women of colour still ignored by cosmetics industry
“Women of all skin tones want to look good when they rule the world.”
In 1994 supermodel Iman launched her own beauty line, Iman Cosmetics. After more than two decades in the industry, she was tired of constantly arriving on set only to be told she would need to provide her own makeup, as the artists did not have anything that would match her skin tone.
“I would show up to a shoot fresh-faced, ready to be primped and teased into divineness, and the makeup artist of the moment would greet me with what was a commonplace opener at that time: ‘Did you bring your own makeup?'” she wrote in an open letter penned in 2013.
More than 20 years after Iman created her cosmetic line, many women of colour continue to face these same challenges. With a significant lack of diversity within the industry, many companies remain negligent of the multiculturalism of their consumers and subsequently fail to incorporate products for women of darker skin tones. While some companies such as Estée Lauder and Maybelline have put forth a commendable effort, many of their counterparts continue to drag their feet despite repeated calls for improvement.
Everyone is hip to the fact that if you want to be in business, you clearly have to be in bed with the multicultural consumer. It would be an exercise in foolishness not to invite this customer out to play.- Iman
And so, enter QUO Cosmetics. Advertised as a product line “developed from an unwavering commitment to quality and innovation,” QUO is sold exclusively at Shoppers Drug Mart, Canada’s largest pharmaceutical retailer. A quick Google search will yield many positive reviews and raves about its superior quality. Often compared to high-end brands such as Mac and Sephora, QUO products’ significantly cheaper prices appeal to a wide audience.
Having heard many good things about this cosmetics line, I set out to purchase their liquid foundation. However after a quick scan through the product line, to my shock and disappointment, I realized there were no shades even remotely close to my skin tone.
As a fair-skinned black woman, I must say I’ve had very little difficulty ever finding foundation to match my skin tone. If it was a challenge for me, I could only imagine how difficult it would be for many other black women. I found it odd (and quite concerning) that not even QUO’s darkest colour could compliment my complexion. And more importantly, I found it troubling that a Canadian company as large as Shoppers Drug Mart would exclusively sell such a limiting product line.
But according to Shoppers (who I contacted to inquire about this issue), QUO Cosmetics doesn’t carry a variety of foundation colours due to “a lack of space.”
“We are very sorry that you feel that our corporate brand cosmetic line QUO is discriminating against women of color, however please be assured we absolutely DO NOT discriminate,” Shoppers responded to my email. “Unfortunately we only have four feet of plannogram space to work within, which is very limiting when all other color cosmetics need to fit in as well.”
It’s a response that is extremely disappointing, to say the least. While I understand there is a limited space designated to QUO, I think a greater effort could have been made to diversify the company’s colours. With only six foundation shades available, QUO could have (and I think, should have) incorporated at least one brown colour as at the end of the day, a limited variety would have been better than no variety.
It’s just as Iman wrote in her open letter: “Women of all skin tones want to look good when they rule the world.” Unfortunately, it appears QUO Cosmetics simply isn’t ready to get on board.
Shoppers Drug Mart contacted me earlier today to inform me my concerns had been escalated to their Corporate Brands Department. According to their written correspondence, in the past QUO did incorporate a more diverse product line however, the product did not sell. In their message to me the company said:
“Because foundation has an expiry date, it has to be sold within a limited amount of time or else it just expires and contributes to waste. As a business, we are constantly challenged to produce products that benefit our customers. Unfortunately, due to demand, we cannot afford to produce wider of a variety of shades of foundation than will sell.”
In addition to apologizing, Shoppers Drug Mart also recommended I check the product line in January “when the full variety of shades produced by Quo may be better reflected in stores.”
In addition to being more elaborate, this latest response demonstrates a greater deal of consideration and respect for the issue at hand- which quite frankly, is all I wanted.
As a matter of fact, I think it’s all any woman of colour ever wants- consideration and respect.
But that’s just According to Adrienne.