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2022-09-23 22:48:45 By : Ms. Sara Huang

Rommy Hunt Revson, a struggling New York City singer who made a fortune when she created the scrunchie, one of the most ubiquitous hair accessories ever invented, died Sept. 7 in Rochester, Minn. She was 78.

The cause was a ruptured aorta, said Alan Rothfeld, Ms. Revson’s estate lawyer. He said Ms. Revson, who had been in poor health for years, died while receiving testing and treatment at Rochester’s Mayo Clinic for Cushing’s syndrome, a hormonal disorder, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, genetic disorders relating to the body’s connective tissues.

Ms. Revson, who first tried to make a career out of singing in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, created the fabric hair tie in 1986 out of necessity, needing to tie back her fraying hair in a gentle way.

Recently divorced from Revlon cosmetics heir John Revson, she was jobless and suffering from hair breakage caused by a particularly damaging bleach job.

"I was so stressed out 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 emulate the design for her hair. She would cover a rubber band in fabric and use that to hold her hair in place, either in a bun or ponytail, without damaging her hair.

“I don’t know why, but I became somewhat determined to figure out an invention that used fabric instead of plastic for the hair,” Ms. Revson told Arkansas website Talk Business & Politics in 2016. “My friends tried to get me to put that down and go with them to the beach as summer was about to end, but something told me to keep working on this hair accessory.”

With a $50 used 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. Female consumers seemed to admire it for fashion and function. Copycat retailers were soon selling their own versions of the product. (Some accounts point to a man named Philip Meyers as the inventor of the scrunchie in 1963, but it didn’t find its market.)

Thanks to Ms. Revson, the ruffled hair tie has adorned the heads of millions of women, including Hillary Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Madonna and Britney Spears. It had been the topic of discussion in episodes of “Seinfeld,” “Friends” and “Sex and the City” — and even traveled to space, after American astronaut Pamela Melroy wore a navy blue one to the International Space Station in 2000 and 2002.

“The scrunchie was the most successful 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 annually.

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. (High-end retailers, such as Balenciaga, market their versions for $250.)

Ms. Revson predicted the ubiquity of the accessory early on and spent much of her life staking a claim — most often in courts — to the ruffled hair tie.

“I thought I would be a bag lady 10 years from now saying, ‘Hey, I invented those,’ ” Ms. Revson told The Post in 1995.

Rommy Kolb was born in White Plains, N.Y., on Feb. 15, 1944. As a young woman, she was a singer, songwriter and piano teacher, and she also performed in Manhattan nightclubs under the name Rommy Hunt.

Reviewing her 1979 performance at Reno Sweeney, a cabaret club in Greenwich Village, New York Times music critic John S. Wilson complimented the “fine sense of shading,” adding that she “projects strongly and on a variety of levels” as a performer. She once opened for Frank Sinatra, but the performer lifestyle soon wore thin, a family member told the Palm Beach Post, and Ms. Revson moved on from singing.

According to businessman and designer Leathem Stearn, Ms. Revson sought Stearn out at a Manhattan party in 1986 in an attempt to secure his help with turning the scrunchie idea into a profitable business. Stearn said he helped her improve the design of the hair piece.

The bootlegging was rampant because Ms. Revson’s patent was hard 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 look of products, and not their function, which is the work of utility patents.

To combat the bootlegging, his team chose to persuade major retailers to buy scrunchies from them rather than seek damages through litigation. It worked. Soon, most major retailers were buying scrunchies from Hendler’s company, and Ms. Revson was reaping 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 became entangled in litigation and arbitration with Hendler’s company until her patent expired in 2001, after which anyone could legally make a scrunchie.

Her four marriages ended in divorce. Survivors include a son, Nathaniel Hunt of New York City.

In 1997, Ms. Revson moved to Wellington, Fla. She rode horses, cooked and entertained for a large circle of friends — often wearing a scrunchie in her hair or on her wrist, and ensuring her guests left with one, too.

“She always gave them away as table favors when she would have luncheons or dinners,” Kathleen Stallone, a friend of Ms. Revson’s told the Palm Beach Post. “You always knew you were going to get a scrunchie."