
It’s rare when a product makes a strong negative impression, but Flashy pulled my attention in a negative way. It’s remarkably sheer (the yellow shade can’t even be salvaged as something you could layer. It’s just invisible). The texture of these shadows is also unpleasantly dry (although not the worst I’ve ever seen). I haven’t reached for this duo much, simply because there just isn’t much that can be done with it. (2/5)

Overall:
I can’t say I’m too sad to see this line of shadows be discontinued if they all behaved the way Flashy did. The pigment is way too sheer (to the point where it’d be unflattering on any skin tone). The teal was not bad, but still, it was just okay, nothing to rave about and had it’s own opacity issues. The dryness was another dealbreaker for me. (2.7) D+

Availability:
These duos used to be available at drustores, but since their discontinuation, you can hunt them down on online retailers like Amazon if you really want one.

Useful Information:
-This product was purchased by me.
-These duos are no longer available in stores.
-L’Oreal is famously not cruelty-free.

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The lefhand shade was built up about 4 times!

Tutorial Tuesday: Aluminum Foil With Shiro Cosmetics + L’Oreal

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One of the great things about loose pigments is their versatility: while using them on the lids is an obvious choice, many loose eyeshadows are also safe for use on the lips. Since I love the bold pigmentation I get from Shiro’s loose shadows, I couldn’t wait to buy a clear gloss (I found a perfect one from L’Oreal) and see how the colors looked on the lips.

What You’ll Need:
-Your face essentials (I used Benefit Porefessional Primer, Smashbox BB Cream, Maybelline Mineral Power Concealer, NYC Smooth Skin Pressed Powder, Anastasia Brow Wiz, and Urban Decay Primer Potion)
-A shimmery flesh tone shadow (I used Cover Girl Mink, which is a MAC All That Glitters dupe)
-A metallic copper (I used Maybelline Copper Craze)
-A matte bisque highlight shade (Urban Decay Righteous)
-Electric blue eyeliner (Urban Decay Radium)
-Black mascara (Kat Von D Immortal Lash)
-Peachy pink blush (MAC Pinch ‘O Peach)
-A LIP SAFE silver loose eyeshadow (Shiro Detective)
-Clear lip gloss (L’Oreal Le Gloss in Naturally Nude)

You will also need a stiff, flat paddle brush, a fluffy blending brush, a short, fluffy, domed shadow brush, a lip brush, and a short, stiff liner brush (to smudge your liner–this is optional).

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1) After applying your face essentials, apply a shimmery flesh tone shadow all over the lid, up to the crease, and blend.

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2) Apply a frosty bronze into the crease and blend.

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3) Apply matte bisque shadow under the brow to highlight.

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4) Apply electric blue liner to the upper lash line.

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5) Curl your lashes, and apply black mascara.

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6) Apply peachy pink blush to the apples of the cheeks, and blend upwards and outwards towards the temples.

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7) Filter a small amount of silver shadow onto your mixing surface (I used the inside of the lid of the shadow).

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8) Squeeze a pea-size amount of clear gloss onto your lip brush, and swirl the gloss into the powder. It might feel a bit thick, this is fine. Then apply the the shadow-gloss mix straight onto your lips. Mix together more powder and gloss as needed.

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And that’s it, you’re done! Don’t you love when products go the extra mile? I love the highly metallic finish this shadow gave, and the bold, unusual color. I definitely feel more confidant rocking a strange lip, oddly, enough! What’s your favorite bold lip color beauties? What lip-safe shadow do you like to wear on the mouth? Let me know!

