The curious case of Bobbi Brown

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The curious case of Bobbi Brown

As the well-known makeup artist bids farewell to her eponymous brand, speculations are rife about what she will do next

By Sujata Assomull

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Published: Mon 2 Jan 2017, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 10 Jan 2017, 2:04 PM

The makeup maestro Bobbi Brown recently announced her exit from her eponymous beauty empire. For a brand that turned 25 this year, the announcement was pretty shocking. All year long, the Bobbi Brown dolls have been making appearances on social media, various cities and the desks of famous fashion editors to celebrate the landmark 25th year ­­- in fact, the doll even appeared alongside Bobbi Brown's Christmas tree. This suggests that the parting has been rather amicable.
Brown, 59, has categorically stated that she felt it was time for her to open a new chapter in life. Even though the brand's ethos has always revolved around beauty, Bobbi herself has had a keen eye for all things lifestyle.
As a well-known makeup artist, Bobbi Brown always felt there was a need for a range of products that real women could use and so she set up a stall at New York's Bergdorf Goodman with a line of 10 natural shades of lipsticks. Trained in theatrical makeup, soon her yellow-toned foundation sticks, shimmer bricks and gel eyeliners became bestsellers. The brand flourished into a full-fledged business when Estée Lauder bought the company in 1995. Today, such is the popularity of Bobbi Brown that, according to Euromonitor, it sold $238.9 million colour cosmetics in the United States alone in 2015 (bear in mind that it is available in over 70 countries).
Over the years, Bobbi Brown has built an A-list clientele that now includes Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep and Kate Middleton. Its appeal also lies in her mantra - 'Be who you are'. As a powerful voice in the industry, Bobbi has always believed in enhancing one's own beauty. She might be in the business of makeup but you will never find products such as fake eyelashes under her label as they do not comply with the ethos of the brand. Having worked closely with American charity Dress For Success, the organisation that helps unemployed women join the work force once again with mentoring and makeovers, she often speaks on issues such as women's empowerment, something the petite beauty expert calls "pretty powerful".
It is safe to say whatever Bobbi does from here on will be in the space of lifestyle. Three years ago, she launched her own line of eyewear. It is likely to be a much easier path than Jo Malone's. The Estée Lauder-owned Jo Malone London saw Malone exit the fragrance company after spending almost a decade there. Leaving in 2006, she did not re-enter the industry till 2015 as the contract she signed with Estée Lauder prevented her from being a player in the market for 10 years. Malone has spoken passionately about her "exile" and how, despite the large payout, it was one of the unhappiest times in her life. The contract was so rigid that it even prevented Malone from being seen buying something at a beauty counter. With Brown's brand and her own face being much stronger than Malone's, it will be interesting to see what her terms of exit will be. She is expected to leave the company shortly and announce what the next chapter in her life will be.
In the meantime, what lies ahead for brand Bobbi Brown? Will it continue with her "less is more" belief in makeup? One of the brand's most recent launches was the Instant Confidence Stick, which helps minimise final lines. Of late, a few other eponymous fashion brands have also lost their founders - Jil Sander, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein are no longer part of the companies they started. And in most cases, the brand has not been affected too much. In Jo Malone's case, the company's growth was stronger than ever after Malone's exit. So the more important question right now is: what will Brown do next? It is doubtful that, like Malone, she will re-enter the business directly. Having run her own lifestyle blog, Everything Bobbi, worked as editor-in-chief for Yahoo! Beauty, and also authored eight books on beauty, she may take a leaf out of Gwyneth Paltrow's book and look at turning her blog into the next chapter.

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