Autumn fashion: blackeyes

For twentysomethings addicted to Baby Doll nighties and lipsticks called `Pussycat', the new urban cosmetics offer a radical rethink. The look is Gothic - what you might call `Laura Palmer chic'. By Emma Forrest. Photograph by Jon Mortimer
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The Independent Culture
Do you remember Tinkerbell nail varnish? Super cheap and suitable for ages three and up, it came in the girliest candy-floss colours and peeled right off your nails when you scratched them. Nowadays, it's called "Hard Candy" and retails for pounds 10, available only at the most exclusive boutiques. Of course, they are not from the same makers and are not aimed at the same age range, but it is safe to say that Hard Candy is the new Tinkerbell. Dainty pink, minty green, sky blue - just three of a vast range - it makes you feel like a kid again (I haven't even mentioned the free jelly ring around the neck of every bottle). You want to stay home all day and paint your nails, not because it's smart or adult, but because it's stoopid and fun.

For this kind of twentysomething girl who walks around in Agnes B "Lolita" clothing range and slings a Hello Kitty back-pack across her shoulders, Hard Candy's "3 and upwards" philosophy is the icing on the Baby Doll birthday cake. But already there is a backlash. "Urban Decay's" campaign line is "Does pink make you puke?", in support of its frightening mould green varnish and blue-black lipstick. Where Hard Candy's shades range from "playmate" to "Pussycat", Urban Decay offers "Roach", "Plague", "Bruise" and "Frostbite". It's what you might call Laura Palmer chic. If Prom Queen Corpse is the look you're after, hey, go for it. The danger is you'll just end up looking like the presenter on The Girlie Show who was always pulling a face.

Far more appealing is Poppy King's Seven Deadly Sins lipsticks. Wear a slick of Lust to the new Ray Liotta flick. Confront your ex with a coat of Pride. Scare boys with a gloss of Power (not strictly one of the seven deadly sins, but who's counting?) The quality of the lipstick is excellent and the packaging is pure gothic glamour. And in 1996, it's the packaging that really counts. The most sought-after new ranges are funky and witty. Star Eighties' brands like Clinique and Prescriptives are, as their name suggests, serious and clinical. They can make you feel like you've been to Harvey Nichols, not for make-up, but for a Tetanus jab.

The antithesis of the Clinique stand is the Lush shop on the King's Road. They don't call their Bubble bath "age redefining antioxidant foaming spheres", they call it "Fizzy O, Therapy" or "Bom Perignon". Unlike the cosmetics old-school, they don't try to tell you that you need any of their products. Instead, they appeal to your latent "Mummy, I want it" side. We're approaching the end of the century. All the decent bubble bath/ scent/ make-up that's ever going to be invented has been invented. The secret is making it seem like it has just been discovered.

Brown eye shadow will always be brown eye shadow, but at least the container can be exciting. Stila has its in a black cardboard pot etched with the words "It is never too late to be what you might have been" (George Eliot). Wow, not only is this eye shadow going to change my life, it's also endorsed by the first feminist novelist. Each shadow and blush has a different quote, exquisite and memorable enough to slip into your English A-level. Yes! A generation of beautifully made-up girls who also have A's for English, philosophy and any other subject where the examiner will be impressed with a Virginia Woolf quote. (Might not work for maths!)

My favourite is Lorac, whose matt, yet deliciously moist, lipsticks are all named after different movie stars. "Geena" is peachy brown, "Demi" might as well be named "Scarlet Harlot". "Angelica" is a stunning wine- red, which can probably only be carried off by the most elegant of brunettes: Nicole is a pale beige, suitable for redheads married to Tom Cruise.

The Mecca for funky make-up is the Space NK store on London's Earlham Street. In one New York style Warehouse, they stock Stila, Lorac, Poppy King, Hard Candy, Urban Decay and the utterly gorgeous Kiehls cleansers. It's like being a kid in a sweetshop, except most sweets don't cost pounds 125 (The "Philosophy" Colouring book, a filofax of brushes, blush and lip pencils). For the record, Spectacular Cosmetics do nail varnishes in the same colours as Hard Candy, and they last longer and only cost pounds 1.50 each. But they don't come in a pretty bottle.

The other thing you notice as you pant round the store, is that, whatever you call them, there are only a certain number of shades of lipstick. Lorac's "Angelica" is, in fact, exactly the same deep claret colour as Poppy's "Glamour" (hasn't Ms Huston always been the byword for glamour?) However, the inspiring thing about nearly every range at Space NK is that they are independent businesses run by women (the shop itself was set up by confessed shopaholic and ex-quantity surveyor, Nicky Kinnaird). Hard Candy is the brain-child of 24-year-old Dinah Mohajer. Lorac was created by make-up artist Carol Shaw, and Stila by her peer Jeanine Lobell.

The most famous of the make-up artist-turned-moguls is Bobbi Brown (sold at Harvey Nichols). Her lipsticks are eminently wearable but can be a little undramatic, especially when you've been pretending to be Angelica Huston all day. Her eye shadow "Toast", however, is a revelation. Of all the beauty products in the world, maybe six or seven actually make you look 100 per cent better, rather than just feel it, and Toast is one of them. It gives you the hugest and sparkliest eyes imaginable and you would bow down and kiss its toes, if it weren't an inanimate object (I knew that).

The joy of Hard Candy, Stila, Poppy King and Lorac, and the clever marketing on their part, is that it's like swapping trading cards. You want every one in the range. Even if you don't suit candy pink lipstick, you'll want to buy it because the occasion may soon arise when you need to slap on some "Pride" or because you simply have to own a lipstick named after Farrah Fawcett. Along the way, you may even find the colour that is the embodiment of you. Be warned. It is frightening to look in the mirror and realise "I am "Demi" Blackeyes picture (p51) Styled by Charlie Harrington, make-up by Alex Babsky: purple 778 eye shadow, pounds 9; white 910 eye shadow, pounds 9, by Shu Umera; black magic liquid eye liner, pounds 17.50; hard formula black eye brow pencil, pounds 7.50, all by Shu Umera, from Space NK, 41 Earlham St, WC2; Liberty, Regent St, W1; Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London SW3; black mascara, pounds 11.50, by Bobbi Brown, from Harrods, Knightsbridge, London SW3 and from October, Frasers, Glasgow and Kendalls, Manchester; black moon eye l iner, pounds 12.50, by Nars, exclusively from Space NK, 41 Earlham St, London WC2 (enquiries and mail order: 0171-379 7030); gold glitter by Fardel fluid make-up, pounds 3.30, from Screenface, 24 Powis Terrace, London W11 (enquiries and mail order: 0171-221 8289)

Products by Lorac, Stila, Benefit are all available at Space NK as before; Hard Candy, from Space NK and Liberty, as before.