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STYLE Insider: Indie Bookstore Owner Mandy Myles Talks Literary Icons, Podcast Obsessions and Dinner with Princess Margaret

Wanaka-based Mandy Myles’ has turned her lockdown passion project into a burgeoning bookstore business, filling the gap in the local market for an online indie bookshop with a curated eye. We talk to the book-lover about launching a business during a pandemic, her favourite titles of 2020 and who she’d invite to her dream dinner party. 

If I had to describe myself in two sentences… I am a real homebody who loves a good book and a nice glass of wine. I usually have some creative project or hobby underway and currently, I am pouring all my creative passion into Bookety Book Books.

The idea for Bookety Book Books started… I’ve dreamt about owning a bookstore forever and when we went into lockdown I used this new spare time to post book reviews on Instagram.

It became quite popular and people started commenting about how they appreciated my recommendations as they found choosing what to read somewhat overwhelming. And so I launched Bookety Book Books, a user-friendly online indie bookstore, with a curated selection for like-minded readers to guide them on their next best read.

I’m listening to… Any music by Charlotte Day Wilson – all the time.

My current podcast recommendation… Pandora Sykes’ (originally from The High Low) new solo podcast, Doing it Right, which coincides with her recent book launch. On the podcast, Sykes interviews a host of fascinating ‘experts’ about their life including hopes, dreams and anxieties. She has this wonderful ability to crack into intricacies of societal pressures and how we can potentially view them a bit differently.

In my handbag, you’ll find… Snacks, heaps of snacks. I always joke about having ‘low blood pressure’ but really I am just an awful person when I’m hungry. Also, about ten different bright coloured lipsticks even though I mainly just wear the same one. And obviously something to read.

My favourite place to dine… My handbag (see above), but when I’m not dining from my handbag the Bannockburn Hotel is a real treat to venture to. It’s about a 40-minute drive from Wanaka and has the most amazing wine list, great views, and beautiful sharing plates. A perfect long lunch spot.

The best book I’ve read lately… Lanny, by Max Porter. I really enjoyed the elements of fantasy balanced masterfully with modern life issues. Set amongst the backdrop of a small old English village, with hints of an eccentric crime thriller, all packed into a neat short read. Deservingly longlisted for the 2019 Man Booker Prize.

Porter has this phenomenal imagination to write fiction in a way that weaves life’s realities with magic, without seeming far-fetched. I have been really enjoying experimental fiction writing lately, it adds a whole new dimension to the reader experience.

A new release book I can’t wait to get my hands on… Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan. Set in Hong Kong, Exciting Times follows the lives of three expats as they negotiate the ups and downs of modern love, class and capitalism. Dolan has been compared to Sally Rooney for this brilliantly witty debut, plus it’s only 197 pages, which suggests a very well edited plot.

The most cherished possession I own… Gifted from my Grandad, the framed recipe for the Cherry and Almond biscuits my Grandmother used to make, complete with her handwritten notes – there’s nothing quite like beautiful handwriting.

My style icon… Susie Lau – known as susie bubble on instagram (@susiebubble). I have been obsessed with her style for some time. Also Harry Styles for his pearl necklace jumper combos – a work of brilliance.

If I could have dinner with any three people on earth… Firstly Princess Margaret as she will be hosting, we will all get to wear one of her tiaras for the evening, while she plays the piano and we have a jolly good old sing along with plenty of wine on a beautiful evening at Balmoral Castle. Joining us is Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the writer and creator of Fleabag and head writer for Killing Eve. Finally Patricia Field the stylist from Sex and the City, she will dress us all. It would be an absolute riot.

Princess Margaret is one of Myles’ dream dinner guests

My favourite literary icon… I’m going to throw it back to my younger years here and say Jacqueline Wilson, she chaperoned my childhood with her offbeat characters. I think she’s helped a lot of young girls not to feel alone and will always hold a special place on my bookshelf.

The book everyone needs to read this winter is… There is a lot of talk about making sure you are reading diversely right now so check in with your ‘to read’ list that this includes some authors from home. I recommend Auē, by Becky Manawatu. Auē is a heartbreaking book having been compared to Alan Duffs, Once Were Warriors.

However, don’t let this comparison deter you as unlike Duffs sombre novel, Auē is full of beautiful characters that are so full of heart, they keep you going through this constantly unfolding journey – a true testament to Manawatu’s skill as a writer, in this award-winning debut novel. ⁣

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A Voyage of Discovery: Bee Shapiro On Launching Her Clean Fragrance Line

New York Times beauty columnist Bee Shapiro’s pregnancy was the motivation for cleaning up her beauty routine and eventually led to the birth of her own fragrance line. Research led her to the conclusion that natural doesn’t always mean clean when it comes to perfumes and launching the Ellis Brooklyn line has been a voyage of discovery.

As far as dream roles in the beauty industry go – if forced to choose, most beauty enthusiasts would have trouble picking between beauty editor or fragrance house founder. But having to forgo one career path for the other has never been an issue for Bee Shapiro. In fact, it was Shapiro’s position as a beauty columnist at The New York Times that helped awaken her passion for perfume.