OCC Matte Lip Tar in Black Dahlia Review + Swatches

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Color:
OCC describes Black Dahlia as “blackest blackened red.” It’s not a bad description, although those who are intimidated by the shade in the tube need not fear, it’s much more red and wearable that it appears. It’s definitely a vampy wine shade, perfect for these end of the year months, so those craving a dark lip would love this. It’s the kind of red that makes your teeth look whiter. I’ve lusted after this shade for a long time–I don’t have anything like it in my lippie collection (although my range of vampy lipsticks is admittedly sparse). (4.5/5)

Wear:
Black Dahlia performed well, lasting 7 hours before needing reapplication or removal. While it initially has a glossy sheen, it settles into the promised matte finish at around 3 hours. It also looked slightly less dark, more wine at the 5 hour mark. The formula is stainlike, which helps it last so long and survive through meals. (5/5)

Formula:
I’ve tried Lip Tars both before and after their packaging makeover, and noticed that the mint scent with these newer Lip Tars is less intense (which is nice–the old formula was so strong it made my whole lipstick drawer smell like mint). The product is thin but not too liquidy, and applies pretty evenly on the mouth. Your lips MUST be in perfect condition, though–any dry patches and the product will cling to them like a magnet, making the overall product look slightly uneven (true with all mattes in my experience). One small bead from the tube is plenty to coat the whole mouth, so use the included lip brush and take your time; precision is important with a shade this bold. However, the product never really dries down and transfers kind of easily. However, it didn’t dry out my mouth further. (4/5)

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Packaging:
Lip Tars come in squeeze tubes, with the product dispensed through a very narrow opening in the nozzle. This works well, since a little product goes a long way. The packaging is flexible plastic and houses plenty of product. They store easily, although this is the kind of sensitive product you’d want to store away from heavier items (like foundation bottles) during travel, as Lip Tars could easily get smashed by heavier things during travel. (5/5)

Price: 
Lip Tars are $18 USD each for 0.33 oz. That’s $54.54 per ounce. For reference, MAC lipsticks are $16 for 0.1 oz ($160 per ounce). This is one of those great instances where you pay a little bit more for a lot more product (more than twice the amount) and get a better long-term value (Lip Tars are more than twice less expensive per ounce).

As always, I consider monetary value as well as whether or not I feel a product gives you your money’s worth. Black Dahlia delivers on both counts. This Lip Tar is long wearing and boldly pigmented, which is what you expect from OCC. (5/5)

Wow Factor:
Black Dahlia grabbed my attention in a positive way! It’s such a bold, perfectly vampy dark lip color. It always impresses me when a lipstick can last through a meal and still look great. I also love the name of the shade. It did bother me how this formula never quite dried down and transferred easily, though. (4/5)

Overall:
Black Dahlia is a great lipstick that I definitely recommend! It’s perfect for the colder months, helps teeth look whiter, lasts forever, and makes a bold impression. (4.6) A-

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Availability:
-Sephora
-occmakeup.com

Useful Information:
-This product was purchased by me
-OCC products are 100% cruelty-free and vegan

Model Monday: Hannelore Knuts

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Born In: Hasselt, Belgium

Height: 5’9.5″

Shot By: Cedric Buchet, Craig McDean, David Sims, Ellen Von Unwerth, Horst Diekgerdes, Inez & Vinoodh, Juergen Teller, Paola Kudacki, Patrick Demarchelier, Shona Heath, Steven Klein, Steven Meisel, Terry Richardson, Tim Walker, Yelena Yemchuk

Campaigns: Akris, Alessandro Dell’Acqua, Dolce & Gabbana, Jean Paul Gaultier, Lanvin for H&M, Prada, Yohji Yamamoto,

Editorials: A, Italian Amica, Dazed and Confused, Elle, American and British Harper’s Bazaar, i-D, Interview, Pop, AmericanBritish, French,and Italian Vogue, V, W

Walked For: Akris, Alessandro Dell’Acqua, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Christian Lacroix, Dries Van Noten, Fendi, Givenchy, Haider Ackermann, Hermes, Jean Paul Gaultier, Kenzo, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton, Moschino,  Prada, Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, Zac Posen

Covered: 10, Grey, Self-Service, American, Italian, Japanese, and Korean Vogue

Plus: Starred in The Invader