Bobbi Brown graduated from Emerson College, Boston with a degree in theatrical makeup and photography. In 1980, she moved to New York to work as a makeup artist and became known for refreshing makeup in natural tones, a stark contrast to the bright colors that were popular at the time. Brown found it difficult to create a simple, pretty ‘no-makeup look’ because in the Eighties ‘more is more’ era there was no natural-toned make-up available. Lady Luck smiled at her; she met a chemist during a photoshoot and that meeting was a game-changer for the beauty business. Under her specifications, the chemist made ten brown-toned lipsticks in a collection that included creamy, matte, odourless, and could be blended to create unique shades. It was a simple concept, but one that seemed revolutionary at the time. Bobbi sold them out of her house by mailing or hand-delivering them to people who had heard about them through word of mouth. When Leslie Seymour, beauty editor at Glamour, wrote about them, it was a game changer. In 1991, with five thousand dollars and the simple line of lipsticks, Bobbi Brown Essentials launched in Bergdorf Goodman, New York and she sold a hundred lipsticks on the first day: proof that women wanted simple, flattering make-up.
Shortly, she released yellow-toned foundation sticks, ‘The Shimmer Brick’, ‘Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner’ and a skincare line to prepare skin for flawless makeup application. Per Harpers Bazaar, she said, “One year at fashion week a designer asked me to give all the models a ‘lit-from-within’ glow. I took a shimmery eyeshadow and dusted it on the models’ cheeks and that’s how the concept for Shimmer Brick was born.” The revolutionary success of her makeup line prompted beauty conglomerate Estée Lauder to acquire the brand in 1995 and although she retained creative control of the makeup line, Leonard Lauder told her, “I want you to keep doing what you’re doing”.
In 2007, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics retail store opened in Auckland, New Zealand astride a makeup school. In 2012, Bobbi Brown cosmetics were estimated to represent ten percent of Estée Lauder Companies’ total sales. In 2014, she collaborated with Safilo to launch Bobbi Brown Eyewear, a line of sunglasses, eyeglasses and reading glasses and was also appointed Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo Beauty. In 2016, the brand reportedly hit $1 billion in annual sales and subsequently Bobbi Brown herself stepped down from the company. Her namesake brand recently releases a new logo and tagline, ‘Confident Beauty,’ astride a refurbished website and app, new packaging and product selection focusing on best-sellers.
“I fell in love with Leonard Lauder, and I trusted him when he said, “I want you to do what you’re really good at, and I’ll do the things you’re not good at. I promise that you’ll have creative control.” And I’ve never had a problem…. There are hurdles—things you have to get over or around. When people give you their strong opinion, you just tell them, “It’s a really great idea. Thank you.” Then you go back and do what you think is right,” Bobbi Brown told Harvard Business Review.
Brown is independently creating new make-up lines, holding beauty podcasts and makeup MasterClass and of course helming her website and authoring nine books! So is it a wonder she has been honoured with ‘Glamour Woman of the Year’ award and ‘The Jackie Robinson Foundation Robie Humanitarian Award’? She has also been appointed to Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiation by President Obama, inducted into New Jersey Hall of Fame and holds doctorates from Montclair State University, Fashion Institute of Technology, Monmouth University and Emerson College. And continues to support two organisations — Dress For Success, a charity that aims to “promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools”. And, Broome Street Academy, a tuition-free public charter high school.
After leaving Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, she launched Beauty Evolution, LLC, and became certified as a health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Brown also started a line of beauty-inspired wellness products and curates an editorial website. She and her husband Steven Plofker have also reimagined The George, a 32-room boutique hotel located in Montclair, New Jersey. “Bobbi Brown Cosmetics is an incredible testament to Bobbi Brown the woman,” said William P. Lauder, Executive Chairman, The Estée Lauder Companies. “More than two decades ago, we met an extremely creative makeup artist with a revolutionary idea that changed the way women feel about beauty. That idea grew into a highly successful, global beauty brand. Bobbi will always be part of our Estée Lauder Companies family and we wish her the very best in the future.”
Bobbi Brown Cosmetics will continue to capitalize on the growth momentum in the prestige makeup category, building on the strong legacy Bobbi created. The brand’s philosophy of “Be Who You Are” is more relevant today than ever before and the brand will laser focus on connecting, teaching and empowering women globally. Fueled by makeup artistry, engaging and impactful social media and some of the most beloved beauty products in the world, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics is poised to achieve its full growth potential in this dynamic environment.
“The secret to beauty is simple: be who you are!”
The brand offers cosmetics created with an intuitive sense of what every woman wants: to look and feel like herself, only prettier and more confident.
Sandra Main: Global Brand President, Bobbi Brown and Crème de la Mer
Brown has received the “Glamour Woman of the Year Award”, “The Fashion Group International Night of Stars Beauty Award”, and the “Jackie Robinson Foundation’s ROBIE Humanitarian Award”. She was appointed by President Obama to the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiation and has been inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. She also holds honorary doctorates from Montclair State University, Fashion Institute of Technology, Monmouth University, and Emerson College.