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With a roster of high-profile clients (Michelle Williams, Natalie Portman), a long list of editorial projects and her recent appointment to revamp Kevyn Aucoin Beauty, Jeanine Lobell has kept plenty busy since selling her first cosmetics company, Stila, to the Estée Lauder Cos. in 1999. “[The industry] was easier in some ways when I started Stila, because there was less competition than there is now,” says Lobell, “but it was also harder, because it was practically impossible to get manufacturers to work with you in smaller quantities. Now, they’re more open because they’ve seen smaller brands succeed.” As the interview proceeds, Lobell is sorting through a box of 300 makeup pigments that she ordered “just to play around with.” Many of her best-selling creations at Stila—such as Kitten and Oasis eye shadows—were born of such experimentation. “I didn’t do private label,” she says. “I put on a lab coat and mixed it myself. In the past, if you had a gold shadow, you’d have a yellow base and gold mica. But because I was in there messing around, I’d say, ‘Why don’t I add pinky gold and goldy gold to the base and see what happens?’” Revamping Aucoin’s namesake line—launched just a few months before his May 2002 death—is “a privilege,” says Lobell. “He was my idol when I first got into the business. I was 23, and really wanted to meet him. He spent hours hanging out with me, and that was just incredible—he wasn’t this jaded guy, even with all his success. He was incredibly supportive all along the way. When I started Stila, he’d always recommend it in interviews. My most important goal for his line is to channel him into this point and time.”
This story first appeared in the February 11, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.