Style Destino: Vegan Fashion, Beauty and Lifestyle


Online Shopping: How to get customized beauty product recommendation in India?

When it comes to beauty I've always been picky about what I put on my face and body. Somehow the likes of chemical loaded products never made the cut for me. Finding quality skincare and makeup that's devoid of harsh chemicals and is also cruelty free and vegan friendly is a bit of a challenge, especially if you are living in India (for that matter even Dubai).

For years I had to rely on my friends or family (or even their friends and family) travelling from US or UK to get my monthly beauty fix. Then came the era of online shopping, which means you could get a access to the best beauty products online, delivered right to your doorstep, which was otherwise hard to find in India.

But then there was another problem. While now I have access to some great products, I still wouldn't know which product is suitable for my skin, hair and body type. At good beauty stores like Space NK or Liberty of London you have access to experts who understand your beauty needs and recommend you products based on your needs. However, with online stores you are on your own, and sometimes that can be challenging as you may not know the best products for you.

So while I would still use the online beauty stores for replenishing my tried and tested products, I was always iffy about trying out new products - what if I make the wrong choice?

Now I have a fix for that to! India's first online beauty store, Aplava, that offers completely personalized shopping experience. They're like stylists for your beauty cabinet.

The personalized beauty service offered by Aplava first does an in-depth analysis of your skin and hair by asking you a set of questions that encompasses everything from skin and hair type to concerns and lifestyle (eg sun exposure).

Once you select the right options (like lack of glow, dark circles, hairloss), their automated skin expert selects the products suitable for your needs and fixing your concerns. This smart beauty platform has been built using help of professional dermatologists and skin experts who have carefully designed solutions for specific skin needs, so you can be sure you only buy products that are suited to you. Here's a snapshot of how it works:

Aplava Online Beauty Store - Best online beauty store in India - Vegan beauty India
Aplava Beauty profile - Best online beauty store in India - Customized beauty
 Aplava Beauty profile - Shopping preferences - Best online beauty store in India - Customized beauty
Aplava - Recommended Products  - Online beauty store in India

The product range offered by Aplava is also quite interesting with the best beauty brands sourced from all over the world. In fact they also have a good selection of vegan-friendly and cruelty-free beauty products from brands like Ren (watch out for beeswax, honey and milk in the ingredients, otherwise it's vegan), Skinyoga, Thalgo (stay away from their collagen products), Neom, Kronokare and Just Herbs. In fact if you are a vegan you know how hard it is to find non-toxic and vegan nail polish online. Fortunately they have the 3-free vegan friendly nail polishes from butter London!

I ordered a make-up remover from Ren and a lip smoothing treatment from Natio.

Aplava Online Beauty Store - best online beauty stores in India - Online beauty - vegan beauty

Here's a quick analysis of Aplava shopping experience:

  1. Personalized recommendation offered by experts
  2. Ingredients of each product in listed on the product page
  3. Good selection of Indian and international brands
  4. Prompt customer service
  5. Quick delivery (I ordered the package at my office and received the package in 2 working days)
  6. Free shipping over Rs 999 and for orders below this amount there is a nominal cost of Rs 50
  7. Clean website with user-friendly navigation

  1. It would help if they had a wider selection of brands and products
  2. They don't have filter for 'vegan' products and even when you search for the term vegan it turns no results (There are no products matching this selection). Although they do have a range of vegan products
  3. Refund is only for products that are defective or in case you receive the wrong product. No refunds if you change your mind 
  4. No exchanges offered
  5. The website does not have Brand filter on many sections
I'm glad that while it is still hard to good good beauty products in brick and mortar stores, the online beauty stores are changing that by offering great products and brands, which were otherwise not accessible in India. Overall I had a great shopping experience with Aplava. Setting up your beauty needs can be time consuming, but it is a one-time process and helps you get personalized product offering so it's worth it.

Have you done your skin analysis yet at Aplava?


Grandeur and Luxury: Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

My partner in crime

 Welcomed by fresh fruits and orange juice in the suite 
(and I did some nail art myself with my vegan nail polishes)

This beach side restaurant with its breathtaking views is perfect for sunset and after hours

Opulence and grandeur is synonymous with Middle East and considering Emirates Palace is the property of UAE's richest Emirate Abu Dhabi no expense was spared at making this 21st century Palace hotel. No wonder it is the most expensive hotel ever built (a whopping $3.8 billion - no kidding!) and the place is indeed pure luxury where you are treated like a royalty. The hotel was built to create the most lavish seven star experience conceivable and they for sure succeeded at it.

