BOBBI BROWN, ET AL.
One of the first makeup artists to achieve celebrity status, Bobbi Brown moved to New York in 1980, a year after she graduated with a degree in theatrical makeup. At that time, makeup was pretty extreme with lots of unsubtle eighties contouring and red lips. Bobbi was more drawn to healthy, natural looks, which was very different from what was on the market.
In 1988, when she was working on a shoot for Mademoiselle, Bobbi visited Kiehl’s pharmacy, where she met a chemist who offered to create her ideal lipstick creamy but not dry, unscented, with staying power, and most important, in a color similar to the color of people’s lips. In an interview with Inc. magazine, Bobbi Brown said, I thought, Wow. If I could make a collection of ten colors, I can’t imagine a woman needing any other color.’
A late 1980s/early 1990s look by superstar makeup artist, the late great Kevyn Aucoin.
Utilizing their practical knowledge, it was the makeup artists of the latter half of the twentieth century who really took the makeup artist brand to dizzying global heights.
She started the business with a friend, publicist Rosalind Landis, and a mere ten thousand dollars, which seems a crazily small amount in today’s world:
I was at a dinner party and I said to this woman, What do you do? She said, I’m the cosmetics buyer at Bergdorf Goodman. I told her about my lipsticks and she said, We have to take them. Later they said they couldn’t take us. They had too much going on that season. I remember my stomach dropping when I got the message. I was at a photo shoot for Saks and telling the creative directors and art directors about this new line, and they said, Oh, my God. We want it. I called Bergdorf back and said, That’s too bad, but don’t worry, because Saks wants it. Bergdorf called me back ten minutes later and said, Uh-uh.
We ‘re going to take it. I never even went to the right people at Saks. Now I know, that’s called bluffing.
The professional-makeup-artist angle was a hit and customers started asking for blush, eye shadows, pencils, and so on. In 1995, Estee Lauder bought Bobbi Brown. Leonard Lauder told Bobbi that her products were beating theirs in every store so he had to! Bobbi Brown was one of the first brands to regularly use black models and show them as brides.
The success of Bobbi Brown led to a new sector of professional makeup artist brands. Like Bobbi, Trish McEvoy’s eponymous company started after she recognized a gap in the market, and took off through word of mouth. Working as a makeup artist in the seventies, Trish was unable to find the type of good-quality makeup brushes that she was after, so she’d buy brushes from art shops and cut them into the shape she wanted. The brand Laura Mercier was born out of a more business-minded impulse after Janet Gurwitch, then the executive vice president of Neiman Marcus, saw an opportunity in the makeup market for another brand like Bobbi Brown. Janet joined forces with the French-born makeup artist Laura Mercier, who would give the company its name, in 1996. Francois Nars set up his sleek makeup range with its innovative black rubberized packaging in 1994 because, as he has said, I just wanted a line that made sense, using my twenty-five years of experience.32 The first true celebrity makeup artist, Kevyn Aucoin launched his range in 2001 after a series of highly successful makeup secrets aimed at empowering the average woman to look like a star; sadly, he died the following year and never saw the development of his brand. Makeup artist-led brands show little sign of slowing down, with British makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury recently launching her brand in the United Kingdom and United States.