Rommy Hunt Revson, who popularized the scrunchie, dies at 78
Ms Revson, who first tried a singing career in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, created the fabric hair tie in 1986 out of necessity, needing to gently tie her fraying hair.
Recently divorced from Revlon cosmetics heir John Revson, she was unemployed and suffered from hair breakage from a particularly damaging bleach job.
“I was so stressed that my hair was thinning,” Ms Revson told The Washington Post in 1995.
Inspired by the fabric and elastic waistband of her pajama pants, she decided to mimic the design of her hair. She would cover a fabric elastic and use it to hold her hair in place, either in a bun or a ponytail, without damaging her hair.
“I don’t know why, but I became somewhat determined to find an invention that used fabric instead of plastic for hair,” Revson told the Arkansas Talk Business & Politics website in 2016. My friends tried to get me to put it down and go to the beach with them as summer was about to end, but something told me to keep working on this hair accessory.
With a used $50 sewing machine, she made the first prototype — an “ugly” black and gold scrunchie with navy blue thread, she said.
In 1987 Ms Revson patented her design, and after a marketing campaign that saw fashion retailers such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s place large orders for the product, the hair accessory caught on. Consumers seemed to admire it for fashion and function. Copycat retailers were soon selling their own versions of the product. (Some accounts say a man named Philip Meyers invented the scrunchie in 1963, but it didn’t find a market.)
Thanks to Ms. Revson, the ruffled elastic has adorned the heads of millions of women, including Hillary Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Madonna and Britney Spears. This had been discussed in episodes of “Seinfield” “Friends” and “Sex and the City” – and even traveled to space, after American astronaut Pamela Melroy wore a a navy blue to the International Space Station in 2000 and 2002.
“The scrunchie was the most popular hair accessory in the world,” said Lewis Hendler, whose company, L&N Sales and Marketing, was the exclusive licensee of the product from 1989 to 2001, when Ms Revson’s patent expired. During that time, Mr. Hendler’s company paid Ms. Revson about $1 million in royalties a year.
The scrunchie, which originally sold for $1 as a single hair accessory, now sells in multipacks and in every color, pattern and fabric imaginable – velvet, leather, silk, lace, fur, encrusted with pearls. (Upscale retailers, such as Balenciaga, market their versions for $250.)
Ms Revson predicted the accessory’s ubiquity early on, and has spent much of her life arguing – most often in court – for the ruffled hair tie.
“I thought I’d be a bag lady in 10 years saying, ‘Hey, I made those up,'” Ms Revson told The Post in 1995.
Rommy Kolb was born in White Plains, NY on February 15, 1944. As a young woman, she was a singer, songwriter, and piano teacher, and she also performed in Manhattan nightclubs as Rommy Hunter.
Reviewing her 1979 performance at Reno Sweeney, a Greenwich Village cabaret, New York Times music critic John S. Wilson complimented the “fine sense of shading,” adding that she “projects strongly and at different levels” as a performer. She once opened for Frank Sinatra, but the performer lifestyle soon faded, a family member told the Palm Beach Post, and Ms. Revson stopped singing.
According to businessman and designer Leathem Stearn, Ms. Revson sought out Stearn at a party in Manhattan in 1986 to enlist his help in turning the darling idea into a profitable business. Stearn said he helped her improve the design of the hair piece.
Smuggling was rampant because Ms. Revson’s patent was difficult to enforce, said Hendler of L&N Sales and Marketing. First, because it was poorly illustrated, he said, and second, because design patents only protect the appearance of products, not their function, which is the work of utility patents. .
To fight smuggling, his team opted to persuade major retailers to buy scrunchies from them rather than seek legal damages. It worked. Soon most major retailers were buying Hendler company darlings and Ms. Revson was raking in millions of dollars in royalties.
But Hendler said Ms Revson became dissatisfied with that strategy and was persuaded by other advisers to seek damages from retailers – so she took her own licensee to court. She found herself embroiled in litigation and arbitration with Hendler’s company until her patent expired in 2001, after which anyone could legally make a scrunchie.
His four marriages ended in divorce. Survivors include a son, Nathaniel Hunt of New York.
In 1997, Ms. Revson moved to Wellington, Florida. She rode, cooked and entertained for a large circle of friends – often wearing a scrunchie in her hair or on her wrist, and making sure her guests left with one too.
“She always gave them as table favors when she had lunch or dinner,” Kathleen Stallone, a friend of Ms. Revson, told the Palm Beach Post. “You always knew you were going to have a darling.”