September 2nd, 2013
She’s the queen of the natural make-up look and the head of one of the world’s biggest cosmetics brands. Warpaint talks to Bobbi Brown about what makes her tick.
With a simple background in theatre and a desire to simplify women’s cosmetic choices, Bobbi Brown created her eponymous make-up line with an initial line of lipsticks in Bergdorf Goodman and sparked a flame with US Beauty Editors. Two decades later her brand sells more than 60,000 products globally every day and sets the tone for real women the world over. Bobbi Brown shares her story with us.
WP: What’s the secret of the brand’s longevity?
BB: I started my company over 22 years with a simple philosophy: to empower women with the right makeup and knowledge to look and feel like themselves only prettier and more confident. Rather than trying to change or distort a woman’s features, I use makeup to enhance the features that make her unique. Bobbi Brown makeup isn’t about rules, it’s about options. And this is something that I think all women appreciate. We’re all about makeup artistry and giving a woman the tools and knowledge she needs to be her own makeup and skincare expert. Integrity is incredibly important to me. When a woman comes to a Bobbi Brown counter, she knows that she’s going to get great products that are driven by consumer’s needs and not by market research. We always strive for consistency, amazing quality and the highest levels of service.
WP: How have your roots in theatrical makeup influenced your career?
BB: I attended Emerson College in Boston where I majored in theatrical makeup, which gave me the chance to experiment and take risks. I worked a lot of with actors and mixed different textures and shades to created unexpected looks. These experiences later gave me the confidence to break out of my comfort zone when working at magazine shoots – whether it was as simple as not applying mascara onto lashes or using lip gloss on eye lids to create a shiny finish.
WP: If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
BB: I believe it is important to live in the present. I’m so happy with the way my life has turned out – both in terms of my business and my wonderful family. Even though there have been some challenges along the way — especially at the beginning when I was first starting the business and starting a family at the same time — I wouldn’t change any of my experiences, because I learned from all of them.
Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner in Dark Chocolate
WP: What would be your alternative career if you weren’t in make-up?
BB: If I wasn’t a make-up artist, I’d be a nutritional chef. I love to cook and my sons like to help so it tends to become a family activity. I like to experiment and try new healthy recipes.
WP: Is there anything you would change about the global MU industry?
BB: I think that we are a society obsessed with perfection. Everywhere women look they are confronted with the same kinds of fashion and beauty images – ones that showcase a perfectionism that’s not realistically achievable. Between long hours at the office, family responsibilities and endless to-do lists, it’s not feasible for women to spend hours in front of the mirror trying to emulate an airbrushed photo. But it’s very real to feel this kind of pressure.
Being beautiful isn’t about having flawless, cookie-cutter looks. It’s about having self-confidence and playing up the qualities that make you unique. I believe strongly that the cosmetics industry should celebrate all women. Models are certainly beautiful, but they represent such a small cross-section of women that it’s unrealistic to expect everyone else to conform to their standards. I think women can gain a lot of confidence by seeing realistic, beautifully natural images celebrated in the media.
Limited Edition Blush in Pink Coral from Rich Chocolate Collection
WP: What gets you out of bed in the mornings?
BB: I’m incredibly blessed because I have a supportive family and I love my career. I’ve worked with amazing real women and celebrities who inspire me with their stories.
WP: What products you can’t live without?
BB: I never leave the house without concealer, mascara and blush. Concealer is my ‘desert island’ cosmetic—I wouldn’t dream of living without it. When applied correctly, it instantly makes you appear awake and refreshed, no matter what’s going on in the outside world. Blackest black mascara makes eyes pop, and last but not least, blush is the epitome of instant pretty. A tip for finding the most natural look, go for a shade that looks like your cheeks after you’ve just exercised.
If I could only have one skincare product, Extra Repair Moisturizing Balm would be it. This balm instantly makes my skin look better and it smells amazing, to boot.
WP: Do you use your own brand exclusively?
BB: For the most part, I use only Bobbi Brown products but I also love drugstore brands like Chapstick, Coppertone and Ivory soap. These are brands that will never go out of style.
