Is it permanent or just another trend?
Looking at the past few months we uncover the good, the bad and the ugly within the beauty industry and its changes for the future.
There is a push for diversity right now, whether you want to admit it or not, but the beauty industry is starting to change its face, and rightly so. In recent years, with a prominent push over the last few months, brands and retailers have started to recognise that women of colour also have spending power. Black women alone currently hold a buying power of £1 trillion and that’s not even exploring the potential amongst the Asian and Indian communities. With Britain, uniquely London, being one of the most diverse cities in the world, its representation of this diversity lacks balance. Brands and retailers, especially high-street cosmetic brands such as Collection and Maybelline, continuously fall short in terms of marketing and catering to many of the women that would be willing to spend money.
With the diverse market not being tapped in too, women often feel excluded, neglected and pushed out of the commercial industry. Varied shade ranges are not advertised and what is offered is marketed as “all skin tones”, jumping from ‘almond’ to ‘chocolate’ with little in between. Maya Brown, Vice President of marketing for Black Opal believes that brands were too focused on quick fixes rather than truly taking the time to understand the needs and concerns of the market. Retailers often behave in the same manner, take location for example, many high street cosmetic brands would not want to be placed near the “ethnic” aisle but rather up front and centre with the big brands. Even though the perception on beauty is altering, the products specifically catering to women of colour is slim compared to its counter-parts.
However with the push from celebrities, influencers, diversity-focused brands and women as consumers, the face of beauty is finally changing. Setting the pace would have to be L’Oreal, Adrien Koskas, the general manager behind L’Oreal Paris said “the biggest challenge when L’Oreal launched its true match foundation in 23 skin tones earlier this year, was educating the industry about the lack of diversity in make-up.” Putting it down to the right marketing, “the easy bit is putting a diverse crew of models in advertising, the hard part is creating products that cater to a diverse range of consumers.” Further adding that brands have to convince bosses, factories, labs and stores to break the traditional chain and that is the big battle diversity faces within the beauty industry.
Yet the battles that suggest stagnation in sales, products and consumption have been overturned when it comes to the success of brands that have launched just this season and cater to all women of colour. Iconic make-up artist, Pat McGrath, launched Pat McGrath Labs and the biggest sell out move had to be the launch of Fenty Beauty. Rihanna launched the beauty brand because “women of colour have been left out too many times in the makeup world.” Simply put and equally as effective is that less than a week after her launch the darker shades of foundation had sold out in Sephora and a month since the launch, it is estimated that Fenty Beauty made an impressive £72 million dollars. Not only do we have cosmetic brands launching and creating a space for women of colour, but also influencers and models such as Naomi Campbell and Leomie Anderson are giving voice for women to be heard.
Criticizing British Vogue for their lack of diversity amongst their editorial ranks, Campbell is using her position as a supermodel representing and pushing for women of colour to be heard. LAPP the Brand, an online platform for women to share their experiences as a community, was spearheaded by rising model Leomie Anderson. Aside from being the face of Fenty Beauty and walking in the Victoria Secret’s Fashion Show, Leomie is creating an avenue for diversity.
The strides in the industry have certainly not been met without some backlash. Monroe Bergdorf, the first transgender model, was one of the 23 faces for L’Oreal’s true math foundation campaign. However, with her thoughts on race and the current issues surrounding diversity, she was controversially dropped from the campaign. Brand’s attitudes can surely be questioned in the wake of Bergdorf‘s firing. Is it for their spokeswomen to sit and look pretty? The backlash within the industry provoked further debate with brands Dove and Nivea, and their commercial advertisements promoting skin lightening. The Dove Facebook campaign used a series of three images, showing a black woman peeling off her t-shirt to reveal a white woman underneath her skin and then the third take is the white woman taking off her t-shirt to reveal an Asian woman. With accusations towards Dove of racism and whitewashing the campaign was pulled and the brand apologised for its insensitivity. The Nivea advert, which was targeted at women in Africa, was promoting the advantages of skin bleaching. Although illegal in the UK, the advert saw a black woman applying Nivea’s Natural Fairness Cream to her body with a voice over explaining that she hopes the cream will “restore” her skin to its natural fairness. Although Nivea promises the product was to not be perceived in such a way, the response suggests that it was playing into the racist narrative that is apparent in the beauty industry.
So, where does diversity stand for SS18 and beyond? It surely has made great strides in terms of representation and as a current trend; women of colour are becoming more and more prominent. With much hope that the backlash will disappear and that the beauty industry will become the diverse space it surely should be in today’s truly diverse society.