Obituary: Hazel Bishop

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The Independent Culture
TO THE pleasure of women everywhere and that of many stray husbands (although not necessarily at the same time or for the same reasons), Hazel Bishop's greatest achievement, in a life that saw success in business, finance and academics, was cooking up the first kissproof lipstick ("stays on you . . . not on him") in a kitchen fitted out as a laboratory.

It was soon after the Second World War that Bishop, a trained chemist, developed a non-drying, non-irritating, long-wearing lipstick. Her revolutionary formulation contained high amounts of staining dyes called bromo acids and, in 1950, she formed Hazel Bishop Inc to manufacture and sell her discovery.

"Never again need you be embarrassed by smearing friends, children, relatives, husband, sweetheart," the early advertising said, noting that older formulations tended to leave marks on glasses, cigarettes and teeth. Moreover, the new brand did not have to be applied several times a day.

When it was introduced, at $1 a tube, it found instant public acceptance and soon captured 25 per cent of the fast-growing lipstick market, setting the company on a collision course with Revlon in what became known as "the lipstick wars". However, Bishop was locked in a feud with her company's majority shareholder and left the company in 1954 in settlement of a lawsuit. She set up Hazel Bishop Laboratories to produce household and personal care products, but ran into more legal problems with her former partner and lost the right to sell or promote products under her own name.

Bishop then became, by turns, a stockbroker, a financial analyst specialising in cosmetics companies, and finally, in 1980, she took up the Revlon Chair in Cosmetics Marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.

Hazel Bishop was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1906. Her father ran a dozen successful businesses from shops along the town's main street. On one occasion, he brought Santa Claus to town on an elephant to advertise his sweet shop. "The family talk around the dinner table always concerned business," Bishop recalled.

After graduating from Barnard College in Manhattan, New York, Bishop planned to go to medical school, but the stock market crash forced her to take a job with a dermatologist, investigating allergies and cosmetics.

During the Second World War she worked as an organic chemist for what is now Exxon, where she discovered the cause of deposits affecting superchargers of aircraft engines.

She was a demure woman with hazel eyes and a weakness for hats, and never married. During her courting years, she explained, she had felt the obligation to keep her widowed mother company. Yet the woman who invented kissable lipstick and always mixed her own was able to offer sage advice.

"Women should use make-up to accentuate their most attractive feature," she said. "After the age of 25 or thereabouts, personality becomes an increasingly more attractive feature."

Edward Helmore

Hazel Bishop, chemist: born Hoboken, New Jersey 17 August 1906; Revlon Professor of Cosmetics Marketing, Fashion Institute of Technology, New York 1980-87; died Rye, New York 4 December 1998.