Designer Interview: Alison Raffaele
By Marie Redding, Senior Editor
Makeup artist Alison Raffaele's first beauty industry job allowed her to learn the business from a pro—she served as head assistant to Bobbi Brown for three years. Later, after working on her own as a successful makeup artist and building a celebrity clientele, Raffaele realized that what she missed most about her previous job was working on the Bobbi Brown cosmetics line. "I missed going to the lab and helping to create new products," Raffaele says.
In October 2000, she launched her own line, called Skin Alison Raffaele. The line's packaging has just had a makeover and started shipping to stores on July 15. Originally, it featured a silhouette of a nude woman, but that caused a few problems. "Customers found the image confusing, and thought the line focused on skin care," says Raffaele.
The experts at Sephora advised her, and Raffaele was grateful. "It is amazing for a small company to work with [the folks at Sephora], because they'll tell you what won't sell and why," says Raffaele. She also had lots of help from her husband, Glenn Tatem. Tatem left his job this past May as global packaging engineer at Avon to work full-time with his wife.
The line is made up entirely of stock components. They are customized and brought together by using the brand's signature color scheme—white with plum decoration and metallic lavendar accents—to achieve Raffaele's goal of combining both a serious and a feminine look. "Enhancing the metal with the lavender anodization and custom embossing enriches the look," says Clare Cossio, sales manager at Inca America, which supplies several of the components.
The cap on the Reality Base Foundation is supplied by Colt's Plastics. Mike Warford, vice president of sales and marketing at Colt's, says the compression-molded cap is made from urea, which has a high molecular weight and is scratch resistant. "Urea was invented decades ago as an alternative to ivory, and it was used for many items, including piano keys. It has been used in closures since the 1920s and has an upscale appeal."
The frosted jar supplied by ABA Packaging has a ceramic deco. Kevin Gercke, senior account executive, explains, "The bottle is fired, and when exposed to heat, the ink decoration becomes part of the glass, so it won't scratch off."
The decoration won't melt in a steamy bathroom, either. Raffaele says, "It is funny, working and living together. One day I came home to find that my husband had taken a bunch of my Reality Base foundation bottles, smeared them with bulk, and then set them out in the sun in a makeshift greenhouse to see if the foundation reacted with the decoration."
The greatest lesson Raffaele learned while working for Bobbi Brown was to understand exactly what she was getting into. "I didn't have any illusions of what owning my own business would be like. Sometimes 90% of your day is spent putting out fires, but the rewards are worth the pain."