Nina Garcia Quarterly (#NGQ05): April 2015

I’ve been procrastinating on this review because the end of a love affair is always hard. Picture it: Fall 2013, and a fashion box with a glam grunge theme shows up at my door. It was like Nina knew *exactly* what I wanted. Friends, I fell hard and fast.

Then, a box of Nina’s favorite things shows up in March 2014. It’s not as tightly curated as the last one, and has a few odd items, but it was still a great and I was feeling secure in my decision to spend $100 every couple months for Nina.

Things took a turn in July 2014, when I got a box so strange, so odd, that I couldn’t believe it was Nina Garcia. It started with a baseball cap to commemorate the World Cup and ended with a tiny rubber shoe. Yes, a tiny rubber shoe. I didn’t think I could get past the betrayal, but I held on, hoping things would improve.

And they did, slightly, in November 2014, when we got a humdrum box that included yet another hat: This one featuring the word “Ballin” across the front. Where was the excitement? Where was the cutting edge style? Still, Nina had improved from our last disastrous encounter, so I was going to give her one more chance to see if there was still a spark left.

So that brings us to April 2015. The box that would decide if Nina and I still had a future together.
BoxOpen Box 1
I received an email saying that the “theme is Luxe Hair Care – “Nina’s favorite products for sleek, gorgeous hair every day”. But this was a fashion box! That couldn’t mean it would be *all* hair products, right? I mean it must be that most of the items are hair related and or maybe just have a big ticket styling tool. It’s not like they’d charge me $100 and then just send me a billion hair products? Right? RIGHT?
CardsOpen Box 2

Yeah, I know.
I should have seen it coming.
But when you once shared something beautiful with someone you always hold too tightly to the memory.

So yeah this is a box of hair stuff. And no, there’s not a curling iron or a blow dryer to be seen.

Shu
Shu Uemura’s The Volume Maker:
(Estimated Retail: $48.00)
Nina’s Description: “When I know I’m going to be on camera, I use Shu Uemura’s the Volume Maker,so that I can achieve the perfect amount of volume. It not only keeps my hair looking totally glamorous, but it looks beautiful just sitting on the shelf.”
Verdict: Hit!
Shu Uemura is a super fancy pants brand and this product does give you great volume. It has a brush applicator and if you apply a bit to your roots it gives you some great lift. This is the type of product I expect in a box at this price point so this was a good choice.

Serge
Serge Normant’s Dream Big Instant Volumizing Spray (1.8 oz):
(Estimated Retail: $15.00)
Nina’s Description: “Another product I use to maximize volume is Serge Normant’s Dream Big Instant Volumizing Spray because sometimes a girl just needs to have options in the volume department. This product will keep your style going strong without any sticky strands. Serge is a close friend and one of my favorite hairdressers. He has styled the hair of Sara Jessica Parker, Julia Roberts and is responsible for the hair gracing many of our covers at Marie Claire.”
Verdict: Like, but a bit redundant
Yes, yes you want “options” in the volume department, but this is a one time box. Maybe the curation should focus on more variety and less duplication. That being said, I actually really like this product and received it in Birchbox’s LE Vanity box which is still available for purchase. The Vanity box is fabulous and actually costs less than this one. It features hair products (including something from Shu Uemura) along with a plethora of beauty, skincare and lifestyle items. If you’ve got Birchbox points you’re saving up, that would be a great splurge.

Fekkai
Frederic Fekkai PRX Reparatives Intensive Fortifying Mask (1.69 oz):
(Estimated Retail: $8.00)
Nina’s Description: “Frederic Fekkai is another one of my dear friends in the industry , and has been one of my salons of choice for many years. I trust him with my color, cut, and all around haircare. He has styled the locks of many famous women, including model Claudia Schiffer and powerhouse Hillary Clinton. Additionally, he produces a line of luxury hair products, one of which is his PRX Reparatives Intestive fortifying mask. I’ll use it if my hair is too exhausted, has been colored too many times, or I’m getting ready for summer (like I’m doing now)….”
Verdict: Eh
Don’t get me wrong, Fekkai is a great brand, but you can find his products everywhere (including Target). I think there are more interesting brand for hair masks and that a Fekkai shampoo & conditioner set would have been a better choice from this brand.

Elastisizer
Philip Kingsley’s Elasticizer (40 ml):
(Estimated Retail: $15.00)
Nina’s Description: “Philip Kingsley, the guru of growing strong hair, produces a special product called the Elasticizer, which was originally formulated for Adurey Hepburn. It’s a miracle product that does it all. When I have a big event and need to get my hair in shape quickly, this is my go to..”
Verdict: Love!
This saved Audrey Hepburn’s hair! Sign me up! This is the type of product I want in a $100 fashion box that decided to feature all hair products. This is also a treatment you use before shampooing which adds to the uniqueness of it. This one is definitely a win.

Sachajuan
Sachajuan’s Hair Repair (100 ml):
(Estimated Retail: $18.00)
Nina’s Description: “What I love about the next brand, Sachajuan, is that their products contain what they call ‘Ocean Silk Technology’. This is a combination of ocean algae used to add moisture and shine to hair. I appreciate their thoughtful and simplistic approach to haircare and I like knowing that every ingredient in the product as a role. I use Sachajuan’s Hair repair when I travel, or in season when my hair gets especially frizzy. This is my tried and true product.”
Verdict: Like, but getting overwhelmed
This is brand I’ve received in LE boxes from Popsugar and Birchbox and I really do like their products. My problem is that at this point I’m getting overwhelmed with the amount of treatments/masks. While I know they are different, it’s hard to know which one to start using. This is a subscription box, not the hair care aisle of Sephora. This is supposed to be a tight curation, not everything Nina’s ever used. Sometimes less is more.

