Fashion Fair Cosmetics


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AS recently as 20 years ago, Black women had few options when it came to cosmetics. For many, it was impossible to find makeup in tones flattering to the rich hues of their complexions. But that creative void was filled in 1973 when Fashion Fair Cosmetics introduced its first line of makeup. Today the premiere cosmetics company offers more than 350 beautv items to women of color in the United States and around the world.

In the early '70s, Eunice W. Johnson, producer and director of the Ebony Fashion Fair show, became concerned that the models in the traveling show could not find makeup in tones complementary to their complexions. With creativity and ingenuity, the models would go to great lengths to mix various products to come up with suitable, though not entirely satisfactory, shades of foundation, lipstick, eye shadow and blush. She discussed the problem with her husband, Publisher John H. Johnson, who decided to launch his own cosmetics line that would provide products flattering to the varying skin tones of Blacks and other women of color.

Clearly there was a need, for while Whites have only 10 variations of skin tones, Blacks have as many as 36 complexion hues. And as with magazines and most other products, White companies continued to ignore the needs of Black consumers, assuming they would make do with products that clearly were not created with them in mind.

Publisher Johnson, who at that point had been marketing to Black consumers for 30 years, consulted with cosmetics experts who began research to fonnulate a high-quality product geared to the needs of Black women. Makeup kits with sample-sized products, as well as full-sized products, were offered via mail-order in EBONY and Jet magazines. In six months, 100,000 Capsule Collection Kits were sold, and Fashion Fair Cosmetics was off to an audacious start.

In 1973, Publisher Johnson himself successfully sold the concept to Marsh'all Field & Co., and the premiere department store chain became the first major retailer to carry. Fashion Fair in its cosmetics departments. By the end of 1974, J. Lance Clarke, now Fashion Fair's senior vice president and general manager, had placed the new product in 9125 stores. In 1975, an additional 350 stores were added.

Today, Fashion Fair Cosmetics is available in 2,000 stores throughout the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and parts of Africa. It features 350 items, including those in the skin treatment, foundation, hair-care and fragrance collections, as well as the most current eye colors, blushes, lip colors and nail polishes. A fragrance-free line was introduced in 1984 for women with sensitive skin.

In 1983, Fashion Fair was introduced to overwhelming reception in Great Britain, where there are an estimated 1.5-million Black people of African, Carubbean or American heritage. There are about equal number of Asians and East Indians. The following year, it was introduced in department stores in France. Fashion Fair also is sold on about 240 U.S. militarybases around the world, including those in Japan Greece, ItaIy.

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