Tag Archives: retail

Dear Fashion Fair…, An Open Letter

Dear Fashion Fair,

When are you gonna step up to the plate and be the black version of Estée Lauder, LVMH, or better yet the beauty industry’s answer to “Wakanda”?

It is the last day of Black History Month, and while I have spent months thinking long and hard about the importance of having more than just representation and inclusivity for blacks in the world of beauty, I can not help but think about you!

Fashion Fair, your company started in the Windy City (my hometown), and in 1958 you hit the ground running! You created a traveling fashion show which showcased black beauty all over the world ( even my cousin had an opportunity to slay the Fashion Fair runways)and from your super successful fashion shows you created a cosmetics brand.

Your products were distributed in Macys, Dillard’s, Belk, and several other high end department stores which was no small feat! That accomplishment was major because your brand was the first and only brand created for and by people of African descent that was showcased and distributed by major mass department stores. Your cosmetic counters showcased beauty campaigns with beautiful black models and hired black women and men as makeup artists making women of color feel welcome in an otherwise cold industry where people of color are often ignored. You always had an amazing shade range in complexion products which still in 2018 is a major problem in the beauty industry at large.

In the last five years I have witnessed the sad decline of your brand including watching your loyal customers be forced to shop with other brands because they grew frustrated and tired of not being able to purchase their Fashion Fair products on numerous occasions due to stock issues. I have also watched your counters be removed from many Macys stores, which to my surprise has left me with a personal feeling of defeat. Recently, I grew angry and frustrated when I learned about Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty partnership with LVMH because I could not help but think of what that partnership could have looked like if it was with you, and what it could have done for your brand.

The movie Black Panther and the fictional African nation, “Wakanda“, helped me and many people of African descent across the globe understand that ownership over representation and inclusion is of great importance, and it also gave us a visualization of what that ownership could look like.

I know given your amazing history, and great products, that Fashion Fair cosmetics has the potential to be our “Wakandan” version of a large beauty conglomerate, and I am writing this open letter to let you know that you have many beauty soldiers willing and ready to help your brand do what is necessary to realize your fullest potential!

On this last day of Black History Month, I truly hope you read this letter and absorb all the love and concern that I tried my best to articulate.

Sincerely,

@makeupinblackandwhite

Planet of the Apps/A Retailers Worst Nightmare 

With on demand beauty apps popping up in the already super saturated beauty industry, retailers will have yet another force to reckon with. “What we think is never going to stop is the acceleration of the adoption of technology” says Shiseido’s global chief digital officer Alessio Rossi, and I could not agree more! 

The truth is that if brick and mortar businesses want to have a standing chance against this “acceleration of the adoption of technology”, the in store experiences are gonna have to be innovative in the way technology can be used to enhance the customers in store experience as well. Besides that, companies are gonna have to dust off their customer service training manuals and retrain all employees working on the sales floors. 

Customer service seems to be a fleeing thought in the minds of big beauty brands, and even now when we are moments away from being able to live like The Jetsons, customer service was, is, and will always be the most important factor helping consumers determine where and how they will spend their money. Now let’s examine some of the things retailers can do to provide impactful customer experiences to compete with these on demand beauty apps!

First things first! Many employees that are now hired by makeup brands with beauty counters and stores do not hire people with previous makeup artistry experience. I repeat they do not have any prior experience! Now I know you are probably thinking wtf??!! While everyone these days claims they are an artist, it is difficult to find enough talented ones who are willing to work crazy hours including holidays, nights, and weekends for little pay and subpar health benefits or none at all. Those factors force brands to hire non artists who sometimes have little to no retail experience to work at brands like MAC, Bobbi Brown, Lancôme, etc…

There are obvious implications here, but let’s just deal with the most obvious one. How can a beauty counter compete with on demand beauty apps if their “artists” are not artists? Simple answer, they can’t. 

Beauty brands across the board need to really focus on artistry programs that define their specific aesthetic (nothing grinds my gears more than when I walk past a Bobbi Brown counter and the staff looks like they are competing in RuPauls Drag Race!), and train them on how to replicate that aesthetic on clients of all I repeat all ethnic backgrounds, ages, and skin types. 

Along with basic makeup application skills and techniques, customer service has got to be stepped up. I have witnessed more cellphone calls, Snapchat videos, and selfie taking while ignoring customers, and it has got to stop. I have also seen clients come in wanting their makeup done and witnessed the staff refuse them because they didn’t feel like doing it! Nobody is perfect, but in today’s society where getting anything is an app away, there is little to no room for error. 

