Nestled in a tiny, charmingly pretty arcade of shops in Knightsbridge, Cosmetics à la Carte's flagship store is a far cry from your average department store makeup counter. With a calm, laid back atmosphere, it's staffed by beautifully made up and utterly approachable women - you'll find no snottiness here, and certainly no mismatching orange foundation.
The brand was founded in 1973 by Lynne Sanders, a cosmetic chemist who is still closely involved in the formulation of Cosmetics à la Carte's products - I'm told that she can be found in their labs most days, working on products. The philosophy of the brand is more centred around the needs of the individual than it is around projecting a particular style - whilst you'll find a few promo images at the boutique, you'll also find that they depict a variety of looks, from ultra light and natural to dramatic. And indeed, when I popped into the boutique for a foundation matching session, I found that the makeup artists on hand were interested in nothing less than exactly what I wanted.
After asking plenty of questions about my preferred finish, coverage level, skin type and skin concerns, the artist immediately honed in on their palest, most neutral toned foundation, which has a semi-matte finish. Luckily for me, it turned out to match my skin perfectly, so there was no need to mix and match a custom shade. Had it not matched, I was assured that the wide variety of foundations available would be mixed and mixed until we happened upon the absolute correct shade for my skin.
The service level at the boutique is fantastic - the other staff were unobtrusive, and the artist working on my face was attentive, knowledgeable, and careful to listen to every opinion I had. As well as doing the usual makeovers and foundation matching, and the unusual foundation mixing, the brand also offer a custom colour matching service - if you've got a long-discontinued favourite lipstick, eyeshadow, powder or gloss, they will mix a close match from their gamut of shades for £47. If you want to go one step further and replicate a much-loved product exactly, their labs can create up to three varieties for you to test at home, with the end result being a perfect recreation. At £200, this service isn't cheap - but if you've got an unmatchable, absolutely perfect shade you just can't live without, it'll be worth it in the long run, as re-orders are £50 once matched.
And that, in my view, is the unique selling point of Cosmetics à la Carte - their products, whilst functional and lovely, aren't massively unique, but their approach absolutely is. From the moment you step into the boutique, the staff go the extra mile to make sure that your visit is all about making sure you get exactly what you're looking for out of your makeup. If you want lovely products, tailored exactly to you, and an unhurried and personal shopping experience, I'd definitely recommend you head down to Knightsbridge. Particularly if you find foundation matching difficult!
Cosmetics à la Carte can be found at 19B Motcomb Street, Knightsbridge, and their products can also be found online at their website.
Disclosure: Gemma was treated to a complimentary foundation matching session and took away some samples to try out.