It’s almost fitting that a nor’easter storm would be predicted to hit on the first anniversary of Bobbi Brown’s makeup brand Jones Road, given the fraught climate surrounding last year’s launch: Mid-pandemic and a week before the election, the nation’s collective sense of unease and division was at an all-time high. “Everyone said to me, ‘You’re crazy. Why are you doing this now? Just wait until next year,’” Brown recounts over Zoom. She’s hunkered down at her home in Montclair, New Jersey (approximately 20 miles outside of New York City), wearing a cozy black sweatshirt with the brand’s name emblazoned across the chest in its trademark block-white lettering. “And I just said, ‘We don’t even know what next year is gonna bring. It could be worse. And you know what, my noncompete’s up.’”
Let it be noted: Brown doesn’t wait for opportunity. She creates it. Despite the skepticism of others, the makeup legend launched Jones Road with a streamlined collection of versatile—and, most notably, clean—makeup and beauty products, including a wildly successful, award-winning Miracle Balm, which today remains the brand’s “hero” item for its multipurpose, glow-boosting qualities. (Indeed, its wait list between restock shipments has counted up 10,000 names.) To celebrate the past year’s success, Brown is opening a flagship Jones Road store in Montclair.
The date of our interview holds an especially symbolic meaning for Brown, who launched Jones Road almost exactly 25 years after her noncompete agreement with beauty giant Estée Lauder (which acquired her original namesake brand in 1995) completed its term. “My 25-year noncompete ended on October 24th, which was a weekend, so we launched on a Monday—the 26th,” she explains.
Brown didn’t intend to build another beauty brand after leaving her company in 2016, but the almost involuntary itch to create never abated. “I just didn’t feel done. Not only do I love being a makeup artist, I love being a teacher. I love the creative process of marketing and product development, and I missed it,” she says. What’s more, she felt the current beauty landscape wasn’t adequately fulfilling the needs of today’s consumers: a growing number of savvier, better-informed beauty shoppers seeking connection and transparency, who care about the sourcing and effects of ingredients on the body, both inside and out.
I just didn’t feel done. Not only do I love being a makeup artist, I love being a teacher.
“I knew there was a different way to do it. I didn’t set out to create a ‘clean’ brand,” she goes on. “I just created the brand I wanted with the best, most efficacious formulas—and didn’t have any ingredients that I wasn’t comfortable putting on my face.” The fact that Jones Road ultimately became a clean beauty brand somewhat organically speaks to the increasing popularity and normalization of the category. Just as Brown, a self-professed “health-fanatic” maintains a healthy lifestyle involving a wholesome diet and regular exercise, today’s consumers are also making a greater number of lifestyle choices dictated by wellness and well-being (including that of the planet), rather than cost or prestige. “Beauty, like health, is an evolution,” Brown notes.
Buyer beware: There’s no official governing body or widely known organization to designate what qualifies as a “clean” brand—no seals of approval, nor certifications—which puts the onus squarely on the consumer. That’s created plenty of gray area for greenwashing and pseudo-virtuous products out there to cash in on the demand. Despite launching Jones Road as a direct-to-consumer brand, Brown looked to the reputable clean beauty retailer Credo and its standard-setting ” data-vars-ga-product-id=”a14faec7-209d-450a-bc49-afb8189db08d” data-vars-ga-product-price=”0.00″ data-vars-ga-product-sem3-brand=”” data-vars-ga-product-sem3-category=”” data-vars-ga-product-sem3-id=”” data-affiliate-network=”” data-affiliate=”true”>Dirty List (an index of more than 2,700 banned ingredients from any third-party products it sells) when formulating her own products.
Launching a digital-native makeup company requires a fair amount of faith, not to mention an actual up-front investment, on the part of its first-time consumers. But with Brown’s bona fides and a trim lineup of multipurpose products that work across an array of skin tones, all showcased on a simple, modern website conveying a refreshing sense of confidence, Jones Road exceeded first-day sales projections by 150 percent. After all this time, Brown still has her finger on the pulse of hit-making makeup.
Even without the forced circumstances of the looming pandemic, the necessary trappings for a successful start-up that provides its audience with more than just product, but also connection, inspiration, and guidance, are all there: Jones Road’s site reveals easy, scratch pad-like breakdowns of scores of achievable makeup looks, shown on models of all races and ages. “I’ve always been a visual storyteller. I want Jones Road to teach and empower,” Brown nods. Accessibility has always been a component of her magic. Every beauty editor seems to have her own personal Bobbi Brown story, while Brown herself frequently appears throughout Jones Road’s social media offering personal tips and instruction.
And now with an inaugural brick-and-mortar opening, guests at the physical outpost might even have their own Bobbi Brown “moments,” so to speak. Along with the complete collection—which will expand to 40 products by the end of November—there to see and try out in person, Brown hopes to schedule events and instructional programming in the near future. “It’s so nice, because it’s in my backyard, so I’ll be able to hang there,” she says.
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