The next thing that companies can do to strengthen their employees ability to gain loyal customers is introduce technology in effective ways. Sephora is a reigning champion when it comes to this because they have created a device that you hold to a clients skin to determine a foundation match in every brand they carry. 

Lancôme just introduced a new machine that customizes and mixes a clients foundation right at the counter for $80. 

Those simple things provide a new innovative experience on counter. What can brands do that do not have gizmos and gadgets? Allow their employees to use cell phones to do the work! After matching a client for a foundation they can use either their phone or the clients to take a photo to check and make sure there is no flashback, weird undertone, or ashy cast on the skin. The cell phone could also be used to pick looks that clients choose from for makeup applications. Oh and let’s not forget the social media beauty gurus! Our lovely millenials live and breathe social media and in some cases will not make a purchase or let anyone touch their face unless the product or technique has been endorsed by a social media personality. 

Since that is the case, clients should be trained on the latest trends and products used by the top 20 influencers so they can be prepared for the questions regarding them. Cell phones should also be used to communicate all of these things because they can provide visuals for these trends and products leaving no room for error.

I will continue to provide suggestions for what beauty brands can do to compete with beauty apps in part three of this post. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

The National/International Makeup Artist, Does anyone still care about them?

In todays “What I Think Wednesday“, I want to delve into an idea that has puzzled me for quite some time.  I have had the opportunity to work for several major department store brands, and have observed “national/international” artists that work for those brands and wondered whether those roles are still relevant in this day and age.  Let me explain a little more.

In 2006, I joined MAC cosmetics as a full time artist.  I was excited mainly because I was leaving a retail job where I had a management position, way too much responsibility, and and a tiny salary!  I applied to MAC because the people always looked like they were having fun, and they got to apply and sell makeup, and that was it!  Now of course when I started, I learned that there was a lot more to it than just “having fun, and selling makeup”.  I also learned that just like any other company there was a hierarchy, and that I was at the bottom.

About six months in, I learned about the “pro artist” position which sounded like it could be up my alley and secretly aspired to have that position.  I happened to work with one of the most talented teams I think the company has ever seen, one went to school to learn special effects makeup and has done Project Runway and several covers for major magazines including Vogue, Marie Claire, and Bazaar, one was responsible for providing makeup and male grooming services for Puff Daddy and the family’s Bad Boy Reunion tour which just ended, another has done makeup for some feature films and several reality stars from Love and Hip Hop New York, another has done several reality stars from Love and Hip Hop Atlanta and designed a clothing collection featured on a recent televised BET fashion show curated by the super famous and talented stylist to the stars, June Ambrose. My makeup partner in crime just did half the cast of Beyonce’s Lemonade video for the VMA’s, and makeup for tons of other super talented CEO’s and celebrities for the Soul Train Music Awards, Black Girls Rock, BET Hip Hop Awards, and this years Democratic National Convention or the DNC as most folks refer to it.(i worked it too!)  So needless to say, I learned from some of the best damn people in the industry, but none of them were”national artists” by MAC’s standards, and neither was I.

 

So about eight months after working for MAC, a friend of mine who also happened to leave the company and do amazing things in make up, asked me to look at the roster of national artists and tell her what I noticed.  As soon as I researched what she had asked, I noticed that there were only about two to three black national artists.  I also learned that the company used agency artists to do many of their major campaigns.  From those two pieces of information and my observations that sales reigned supreme and that artistry came second, I felt 100% discouraged from trying to really go after becoming a pro artist for MAC cosmetics.  After about a year of working for the company, gaining about 20 pounds, drinking like a fish to keep the stress of making sales goals at bay, and having nightmares about what would happen to me if I did not make my goals, I quit!

After that, I went on to freelance for several other companies observing that most of the “national/international/pro artists” seemed to have their positions for decades.  Many of them were/are men, and they seemed to keep these positions with their respective companies until they decided to retire.  I also learned that outside of very specific events in certain locations where companies provided their bio’s to help garner clients to make appointments to have these premier artists do these women’s makeup, they were invisible!  Most of them are middle aged men, which means they did not come up in the age where social media is a necessity.  They have little to no social media following, and literally travel from state to state making appearances at events to enhance some customers makeup.(because of the number of attendees, it is impossible for them to do full faces on every woman that sits in a chair)

Now I have worked some of these events and watched the “national artists” do the exact same look on every woman they touch no matter what age or race the women were!  I also have had several women tell me that they would prefer me to complete their look from start to finish because they didn’t know or trust the guest artist for that day!  Besides those issues, there is still one glaring concern.  With hundreds of thousands of sales people aspiring to be artists with these brands, if the majority of the “national/international/pro artists” are middle aged men who take up these coveted positions and never seem to leave to go on to do other things in their careers, how can these hundreds and sometimes thousands of aspiring artists have a chance at these positions?

