make-up maestro Bobbi Brown founded her first beauty company more than 30 years ago. We’ve had to wait a while for her latest venture, Jones Road, to come to Ireland. But now it’s on the way. And here’s what is worth putting on your beauty wish list …
We all know the name Bobbi Brown. The make-up artist sold her eponymous beauty brand back in 1995, staying on until 2016; and then the week a 25-year non-compete clause lifted, she launched Jones Road, in 2020. It has since landed in Liberty in London – and it’s set to launch here in Ireland this autumn. “I love Ireland,” enthuses Brown. “I’ve had some great trips with my family; my husband and my sons are golfers so we’ve been many times.” She tells a story of her first trip here, when an “incredible opportunity to have tea with Bono’s wife” clashed with a call to do Michelle Obama’s make-up. Being Brown, she made it all work.
When I visited Liberty earlier this year, Jones Road was easily the busiest counter in the entire beauty hall. Many shades were already sold out, and besieged staff were awaiting more stock, particularly of the foundation. “Yes, we definitely under-forecasted,” says Brown. “Now we’re back up with everything … I think we’ve hit a nerve with women,” says the 65-year-old, talking from Florida where she’s been spending the colder months, before heading back to New York, where she has just opened a store, in Greenwich Village. Jones Road is the epitome of Brown’s original USP, which was to highlight and enhance a natural look.
What’s striking about Jones Road is its broad, fresh appeal to all ages – my 16-year-old, usually unimpressed, was enthusiastic about the look and feel of the packaging, in particular. Brown’s ability to tap in to a younger audience, while retaining older fans, is central to her success. She has become an unlikely TikTok star; do watch her good-natured and funny riposte to an influencer mis-using her foundation. She’s aware that we’re not all governed by social media trends. “I’ve been around so long I know that trends don’t mean a thing … We hear a lot about what’s happening on YouTube and TikTok – but that’s only a small population. It just has a big footprint because it’s social and it’s wide. Most of the teenage girls I meet, they still don’t like having a ton of make-up on their face, and I think there’s a huge amount of us that like being a little more low-key. Just enough of everything – not too much jewellery, or clothes … Personally, I don’t wear a lot of make-up, just enough.”
Brown is clearly energised by her young team. “My team are younger women who have never worked in the beauty industry. I love creativity, and right now I’m so inspired by the team that I have. Our creative director is 25 years old, this is her first job out of college. She went to high school with my younger son! And she is just a dynamo. So my team really inspires me.”
Brown thrives on challenges. “The challenges were definitely what I enjoyed the most. [On leaving Bobbi Brown] I didn’t have my team any longer, who I’d basically lived with for 20 years, supporting me on things. I had to find people to help me do these things. Most of them didn’t have a lot of experience and I wasn’t hiring high-powered people. I found a product development girl who had the exact same aesthetic and skills, and we started doing these things together. The challenge is, how do you do this without spending too much money and wasting time? So even when we opened a store in Montclair [New Jersey], we didn’t have anyone who’d ever done visual merchandising, so we literally started just taping up pictures on the wall and now that’s become our signature – it’s very scrappy, very indie and I love it. I find that challenges are opportunities to do things differently and quickly.”
WHAT TO TRY
Where to start, if you’re new to Jones Road? “First see what you want to touch and feel, and just try. Try some Miracle Balm – I don’t care what kind of make-up you have on – just put a little Miracle Balm on your cheek and that might be a bit of a game-changer. If you have something to cover, pick up a pencil [The Face Pencil concealer, €28] and cover it. And go from there.”
It’s rare that that nearly everything in a range is instantly appealing. Usually, you’d pick out a lip colour, or mascara, and move on. But I found that each pot I opened was something I couldn’t wait to put on my skin. One Miracle Balm is simply not enough – there’s a bronze one for summer months, plus a soft petal pink one I’ve been using every day. It’s a non-sticky blend of castor seed oil, beeswax, and other fruit, leaf and seed oils, including rosemary and geranium for its soft scent, in nine shades from clear to bronze. It’s €40, and will easily last easily 18 months, and you use it anywhere on your face (except eyelids).
The textures are just what I want on my skin, particularly the What the Foundation? Moisture Tint (€46) – so many are too heavy or flat when you’re 50-plus, but this is a glow balm with a tint, and it’s more about texture and skin-conditioning than cover-up. Crayon concealers like The Face Pencil are not a new idea, but it’s easy to forget how handy and nimble they are (especially for travel, rather than a liquid one). The lip and cheek sticks are also nifty, and in softly flattering shades. There’s a great bronzer (€36, in seven shades) and range of brushes (from €24). I’d like to see recyclable pots going forward (the cartons are already made from recyclable material). I’d also love mini versions of the pots; for now, I’ll be repurposing the mini eyeshadow pots to fill with scoops of Miracle Balm and WTF to take travelling (though Brown says a lot of the kits have mini Miracle Balms in, and twice a year they sell a range of minis; keep an eye on the website in May). The products are made in the US and Germany.