Limited Edition Rich Chocolate Eye Palette
WP: What’s different about the industry today from when you first created your brand?
BB: When I debuted my line in the 1991, women really embraced these uniquely flattering shades and my realistic approach to beauty. The women who came to our counter were quintessentially modern – very busy (like I am), and weren’t afraid to speak out about what they wanted. They wanted to look their best, and wanted products that are easy to use and actually work.
Today, women want the same thing – simple and effective products that will help them look and feel their very best and crave the knowledge of how to use them. But, they’re also looking for small things they can do to instantly feel prettier. So I teach women how something like a pinky shade of blush or the right concealer can do a lot to brighten and lift how you look and feel.
WP: How do you keep the brand evolving while remaining true to the core principles?
BB: My goal is to offer products that cater to beauty needs and concerns of women all around the world. So when I travel, I like to meet with my global makeup artists to get an idea of what customers in different regions are asking for and develop new products to meet those needs. I always make sure that our new products of the highest calibre and deliver great results. And, when it comes to trends I make sure that we offer products that are of-the-moment yet totally wearable.
WP: How has being part of the Lauder Group enhanced the brand?
BB: Being a part of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc has given me the ability to grow my company in ways that I never could have dreamed of doing on my own.
Limited Edition Lips from the Rich Chocolate Collection
WP: Has your level of creative input changed since you sold the brand?
BB: As Founder and Chief Creative Officer of the brand, I continue to be involved with all aspects of the brand, including product development, seasonal campaign shoots, education, PR, visual merchandising, store design, packaging, social media (Facebook, Twitter, EverythingBobbi.com and Pinterest) and everything else in between. I love being there every step of the way. I wouldn’t have my name on a brand that I didn’t fully endorse.
WP: How does Katie Holmes embody the brand?
BB: I’ve always been a big fan of Katie. She is the perfect person to represent my brand; she truly embodies the Bobbi Brown woman. Katie reminds me of a modern day Ali McGraw, an American actress I admired growing up. She is a classic beauty with a sparkle in her eye and a smile that lights up a room. She is a great example of a strong, confident woman who knows who she is. Plus, she is beautiful without trying to be.
Creamy Concealer Kit
WP: Which do you feel are the strongest trends for Autumn Winter 2013?
BB: This fall, it’s all about the smokey eye. From Cleopatra to Freida Pinto to Kate Moss, it’s a look that has stood the test of time. Achieving a smokey eye may seem daunting but it’s actually quite easy, it’s all about having the right products. For the best effect, choose a highly-pigmented, super creamy eye pencil that goes on smoothly and can be smudged to create the perfect smokey look. Long Wear Cream Shadow Stick (£20). A softer formula is also easier to use along the inner rim of the eye, which adds drama to any smokey eye. For an unexpected touch of colour, opt for rich jewel tones to line the upper lash.
Another way to create a stand-out eye is to indulge your chocolate obsession. Richer, deeper and denser than your most-loved brown, chocolate instantly makes eye pop. Rich Chocolate Eye Palette (£39.50). To complement chocolate shades on eyes go for nude pink or raspberry tones on cheeks Blush in Pink Coral and Berry (£19) and lips Lip Colour (£19) Lip Gloss (£18). This mix of colours enhances nearly every skin tone without looking too harsh or washed out.
WP: What will we be seeing next year from Bobbi Brown?
BB: I plan to continue to develop products that meet the needs of all women. I’ve found that women want simple, effective products that will help them look and feel their very best. And last but not least, I’ve always been a teaching makeup artist – whether I’m teaching my beauty team how to apply the latest runway looks, or I’m teaching everyday women how to effectively apply makeup for a simple, everyday look. I hope to reach a wider audience with the tips, tricks and skills that I’ve learned over the years.
Currently, I’m looking forward to New York and London Fashion Week. I love working backstage at Fashion Week because it’s a chance to collaborate creatively with a variety of designers who each have a definite point of view.
WP: What is your top tip for aspiring MUAs?
BB: In order to be successful, today more than ever before, it’s important to be an excellent teacher and communicator. Women all around the world demand high quality products but also want to know how to best use them when they get home.