Pillow
RedKen’s Pillow Proof Blow Dry Express Primer (5.7 oz):
(Estimated Retail: $22.00):
Nina’s Description: “Before I blow dry my hair, I’ll use Redken’s Pillow Proof Blow Dry Express primer. Redken is another industry staple and their area of expertise is hair proteins. They developed products composed of the same proteins as hair, so that each strand could be strengthened and repaired from inside out. This particular product does it all—it protects my hair form the heat of styling toosl, majorly cuts down on my drying time, and keeps my style for a full 24 hours. This is my protector of choice when I know I have a long day ahead of me.”
Verdict: Expected
I don’t blow dry my hair too frequently, but I expected a blow dry product to be included. It’s not particularly exciting but it makes sense in the box. I haven’t tried much Redken but I don’t consider it to be too high end or luxurious. I just feel like if I can find the product at CVS it doesn’t belong in a $100 box strictly devoted to hair products.

Redken Sealer
Extreme Length Sealer by Redken (1.7 oz):
(Estimated Retail: $24.00)
Nina’s Description: “ I’ll use the Extreme Length Sealer by Redken when I need long hair fast—like when I’m prepping for Project Runway or a major event.”
Verdict: More Redken and More Treatments!
This item is a problem because not all subscribers have or want long hair. In addition, this is part of a length system by Redken so it seems like to get the best effect you’d need the shampoo and “primer”. There’s already plenty of treatments and a Redken item in this box. This slot would have been much better filled with some type of styling tool.

L'Oreal
L’Oreal’s Smooth Intense Ultimate Straight Perfecting Balm:
(Estimated Retail: $5.97)
Nina’s Description: “ L’Oreal’s smooth intense ultimate straight perfecting balm goes on prior to any sort of heat usage to help keep my hair straight and frizz free all day long. It’s another perfect product for those particularly packed days and a brand that I’ve come to trust over the years.”
Verdict: In case you can’t go to CVS yourself
Yes Nina, thank you so much for introducing us to L’oreal. I’d never heard of it before. I have nothing against drugstore brands – I have and use plenty of them, including L’oreal. BUT THEY DO NOT BELONG IN A $100 BOX!

Brush
Multipurpose Pro Tools Oval Brush by Harry Josh
:
(Estimated Retail: $40.00)
Nina’s Description: “ I use my Multipurpose pro tools oval brush by Harry Josh on my hair every day, wet or dry. I knew Harry Josh before his career as a hairstylist, when he was a casting director for Mac Jacobs and Louis Vuitton. I was thrilled when he came out with his line of hair care. Given his background working with world-renowned brands, I knew I was going to get a quality tool that topped the list of both function and style.”
Verdict: FINALLY!
Our first (and only) tool in this box. This is what I expect from a $100 box featuring hair products: a well made, lovely looking hair brush. Most ladies can go out and splurge on a styling product or mask for $15, but most don’t have an arsenal of high end hair styling tools. This brush seems quite sturdy and I love the color. It’s the best thing in the box.

Living Proof
Night Cap Overnight Perfector by Living Proof (118 ml):
(Estimated Retail: $28.00)
Nina’s Description: “Before bed, there is one final product I use: Nigh Cap overnight perfector by Living proof. The only thing you have to do is apply it to your hair before heading to bed, and one application will give you 5 days worth of benefits, through shampoos and all. I’ll use this right before fashion week or when I have a long stretch of filming ahead of me.”
Verdict: MOAR Treatments
Have you lost track of the number of hair treatments we have now? I know I have. Living Proof is another great brand but we’ve already been through like a million treatments. How about something more practical – styling tools, shampoos/conditioners – something to help offset the ridiculousness of $100 all on hair products, some of which come from the drugstore.

Hair Accessory
Carved Birchwood Hairpin by Masterpeace:
(Estimated Retail: $???)
Nina’s Description: “To seal this box with a kiss, I have added the Carved Birch Wood Hairpin by Masterpeace. Each piece in the Russian luxury accessories line is handcrafted and you can turn to this on days when you want to put all your hair up, or in a half pony tail…it was handmade exclusively for my Quarterly box….”
Verdict: At least it’s not a hair treatment
I’m glad to see something in here that isn’t a hair treatment, unfortunately this isn’t my style and it doesn’t quite feel “sleek” to me.  It also can’t be used by the folks with short hair. A headband would have been a better choice since everyone would be able to use it. Still it’s a nice change of pace and it’s an item exclusively made for this box.

Inserts
Also included are a bunch inserts about the products and a 20% off card for GHD products that expired by the time we received the box (did I mention that Quarterly boxes are notorious for arriving late?). Quarterly  sent subscribers an email saying they extended the date of the coupon. Sadly now that I’ve spent $100 on hair treatments I have no money to buy anything else hair related until the Fall.

OVERALL:
Nina Garcia April 2015 Quarterly

Verdict: Technically has a great value, but a fail on practicality and logic

Individually most of these items are really great.   Unfortunately this is a box, and the name of the game is curation. It’s also important to note that this is a $100 fashion and style box. This is a lot of money for only hair products – many of which are not even close to “luxury”. As a subscriber, I expected this box to either have a mix of fashion and hair items or be heavy on styling tools. It had neither. Technically the retail value is $223.97 (excluding the wooden hair tie) but this box has only one styling tool and is full of repetitive items. A better option would have been to have one really luxurious item (like a nice blow dryer), two treatments and the brush.

So my final letter to Nina:

Dear Nina,
I’m sorry to tell you but I’ve found someone else.
Rachel Zoe truly understands me.
She offers spoilers of the high end item in her box, always arrives on time and has a crazy tight curation.
She’s shown me everything that a $100 quarterly subscription should be, so I’m moving on.

Best of luck with your boxes and please, stay away from the hats.