We decided to stay at the hotel for the weekend and it was indeed an amazing experience. The service and attention to details is remarkable and the staff is super courteous. The moment you arrive you are presented with a 3-rose bouquet and some refreshments. The staff takes you to your room and the endless domes, huge chandeliers and lots and lots of marble and carvings leave you with awe and wonder. The grandeur of this place is authentic and it shows with the attention to detail paid to every part of the hotel - from decor to service. 

We stayed at the three room Palace Pearl Suite, which was a nice mix of contemporary and royal style, features a dining and lounge area, a bedroom with barge balcony overlooking the sea, a dressing room and a huge bathroom. The suite had me at the bathroom which was a delight with its Jacuzzi, shower cabin and the incredible style with amazing chandeliers. 

With a 24-hours butler service, a range of dining options, luxe tasteful interiors, 2 huge swimming pools, private beaches, awesome cafes, huge lawns and a host of amazing entertainment options the hotel provides an experience of sheer luxury and absolute coddling that would make you want to stay here forever!

Ideal for: Special occasions, indulgence, family break and unwinding

What: The Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

Where: At the far end of the Corniche with a beautiful and grand facade surrounded by landscaped gardens, two swimming pools (East and West), its own beautiful white sand beach with breathtaking views of the sunsets and harbour.

Interiors: You can expect nothing but the best in terms of style, decor, luxury, grandeur and royalty when it comes to the Middle East and being the most expensive hotel ever built and a seven star property, Emirates Palace will floor anyone with just that. Think domes, gilded ceilings extravaganza, larger than life chandeliers, miles of marble, gorgeous dusky pink granite and rose colored marble facade.

The Rooms: They offer deluxe rooms and a range of suites, some of which are exclusively available only for royalties. We stayed at the opulent Palace Pearl Suite which was spacious at 1575 sq ft with a massive bedroom, a lounge and dining room, a dressing room and huge bathroom with Jacuzzi and shower. The suites are located in the dome area, where you are first taken inside through a door leading you to four clusters of suites leading to another area with large round table with a beautiful floral arrangement on top that finally takes you inside your suite through another door. Yes it took us also time to understand this arrangement, it's so easy to get lost - almost felt like a maze.

The tasteful decor is a nice mix of royal and contemporary with metallic and pearl effect furniture, beautiful chandeliers everywhere, including the bathroom, and the gorgeous pearl-effect entry door with beautiful carving all over it. The place is definitely less ostentatious than the Burl Al Arab suite that we stayed a few years ago.

The Bed: Comfortable and huge.They offer a selection of pillows and satin sheets that make for a pleasurable night's sleep.

Washroom: I think a room is only as good as its bathrooms, and the beautiful Italian marble clad massive bathroom with a Jacuzzi, a shower room and toilet was super impressive. 

The Breakfast: A huge breakfast spread. The staff was not aware of what a vegan diet means, but when I explained they quickly suggested options and also offered custom-made vegan meals. They had soy milk so I settled for cereals in soy milk and some fresh fruits.

Dress Code: There are some strict dress codes to be followed at the hotel, and the restaurants require formal dressing, which means no shorts, flip-flops, mini skirts or sloppy outfits. When you read the dress code provided, it may shock and scare you (it sure did to me as all I planned on a lot of summer dresses and shorts) but with a few changes in my wardrobe planning it wasn't too bad. Plus the pool and beach side was relaxed.


Kat Von D Lipstick Review | Vegan Lipstick

Kat Von D Lipstick - Vegan lipstick - kat von d vegan - best vegan lipstick - Cruelty Free Makeup

Finding the perfect lipstick is somewhat like dating. You have to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince.

No one can deny the power of a good lipstick. The perfect lipstick can immediately transform your look and boost your confidence. But just like a bad relationship the wrong lipstick can do havoc not only to your looks but your health as well. So when you got to spend your bucks on one, it better be good.

Did you know most lipsticks, including the big names, include harmful chemicals (like lead and parabens) and animal ingredients (carmine,lanolin and beeswax to name a few)? Fortunately after a lot of frog kissing episodes, I've finally found the perfect one {I mean the lipstick}!

