Bobbi Brown is holding up the make-up bag she travels with and telling me that this — this tiny little bag barely bigger than my wallet — holds the entirety of the make-up she needs.
I am astonished. Not just because the Bobbi sitting before me sipping tea at Claridge’s looks very polished, very classically Bobbi in neat neutrals, but also because of the context. Opposite me is a woman who built an eponymous empire based on her vision of how make-up should look and perform, then made an awful lot of money (the internet tells me it was precisely $74.5 million dollars) selling it to Estée Lauder.
After that, Bobbi, 66, could’ve sat out her days on an island reading a book to a backdrop of gently swaying palm trees while sipping cocktails, but the lure of make-up was too damn strong, so she gave birth to a second company, Jones Road. “I’m just as excited as I’ve always been, maybe more excited because I’m building a brand and bringing my creativity to new things like messaging online and getting information to people,” she explains when I ask where she gets her drive from.
“What’s in the small make-up bag?” I ask. “My skin’s dehydrated, so I take Miracle Balm everywhere with me,” she says, before showing me a few other essentials. “I believe in not doing everything,” she shrugs, “of course it depends on where you are, but day-to-day a strong eye and a strong lip and a strong cheek is too much, I think — and there’s a natural beauty that gets missed when someone is overdoing everything because you don’t see the person.”
Jones Road is achieving cult status for precisely this approach: Bobbi parlaying her preferences into yet another make-up brand that’s read the room successfully. I am curious as to how Bobbi would define what she thinks people want from their make-up at the moment and am surprised to hear her describe my precise daily approach in her answer. “So many people just want to look like themselves and, honestly, to look like themselves but not tired. We are a society of tired people, who, if we’re not doing anything are still doing something thanks to our phones.” Correct — and guilty as charged on that phone thing.
Bobbi goes on to talk about the seismic shift in what she sees in make-up, comparing the two brands she founded. “When I was at Bobbi Brown, make up was thicker, with more density and flatness. I don’t like density or flatness, and Jones Road is about just like yourself, and looking good.”
On that point, we need to return to the little make-up bag momentarily. You see, I didn’t give you the full picture at the beginning. Bobbi spends one of the 36 hours she’s in London with me. She has meetings, manages to see some friends, then heads to Paris with her husband. It is dark season, so the sun isn’t responsible for her appearing so full of life and health, and now I know it’s not layers of make-up, so ask how she does it. “Well, I’m happy, I’m curious, and there’s still a spark. When you lose any of those things when you get older it’s awful. I can visualise myself at 80. I want to be able to hop on a plane with my granddaughter and go to Paris. I want to be able to walk up and down the stairs without holding on. But also I know my face and what’s best about me is my skin. I’ve got lines, but I’m fine with them. I just know where to put products to make myself not look tired.”
Given that skin is Bobbi’s special forte, and that at this time of year that pesky tiredness is endemic and the plastering oneself with make-up the morning after tempting, I tied up our time together by asking her for three hard and fast skin make-up rules, and she delivered these...
1. Sort dehydration first
“Parties are fun but they don’t make you look good,” Bobbi tells me, as I sit there ashen-faced after yet another late night out in Soho, keen to hear how to bring my face to life. “You need moisture. Sometimes all I do is add something really hydrating to my skin to make it look alive again and that makes a huge difference.”
2. Be sparing
“The answer isn’t always foundation — first, fix texture. If your skin is dry, sort that out. Could you put Miracle Balm on some areas instead of foundation? If you’ve already got good skin, you might just need plumping and hydration.”
3. Correctly colour match your foundation
“The only reason to wear foundation is to even out your skin, not to change its colour,” explains Bobbi, reminding me not to be tempted to try to sneak a little 'health' by way of going a shade deeper. To get the right match every time she suggests trying it on the forehead and cheeks. “It has to disappear on both. That’s when you know you’ve got the right colour.”