Much love,
Subscription Therapy

Nina Garcia Quarterly (#NGQ04): November 2014

So if you are an avid reader here, you may remember my last Nina Garcia Quarterly review, the box so epically bad that it inspired me to write a poem about the tiny black rubber shoe it included. In homage to that box, I’ve decided to rate my Fall Nina Garcia box, with a new “tiny rubber shoe” rating. Worst = 1 tiny black rubber shoe, Best = 5 tiny rubber black shoes.

Box

Now you may think this review is super late, but this box that was supposed to arrive in October, but showed up in late November. I have to admit it was a bit of a bummer since you kind of want a Fall Fashion Box to show up at the start of the season.
Open Box 1

Now enough chitcat, let’s put on our judgy pants, bust out the little rubber shoes and keep our fingers crossed there won’t be another #$#%# hat in this one….
Open Box 2 Cards

And…

Sigh…
Hat
Ballin’ Hat by Brian Lichtenberg: (Estimated Retail: $48.00)
Nina’s Description: “Brian’s pieces are playful and adored by the fashion set. This hat will keep you cool and stylish all season long.”
Tiny Black Shoe Rating: -10 shoes
FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY – STOP TRYING TO PICK OUT HATS!
Yes, that is a knit hat with the word “Ballin” on it. Okay, just think about what your day would be like if you walked down the street with the word “Ballin” on your fucking forehead. I can’t even…. There are a million awesome hats out there, why does Nina keep picking out hats with crap written on them that most women would rather be caught dead than wear? Seriously?

Mug
Pantone Mug:
(Estimated Retail: $15.00)
Nina’s Description: “Whether you are a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate drinker, the winter is a time for hot beverages to keep you warm. I find that having a stylish go to mug makes the experience even better”
Tiny Black Shoe Rating: 2 shoes
zzz..zzz.zzz.zzz
What, oh, what’s that? Sorry, I was so bored I fell asleep. Now there is nothing wrong with a mug, but it’s pretty uninspiring. The fashion-y aspect of this makes it suited to the box but it’s just not interesting enough, imho. I also think it’s pretty funny that the Panteone color on the label doesn’t match the color painted on the mug even though they are supposed to be the same very specific shade.

Comb 2Comb
Sweater Comb by the Laundress
:
(Estimated Retail: $18.00)
Nina’s Description: “It removes pills and keeps everything looking renewed and refereshed season afters season. I even use it on wool coats and scarves.”
Tiny Black Shoe Rating: 5 shoes!
I know that a sweater comb doesn’t scream out excitement, but this is incredibly practical and is something I  didn’t know existed. I have that little vacuum shaver thingy that you use for pills but that really lessens the life of your knits. This looks like a less abrasive alternative and I’m totally digging it.

EarringsEarrings Close
Rue Gembon Earrings:
(Estimated Retail: $65.00)
Nina’s Description: “These earrings are a versatile accessory in that you can wear them to both the office and out to dinner or a party. They are also a good way to show your personal accessory style when you are all bundled up..”
Tiny Black Shoe Rating: 8 shoes!
I love, love, love these earrings. You can actually wear them several ways since the pearl piece is separate and can be removed. So you can wear the pearls piece either in front of your lobe (or behind) or just wear the studs. That’s a lot of looks for one small earring. I agree with Nina that these can easily be dressed up or down and I love the way they lay on the ear – almost like a cool ear cuff. This is exactly the kind of thing I expect from Nina and I wish more items showed this type of sophistication and practicality. This also came with a coupon code for the Rue Gembon site. I couldn’t find these exact earrings, but I linked to ones that are very similar.

Oil
Nude’s Progenius Treatment Oil:
(Estimated Retail: $39.00)
Nina’s Description: “ …is made of plant oils containing omegas, but is free from parabens, sulfates, phthalates, mineral oil, or petrochemicals…”
Tiny Black Shoe Rating: 5 shoes!
I’ve really gotten into cleansing and face oils in the last year or so, so I always welcome trying out new products, especially all natural ones. I think this is a perfect beauty item to include in a Fall/Winter box so Nina definitely chose well with this.

PolishSwatch
RGB Cosmetics Polish in Oxblood
(Estimated Retail: $18.00):
Nina’s Description: “ …As the season change, so does our nail color. To keep your nail game on point, I have included a chic, wintry polish.…”
Tiny Black Shoe Rating: 3 shoes!
Okay you know I love polish and you know I love dark reds, but I had to knock off a couple shoe points because this looks very very similar to the polish Nina sent in last year’s fall box. I know it’s a different brand, but I think it’s still way too similar. I think other folks got different shades so this might just be an issue with my box. The polish seems quite nice though.

Bag
Deux Lux Cross-Body Handbag
(Estimated Retail: $75.00):
Nina’s Description: “ This cross body satchel is right on trend with its fringe and is a super fun, lightweight piece to tote your goods around town. A seasonal handbag is a great way to update your look and make your wardrobe feel fresh…”
Tiny Black Shoe Rating: 2 shoes
Okay so I agree with Nina on a lot of points here and I’m 100% behind the *idea* of this bag. The problem for me is the execution. This is a “vegan leather” bag which pretty much means pleather. I actually own a lot of vegan leather bags and I love them, but this particular color, in this fabrication, with all that fringe just looks (as Nina would say) “inexpensive”. I think in another color or with less fringe or something it might be better, but this just looks a bit Forever 21 for my taste. Perhaps if the fringe was shorter or finer, but this just isn’t sophisticated enough. I would have wanted to use this at the start of the fall season, so getting it in November just seems a bit on the late side. I couldn’t find this exact bag on the site, so I linked to a similar one. This one has a different strap and different colors, but you can already see how much nicer and more expensive that makes the bag look.

OVERALL:
Full Box
Hit!

