Relaunch of the legacy makeup brand Fashion Fair

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CHICAGO – The Chicago-based cosmetics brand Fashion Fair will be back on store shelves soon – with a bit of a makeover.

When Fashion Fair was launched in 1973, it was one of the only makeup brands to create cosmetics designed for women of color. But the brand struggled in the years leading up to the bankruptcy of its parent company, Ebony and Jet magazine publisher Johnson Publishing, in 2019.

Today, two former Johnson Publishing executives are relaunching the brand, launching new products with a focus on natural and vegan ingredients and swapping department store counters for Sephora shelves to attract a new generation of consumers to a growing market. highly competitive beauty.

One thing they plan to keep: a sense of the brand’s history.

Fashion Fair “was at the forefront of ensuring that beauty was truly something that every woman had the opportunity to experience, especially black women and women of color… We want to keep that entrepreneurial spirit. , that historic spirit, ”said Cheryl Mayberry McKissack, one of the brand’s owners.

Mayberry McKissack and Desiree Rogers, former heads of Johnson Publishing, bought Fashion Fair from the bankruptcy of Johnson Publishing for $ 1.85 million in late 2019 with help from Alec Litowitz, founder and CEO of the Evanston-based hedge fund, in Illinois, Magnetar Capital. The company, which has around ten employees and a network of 60 consultants, is based at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago alongside Black Opal, a consumer cosmetics brand also owned by the Fashion Fair team.

Now they are preparing to launch their first new products, which will be sold on the Fashion Fair website and at Sephora, available online from September 1 and in stores later this month.

Some of the first six products will be familiar to loyal Fashion Fair buyers, including a cream to powder foundation and lipstick in which 10 of the 14 shades are from past collections. But all of the products come in a wider range of shades and have been reformulated to use vegan and natural ingredients.

“It’s part of this merging of past and present,” Rogers said.

Fashion Fair will have more competition from other brands that cater to diverse consumers, like Rihanna’s premium brand Fenty Beauty, which launched with 40 shades of foundation in 2017, to make them their choices.

“It became this new environment where if you didn’t come into the market with various nuances, you would shoot yourself in the foot,” said Sarah Jindal, senior beauty analyst at market research firm Mintel. .

Beauty retailers have also pledged to add more black-owned beauty brands following the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests last summer.

Sephora, Ulta and BlueMercury have signed the 15 Percent Pledge, a campaign that aims to get companies to commit to filling at least 15% of their storage space with black-owned brands.

Chicago-based Ulta also pledged $ 25 million in advertising promoting diversity and brought in actor Tracee Ellis Ross, founder and CEO of Pattern Beauty, a hair care brand that Ulta offers. , as a diversity and inclusion advisor.

Target, meanwhile, said last year that it offers 50 black-owned beauty brands and plans to increase that number as part of a pledge to spend more than $ 2 billion with owned companies. to blacks by the end of 2025.

Fashion Fair’s history as a black-owned brand should help it stand out, industry analysts said.

“You have to be genuine with this client,” said Desiree Reid, multicultural marketing expert and founder and president of consulting firm Desiree Reid & Co.

Fashion Fair worked with a dermatologist to develop products with ingredients designed to address issues that can affect people with darker skin, like hyperpigmentation and larger pores, Rogers said.

Brands that started with lighter shades before expanding their shade lineup don’t always offer the full line of products for consumers with darker skin, said Sam Fine, Fashion Fair’s global makeup ambassador.

“If she can’t have a full face, you offer a crust of bread instead of a full meal,” he said.

Fashion Fair’s shade count – 16, for stick foundation – isn’t as extensive as some brands, but that’s because it focuses on shades for women of color, Fine said. .

“I felt Fashion Fair could do it beautifully in 16 shades and later when we look at other products, let’s look at where we need to expand,” he said.

While Rogers and Mayberry McKissack have said they’ve heard from loyal Fashion Fair fans keen to see their products again on store shelves, the brand will also need to figure out how to connect with a new generation of shoppers who missed their prime.

Fashion Fair’s shift to vegan and natural ingredients should appeal to younger consumers, as should its status as a black woman-owned brand, said Rogers and Mayberry McKissack. The couple want to see more women of color in the cosmetics industry and plan to launch a scholarship at Spelman College in Atlanta that will include an internship with Fashion Fair and some of its partner companies.

“There aren’t enough women of color on the business side of cosmetics, especially given the money minorities spend on cosmetics,” Rogers said.

They also plan to shift sales to channels that are more popular with consumers.

While Fashion Fair’s presence in department store makeup counters made it “a game changer” when it launched, today specialty beauty chains are more popular destinations, Jindal said.

Fashion Fair plans to add virtual testing tools to its website, a technology already available from Black Opal. Rogers and Mayberry McKissack plan to add a one-on-one virtual beauty consultation feature, along with a new series of products launching next year, including lip glosses and skin care products.

Many traditional brands have found ways to stay relevant, Reid said.

“The name, some will say, is old, but Estée Lauder is old and Clinique is old… There is no reason why this brand (Fashion Fair) cannot do the same thing and redefine itself”, he said. she declared.

Cheryl Mayberry McKissack, left, and Desiree Rogers, are the new heads of Fashion Fair Cosmetics, a former makeup brand for women of color.

Entering a growing field of businesses catering to women of color


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Shawn Beecher

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