That said, timing could be a challenge for the success of the True Finish collection. Created when black women had few choices at the beauty counter, the Fashion Fair brand now faces competition from mass market and prestige beauty brands that specifically cater to customers of color. Iconic model Iman launched IMAN Cosmetics in 1994. Even drugstore brands such as L’Oreal Paris USA, Cover Girl, and Revlon have expanded their product offerings to service women with all shades of melanin — complete with campaigns fronted by A-list black spokesmodels.
Beyoncé, Queen Latifah and Halle Berry are drawing black women to use make-up brands that ignored customers like Weiss when she was their age.
In addition, Fashion Fair was borne out of the legendary Ebony Fashion Fair showcase, and marketed heavily through the traveling runway event. In 2009, Johnson Publishing Company, which wholly owns both the Ebony Fashion Fair and Fashion Fair Cosmetics brands, suspended the exhibition after 51 years.
Desiree Rogers, Johnson Publishing CEO, told the New York Observer she plans to revive the Ebony Fashion Fair in 2013 — but that won’t help Fashion Fair reconnect with the black female audience today.
Yet, Wilson believes timing — or rather history — is on the brand’s side. “We’ve been friends for almost 40 years,” she said referring to the relationship between Fashion Fair and its customers. “[Black women] are not an extension of our brand — they are our brand,” Wilson continued. “No one is going to beat us at being culturally relevant, because this is our life. African-American women and men.”
When creating products, Wilson believes, “We’re actually saying: ‘What do I need?’ We are our own focus group.”
For Wilson, the Fashion Fair “reboot” through True Finish Refining Mineral Foundation is about more than releasing a new collection of colors or products. Citing the empowering names of its color palette — with Precious Onyx, Honest Chocolate, and Tenacious Topaz among the list of 18 swatches — Wilson stresses: “Whether you use it or not, we want you to feel good about the brand. Everything should be inspirational, aspirational, always pushing [the customer] to be the best that she can be… a reminder that she is the best.”
Is this enough to inspire customers to try Fashion Fair Cosmetics — or come back to the brand — sticking with it for years to come? With a commitment to keeping black women top of mind as Fashion Fair founder Eunice W. Johnson intended, Wilson plans to re-conquer the market one face at a time.
The timing might just be right.