Was this a perfect box? No.
Was it well curated with thought put into most of the selections? Yes.
The only truly horrific item is the Ballin hat.  While a knit hat is appropriate for Fall/Winter, it’s only that particular beanie I take issue with (and there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.) While I didn’t love the bag or mug, they fit perfectly with this type of sub and I can easily see other folks loving them.

With using similar priced items to the ones that I couldn’t find exact matches for, this box came out to a retail value of $278.00. I paid $100 for it and got a few items I love, a couple I really like and a few I’ll give away, so I definitely think I got my money’s worth.  Nina had a lot to make up for with her last box, and while this isn’t the roaring success of the 2013 Fall box, it’s a huge improvement over the mess we saw in July.

Theoretically our next box should come in March and I’m excited to see what shows up for spring.

What did you think of this box? Would it be worth the $100 to you?

Nina Garcia Quarterly (#NGQ03): July 2014 (An ode to a tiny rubber shoe)

So friends, this was supposed to be one of the four times a year when I get super excited because my favorite subscription box shows up at my door: the Nina Garcia box from Quarterly. If you’re a beauty or fashion enthusiast (or a Project Runway fan) then you know who Nina is. Her first box (Fall 2013) had a “glam grunge” theme and to date is my favorite sub box that I’ve ever received. Her last one in March, was a bit more of a hodge podge, but that was expected since it was a “favorite things” box. It had a couple misses, but overall was quite excellent. I’m giving you this background so you know where we’re coming from and that way maybe you can tell me how we ended up with this July box.

Box
I tried to think of many themes for this box and the one that features most prominently in my mind is: “What the #$&*%#&* Nina?” I usually don’t give you my overall opinion so early on in my review, but you need to prepare yourself. Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Open Box 1 Open Box 2
So where should we start…I know with one of my oh so favorite items…

Cap
Muito Cool Baseball Cap: (Estimated Retail: $55.00)
Nina’s Description: I worked with SP϶NGLISH to design this custom Muito Cool baseball cap for you. As one of the coolest accessories for this summer, it is not only perfect for the moment, but will also serve as memento of the 2014 World Cup for years to come.”
Verdict: What the @&*#$&(!
Cool – I do not think it means what you think it means.
You know what all the fashion and beauty obsessed ladies who are willing to fork over $100 for a beauty sub, want? A baseball hat. And not just any baseball hat. One to commemorate the World Cup. It’s what every American woman dreams of receiving. We spend all that time doing our hair and all that money on hair products just so we can shove it all under an ugly hat. This is the same brand featured in the last NG box, only that shirt was a million times better designed and infinitely more useful. Putting aside that we didn’t need a repeat of this brand so quickly, this item is just absurd. There were so many other fashionable options if you really needed a “memento of the 2014 World Cup” like a sophisticated charm bracelet with a removable World Cup charm or maybe you just don’t need to bring sports into this box at all. Maybe.

Let’s move on to another winner…

Clutch
Koku Pouch: (Estimated Retail: $108.95)
Nina’s Description: “The other accessory that every fashionista must have every summer is a go-to bag. Whenever this item of year hits, I set aside my usual lady-like purses and opt for a lightweight clutch. One of my personal favorites is a Koku pouch that doubles as a summer clutch. All of Koku’s products are handmade in Greece. This clutch…features raffia fringe and a plexiglass decoration—giving it an unparalleled summery feel”
Verdict: Seriously?
Nina says ‘Unparalled summery feel” I say “dollar store reject.” I cannot express to you enough how much cheaper this looks in person. It’s like something you put together from odds and ends of the Luau aisle of Party City. I couldn’t find my exact version so I linked to a similar pouch with a plexiglass decoration and raffia. The linked one is much more attractive than mine, but if you’re willing to pay over a $100 for either one, I have some land in Florida I want to sell you.

Oh, so what’s our next high end fashion, oh so unique find?

Sunblock
Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration SPF 30 (Estimated Retail: $10.79)
Nina’s Description:“Of course with the onset of summer, most of us go through ha change of routine and encounter new priorities. At the top of my list is protecting my skin. For that purpose I have included Hawaiian tropic silk hydration spf 30. Its classic Hawaiian Tropics scent evokes the feeling of summer and its broad spectrum protection will keep your skin safe, helping you stay worry-free.”
Verdict: Sigh, are we even trying anymore?
I’m going to put aside the fact that SPF 30 is really not high enough for a lot of folks and point out that you can pick this up at any drugstore. Hell, you can probably pick this up at a gas station. I highly doubt that Nina is spraying herself with this sunblock. If we’d gotten a luxury brand or even a new emerging one, sunblock would have been a great addition. Because of the low SPF I won’t be able to use this.

Oribe
Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray: (Retail: $21.50)
Nina’s Description: “It acts like a dry shampoo in that it absorbs oil at the roots, but adds volume and texture to your hair. It gives it a ‘just done look, and will keep your style looking fresh for a couple of days….”
Verdict:
Hit! (Finally)
I actually have a big can of this courtesy of the Popsugar Neiman Marcus box. It works amazingly well for updos and this travel size is perfect for summer. It’s just the thing for keeping your hair looking fabulous during an August wedding and the small size is great for traveling. Finally, something I can actually use!

Shave Cream
Organic Shave Gel by Surya Brasil (Estimated Retail: $20.39)
Nina’s Description:“..an incredible, vegan, organic shave gel by Surya Brasil. Your legs will be super smooth, and you can rest easy knowing that it doesn’t contain any GMOs and is cruelty free.”
Verdict: Hit!
A useful product from an interesting new brand. Hot Damn! A shave gel is perfect in a summer box and I’m excited to try out this new company that has vegan products. Progress, we’re making progress!