The Tattoo queen turned Sephora best-seller makes one of the best vegan lipsticks that I have come across and there's a reason why her lipsticks are flying off the shelves - they're absolutely amazing. Yes I am talking about Kat Von D (sold exclusively at Sephora and her own online store).

The Everlasting Liquid Lipstick and Studded Kiss Lipstick from her range are all vegan and cruelty-free and boy I tell you they're super amazing. The Studded Kiss comes in a beautiful black packaging and is super-creamy and richly pigmented, an otherwise rare quality in most vegan lipsticks. Plus it smells amazing (a nice sweet powdery fragrance) and lasts long. The Bachelorette is one of my favorite colors from Kat Von D - a nice reddish fuchsia  - perfect for day-to-night look.

Kat Von D Lipstick - Vegan lipstick - kat von d vegan - best vegan lipstick

Everlasting liquid lipstick is equally amazing - its cool formula gives the opaque rich color of a lipstick yet glides on with the ease of a gloss. It turns matte on drying. In fact their best-selling Lolita (one of my fav colors too), which always runs out in Dubai, is perfect shade to break out from your nude lip territory but without going too far. It's a nice muted chestnut rose shade which is very versatile, you can wear it for any occasion and it complements nearly all skin tones.

Did you know The Studded Kiss Lipstick in Lolita was Sephora's number-one selling lipstick of 2015? Imagine a new brand competing with all the biggies and making it to the top-seller list at Sephora - while being vegan and cruelty-free. Plus they are paraben and phthalate-free. Now that's one heck of a lipstick we say.....

P.S.: I slather lip balm generously few minutes before applying the lipstick to ensure the lips don't dry or crack.

Also check out 5 Vegan Lipstick Must Haves


Fashion Forward Brings Ethical Fashion In Middle East Map

Despite the most unexpected pouring in the dessert and the inconvenient location (yes reaching Design District was really a task) the enthusiasm of the Fashion Week took the winning among the Dubai fashionistas as they showed up at the Dubai Design District braving the rains strutting in their stilettos, showing off their meticulously contoured face and layers of waterproof mascara. Nothing could stop the middle eastern divas from their most anticipated event - Fashion Forward Dubai!

It wasn't just the catwalks, but this season had some really interesting talks too - one particularly close to my heart {and also what my blog is about} ethical fashion. It was the first time I actually heard the term "Ethical fashion" echoed in the fashion circles of Dubai, as there aren't many brands here and those which are, are also not really marketed as "Ethical" (did you know Stella Jean is ethical?).

On day 2 of the fashion forward the rain Gods decided to bless the dessert with rains. The moment I entered the hall, and found a spot for myself I suddenly realised droplets falling on my carefully styled hair - the water was dripping from the tent. But that couldn't take my attention from the talk that was about to commence on "Why ethical fashion matters" {of course I adjusted my chair to avoid being drenched}.

Ethical fashion - sustainable fashion - vegan fashion - Fashion Forward Dubai

"Fashion can make a difference" said Sarah Beydoun, founder and designer of her eponymous label that makes vibrant handbags and accessories, which are all ethically produced by female prisoners and troubled women in Lebanon.  I couldn't agree more.

I've always loved Sarah's bag, which I often see in S*uce stores and also online. They're fun, quirky and have a personality. Unfortunately, Sarah has very few vegan friendly designs, as most of them have leather, but you wouldn't be absolutely disappointed as few of her bags are indeed leather-free.
"Fast fashion isn't free. Someone, somewhere is paying" (Lucy Siegle). 
The same voice was echoed by the second panelist in the discussion - Catherine Occhio, founder of Middle East's first (and currently the only) registered Fair Trade fashion brand SeeMe. Catherine quit her 15 years career after working with organisations like European Commission and SEED Foundation to start her jewelry label SeeMe with heart as its iconic symbol.

Ethical fashion - sustainable - vegan fashion - Fashion Forward Dubai

When asked about does being an "ethical brand" becomes a USP, both Sarah and Catherine unanimously agreed that just being an ethical brand is not enough. Quality and design of the product has to stand up to the same level as the mainstream non-ethical brands, otherwise people will not buy. "The ethical brands have to upgrade their product to a level that fashionable women would want to wear them", said Catherine. For Sarah having bags that stand-out, which are handcrafted using great attention to fine details and having a story behind it were the key reasons for success.

