Back when lipstick tubes resembled Barbie doll props and foundation shades were one color fits all, emerged Fashion Fair — a makeup brand for Black women with a name that exudes luxury. Fashion Fair was launched in 1973 by Eunice Johnson, at the height of the Black Is Beautiful movement, to fill a void in the fashion industry that discriminated against models of color. The Fashion Fair brand is as rich with history as it is with shades for our melanin.
Today, the iconic brand has been “revived” under new co-owners Cheryl Mayberry-McKissack and Desiree Rogers, brand director Khalia Braxton explained. Braxton’s enthusiasm around the resurgence of Fashion Fair is palpable during our 40-minute chat. She is steeped in pride as she explains how the beloved brand continues to evolve.
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Don’t Call It A Comeback
After its parent company, Johnson Publishing filed for bankruptcy in 2019, former executives Rogers and McKissack stepped in to take the reigns with a clear charge to fulfill Eunice’s vision.
In an interview with The Cut, Rogers revealed her mindset going into rebranding a brand with such a robust legacy. “I took a step back, and I said, “What? It’s not 1973,” which is the original year that Fashion Fair was launched, “but it is 2021. What would Mrs. Johnson do? How would she think about this?” She was such a trailblazer, such a trendsetter. What does Fashion Fair look like in 2021?” She added, “It’s about reclaiming that position that we once had in 1973, being that trailblazer, being a little bit different. And so what does that look like for Fashion Fair? All of the products are vegan.”
Back then, Fashion Fair was a response to the lack of beauty brands servicing Black skin. As pioneers in the space, they didn’t “get it all the way correct,” said Braxton. Customers complained about Fashion Fair foundation would oxidize or turn orange after hours of use can be reassured, “It’s the undertone that we got correct.”
One of the major changes under Rogers and McKissack’s leadership was the decision to perfect a handful of products by working with a dermatologist and makeup artist Sam Fine to reformulate their products. From lush lip liners that hug the curve of your pout to glosses with mouth-yummy names like Truly Truffle and Hickory Brown, Fashion Fair is dedicated to quality over quantity.
“We don’t have 40 shades, we have a calm 19 in the stick and 17 in our cream to powder, but they’re the 19 that are missing in the industry,” says Braxton.
Following a hiatus and rebranding, Fashion Fair relaunched in Sephora in 2021 timed with “The Black Beauty Effect” docuseries that explored the “history and celebration of Black beauty and the African-American impact on the Beauty industry,” the HilltopOnline reports.
Two months ago, Fashion Fair launched in Macys, proving the buying power and influence of the brand.
Fashion Fair Skin Matching Technology
In addition to reformulating its products, its website also got a makeover with skin-matching technology that assists customers with accurately color-matching their complexions. The physical packaging of the product is also different. The old pink tube has been traded in for a luxe white and gold design.
“While we are trying to come back and be relevant it’s very important that we are mindful why Eunice even started it and we don’t lose ourselves.” Braxton continued, “And this is very important because they cannot afford to fail again. But we’re not going to, because this go round, we were operating in our lane.”
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