Hydrator
Joico K-Pak Intense Hydrator (Estimated Retail: $16.00)
Nina’s Description:“It will moisturize and calm your hair, making it healthier, shinier and just overall more manageable when styling.”
Verdict: Like
A hair moisturizer isn’t super exciting, but it seems useful and this is another new brand for me. I’ll try adding to my hair routine once or twice a week.

LipstickLipstick Swatch
ck One Lipstick in Entice: ($8.97)
Nina’s Description: “No summer look is complete without a bright lip and nail—‘tis the season for bold, intense, saturated colors!.”
Verdict: Hit!
I actually really love this shade and the color stayed put for a surprisingly long time. I’ve never tried any ck One beauty products so it was nice to add this to my collection.

Polish Polish Swatch
Formula X Nail Lacquer in Push the Limits (Retail: $10.50)
Nina’s Description:“No summer look is complete without a bright lip and nail—‘tis the season for bold, intense, saturated colors!..”
Verdict:
Like
Despite my plethora of polish, I don’t have any of the Formula X so it’s nice to try this one out. I tend to favor blue reds, while this one is an orange. I don’t have anything like it so it’s a nice addition to my giant polish hoard. The color applied smoothly and I think the shade will be fabulous for pedicures.

Pouch
Palm Tree Print Clutch by Print All over Me (Retail: $20.00)
Nina’s Description:“It’s summery pattern makes it the perfect pouch to hold all of your summer essentials.”
Verdict:
Gift
What is this trend with calling pouches, clutches? This is a pouch. It is a cute and lovely pouch, but it is not a clutch. I don’t ever see people walking around with these things as bags. They are what you put your makeup in and then in turn throw into your actual bag. So putting that aside, this isn’t a bad pouch, but the Popsugar Summer LE Box had a much nicer one that is very similar. I’ll be gifting this one since there are only so many ocean printed pouches that I can use at a time. This is yet another editorial choice I just don’t understand. Nina already included that hideous, I mean quirky “clutch”. Why not do a tote bag instead? There are plenty available from Print All Over Me. I couldn’t find any pouches on the site, but it’s very hard to navigate. Their tote bags cost $28.00, so I’ll estimate this at $20, since I would think a tote bag would cost more that a medium pouch.

Towelette
Red Flower Italian Blood Orange Refreshing Hand & Face Towelette
(Sample Estimated Retail: .71; Estimated Retail: 7 pack/$5.00)
Nina’s Description:To freshen up when you are on the go…”
Verdict:
Like, but…
Really, just one towelette? Maybe you could have omitted the terrible baseball cap so we could have a couple of these instead. I like this item, I think it’s a great addition, but just one seems very stingy to me. This is what I expect in a Birchbox sample, not in a $100 box. And a 7 pack is only $5.00 so it’s not like the uber expensive Revive sample from last time…

Gift Card
OtterBox Brazilian Pop! Symmetry Series Phone Case (For iPhone 5/5s or GALAXY s5)
(Estimated Retail: $49.95)
Nina’s Description:“…your device deserves an upgrade in the accessory department too! In the spirit of Brazil and summer, I worked with OtterBox to design this protective case inspired by Brazilian street art.”
Verdict:
Miss
I have an Iphone 5 so I was one of the folks who could actually use the gift card for a case. (Apparently you don’t need a case if you don’t own an Iphone or a Galaxy). The design is bright and cheerful but I just don’t love it. I did redeem it so I may just pass it along to someone else or save it for when I want to take my super hardcore case off my Iphone.

Shoe
Desk Ornament from Melissa (Retail: ???)
Nina’s Description:“I have also included a desk ornament from the Brazilian shoe designer Melissa. Melissa creates vegan, rubber shoes and has collaborated with designers such a Vivienne Westwood, and architect Zaha Hadid. On the shelf at home or on your desk at work this little shoe is the perfect item for the fashion obsessed.”
Verdict:
Somewhere there is a sad doll, searching, just searching for her missing shoe.

I don’t even know where to start. Really, this is a tiny rubber shoe. One tiny rubber shoe. It’s more like the beginning of a sad beatnik poem, than a “desk ornament”. Does Nina really keep this on her desk? My desk only has things I can use or things I adore. And I can’t imagine adoring one miniature rubber shoe. Maybe I’m missing something? Maybe fashionistas all over the world truly believe this is the perfect desk accessory? Maybe I’m out of touch? Maybe I should quit being a blogger and roam around the world visiting shoe stores until I can fully appreciate the craftsmanship of this tiny piece of art. Wait, it has inspired me! Here it is, an ode to the tiny rubber shoe:

So much depends upon,
a black rubber shoe,
wrapped in tissue paper
beside a red polish.

Headphones 1 Headphones 2
In-Ear Headphones from Frends (Retail: $99.00)
Nina’s Description:“There’s no better way to get you in the mood for summer than with some great music. That’s why I’ve chosen to include these super chic white, in ear headphones decorated with a gold wire overlay from Frends. These beauties are so pretty that they almost look lik ea piece of jewelry—why shouldn’t your tech gear be super stylish?”
Verdict:
Love!
Finally! A big ticket item that actually feels like Nina Garcia would use. These headphones are so pretty and while I have a bunch of earbuds these are the nicest. I’d never splurge on these myself, but am so excited to try them out. If you love them, they are available on Birchbox so you can hoard your points to get them.

Candle
Vanilla Orchid & Almond Classic Candle by Nest (Retail:12.00)
Nina’s Description:“I absolutely adore these candles and the summery scents are incredible..”.
Verdict:
Miss
I would have loved this in another scent. This one is way too strong and it’s not summery at all. I noticed others got scents like “orange blossom” and I would have infinitely preferred that.  I own a Nest candle I adore that came in that Popsugar Neiman Marcus Box which also had the Oribe spray. Except that box had larger sizes of both items. I find it very odd that Nina would include two items that were already packaged together in another box. It just seems poor planning to me. I would have held off and included the Nest candle in the Fall box and left the Oribe spray in this one. She just set herself up for a comparison where her box was going to look worse.