Brown is not only one of the most experienced beauty experts out there, but she’s also a certified health coach; after she left her namesake brand, she went back to study. And she is rare in the industry as someone who talks down-to-earth sense. “It’s mostly about the food that you put in your body. That’s what’s going to make you look better,” she has said.
On finding make-up that suits you as you get older, she muses: “Everything is an adjustment – you have to adapt and adjust to where you are. You have to go, ok, this is not working now, what do I need to do? We get drier skin as we get older, because we don’t have the collagen we did as a kid. And you don’t have the fat you did when you were younger. It’s about finding what works.” And this is make-up that works, and has skincare benefits, for all ages. Most importantly, for me, it’s for women over 40 wanting to hit refresh as they get a bit older – in a low-key way. Softer, more moisturising textures are the way forward, and something that gives your skin luminosity, with moisture, is extremely important. Luminosity is really the key to the whole line. Brown urges me to try the Shimmer Face Oil, with lasting moisture that doesn’t dry down.
Being older, Brown will consider what other people won’t – for example, the idea of a bigger labels for the pots, because as we get older it’s harder to read what colour each one is! I, for one, am constantly squinting at ingredients labels. “I am in my sixties, and my friends are anywhere from 30 to 70. And at this age, I kind of know who I want to be. I know who I am, but I also want to be someone who is just comfortable in all aspects of ageing. I want to be young in my body – that’s more important than young in my face.”
We discuss benchmark beauty. “I’ve been colouring my hair since I was 25, and my hair is literally white,” she says. “That’s the one thing – I don’t get Botox, but I colour my hair. I get lasers – I’ll do every laser going that I can because I don’t want to change the way that I look, but I want to look fresh. You can’t shoot things into your face and then take it out – you’re stuck with it – but you can do hair colour or a few highlights. I’m happy that there are those little things that can make me either look better or feel better, and I’m all for that.”
ON HER BEAUTY ETHOS
“I’ve always been someone who is very interested in what you put in your body and how that affects your face, your life, everything. I’ve always been very sensitive to artificial fragrances, for example – I can’t stand walking into a room with a very strong candle that smells very chemical or, God forbid, a roomspray that’s not natural. So I started buying and using more ‘clean’ products, in my home. And then shampoos too, and then make-up. I haven’t used Bobbi Brown since the day I left, for different reasons – and I started using the clean make-up and thinking, I could do better, and create formulas that I like. I love a challenge – and this is a ‘clean’ make-up brand because why would I want to develop in this day and age anything that’s not?”
The feel and the textures of the products are impressive. “My aesthetic is much more transparent (though some things are dense, and my black mascara and eye pencils are really black). It’s just my vision of what formulas should be. I have a person or two who help me create the formulas, but I don’t have people telling me they’re not in trend.”
“And by the way, our hashtag for Jones Road (which luckily I never asked anyone’s permission to use) is #hownottolooklikeshit. I’m sure if I had a team of legal people or marketing people they would say ‘you can’t do that!’, but I don’t. And anyway, that’s why I wear make-up. Because when I wake up sometimes I think, ‘oh my God. I look so tired.’ I am tired! That’s the hardest thing about getting older, feeling a little tired in the morning, and that’s something I’m on a mission to fix. Do I need to drink more water? Should I not have had that vodka last night? I cut my drinking in half – I never have more than one drink. I’m like, what works? And I think it’s the same with ageing.”
As for future store plans, apart from her store and office in Montclair, where Brown brought up her family, and the new store in Greenwich Village, New York, they are also opening a small store in the Hamptons. “I don’t have hobbies, and my husband likes to travel, so I assume some time I’ll also have a store in Florida to keep me busy! I’m also incredibly lucky to have a grandaughter who is five months old, and I think that’s going to be my hobby for a while.”
There’s also merch, from baseball caps to sweatshirts, haircare and kits. Looks like Jones Road is set to run and run, with Brown’s plain speaking, pragmatism and expertise at the forefront. “I just love the creative process,” says Brown. “It’s like today, I’m here in a room with no art, so I just started taping up pictures. I just always make the best of something.”
Jones Road is available to order online from www.jonesroadbeauty.com.