About a month ago I read that makeup artist and brand owner Bobbi Brown was leaving her namesake brand!! While that news shocked the beauty industry, I knew that it was only a matter of time.
When I first started doing makeup professionally, one of my peers would take me to all the different beauty counters and show me what she loved about each brand. We would touch each brands powders, and foundation formulas, and she would give me the rundown on each brands aesthetic, their targeted demographic, shade range, quality of shadows and brushes, etc… Whenever we would get to the Bobbi Brown counter she would seem to mutate into a “Bobbi Bot”! Her eyes would become glossy and all of a sudden she would become possessed!! All of her sentences would begin with “Bobbi says…”, and I would be looking at her wondering where my friend went. I soon came to realize that all of the artists I encountered who worked for Bobbi Brown were all the same in that they were “Bobbi Bots” who only spoke the gospel of Bobbi Brown! Eleven years later, I respect and dare I say miss those “Bobbi bots.” They were extremely loyal to the brand, well trained on products and makeup application and Bobbi’s aesthetic, and were able to make all of their clients drink koolaid from the fountain of Bobbi Brown! In this day and age of social media, all of those things I just mentioned are still the key ingredients to make and maintain a successful brand.
Alright, so I’m sure the question that all of us want to know is “Well what the hell happened?” I have one simple answer. I think that Bobbi’s no makeup aesthetic, her vision, and her voice were silenced, and that she was tired of fighting. Ten years ago Bobbi had 50 shades of taupe, brown, and beige shadows, and none of them had any shimmer. I remember my friend who worked for them telling me that if they were caught wearing shimmer eyeshadow, they would be in trouble! Some may think this was extreme, but I see it as protecting the integrity of a very specific aesthetic and a brand. Three years ago while freelancing at a MAC counter I started to notice shimmer pop up across the way at a Bobbi counter! Not only did I notice shimmer, but I also noticed whenever MAC would have a new product launch, Bobbi would also launch a product that looked very similar with different packaging of course, but similar to the point of confusion. Now both companies are owned by a parent company that has a larger than life portfolio with at least 20 cosmetic brands under its belt, and it is no secret that parent companies often launch similar products throughout the different brands under their umbrella, but Bobbi was different! With each shimmery shadow, pressed pigment, and MAC foundation in Bobbi packaging I knew that I was witnessing the end of an era. I also noticed the Bobbi artists in all of the department stores I worked in disappear or even worse, go to a different brand. The lines of women looking for that “no makeup makeup look” dwindled, and I couldn’t help but think that at some point, Bobbi would do the same thing as Jo Malone a few years back and leave her namesake brand. There were just too many instances where I was frustrated with what I saw because it was not in line with her aesthetic! I figured if I was frustrated imagine how she felt! Then there was the whole Kim Kardashian contouring thing. The company seemed to have a huge internal battle mainly because the whole contouring and highlighting trend was just that a trend, did not seem to go with the “everyday woman/no makeup look” that Bobbi was known for, and many of her artists were simply not trained on how to do it. Witnessing the fall out over a trend popularized by a reality television star was awful to watch but also very telling.
The brand had lost its way, and there seemed to be no response from the person behind the brand. I knew that there was no way a women who had worked so hard to create a name for herself as a celebrity makeup artist and invested everything into ten lipsticks with $10,000 twenty five years ago would be silent over a trend that could easily be ignored or embraced.
The reality is that once you sell your company to a larger entity, it is no longer your company, and changes either good or bad are inevitable. While it is truly a sad time for Bobbi Brown the cosmetics company, I wish Bobbi Brown the absolute best in her future endeavors and look forward to her next innovations!