In the last couple of years, we have seen the beauty industry adjust and change in real time. The innovations have been striking, especially as companies notably take up inclusivity as a tenant of branding and product development and even more radically — in corporate employment and leadership. This movement has been championed and pioneered by new companies like Fenty Beauty and their ability to boast 50 shades in their complexion products, and in the past six months, inclusivity has moved away from product, and companies are now looking at the makeup of their leadership thanks to initiatives like the Beverly Johnson Rule, a pledge that companies can take saying they will meaningfully interview at least two black professionals for every open position of influence within their company. Retrouvé is proud to be the first company to publicly sign and endorse this pledge.
Other initiatives like Pull up for Change, a grassroots anti-racism movement started by Uoma beauty founder Sharon Chuter encourages brands to release their corporate staff demographics and to actively work toward having at least 10% Black corporate employment as soon as possible. Inclusivity has become a marker of competency for all companies looking to enter and have longevity within the beauty space in 2020 and beyond. At Retrouvé, we take this work very seriously, and it is part of who we are as a company, brand and as a people.
Talking to our guest this week, make-up artist Sam Fine, on “Every Skin Has a Story”—a justice based IG Live conversation series presented by Retrouvé— we knew we wanted to revisit the topic of inclusivity head on.
Inclusivity includes the practices and policies that provide equal access to otherwise exclusive opportunities. When we think about inclusivity, we are often considering questions of race and sometimes gender, and in particular, how the awareness of difference becomes incorporated in a company’s understanding of itself. While this awareness should certainly express through marketing and products, Sam argues that when brands think about diversity and inclusion, it has to be a truly 360 degree approach.
With over 25 years of experience in the industry, Sam Fine certainly knows what he’s talking about. His detailed hand and razor sharp point of view have refined our understanding of Black women’s beauty, and women of color’s beauty more broadly. He has created looks for supermodels like Tyra Banks and Iman, musicians and actors like Jennifer Hudson and Kerry Washington; and politics’ leading ladies like Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris. He was also one of the masterminds behind Covergirl’s Queen Collection which meaningfully introduced a generation of Black women to mainstream products and inclusive messaging long before it was a thing. Sam’s work across makeup and beauty continues to be the point of reference for many of us as we define where we’d like to see the industry go into the next 20 years and beyond.
In our conversation Sam stressed the importance of thinking about the 360 experience for diverse customers. He notes it’s not enough to add additional shades to a line, a company and brand has to make inclusivity part of their DNA. This means evaluating every single aspect of the business from who’s staffing the retail counter to who’s making decisions in the boardroom. He noted one of the most innovative things about Covergirl’s Queen Collection was that it had a personality and brand all its own, it spoke to Black women in language and imagery that spoke meaningfully to them. To carve out space and resources for historically marginalized communities is meaningful work for any brand large or small to take up. It allows a company to build trust and begin building meaningful relationships that can last for a lifetime.
There has to be intimacy within this process, and intimacy takes relationship building and trust built out over time. This means not only getting to know new potential customers, but also reevaluating the structures that make some communities more accessible than others. Sam includes that it’s not enough to just know about a community, a company has to care about the well-being of that community. This includes mitigating the ways that shopping for beauty can be sometimes a troubling experience for communities of color. Sam spoke about the countless times he’s been followed in stores, or mistaken for the help vs. the talent in high profile situations.
Our understanding of difference is culturally constructed. What stories we make up and reinforce around certain communities are narratives we’ve learned overtime. In order to truly be forward thinking we must reorder our past. Taking to task what we’ve learned about each other and how we might re-learn and re-imagine new relationships and ways of collaborating and connecting across difference. I am so excited for you to learn more about Sam Fine, his incredible work, legacy and perspective.
Watch the replay of this incredible episode on our Instagram page here. We hope to see you for the next conversation.