Eyebrow-based businesses growing beauty trend
It might seem a little high-brow for a former football player, but ex-Steelers tight end Chris Kolodziejski knew a good business opportunity when he eyed it.
Now 53 and living in California, Kolodziejski is scoring big with eyebrow couture, one of the hottest trends in the beauty industry.
His company, Chella, is in 200 locations in the United States and abroad, he says, and is part of a growing number of brow services and products being marketed in shops, salons and mall-based “brow bars.” In Pittsburgh, Chella recently debuted at the new eDry Brow and Blow Dry Bar at ESSpa Kozmetika Organic Skincare in Aspinwall.
Kolodziejski got into the brow business four years ago when he already was manufacturing a line of anti-aging cosmetics and skin-care products. Celebrities with bold brows like Cara Delavigne and Keira Knightley were generating buzz.
While women can go to a lot of places for an eyebrow wax, Kolodziejski says, Chella sells brow makeovers, a concept especially appealing to baby boomers beset with thinning brows.
“Sometimes, it's the result of hormonal changes that come with aging,” he says. “But it can also be the result of overplucking in your 20s. If you kill a hair follicle, the hair won't grow back.
“You have to fill in what's missing.”
Chella-affiliated eyebrow artists design the perfect brow for each client's face, and then teach how to replicate the look at home using pencils, stencils and other products, says Kolodziejski, who manufactures dozens of eyebrow implements and cosmetics, including serums that he claims enhance eyebrow health.
He says he is in discussions with major retailers to carry the Chella line, and sees no end to the enthusiasm for brows.
“Spending on brows was up 20 percent five years ago, 28 percent two years ago and 34 percent last year,” he says of the brow industry. “People are buying products. They're buying into brow fashion and couture because they realize it has a dramatic impact on the face.
“You can get your hair coiffed in a great style, but if your brows are a disaster, you won't pull off a look,” he says.
Pamela Jeschonek, a licensed esthetician who owns Everyday Esthetics Eyebrow Studio in Ambridge's historic district, began specializing in brows six years ago — “when the eyebrow craze caught fire,” she says — and claims to have a two-year waiting list of prospective clients.
She charges $95 for an initial consultation that includes makeover and lesson, and $50 for each maintenance session. Take-home products are extra.
“We talk about what you like and don't like about your face, then I start measuring and analyzing bone structure,” Jeschonek says. “Bad brows will jump out at you. They can make your nose look big, or your face look too long.”
Full brows equal youth, although there's no one-shape-fits-all for everyone, she says. “That's why what I do is called eyebrow couture; I customize to each client.”
The boon in brows may have started with San Francisco-based Benefit Cosmetics, which claims to have shaped more than 2 million brows since it began operating brow bars in shops such as Ulta decades ago. It claims to have 800 brow bars, worldwide.
Oprah Winfrey helped spur momentum when she had brow icon Anastasia of Beverly Hills on one of her shows, says Jeschonek, who studied with another big name in the eyebrow industry, Damone Roberts, also of Beverly Hills.
“I took his master eyebrow class,” Jeschonek says. “He's phenomenal, a true artist; literally, a sculptor. He once told me brows are the most under-appreciated feature on a person's face.”
Julie Abramovic, 29, of Garfield sought out Jeschonek in 2009 and has been a steady client since then.
“Going to Pam has made a huge difference,” she says. “I get complimented on my brows all the time.”
Abramovic, who works as the public-relations director for a Downtown hotel, says her brows are naturally thick, but she worried she was overtweezing and failing to get the right shape.
“Pam helped me understand where to tweeze and where to let them grow in,” says Abramovic, who uses the brow powder and “spooly” brush Jeschonek sent her home with. Jeschonek prefers brow powder to pencil because she says it creates a softer, more natural look. She uses a line of products made by Brett Freedman, a Los Angeles-based makeup artist who grew up in Monroeville.
Freedman operates a brow bar in California, and is launching his brow line, Brett Brow Collection, in Sephora shops across the country, including Pittsburgh, on April 16. Originally, he sold only to other professionals.
“Eyebrows are huge — literally,” he says. “They got very Kardashian — very full but precise.”
They're appealing even to women who grew up with an overly arched look, he says. “Women of a certain age are saying, ‘Oh, fuller does look younger, yes.' It feels fresh and new and exciting. So, stop tweezing. Let your brows grow in.”
Freedman predicts bold is here to stay, but sees a trend toward “a furry — we call it ‘messed-up' — look.”
“Bedhead brows are now becoming big,” he says.
From Pittsburgh to Hollywood
Brett Freedman remembers one of the first gigs he had as a 19-year-old aspiring makeup artist living in Pittsburgh.
“It was a photo shoot for an ad for Joann Stout Shops,” recalls Freedman, a 1986 Gateway High School graduate who attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. “Someone in Churchill lent us their condo, and the model was posed next to the fireplace.
“I was paid $45 for three hours of work. Back then, it seemed like a lot of money to do something I loved.”
Today, he is still doing what he loves, but for a lot more money, having established himself as the go-to makeup artist for some of the world's most glamorous stars. He freelances for production companies, magazines and publicists.
One of his earliest clients, after he moved to Hollywood in 1996, was country-music legend Reba McEntire, who is partnering with him on the launch this month of Reba Beauty Deluxstick, a lipstick-lip gloss hybrid McEntire sells online. McEntire recently named Freedman creative director of her new Reba Beauty venture.
About a decade ago, Freedman became known for his invention, Dr. Kiss Lip Balm, a subtle product used as much by male celebrities like Robert Downey Jr. as by leading women, he says.
Freedman's client list is a who's who of Hollywood, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Heather Graham, Christine Aguilera and Catherine Zeta-Jones, whom he calls a natural beauty.
“The first time I met her, she opened the door with her hair in a ponytail and no makeup,” Freedman says. “She was so gorgeous, I thought, ‘How can I possibly improve on this?' ”
The wizardry he works with stars like Jennifer Lopez, Sharon Stone and Meryl Streep helped him to develop a new product line, Brett Brow Collection, which is slated to launch April 16 at Sephora and includes duo-shade eyebrow pencils and powders, arch-control gel and dual-tip tweezers.
The pencils are keyed to hair color and each comes with two shades because brows naturally have more than one tone, he says.
“Nature knows what it is doing, so you just want to give it a little hug.”
On Jane Fonda, for instance, he says he uses a medium-blond pencil that includes caramel and taupe tones.
Some hair colors present a challenge, he says, noting that McEntire was the inspiration for the redhead shades in his new product line.
“Before my pencil, there wasn't a good red pencil,” he says. “She'd use lipstick pencil to fill in her brows.”
He advises silver-haired women to avoid gray pencil and use, instead, “a fleshy-blond pencil that isn't too gold” and clear brow gel that will darken hair a bit.
Other touches, like the little bit of gold eyeshadow he uses to soften Amy Poehler's sharply arched brows, can make all the difference, he says.
Aside from consulting a pro, women today can pick up beauty tips on sites such as YouTube, he says.
“Women are a little savvier these days about tricks of the trade.”
Deborah Weisberg is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.