Pregnancy is often a catalyst for change when it comes to what we put on and into our bodies. Shapiro was no different, except her impending pregnancy also gave birth to an idea that would grow into her now-coveted fragrance line, Ellis Brooklyn. Shapiro says that prior to falling pregnant with her first child, she didn’t bother considering whether ingredients were clean at all – she would instead pick her skincare solely on results.

“I started with my body care first,” Shapiro says. “I thought since the lotion we slather all over our bodies is actually covering such a greater surface area than our face alone that it was the right place to start.” While cleaning up her routine, Shapiro was faced with a fragrance fanatics nightmare: having to give up your long-adored scents because of their questionable ingredients.

Beauty editors tend to have a vast array of the latest fragrances at their disposal, yet Shapiro struggled to find anything that fit her new clean routine. Rather than give up fragrance entirely, Shapiro was inspired to create Ellis Brooklyn – her own clean fragrance house that aligned with her personal needs and desires.

Even armed with a little black book filled with insiders in the beauty world, Shapiro admits that getting the brand off the ground was initially tricky. “Here I was, the New York Times beauty columnist, and not having a single perfume house write me back.” Shapiro says it was a humbling, character-building experience for her.

Today, things are different she says.“It’s much, much easier to have a perfume house really dig deep on sustainability measures and safety profiles,” Shapiro explains. “It’s changed so tremendously and for the better, but when we first started, it was all very opaque.”

Founding and developing Ellis Brooklyn also opened up Shapiro’s eyes to the natural versus synthetic debate that rages on in the beauty world. “I actually originally wanted to start a 100 per cent natural line,”says Shapiro. But while attending initial fragrance development meetings and talking with perfume makers while pregnant, Shapiro quickly learnt that natural materials arent always the safest choices when formulating products.

“Essentials oilsand other natural scent ingredients are highly volatile and very irritating so I pivoted.” She says that while it was an aneye-opening moment for her, it also made a lot of sense. “Instead of focusing on 100 per cent natural I focused on safety because after all that’s why we’re all looking for clean products.”

CLEAN AND GREEN

Back in 2014, ‘clean’ beauty was only just emerging; today it’s arguably one of the beauty world’s biggest buzzwords. But deciphering what clean really means isn’t always easy. Shapiro agrees that today clean has become a very broad term.

She says for Ellis Brooklyn clean is about safety and looking at real science.“Our baseline is that we’re a globally compliant brand,” she says. “That means right when we’re developing, we’re looking at the existing laws and research that many countries or regions have already done and are actively monitoring.”

From there, Shapiro says they have a ‘no-no’ list of questionable ingredients that are not banned, but if you look at the science maybe they’re not the most ideal option. She says that allergen-free perfume options are also a passion of hers. “We recently released a molecule scent, Iso Gamma Super, that is allergen free and made with green chemistry and is completely renewable.”

As for ‘natural’ ingredients and preconceived ideas that natural is always best, Shapiro believes it’s just human nature that we make such assumptions.“Aside from being from ‘nature’, the word also conjures up the idea of ease. Whereas ‘synthetic’ sounds very foreign and often we are afraid of the foreign even if we have been using some safe synthetics for years,” she adds.

However, as Shapiro explains the irony is that today the line between synthetics and natural ingredients has become more blurry than ever before. There’s another pertinent reason we need to challenge the myth that natural products are always best. Certain natural raw materials aren’t always the environmentally friendly choice in the fragrance world.

For Shapiro and her Ellis Brooklyn team they ensure that every material is sourced sustainably and abides by the Convention on international Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. “On top of that, when we’re in the process of scent development I always actively ask our perfume houses what new ingredients they are working on that have a better environmental impact,” she says. “There is so much going on in the world of biotech that is truly pushing sustainability forward in completely new ways that are exciting.”

FROM THE HEART

There’s also the fact that for someone to wear a fragrance, it has to smell good too. Shapiro works closely with a perfumer rather than a team. “I prefer it this way because if I brought in marketing or an evaluator [someone who helps a perfumer create things that are, to put it straightforwardly, likeable], I feel like I’m being swayed by someones opinion that probably has less to do with an amazing scent than it is rehashing what is already out there,” she says.

“I’ve been reviewing products for The NewYork Times for the last 12 years or so. I’ve seen a lot of lines come across my desk and I think to have a truly genuine, heartfelt process to scent development, it takes time.”

Trends, she says, are not of interest to her. “I’m into the idea that we’re releasing a scent because it’s so terrific and compelling that I feel I need to share this with the world.” Shapiro says there are only two scents in the line that she wouldn’t wear because they’re not really her. “When I smell the fragrances, I do like them and I remember when releasing them that this is for so-and-so in my life, so I had a very clear direction who I was envisioning,”she explains.

“But interestingly enough those are a couple of our worst-selling scents. Since then, I won’t release something that I can’t see myself wearing. The nice part is that I have a varied scent appetite so it works out.”

As for balancing motherhood with running a flourishing fragrance brand and writing her Skin Deep column for the New York Times, she says it’s an idea she gave up on a while ago. “I think of my life more in the sense of priorities and I try to get as much done as I can,”she says.

“Lately, I’m trying to let go a little bit of my Type A-ness and just try to feel good about what I have done in a day,” she adds. “Running a business, the work never ends so this was my way of making peace with all the pressures. Ellis Brooklyn will always be a passion for me, but I also want to make sure thatI’m not missing out on the best moment in life!”