With each of these companies there are tons of regular sales and management positions, and few positions open for pro or national artists.  On the flip side, with the right videos on youtube, enough subscribers, and Instagram followers, many people, and especially women have broken through the glass ceiling that traditional cosmetic companies have created with the “pro artist” positions and have become popular, sought after, and paid!  Makeup Shayla, Am Reezy, and Mac Daddy, are all former artists from MAC cosmetics who have risen to the top! According to thefashionspot.com, they each make at least,get ready for this, $14,000 a month!!(why did i bother going to grad school?)  Tons of brands have sought after them to use and feature their products on their social media platforms(which they get paid for, but I ain’t mad), have taken them on expensive trips to exotic places, etc… I have only named three, but there are hundreds if not thousands of these “make up marketers” that companies have made the focus of their attention!  Now lets revisit the traditional “national/international/pro artist”.

With social media “make up marketers” killing the game and taking home hundreds of thousands and some times millions of dollars, traveling the world on cosmetic brands dime, getting more free makeup than they could ever use on themselves, their clients, or give away, and tons of other perks, why on earth would any one aspire to be a “national/international/pro” artist for a cosmetic company with a salary that caps off at about six figures if you are lucky?  The answer is pretty simple, while the famous Youtube “makeup marketer”role seems like an easier route, it isn’t.  The amount of work that goes into shooting video’s, editing video’s, having the right equipment, products, back drop, outfits, etc… is hard as f##k.  Not only that, being consistent with posting to various social media platforms is also extremely difficult, especially when you factor in your life! ( I have a hard time posting once a week!) Learning the best times to post, types of posts, number of posts, and hashtags can also be overwhelming. The bottom line is that  when you decide to become a youtube personality, you decide to be a filmmaker/entrepreneur, and everybody is not cut out to for work for themselves. That sobering revelation brings all sorts of relevancy to the more structured “national/international/pro artist” position with a cosmetic company.  In order for these positions to stay relevant with their audiences i.e customers, companies have got to restructure these positions.

The first thing that companies should do is make these positions a certain amount of years with six being the cap, two to learn the job, two to execute the job, and two to transition out of the role.  If companies do this, it would allow more artists to compete for these coveted positions.  That competition would mean better artistry and better sales from more employees equaling more revenue in general.

The second thing that companies need to do is make the the people who have these positions more visible via social media.  I think it is downright embarrassing that I have more followers than some of my trainers!  These are people that are supposed to be respected and admired, but if they have little to no presence via social media, their credibility goes down the drain.(this ain’t right, but it is the truth in this age where social media reigns supreme!)  Companies should offer training sessions for their national, international, pro artists, and trainers to equip them on how to create larger social media presences for themselves so that their knowledge is respected just as much as a mega Youtubers like MakeupShayla or Am Reezy.

The last thing that major cosmetic companies should do is create new positions for their special artists when they complete their term of being a “national, international, or pro artist”.  Their expertise could be used for product development, packaging, customer service, artist development, training, and tons of other things.

My fear is that these positions which were once worshipped and coveted will become ignored and forgotten.  Before any of that happens, I would love to see companies acknowledge the times and make these positions relevant again!

 

 

What I Think Wednesday:Gifts With Purchase, Do Black Lives Matter?

Given everything that has happened in the last week, well past 300 years, my heart is pretty heavy.  The only way to be triumphant in anything is to keep pressing.  Since my blog is called “Make up in Black and White” and addresses gender, class, and race as those topics apply to the vast world of beauty, I thought it would only be right if I discussed race this week.  I  am going to be very specific, and discuss one uber frustrating thing.  Gift with purchases that major companies give out for earning points, birthdays, holidays or for spending a certain dollar amount never include products that women of color can use when it comes to color!