Behind all the glitz and glamour of the fashion industry there is really a dark side. From an environment perspective the waste and pollution generated by the fashion industry is creating irreparable damage to the environment and the cycle of consumption is churning faster than ever before, making things worse (imagine the waste permeating the planet with change of every season). On a humanitarian level, manufacturers are exploiting the workers; clothes are often produced in developing countries like Bangladesh, India and China under unsafe working conditions where the wages are far from fair, sometimes as low as $25 a month. Then there is also the problem of child labour.

Although there have been many incidences of factory fires and expose of exploitation of labour, it was only after the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh that the world had a wake up call about the dark side of fashion industry. People actually saw the dark side of fashion industry and the cost to human life.

It is no brainer that with consumers getting more aware about the how and where their clothes and accessories and this trend is only going to grow. It is only a matter of time that the brands and companies will have to adopt ethical practices in some way or the other to ensure they don't lose out on their customers.

As Catherine said, "producing ethically is a win-win situation - people are paid well, the companies can still get a good profit margin and the products are good - which means a happy customer". Despite producing ethically using fair wages, Catherine's line of ethical jewelry is competitively priced, which means ethical fashion need not always be expensive.

Another good thing about ethical way of doing business is the high you get from the difference you make in people's lives. Sarah's Bags gives female prisoners an opportunity to reintegrate with the society once they are freed fro the prison. There are many stories of such women who worked with her brand inside the prison and could build a life when they were out. Seeing the difference Sarah could make in their lives gives her a real thrill and content. Even SeeMe, Catherine's brand, works with women who are victim of violence, and getting an opportunity to earn a livelihood, and a decent one at that, makes a real difference in these women's lives.

About making ethical choices...

We vote once every couple of years, but when it comes to making the right choice about spending our money we fail terribly as we pay heed to only one aspect of the product - beauty but fail to see where it comes from. Like it or not consumption is a powerful act, and by making the right consumption choices we all can make a real difference - to the lives of people, to the environment and to the animals and other inhabitants living on it. This is what sustainable fashion and ethical fashion is all about - BEING HUMAN (no I am not endorsing Salman Khan here).

The best thing you can wear is a clean conscience. By buying from ethical brands like Sarah's Bag and SeeMe, you could look good and feel good about what you buy.

Kudos to Fashion Forward for waking up the Middle East on the ethical side of fashion. We need more platforms like these and more awareness not only among the local customers but also the local designers to adopt "ethical practices" in their fashion business.

Next time we'll also want to see topics on "buying less", "gluttonous consumer attitude" and how to make the existing pieces new again. Choosing the right product to spend on is important, but equally important is how well you use that product!

Here's a peak at my ethical fashion piece - my Stella McCartney bag


When in Doubt Wear a Jacket

Vegan Fashion - Dubai Fashion Blog - Style Tip Jacket Style - Style Destino

Vegan Fashion - Dubai Fashion Blog - Style Tip Jacket Style - Style Destino

Zara Jacket & Boots, Topshop Jeans and Stella McCartney Bag

Sometimes finding the right 'outfit' to wear becomes challenging. Nearly every girl has to face the situation of having a closet full of clothes yet nothing to wear. Fret not, when you can't find anything to wear follow the motto - "when it doubt wear a jacket" - it can be a sharp blazer, a moto jacket or a bomber. 

Jackets are life savers - not only it puts together an outfit but they also glam it up instantly. When you add a sharp blazer to a simple white tee and blue jeans combo and throw in a pair of pumps you are all set to take over the world in style in an instant. When you want something cool a moto or a Bomber does the trick.

I for one love my jackets, this is one thing I never skimp on. While my black and white blazers are my go-to all time-favourites, but I also love other styles like this moto jacket with a twist.

What is your go-to piece in your closet?


Quick & Easy Quinoa Salad Recipe | Vegan Quinoa

Red Quinoa Salad - Vegan Quinoa Recipe - Vegan Recipes - Easy Quinoa Style Destino

If you follow my Instagram you'd know I am sucker for healthy meals. But what you may not be aware of is I loathe cooking - its never been my forte. The dilemma is I don't even prefer ready-to-eat meals or eating out that much. I feel horrible and guilty if I eat too much processed or unhealthy meals. So sometimes I have no option but to fix myself a meal when I don't have help.

