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As upset as folks were over recent announcements that two Black health and beauty companies had allegedly “sold out” to more diverse customers, you would think that Fashion Fair cosmetics would be overrun with customers purchasing RBG color palettes to help keep it afloat.

But nope. It is struggling like the rest.

That is according to this article in the Washington Post entitled, “What happened to Fashion Fair?”

In it, journalist Robin Givhan investigates the scarcity of the 42-year-old cosmetic company founded by Johnson Publishing, on beauty and department store shelves.

More specifically, Givhan writes:

“Customers who rely on Fashion Fair for exact skin tone matches and perfectly flattering lipsticks have been unable to locate their favorite products — or any products at all. In stores and online, they’re finding color selections so skimpy and stock so depleted there has been little for sales representatives to even sell. Even counter clerks have been asking: What’s going on?

Fashion Fair’s response has been, for many loyalists, deeply unsatisfying.

“Thank you for your patience as we rebuild our inventories.”

“We acknowledge that stock has been low in previous months; however, the replenishment process [is] underway!”

“Are they going out of business?” asks longtime customer Allana Smith.

“No,” says Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of Johnson Publishing Co., which owns the makeup line.

“We’re not going out of business.”

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But Fashion Fair is in upheaval — and customers have good reason to question its survival.”

According to Givhan, part of that upheaval is the “cultural shifts in the cosmetics market and business challenges specific to a stand-alone brand.” This includes stiff competition from more multinational beauty lines including MAC, Estée Lauder, and L’Oréal as well as Black women ourselves who “no longer want or need a separate counter.”

But as Givhan writes, Desiree Rogers, who is CEO of Fashion Fair, also attributes current circumstances to the company’s own inability to keep up with customer demands, including leaving Fashion Fair cases at department stores un-stocked and barren for upwards of a year.

Currently, the brand is revamping its image and preparing for a relaunch, which includes closing and remodeling some stores, changing its signature packaging from pink to metallic gold and a “fresh” faces advertising campaign. Likewise it has also hired celebrity makeup artist Tia Dantzler as its creative director.

But even with its changes, folks might be slow to embrace the brand again. As Terez Baskin, a part-time beauty business writer who attended a private unveiling of Fashion Fair’s new line of products, told Givhan:

“The colors were great. The pigments were good. But all of that has been done before,” Baskin says. “The leadership team was especially excited about marketing a mascara for the first time. But they didn’t have any samples to test. They didn’t have the full range of foundation colors available either.”

“They were excited about all the newness,” Baskin says. “They gave us a bunch of balloons, but nothing to tie them to.”

Personally, I feel that Baskin nailed one of the major challenges to Fashion Fair’s pending relaunch. Basically its failure to grow with its audience as well as to keep up with the latest trends and technologies.

For years, Fashion Fair rested on the fact that it was one of only a few makeup lines that a woman of color could use to find a foundation that perfectly matched her natural complexion. But that was then. And nowadays, most multinational beauty conglomerates are not only targeting Black customers, but they also carry their own “perfect match” foundation lines, which includes press, liquid, mineral, sunblock, vitamin-enhanced and waterproof. Many of these brands also carry “perfect match” bronzers, primers, blushes and full face palettes too.

In order to compete, Fashion Fair will not only have to catch up, but it will have to find a way to reinvent what it had previously cornered the market on, and what others are currently doing better.

And it will also have to find a way to sell these changes to a younger generation of Black glamour girls who might have felt both ignored and disregarded by the brand over the years.

It will certainly be an uphill battle for the Black-owned cosmetic company. And as Fashion Fair struggles at both rebranding and regaining a niche market, which is slowly being siphoned off by the major brands, you can certainly see why other Black-owned beauty businesses have opted to go the “all faces matter” route.

But in the interest of preserving a piece of Black beauty history, which has tried to serve us well over the years (my grandmother was loyal to the brand), I am hoping that Fashion Fair can reclaim its glory.

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