At yesterday’s Women’s Wear Daily Beauty Summit, supermodel turned beauty mogul Iman schooled a room full of insiders on the marginalization of women of color when it comes to marketing, product availability, and running an irrefutably successful business.
While Iman launched her brand as a prestige line, going mass wasn’t as easy as she expected — and not because there wasn’t a market. It was the retailers who balked.
“…I didn’t understand that it was if they have 1,000 doors, 200 are for women of color,” she said, adding that she takes exception with mass retailers allocating “for you the doors that they think your customer is. I mean, I think, personally, if a black woman or a black family or a Latina family is shopping in your pharmacy, in a Walgreens or a Target, she probably would buy the cosmetics line if it was there.
“It was a no-go. They wanted me to be placed at the back, which they considered, like it is, for the ethnic section, which I was totally against it for no other reason but ’cause also I never considered myself an ethnic brand.”
But the biggest takeaway was the apparently untapped market that is foundation for darker skintones. Believe it or not, beauty bigwigs didn’t believe black women bought foundation.
“Last year, I decided to create a liquid foundation, which I have been told numerous times by the retailers, ‘Oh, black women don’t buy liquid foundation,’ right?” she said. Rather than do a typical beauty-editor breakfast, she invited 40 beauty bloggers to an event and introduced the line to them that way. Within three months, the foundation was the number-one product in her brand, she said.
That this is a lesson being learned in 2012 is astounding. But kudos to Iman for teaching it. And for laughing all the way to the bank.