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Bobbiwood on the Hudson

WWD visits Bobbie Brown’s soon-to-be wired world in her hometown of Montclair, N.J.

Appeared In
Special Issue
Beauty Inc issue 10/14/2011

Montclair, New Jersey may soon be known as Bobbiwood. Or so the construction of a 9,600-square-foot, state- of-the-art digital media center would have us believe. Blueprints for the new center reveal a raw studio space designed for creating content, complete with a set for photography and a room for Webcasting that will instantaneously zap Bobbi Brown into the 56 countries where her products are sold, says Donald Robertson, senior vice president of global creative development. The digital media center, expected to be fully operational by January, will also have a full kitchen, where Brown hopes to shoot a cooking show to further communicate her passion for a healthy lifestyle. It will accommodate potential QVC tapings without Brown having to travel to Pennsylvania, as well. Industry sources estimate about $1 million is being invested in the center. While Maureen Case, president of Bobbi Brown, declined to comment on the figure, she did say, “There will be several investors in the digital media center, however we cannot confirm any further details at this time.”

The investment makes sense these days, says Robertson. “People are dying for content. Live content. It has to be a constant flow of fresh content,” he explains, of the demand for Brown’s image.

These “people” include fans in the United Kingdom and Korea— Brown’s two largest markets—as well as women in South Africa, who are entering the work force, and in Saudi Arabia, who are desperate for makeup and beauty education. “We can reach these people who are technically unreachable. It’s a way to generate a whole new fan base for the brand,” Robertson says. Brown’s global appeal has found a welcome audience on the Web. On Fashion’s Night Out, for example, she shot a video of how to create a smoky eye, which was broadcast on Taxi TV. The next day she received an e-mail about how, via YouTube, a cluster group in Russia generated about 1,000 views of the video in a matter of minutes. “These are things you can instantly beam across the world. It’s our ultimate reach tool,” says Robertson.

The need for content never seems to fade. “We were in a panic for content on a mineral makeup line Bobbi was launching, so we sent the cameraman to tape her behind the scenes at Oprah, where she was scheduled to be anyway. We filmed her and launched it on her blog,” says Robertson.

Brown says being in front the camera so often is quite a change from two decades ago.“When I started doing fashion shows, I wore my hair in a ponytail and spoke to some press,” she says. “Now you cannot walk into a fashion show without 10,000 bloggers there, so you always have to be ready and you always have to communicate and you have to have a point of difference. And, you have to teach.”

The new space will supplement her existing Montclair studio, built in 2007, which includes a store, Bobbi Brown University, and a space for press events and meetings. She says she has simply outgrown it.

“I kind of build things and then they happen,” says the makeup artist. “We built [my current studio] not really knowing what it was going to be and we have completely grown into it. You are talking to someone who started a makeup company 20 years ago with one lipstick so…I had no idea what I was doing then and I still don’t. It’s just ‘Build it and they will come.’”