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."
"'Dynasty' is all about gowns, the diamonds and the scandal, so it's a bit like the fashion industry. When we come to Cannes it's all about the red carpet dresses too, so it all fit really well," said designer @philippplein78 on the theme of his high-glamour resort 2019 show at his mansion in Cannes. #wwdfashion #cannes (📷: @zefashioninsider)
"I think Spike is such a brilliant director because he holds up a mirror to society and reflects these issues, yet he doesn't shove it down your throat, he doesn't tell you what to think," says @lauraharrier on her latest film @Blackkklansman. Harrier was at the Cannes Film Festival – for the very first time – with @officialspikelee. #wwdeye #cannes (📷: @zefashioninsider)
“I would think to myself, Are you happy? Yes, I’m wildly happy. I go to this studio every day and, in my inside voices, I’m giggling; I’m singing. Yes, it’s a lot of work, it’s a [huge] volume of material. It wouldn’t be for everybody. But I was very happy,” said soap opera star @therealsusanlucci of checking in throughout the years with her career trajectory. Lucci spoke to WWD about her decades-long career, love for pilates, motherhood and her QVC activewear line. Read Bridget Foley’s full piece on Lucci on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: @celestesloman)
@balmain has taken a stand at the #cannes Film Festival, dressing 16 actresses at a press call for the project “Noire N’est Pas Mon Metier,” or “Black Is Not My Profession.” The multimedia project includes a book, photo exhibit and documentary, which aims to expose discrimination in the French and American entertainment industries. “The moment I was asked to participate, I knew it was right for me, and for this brand, to form a part of this moment,” Balmain creative director @olivier_rousteing told WWD. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
"I always feel curious and I feel like there's more to learn. But I think being relevant, feeling relevant, I personally always feel that there's just so much more to know. And maybe that's the key.” — @themarcjacobs #wwdsummits #wwdbeauty (📷: @patrickmacleodphoto )
“The most amazing thing about her is that, regardless of all the things that have happened to her, her spirit is so undaunted by all of it. She is the most cheerful person you will ever meet. She doesn’t see problems, she only sees solutions,” said @ajanaomi_king of activist Ifrah Ahmed, who she plays in a new film “A Girl from Mogadishu.” WWD caught up with King at Cannes — Head to WWD.com to read more about her new role, personal style and how she uses social media for causes like Time’s Up and Black Lives Matter #wwdeye
WWD asked a number designers to share their thoughts on what Meghan Markle’s wedding gown will look like this Saturday. Here, Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli sketches his look. #wwdfashion #royalwedding #meghanmarkle