NEW YORK -- You wouldn't guess it by looking at her, dressed as she is in black from head to toe, but Jennifer Balbier is known for her keen eye for color.
"They call her the queen of color," said fragrance consultant Ann Gottlieb. Gottlieb works with Balbier, who is one of the premier product development consultants in the business, on The Limited's toiletries and cosmetics.
"I've been everywhere, and at all these companies, Jennifer is the best person I've worked with in deriving color formulas," said industry executive Bob Ruttenberg, whose resume includes stints at Estee Lauder, Cosmair and Revlon.
Ruttenberg is now president and chief executive officer of Gryphon Development, the cosmetics manufacturing arm of The Limited and one of Balbier's clients. Her latest project for Gryphon is a spa-like bath and body line with a down-home flavor called Health & Beauty Farm, which will be launched in July at roughly 190 Bath & Body Works stores.
Her client list also has included La Prairie, Tova Borgnine, Frederic Fekkai, Gale Hayman and Quintessence.
"There are not very many people around who know product as well as she does," said Gottlieb. "She understands all aspects of it -- color, skin care, toiletries."
Balbier's work with color ranges from developing makeup palettes to selecting shades for products such as shower gel and body lotion. But her expertise extends beyond pigment.
SG Cosmetics enlisted Balbier to find a manufacturer for its new Studio Gear professional color cosmetics line. Instead of simply coming up with the name of a single contractor, Balbier investigated the market and determined the best contract packer in each makeup category.
"We ended up, as tiny as we are, with six different manufacturers," said Steve Rohr, an owner of SG.
In addition to offering advice on the hues of the 275 stockkeeping units, Balbier left her imprint on some of the more concrete aspects of the business, from pricing to sourcing packaging supplies.
"I find Jennifer just an absolute encyclopedia of everything you ever needed or wanted to know about the cosmetics industry," Rohr said.Balbier's first taste of the industry, more than 20 years ago, was working on the sales staff at Coty under Jerry Abernathy, who is now president. Balbier sold fragrances to drugstores in uptown Manhattan. Within six months, she had switched to marketing and new product development.
After five years at Coty, Balbier embarked on a series of stints at Helena Rubinstein, Charles of the Ritz and Max Factor, then headed by Linda J. Wachner. At Factor, she helped develop the Le Jardin fragrance before moving briefly to Faberge.
It was after leaving Faberge in the mid-1980s that Balbier started her New York-based consulting business, The Pink Jungle, and found herself working for a series of smaller, independent companies, including Hayman and Borgnine.
"I grew up in corporate America," Balbier said, adding that she now prefers her independence. "I was glad I had the opportunity to deal with entrepreneurs. They're rule-breakers. You have to take everything you've learned and throw it out the window."
After joining Borgnine's team, for example, Balbier worked on the development of a women's fragrance called Body, Mind & Spirit, to be sold on QVC Network. Without any pre-launch sampling effort to enable TV viewers to smell it, the fragrance sold out in its first appearance.
"She has an astute understanding of both the position of a product and the story of a product," said Borgnine, who has worked with Balbier for eight years.
Balbier's command of cosmetics ingredients may have led some to question whether she had a chemist's training (she has not), and Ruttenberg insists that Balbier's not being a chemist actually works in her favor.
"Chemists have trouble understanding our language," Ruttenberg said. "She works with the bench chemists to interpret what the consumer wants."
Enhancing her expertise, clients say, is Balbier's energetic personality. Ruttenberg, who affectionately calls her "a flake," marvels at Balbier's ability to generate a profusion of ideas. He noted with admiration, "Jennifer can go from left to right and right to left -- at the same time."
There'll be no rest for those headed to Europe for men's, as Paris just closed the gap with Milan. According to a provisional calendar released by the Chambre Syndicale, Paris Men's Week will now open a day earlier on January 16. See new highlights on the official lineup on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
BREAKING: Jonathan Saunders is leaving @DVF. The designer has resigned from his position as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, the company said in a statement on Friday. At the time of his hire, von Furstenberg said Saunders’ arrival symbolized and facilitated her stepping back from the day-to-day duties that occupy the work of a full-time creative director. The British designer joined DVF in May 2016 and was in charge of all product categories. #wwdnews
For @versace_official’s spring ad campaign, the brand emphasized the archival prints from the spring tribute collection dedicated to the late Gianni Versace. Closing out the show were five of Gianni’s favorite models: Cindy, Naomi, Carla, Helena, and Claudia. Bowing on December 18, the new campaign is yet another tribute to supermodel-dom as the images by Steven Meisel are fronted by @iamnaomicampbell, @cturlington, @gisele and more. #wwdfashion
Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening has been waiting 20 years to play Gloria Graham in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," which will be released on December 29. The movie about Graham – a Hollywood star known for her controversial relationship with a younger Englishman named Peter Turner – is based off a memoir Turned wrote. "She felt vulnerable to him, because she loved him, she really did love him. And anyone that we really truly are in love with, we re vulnerable to in a very deep way," said Bening. Read our full interview with the modern icon of an actress on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @ninebagatelles; Styled by @cristinaehrlich)
The crisp white button down: a staple that can be dressed up or down and accessorized throughout the decades. Here, on a Art Basel-goer in 2017 on the left and on the iconic Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” in 1953 on the right. #tbt #wwdfashion (📷: Andrew Morales)
Known for her work with @victoriassecret, 25-year-old model @georgiafowler is raising her profile in Hollywood. Fowler stars in @vincecamuto’s holiday campaign, which launched in partnership with “Pitch Perfect 3.” “Almost every shoot with Vince Camuto, I’ve had to face a fear…It was definitely a challenge. I’m so grateful for it, though. I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, so that was the perfect chance,” Fowler said. Head to WWD.com to read about Fowler’s experience modeling, including at the #VSFashionShow, and her relationship with Nick Jonas. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
EXCLUSIVE: Huda Kattan just became the first beauty influencer to land a major beauty deal. Kattan's business, @hudabeauty, has received a minority investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. The brand, which industry sources say is on track to do $200 million in retail sales for 2017, will receive support on product, retail and geographic expansion through the deal. Get all the details on the deal and read @_a_collins' interview with Kattan on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Peruvian model @juanaburga_official – who is known for walking the runways of @rodarte, @viviennewestwood and @torybuch – is making the move to the big screen with drama “Los Últimos.” The film premiered in Argentina in November and arrives in the U.S. and Europe in 2018. On making the switch from modeling to acting, Burga told WWD: “It’s a completely different thing – a lot of people think it’s similar or try to connect things, especially like getting used to the camera or being looked at all the time or playing these different characrers, but film is a completely different story.” #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)