Full Box
OVERALL:
I sit alone in the corner, sobbing, clutching a tiny black rubber shoe to my chest…


Oh Nina, what happened here? Did someone hold your dog hostage and demand you include that hideous “clutch” and baseball cap? I don’t understand this box. It leads me to (gasp!) question your taste level. I cannot imagine you running around with that yellow raffia clutch and spraying yourself down with Hawaiian Tropics sunblock while wearing a baseball cap. As you so often ask on project runway – who is the woman you’re designing for? Would the woman who wears that baseball cap also be the one who needs a super pricey texturizing hair spray?

Theoretically this box is valued at $$455.76 (excluding the shoe and with my estimated cost on the pouch), but that’s with items like the shark clutch priced at over a $100. I paid $100, and there were a few items I liked (like the pricey headphones), but I can’t shake the disappointment I feel. In my opinion, I didn’t get what I signed up for. Nina is known for being chic and sophisticated and only a few items in this box fit that profile.

I am not canceling since I have faith that Nina will turn it all around and offer us a fabulous Fall box, but if it comes with a tiny rubber hat, I’m out.

What did you think of this box and what would you do with one tiny black rubber shoe?

Nina Garcia Quarterly Box: March 2014 (#NGQ02)

Okay peeps, it’s that time again.  That oh so special time of year when the Nina Garcia Quarterly box shows up on my doorstep!  This is only the second box in the subscription and yet it’s at the top of my favorites list.   Quarterly is a service that offers quarterly subscriptions curated by all kinds of interesting folks who send select items in their special area of expertise.  Nina Garcia of course is a “Style Expert” and this is a fashion and beauty focused subscription.

BoxOpen Box 1

I was super excited to see what the theme of the box would be. Nina Garcia invites us to celebrate her fifth anniversary with Marie Claire and the arrival of spring.   So it turns out it is a “celebration box that includes a mixture of accessories, beauty products and home items”.
Card

Once again the first thing in the box is a lovely letter from Nina describing her items and why she’s chosen them.  The inclusion of personal and detailed letters from the curator are a feature that make Quarterly stand out from a lot of the other boxes.  The letters make these boxes feel extra special and like the curator took time and care putting the box together.

Open Box II
Okay, okay enough backstory, let’s get into this box!  Drumroll, please…

TshirtMuy Cool T-shirt by SpƎnglish: (Estimated Retail: $55.00)
Nina’s Description:  This oversize tee can be worn dressed down with jeans and stylish sneakers, or dressed up with a skirt and blazer.”
Verdict: Love!
This is a special edition T-shirt created especially for Quarterly subscribers and includes Nina’s signature on the tag.  I was incredibly surprised to find a sized item in the box since Quarterly doesn’t ask for that info.  Amazingly the shirt came in a size I can wear (large) and I think it will fit great.  I love the flared cut and because it can be worn “oversized” it will probably fit a lot of the smaller folks as well.  I do think including this was a gamble since it won’t fit everyone, but for me personally I love it.  Because this is a special edition, I’m estimating the value based on the only women’s tee available on the SpƎnglish site.

Necklace
Sterling Silver Shark Tooth Necklace by Sara Beltran:  (Retail: $100.00)
Verdict: Miss
Nina’s Description:  “It’s an incredibly versatile piece—you can wear it alone, or mix it up with other necklaces to create a bolder statement.  Its happy and brightly colored cord will seamlessly transition from spring into summer and the silver shark tooth gives it a trendy edge.”
My first instinct was that this looked cheap and sort of dated.  Color me shocked to find out it actually costs $100.00.  I like the daintiness of it, but the shark tooth just doesn’t feel fashion forward.  I do think it might be cute layered with some other pieces, so I’ll give that a shot.  If the pendant had been something that felt a little more fresh I would have adored this item.

Nail Polish
O.P.I “Greenade” Polish (Estimated Retail: $9.00)
Nina’s Description: “As with clothing and accessories, nail polish also changes from season to season.”
Verdict: Miss
This is another exclusive item for Nina’s Quarterly subscribers.  You all know I love polish and O.P.I is the first brand I really started using.  I like their polish, but this shade will in no way work for me.  I think this bright yellowish green is  a really hard color for a lot of folks to pull off.   I also don’t get a Nina Garcia vibe from it.  It’s not a color I imagine her wearing—even in spring.  I’m sure someone else will enjoy it though so I’ll probably trade this one out.  Since this is another exclusive I based the value on regular O.P.I. polishes.

Bracelet
C Wonder Delicate Skull Cuff:
 (Retail: $34.00)
Nina’s Description: “This fun bangle can be worn alone or stacked with other bracelts you wn to create a signature look.”
Verdict:
Miss
I don’t know about you but for me “skulls” do not scream out springtime (or celebration).  If this had come in a fall or winter box, I’d probably like it, but I’m looking for birds and flowers right now, not skulls and shark tooths.   It kind of looks like something I could pick up from a discount accessory place.  After googling, it seems like other folks got different styles, so I may have just been unlucky.  I may try it out with some other bracelets (like my hot pink gorjana and griffin from a long ago popsugar box) and see if I can “spring” it up.

ReVive
ReVive’s Moisturizing Renewal Serum : (Retail: $??? Full Size: $235.00)
Nina’s Description:  “I wanted to include some of my favorite beauty products that turn back the clock for my skin.  Apply..every night and you will wake up feeling naturally refreshed with dewy skin.”
Verdict: Love!
So throughout my boxes I am quickly accumulating a billion serums, but I love trying out uber fancy pants expensive products so I’m excited to give this one a shot.  I hope I don’t love it too much because $235 for one beauty product is not going to happen.