Every year when Christmas season pops up, I am always working in a retailer that provides amazing goody bags chock full of skincare, haircare, and makeup.  When ever I service a client that has a deeper skin tone who has earned one of those goody bags, they always ask if the bag is even worth them spending the extra money to earn.  Depending on what brand/retailer I am working for, the bag is 25-75% useful, and obviously if they can use only a small fraction of the products, they choose to pass on the gift or GWP as we call them in the retail world.

Out of sheer curiosity, I would love to know how much it costs a company to make lets say a tinted moisturizer sample?  I happen to freelance for a company that makes the best tinted moisturizer but when ever there are samples made it is always in the third to lightest shade that the company offers.  Realizing that the shade is the most popular, I can’t help but to wonder what would happen if that same company made a test run of a deeper shade, put it in magazines geared towards women of color i.e. Ebony and Essence to see what kind of return on the initial investment of making the samples in the first place.  I tell people all the time that just because you build it doesn’t mean “they” will come.  So for all of the cosmetic companies that offer make up for deeper skin tones, samples must be made in a broader range of shades, and marketed specifically to the demographics that speak to those women who have deeper skin.

To put it plainly, all lives matter so companies should do whatever they can to accommodate all people who do and could potentially become loyal supporters of their brands.  This for many of these companies would appeal to demographics that have tremendous spending power and have the ability to positively impact their bottom lines.

Bottom line?  Make the samples in a broader range of shades and market the hell out of them, its time!

What I Think Wednesday: Trish McEvoy and her Credit Card Palettes

I have spent a ton of time talking to my peers in the makeup world about cosmetic companies and what I think they can do better in terms of training, product development, hiring, social media, etc… Finally I realized that talking to my peers is pointless.  I also realize that talking to company executives can also be pointless especially if you meet them in a store or counter setting.

I have observed that most executives dismiss ideas that company members who work behind counters have which is a huge mistake!  Social media has much more weight, so I will be speaking directly to companies every Wednesday in the hopes that at some point my voice is heard! Now on to Trish!!

At this point, we all know that palettes reign supreme.  Eyeshadow palettes, blush palettes, lip palettes, foundation palettes, etc… Consumers would rather spend money on palettes because they give you variety and provide you with more “bang” for your buck.  Trish McEvoy, known for her planners sometimes will put these little credit card eyeshadow palettes in her limited edition planners, and I have started to collect them, because they are tiny ( I love tiny things), super pigmented, have an array of eyeshadows and powder eyeliners, and blend like a dream!

The problem is that these credit cards only come out every once in a while in a limited planner making it impossible to purchase them individually at the consumers convenience.  As a makeup artist I really feel like I need every credit card that Trish has ever created, and no that I will be impossible for me to obtain them all.  I have a few suggestions.

  • Relaunch the credit cards in their own special planner as a limited edition sort of thing to see how well consumers respond to the idea of being able to have all of the credit card palettes.
  • Offer the credit card palettes online to give consumers an opportunity to purchase them individually
  • Market the “credit card planner” using some cool wording maybe drawing associations from the Urban Decay “naked palette” the slogan “Plan to be Naked” would be risky but could work.
  • Market to a wider demographic including but not limited to millenials making a point to appeal to beauty bloggers, and youtube and instagram makeup artists!IMG_2662

These things are definitely kit worthy, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if Trish were to make these credit card eyeshadow palettes a focus, they would sell!

The Oscar Effect: Should I boycott certain makeup brands?

The Oscar Effect

A few weeks ago the nominations for the Academy Awards were announced and to many people’s surprise, there were hardly any people of color nominated! Oh what a surprise!!(sense my sarcasm?) Jada Pinkett Smith went on a social media rant proposing that people of color and especially black people boycott the show.  All this talk about boycotting had me thinking about my field and whether or not I should boycott the cosmetic brands that refuse to sell foundations for a broader range of skin tones, and what that would look like.  Most of the brands that I sell currently have many shades that would match any persons skin no matter what color, but there are brands that I have sold and sometimes still do that have nothing for darker skin tones.  I have had countless conversations with fellow retail make up artists, account executives, regional and national trainers, friends, and several other people about why certain brands offer no products for deeper skin tones, and the only answer that makes the most sense is that they just don’t want to!!

