Giving the cosmetics industry a much-needed makeover

Reshaping the nature of the Israeli cosmetics industry

Devorah Wolf, 45 From New York to Hashmonaim, 1999 (photo credit: CHANIE KAY PHOTOGRAPHY)
Devorah Wolf, 45 From New York to Hashmonaim, 1999
Like the multicolored magnetic makeup palettes that she provides to her customers, Devorah Wolf is a blend of different parts – expert makeup artist, daughter of a prominent Chabad family, wife, mother, and business entrepreneur and head of Wolf Cosmetics, Israel’s only female-run cosmetics company.
Born in Melbourne, Australia as the third of seven children, Wolf grew up in a Chabad environment and attended Melbourne’s Beth Rivkah school. Her father, Rabbi Laibl Wolf, is a renowned mystic, author and speaker who lectures worldwide on Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism.
After completing high school in Australia, Wolf moved to New York in 1989, where she met and married Abba Horovitz in 1993. She and her husband moved to Israel in 1999 with two children. The couple’s two younger children were born in Israel.
Wolf’s husband opened Israel’s first hedge fund, and today divides his time between Torah study, trading stocks and helping Wolf manage her company.
“But we’re not talking about him,” she cackles.
In an Australian-accented voice bubbling with enthusiasm and excitement, Wolf, petite and vivacious, recounts how she has combined her love for Israel and makeup skills.
“I’m Jewish, and it always felt right being here,” Wolf says. “I always wanted to live in Israel, and it was a dream come true and overpowered any difficulties.”
Wolf was drawn to the art of makeup and helping women with their appearance.
“There was a need for a type of service and product that was not available in Israel – simplicity and customer service.”
She asserts that the makeup industry in Israel is very aggressive.
“You walk into a makeup store and the sales staff is very aggressive, and the style is artificial, made-up and heavy,” Wolf explains. “I saw a real need in Israel for women who are looking for a middle-line of reasonably priced makeup, a natural style [and] a strong emphasis on customer service.”
For Wolf, customer service means not pushing women into buying things that they don’t want to buy, and providing a friendly and fun atmosphere in her store, where she offers patrons chocolate, coffee and sparkling wines.
“This is something that just doesn’t happen in any makeup store anywhere in the world,” she exclaims. “Women have a place to come and feel chill.”
Wolf began her cosmetics career from her home eight years ago, and soon began offering workshops and sessions on the road. With most of her children grown and out of the house, she decided to pursue a full-time business career and opened Wolf Cosmetics at Ben Sira 26 in Jerusalem.
“All of the 30 colors we offer are custom-made here in Israel, and are inspired by Israel,” she says, rattling off color names like Golan Dark Green, Darom Adom (red) , Zayit Zahav (gold), Shekiah (sunset) and Zericha (sunrise). Wolf formulated and created the colors herself after long years of research.
Wolf’s patter is peppered with words like “wow” and “awesome,” and she is clearly enthusiastic about her job, saying, “I think that is one of the greatest jobs out there.” Though Wolf may not outwardly resemble a Chabad emissary, she attributes her friendly and welcoming attitude in great measure to her Chabad upbringing.
“My mission to make each woman feel great is very reminiscent of my parents’ open home, making each guest feel individually appreciated,” she says, “And my father always taking the time to consider each individual’s questions with thought and respect. I believe that my parents’ traits of kindness and reaching out to fellow Jews were given a real voice through the Chabad lifestyle, but not exclusive to it.”
Wolf’s clientele is composed of both Hebrew and English speakers from all over the country who visit her store and her website. With a mischievous look, she says solemnly, “There is a lot of makeup trauma going on in Israel. There are brides, who after seeing their makeup on the day of the wedding, cried and haven’t worn makeup in 20 years.”
Wolf says that when someone with “makeup trauma” enters her store, it becomes fertile ground for interesting and amusing outcomes. She tells of desperate brides who were abandoned by their makeup artist on their wedding day and needed help. Men visit the shop, she says, to buy makeup for themselves, for bronzing, cover-up, or for eyeliner.
“I don’t say no to anyone,” she chuckles. “I love talking to customers. I don’t believe there is an annoying customer. Everyone has their pain point that needs addressing.”
Wolf’s store has a staff of five employees and offers numerous events throughout the year, as well as events that benefit various charitable organizations. Soon, she adds, the store will be starting a subsidized program run by a social worker, who is also a makeup artist.
“The goal is to help abused women regain their pride through positive self-image,” Wolf explains.
The store also provides free makeovers every Friday for lone soldiers and young adults doing National Service. Her four children, who range in age from 17 to 25, are supportive of her work, and her eldest daughter currently works in the store.
“They all do makeup for their friends,” she says. Laughing, she continues, “Even my son tells his girlfriends, ‘My mother makes excellent mascara.’”
Wolf admits that these days, she has little time for anything but her business.
“I’m very hands on in this store and in this business. It’s either this or family,” she says. “There is no room for anything else in my life at the moment.”
While Wolf has absolutely no regrets about making aliyah – “I would do it again in a second” – she laments the paperwork, red tape and bureaucracy required to start a business, especially one such as hers.
“Starting a business in Israel is not easy, and a makeup business in Israel is particularly difficult. One must deal a lot with the Ministry of Health, which has its own standards, that are even more rigorous than those of the FDA or the EU,” she says.
Wolf learned Hebrew basics in school growing up and studied Hebrew in Ulpan. “It was easier to speak Hebrew when we made aliyah,” she says. “When I made aliyah, I spoke Hebrew, because people didn’t speak English. Today, no one wants to speak Hebrew to you anymore. They want to practice their English. And then they hear that I’m Australian – forget about it. They ask me, ‘What are you doing here? Why?’”
After living in Israel for 20 years, Wolf says that the Israel of 2019 is far more developed than it was when she first arrived.
“Products are more readily at hand, from housing to how we furnish our homes. And customer service has improved,” she says. “This is a dream – manufacturing makeup in Israel, changing the makeup industry in Israel, and helping women feel good about themselves every single day. Women walk out of here feeling great.”
Devorah Wolf is living the Zionist dream, and making that dream look more attractive each day.