Wallet Wallet Open
Wallet from Charming Charlie(Retail: $15.00)
Nina’s Description:  “The radiant floral print will be the perfect finishing touch and pop of color for all your spring outfits.”
Verdict:
Hit!
After this never-ending winter, I’ve been craving florals so this cheerful wallet was a nice addition.  It is extremely practical with lots of slots for cards and the hardware has a rose gold color that is really nice.  I don’t know if the fabric on the wallet will stand up over time, but it’s an extremely affordable piece so if it lasts for just a season I’m fine with that.

Soap
LAFCO “Fleurs de Baies” soap (Retail: $17.00)
Nina’s Description:  “The scent leaves subtle floral notes on your skin without being overwhelming, and the packaging is beautiful.”
Verdict:
Gift
This is a lovely soap and Nina is right the packaging is beautiful, but the scent is just not for me.  I’m super picky and sensitive about scents and this one is too reminiscent of heavy old lady flower perfumes.  I’m going to gift this to someone who will love it and appreciate it.

Parfum
Tom Ford’s “Jasmine Rouge” Perfume (Retail: Freebie/Sample; Retail – 1.7. oz: $210.00 )
Nina’s Description:  “…Jasmine Rouge as another way to get your floral fix…this scent is lovely and I like the finish.”
Verdict:
Miss
So like I said fragrances for me are problematic.  I hated this one.  It was too strong and overpowering.  I think a lighter floral would have been better for spring.  Despite my perfume pickiness, I do think spring is the perfect time to pick out a new fragrance so including one was a good idea.

Palette
Laura Mercier Bonne Mine Compact (Retail: $48.00)
Nina’s Description:  “…contains neutral colors for blending, to give your skin a fresh spring glow.  Additionally..100% of the proceeds to go toward the Laura Mercier Ovarian Cancer Fund, which is a cause close to my heart.”
Verdict:
Love!
I adore Laura Mercier and use her products regularly.  I’ve been eying plenty of cream cheek products for spring but luckily haven’t committed yet.  This product looks like it will work well with my skin tone and I’m going to have fun trying it out.  The best part is not only does this palette make you pretty and the proceeds go to charity, so this is officially my favorite item in the box.

Tea
Donkey Co. Tea Bag (Retail: €$7.95; USD $10.97)
Nina’s Description:  “Donkey Co. makes absolutely adorable tea bags and in honor of my 5th anniversary at Marie Claire, they created a Nina Garcia 5th Anniversary Marie Claire Special Edition of their Pret-A-porter.”
Verdict:
Hit
So now I can have morning tea with Nina Garcia!  Well, sort of it.  It’s a fun little whimsical addition and I’m trying to broaden my tea horizons so I’m going to give this one a shot.  Since this is special edition, I based my prices on similar tea bags from their site.

Notebook
X Pen Ballpoint Pen (Retail: $??? Estimate: $8.00)
Graphic Image Pocket Notes Notebook:(Retail: $36.00)
Nina’s Description:  “This X-pen ballpoint pen is both functional and fashionable—an accessory that works with any outfit.  The graphic image pocket notes notebook is the perfect size (and weight!) to carry around with you on a daily basis.  I think there is something classic about taking handwritten notes and keeping a personal touch.”
Verdict:
Love!
These guys were packaged together so I figured I’d review them that way.   I hoard blank notebooks so this is right up my alley and I love high quality pens. For spring I had planned to re-organize my workbag and these items will be my new go-to pad and pen.  I couldn’t find the retail value of the pen so I’m estimating it at $8.00.

Frame
Happy Chic By Jonathan Adler (Retail:12.00)
Nina’s Description:  “The modern design on this Happy Chic by Jonathan Adler picture frame makes it perfect for holding some of your fondest memories.
Verdict:
Miss
I guess this item was included because Nina is the “resident style voice at JC Penney” and they want us to know they have low budget Jonathan Adler items.  Problem is this one is boring and the quality on it is pretty cheap. It looks like something you’d get on sale at Target.  Don’t let the Jonathan Adler name on this fool you, you could spend the same amount at TJ Maxx for a similar but much better quality frame.  I think other folks got different designs, which I may have liked more than this one.

Serum
Philosophy’s Time in a Bottle Serum (Retail:74.00)
Nina’s Description:  “For long lasting beauty, start your morning with philosophy’s time in a bottle serum.  Its impressive cocktail of antioxidants will protect and perfect your skin.  I use it on a daily basis to keep my skin healthy and smooth.”
Verdict:
Hit
Another serum?  So I guess we have learned that serums are really important and this is Nina’s day serum.  It’s been a long time since I tried a Philosophy product so it will be nice to revisit the brand.  Although at this point  I’m going to need to create a spreadsheet to figure out when to use all the serums I have now accumulated.

Marie Claire
Marie Claire Magazine & Fausto Puglisi Collage (Retail:4.99; Freebie?)
Nina’s Description:  “one of the most special items in the box is the illustrated Fausto Puglisis Collage which he create din celebration of my 4th year at Marie Claire.  I adore Fausto’s runway collections.”.
Verdict:
Hit/Miss
We all know there will be Marie Claire in the box and I always enjoy reading the magazine.  I understand the idea behind the collage and it’s a nice thought, but it’s not particularly attractive and I don’t know many people who would want to put this up on their wall.  Sadly, it will most likely end up in the recycle bin.  So sorry, Nina.

Overall:
Full Box
Hit!

The tshirt, notebook/pen and cheek palette made this box for me.  Unfortunately, there were also a lot of misses, but the value on this is so high that overall it was still an uber fabulous box.  I paid $100 for this and received about $420.00 worth of items even excluding the cost of the two sample items.

