Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Inspirational Women: Creative and Beauty Director, Karena Callen

Midweek already and time for an interview with someone who has inspired me over the years. 

I was 21 when I first met Karena in the offices of Red magazine. There wasn't much that wouldn't delight and excite me in those days as an enthusiastic intern on a fashion magazine, but the regular beauty sales were particularly enticing. With little cash, and an expanding shopping list of essentials this was my opportunity to buy into those glorious beauty brands at a fraction of the cost. OK most of the lipsticks had been smeared on a photographer's lightbox and the perfumes had been artfully drained to create the right shot for the beauty pages, but I wasn't fussed about half empty bottles and crushed eye pencils, this was beauty and I was buying it! Karena was the Beauty Director at the time overseeing the cupboard chaos. She always had a serene, calm air, undaunted by the ear popping pressure and hectic schedules of the office. I remember her very clearly in a Ghost dress [whatever the weather], a beaded cardigan, silver bangles and smiling. I always remember the smile. She had an easy warmth with everyone and, unusually perhaps in that stressful office, she always had time to chat, even years later when our paths crossed again on a rainy day on Bond Street. To this day I still use some of the tips she gave me as a 21 year old assistant with no clue about bronzers and highlighters. 

So when I spotted Karena on Twitter a while ago I wanted to get in touch and find out what she'd been up to. She always had an enviable sense of style and her work was always aspirational and beautiful, so I love that she is now working with lots of different companies using her expertise and experience, and even better she was happy to share some great beauty tips with us on the blog.

It looks like you're busy working with lots of exciting clients at the moment can you tell us a little about your current work and how you came to work in the beauty industry?

Having spent years in print (ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Red, Glamour, Marie Claire) I seem to have well and truly entered the digital world, working with clients such as Dani Guinsberg at The Session School, Wild about Beauty on social media and online content, and more recently, Ruby Hammer, who I’m working with on the launch of  What I love is that I can combine styling and art directing for clients such as M&S and Dove and my web work. I like the fact that no day is ever the same! I entered the beauty industry at 23 when I was lucky enough to get a job on ELLE when it was just about to launch. It was one of those moments of serendipity when I was in the right place at the right time. I started off as a fashion and beauty assistant but was smitten with lotions, potions, shadows and perfumes, so I migrated to beauty which is where I have stayed.

What is your definition of style and who, or what, inspires you?

It’s probably been said a million times, but to me style is something and that never goes out of fashion. It’s Jane Birkin in a white shirt, jeans and Converse; it’s Kate Moss in a lingerie slip and a leather jacket; it’s Helena Christensen in, well, pretty much anything she lays her hands on! I am a lover of mixing it up. Old with new, high-street with a designer treat, a bargain snapped up at a Boot Fair or Thrift shop.

Can you describe your personal style? Do you have a uniform and what labels do you love?

For want of a better word, my style is a little bit Boho. I’m not one for following trends and much prefer to mix and match. I love sequins for daytime, a silk or satin kimono jacket paired with a sweatshirt, skinny jeans and ankle boots which I’m living in at the moment. I love colour and texture and am rarely to be seen in black. I find it really “draining” physically and emotionally. In the summer, I wear white everything – jeans, tees, dresses, Converse, flip-flops. I’m endlessly washing! As for labels, if money was no object, Isabel Marant, Marni, and Stella McCartney. But in reality, I buy TopShop, French Connection, Zara, & Other Stories, the odd piece from All Saints – they are good for sequins and chiffon and Noa Noa.

Can you describe your own beauty routine and any favourite products that you're never without?

Naturally, I’m obsessed with beauty products but my routine is fairly simple. I cleanse with Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish [2] or my current favourite, Aurelia Miracle Cleanser [6]. Both involve buffing with a muslin cloth and warm water which is my preferred way to cleanse. I moisturise religiously morning and night. I’m using Nivea Q10 Anti-Wrinkle Energising Day Cream [5] which I’m really impressed with, a firming serum from an organic company called Amala Cocoa Bean Rejuvenating Serum [1], ( and Sarah Chapman’s Overnight Facial, a light facial oil with jasmine, frangipani, rose and tuberose.  I would never be without fragrance. I adore Frederic Malle’s Lipstick Roses and Musc Ravageur [4]. I’d also never be without blusher, bronzer or mascara.

What is the best beauty tip you've ever been offered?

Blend, blend, blend! Make-up artist Ruby Hammer who I’ve known and worked with for over 20 years taught me that tip when I first met her and whatever make-up I wear; I follow that tip to avoid any lines, or hard edges.

It's the New Year and we're in need of a beauty lift - what are your top 5
beauty products to give us a new year boost?

This Works Energy Bank Bath Shower Oil [1]. I couldn’t live without this at this time of year when it’s cold and grey. It’s got the winning combo of ylang ylang (anti-depressant) with patchouli and geranium – both natural mood and energy boosters. It’ll keep you going until Spring.

Intensae YouthQuaker Nail Polish ( [2]. Treat your nails to a coat of glossy orchid pink which will definitely make you feel that spring isn’t far away. I love Intensae’s toxin-free formulations too.

Revlon Colorburst Crayon Balm Stain in Cherish [4]. Swap your winter berry for a pop of uplifting colour.
Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream Foundation [5]. Better than a tinted moisturiser, this is the perfect skin pick-me-up for evening-out skin tone and texture. Definitely a must-have for the New Year.

Rodin Olio Russo Recine Hair Oil [3].  (  This is very indulgent but a little goes a long, long way. It brings post-winter hair back to life with a gorgeous blend of apricot, calendula, sweet almond, and sunflower oils, and delicious neroli, rosemary and juniper.

You can see more of Karena's work at A and R Photographic, or you can follow her on Facebook at or on Twitter at To see her latest project with Ruby Hammer visit:

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