A salad is an easy fix and if you add the right ingredients it can be quite filling and delicious too. A red quinoa salad is a great option as it is wonderfully versatile. It's perfect for lunches, it can make a really good starter or can be a great healthy and filling dinner.

Here's my quick quinoa fix for lunch made from organic quinoa, fresh tomatoes, cucumber and sesame - flax seed - ginger - olive oil dressing. The secret ingredient that instantly makes this vegan quinoa salad super yummy is a generous portion of toasted nuts. Since I wanted a more filling meal I also prepared some moong (soaked it for an hour and then boiled it) and spinach stir fried with olive oil and ginger.

It's a savoury healthy guilt-free indulgence that everyone will love! 

Red Quinoa Salad - Vegan Quinoa Recipe - Vegan Recipes - Organic Quinoa - Style Destino

Red Quinoa Salad - Vegan Quinoa Recipe - Vegan Recipes Style Destino

I N G R E D I E N T S 
1 cup red quinoa (I use organic quinoa)
1 large tomato diced
2 diced cucumbers (organic is always better)
1 small bowl of nuts - mix of pine nuts, almonds and walnuts
2-inch sized ginger finely chopped
3 spoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and flax seeds each
Half orange and half lemon
Rock salt and black pepper as per taste

D I R E C T I O N S 

How to prepare quinoa

After a few trials and errors and disasters i finally got the hang of cooking the perfect quinoa. The key to cooking quinoa is to soak it for about 15 minutes, drain the water and then put it in a pan for boiling. Soaking it in warm water not only washes off the dirt from the quinoa seeds but also preps it well for boiling. Add some olive oil so it doesn't stick. Typically the water quinoa ratio required is 2:1 - for one cup of quinoa 2 cups of water


- Add a few drops of olive oil and once hot add finely chopped ginger. Saute until it turns golden brown. Add flax seeds and sesame seeds and stir for 30 seconds. In a separate bowl squeeze half of fresh orange and fresh lemon, add extra virgin olive oil and the toasted seeds and mix it well.

- Dry roast pine nuts, almonds and walnuts separately until they turn golden brown.


Toss together all ingredients for the salad. Add the seed and olive oil dressing, salt and black pepper and mix well. Top it with the toasted nuts.


Why do all Fashion Bloggers Look Alike? #NoToCLONING

"To be different you must first be yourself"

How many times did you scroll down your Instagram feed to find the same Moschino* belt, same Celine* bag, same trendy shoes, same Kenzo* jumper, same contoured face popping up on every blogger's feed? It will not be an exaggeration if I say that they are all starting to look the same. Or let's put it this way most bloggers seem clones of each other. Such an irony.

But where has their individual style disappeared? Why are the fashion bloggers falling prey to mediocrity? Why does everyone in the fashion blogosphere need to dress alike?

Back in early blogging days fashion bloggers had some real style - fun, accessible, classy, quirky, weird glam, street chic, feminine burst - everyone had something new to bring on table. Each blogger had a distinct voice  and blogging involved doing your own thing.

Fast forward 2016 and today everyone is trying to fit in the cool crowd wearing the same trends that everyone else is spotted in. I am not against taking inspiration but there is a difference between herd mentality and drawing inspiration.

Some trends definitely excite every fashionista, but each person will have their own take on styling it. When you run through blogs, you'd see no individuality to trends. This is what is wrong with today's blogging business - it has fallen prey to CC; no silly not carbon copy although that sounds apt too, but my version of CC is cloning and commercialisation.

Don't get me wrong; I am not trying to lash out at anyone but I see a problem - the very essence of blogging has lost its meaning. Blogging was not about creating desire for the unattainable or selling products under the pretense of genuinely liking them (aka not being transparent about sponsored posts) - the main problem that plagued the glossy fashion magazines.

Being a part of blogging world, it is easy to fall under the cloning trap and many bloggers are plagued by it. Of course there still are many channeling their own style, but the duplicates are fast growing in numbers and popularity.

No matter what I had always stayed true to my ethical take on fashion - no leather, no fur, no wool and no silk. Thanks to the rising awareness of ethical fashion, I am even more conscious about where my wardrobe pieces come. I would try to incorporate the eco and fair trade side of fashion going forward.

My style has evolved as a blogger and while I think in the world of fashion you never reach the final stage and become “perfect”, since there is only evolution, I love the change in my personal style over the years.


*P.S.: The brand names are just figuratively used, it could mean any trendy style or brand.
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