While I do love this box, I found her first one to be much more cohesive and on trend.   Perhaps the nature of the “anniversary” and “my favorite things” pushed this box into being less thematic and more random.  I had been hoping for an amazing spring fashion box and I did get some great items for spring, but this box had quite a few things that felt out of place for the season.

I’m interested to see if the next box is more thematic (like the fall) or more eclectic like this one.  And as usual I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

If you’re interested in the celebrity boxes at Quarterly, check back soon because I should be receiving the Andrew Zimmern box shortly!

Which box did you like better?  The November box or this one and why?

Nina Garcia Quarterly Box – November 2013

When I opened my mailbox and found a jury duty summons there was only one thing that could make me feel better.  The fact that it was sitting on top of my Nina Garcia Quarterly box.  Quarterly is a service that offers quarterly subscriptions curated by all kinds of interesting folks who send select items in their special area of expertise.  Nina Garcia is listed a “Style Expert” so this is a fashion and beauty focused subscription and November 2013 is the launch of its first box.
Box
I was a little perturbed by the size of the package.  It just didn’t seem big enough for a $100 subscription, but I’m not going to panic because I trust Nina.

First ImpressionThe first thing I find when I open it up is the nicest descriptive info I’ve gotten from any of my boxes.  It’s a long letter from Nina detailing all the items and why they were chosen.

CardsNina writes, “For my first box, I’ve handpicked products from this season that reflect what’s happening in fashion today: hot brands, wardrobe staples, beauty essentials and up-and-coming designers.”  She goes on to explain that she’s connected the items with an underlying theme: Glam Grunge.

Okay people, this is going to be good.

The first item is:
Leather Cuff
Leather Dual Cone Cuff by Baublebar:
(Estimated Retail: $32.00)
Verdict: Love!
This item is exclusive for Nina’s first Quarterly mailing. She writes that it “strikes that perfect balance between polish and edge”.  Okay one, how cool is to have something that only the other folks smart enough to subscribe to Nina’s box will get and 2. This thing is just badass.  What I also love about it is that it has 3 rows of snaps, so whether you have a larger wrist or a freakishly small one like I do, it will fit you.  This item also came with a Baublebar coupon for $15 off of any order of $30+.  Because this is an exclusive, I’m basing the retail on a somewhat similar studded bracelet on the Baublebar Site.

Ear Cuff
Jack Vartanian Ear Cuff:
  (Retail: ????)
Verdict: Love!
The ear cuff trend is everywhere and I think it looks pretty damn cool, but I’ve been on the fence as to whether I could pull it off.  But now that Nina Garcia has given me permission I am totally ready to rock this.  It’s so dainty but edgy, and its subtle enough to make that touch of punk seem effortless.  Now I googled trying to find a retail price only to discover that Jack Vartanian is super fancy – as in jewelry at Barneys with price tags in the thousands of dollars.  This might not be gold and diamonds, but I’m betting the retail on costume jewelry from this caliber of designer is quite high.

Stole
Faux Fur Stole by Adrienne Landau
(Estimated Retail: $39.90)
Verdict:
Love!
How did Nina know that I’ve been pinning fur scarves to my Pinterest board for the last two months?  This little stole is quite soft and has an easy Velcro closure.  It’s small so it can add just a touch of fur without overwhelming your outfit.  Plus it’s warm, which is helpful for facing NYC winters.  This is yet another item made exclusively for Nina (clearly everyone loves Nina or she’s got a safety deposit box chock full of incriminating photos).  So this is another one where it’s difficult to pinpoint a retail value.  Adrienne has products in stores from Saks Fifth Avenue to HSN.  Since this stole is faux we’ll estimate the price to be on par with this piece she has on HSN.

Liptstick
Too Faced La Créme Color Drenched Lip Cream in Teddy Berry:
  (Retail: $21.00)
Verdict: Love!
Nina chose four different shades of plum lipstick and included a different one in each box.  Mine seems to be a little on the lighter side, but I think it will complement my skin tone really well.  I’ve never tried any Too Faced cosmetics so I can’t wait to give this one a whirl.

Essie
Essie Polish in Shearling Darling:
(Retail: $8.50)
Verdict: Hit!
I am a sucker for dark red polishes and this is a lovely shade of burgundy.  I only own one Essie polish, so this will help build my collection.

Soap
Pearl+ Luxury Soap: (Retail: $6.00)
Verdict:
Miss/Gift
This is a detox soap comprised of crushed pearl and charcoal.  It sounds fascinating but I am really sensitive to smells and this one is just too strong.  It’s definitely a manly type soap (think musk and cologne).  I think I will be adding this one to the gift pile.

Open Kit
VBeauté It Kit Anti Age Skin Care System:
(Retail: $99.00)
Verdict: Love!
Okay so the cost of this little kit pretty much covered the entire box.  It is an anti-aging skin care system and this little clutch is designed to be TSA friendly.  I have to say this is the most luxe travel skincare set I have ever seen.  Included with this was a coupon code for $25 off of a $75+ at vbeaute.com. I am unfamiliar with this brand, but if their product is half as good as their packaging I will love it.

Magazine
December 2013 Marie Claire Magazine:
(Retail: $3.99)
Verdict: Hit!
We all knew this would be in here.  I don’t subscribe to this magazine, so it’s nice to get a free copy.

Full Box
Overall:

Amazing.  Badass.  Awesome.
I had high hopes for this subscription and it more than exceeded them.  I paid $100 for this box.  Without including the Jack Vartanian ear cuff or the coupons,  my estimated retail is already at $200.00.  I love nearly everything, and with the exception of the soap I will use it all myself.  It’s clear that Nina had a lot of input and took a lot of care with this box.  I also adore that she gave all the items a theme.  I have to say I think this is my favorite subscription box to date.  Brava Nina!

There is just one downside to this box.  I have to wait a few months until the next one.