After reflecting even more about the brands that refuse to make foundation shades for deeper skin tones, the Flint water crisis, Donald Trump’s ideas on immigration, racial profiling and police brutality, and all of the other nasty things happening to brown and black people all over the world, my conclusion made sense.  I still wasn’t satisfied with my answer so I decided to start researching  brands one by one to find answers. I started with one that is extremely prestigious and offers a lot more than cosmetics.  This brand offers cosmetics, fragrance, clothes, shoes, and hand bags.  This brand is French and causes some women to skip out on paying rent to buy their hand bags. I have had several women tell me that they love using the cosmetics from this brand because pulling out the compacts make them feel luxurious!  Young teenaged girls also love this brand and the luxury and status that it promotes spending their parents hard earned cash on lipsticks just so they can pull them out of their backpacks and feel special.

The interesting thing about all of this is that luxury and status are important to many people no matter what color or how old they are.  In the era of Social Media striving for status seems to trump common sense so even if these brands that are so in demand care nothing about people of color, people of color still support them in droves! Some how if there was a “mass awakening” that caused folks of color to stop buying cosmetics from these companies that don’t really care about catering to them would it make a difference in these companies bottom line?  In the sixties when black folks boycotted the buses, those boycotts definitely hurt the transportation systems financially.

Would it help to create more brands specifically for people of color? I can’t help but think how black communities thrived during segregation.  Black Wall Street is a great example, so great that once they created their own educational and financial institutions among other things, the US government became threatened and wiped the whole community out!(just google the full story, I know your curiosity is itching to understand what I mean when I say “wiped the whole community out”)What would the effects be via social media? Would a successful boycott push brands to be more inclusive or not? Our current public school systems especially in poor and urban communities does not make the whole inclusive argument sound promising. Guess those are probably really similar questions that we can ask about the film industry right?

Fifty Shades of Black and White

Sooooo I have learned/been reminded of a very great lesson in the past few months.  I am going to elaborate on the lesson that I learned right now!! Like to hear it? Well here it goes!

A month ago, I was freelancing at a luxury beauty boutique in the nations capital and one of Obama’s right hand people came in with a friend.  She came in, and immediately I recognized her.  I was super excited, and imagined how our exchange would unfold.  I imagined that I would greet her, answer all of her questions, take her on a tour of the store, give her some samples of great products, crack a few jokes related to the awesome world of beauty, and then give her my business card knowing that she had a great experience and would definitely reach out to me later for my services.  I figured since she was a woman of color and African American to be exact that I was the best person to approach her and “look out”.

I was wrong, way wrong. I spoke to her, and a few other vendors spoke, and her response to us all with out opening her mouth was that we were mere peasants who were not deserving of her time.  I knew that it was not the typical “Im a political celebrity and just want to be left alone”response that I recognize and can identify before I even greet a person.  Instead, it was that ugly you can only talk to me if you pass the  “brown paper bag talented tenth college educated only upper middle class/upper class” look and attitude that she gave me which hurt my heart.  I have certainly experienced that attitude from countless black women, but she caught me off guard. I was extremely disappointed. She had stereotyped me the same way that most of my clients stereotype me, but I expect it from them.

Two weeks pass by and I have two more encounters with two different women that were the total and complete opposite of the one with”Obama’s helper”.  I was in the same store, different location, and a young lady who looked like she was in her mid to late twenties asked me for advice choosing a concealer.  She wanted a concealer that was easy to travel with so I decided to show her one from a line that just happens to not offer any darker shades for women of color.  I brought her over to the line, picked up the concealer, and before I could demonstrate how the product worked, she noticed that there were no colors for deeper skin tones.  I laughed and said that while I could not wear anything from the line, I liked it for lighter skin tones.  She said “that’s fucked up”, and followed that up with “show me something else, if there is nothing here for you, then there is nothing here for me”,  I went to another line, and sold her another concealer from another brand. We continued to chat and that was that.

The next woman I helped came into the same store but on a different night.  She was looking for a new foundation, I matched her, and somehow we started talking about cosmetic brands that made foundation shades for darker skin tones vs ones that did not.  She said that she didn’t understand how companies could choose not to create foundation colors for deeper skin tones, and was visibly passionate about this issue. When I asked her where her passion came from, she told me that she was a civil rights attorney.  I was surprised, we continued our conversation, she bought the foundation, thanked me for matching her, providing an interesting conversation, and exited the store.

The last two women showed compassion and empathy for the struggles that black women deal with on a daily basis when trying to find makeup in the prestige beauty market. They each expressed their disappointment and frustration with brands that only catered to a certain demographic racially, and they did not have to. They allowed me to do my job with out stereotyping and judging me based on the many stereo types that they could have chosen. They were the total opposite of the first woman and they were white! They reminded me not to judge a book by its cover by their actions, and for that I thank them!