Self-Love Sells: Advocating Realness & Diversity (Decoded Fashion)
“I’m infatuated by the idea that beauty can be something beyond a concealer culture,” Moj Mahdara, CEO of Beautycon, told the New Yorker last month, following this year’s Beautycon festival in LA. Since taking over the company in 2015, Mahdara has shifted Beautycon from its roots in hosting small-scale, insider-only events for YouTubers, reinventing it as a consumer-facing beauty showcase that celebrates diversity and aims to redefine what beauty means.
At Beautycon LA, panel discussions were titled ‘The Gender Revolution’ and ‘Girl Boss’, and the signage welcomed “All races, all genders, all countries of origin, all sexual orientations.” The company’s inclusive approach, and challenging of traditional beauty standards, hints at where the beauty industry is heading. While, in the past, these businesses have run on consumer insecurities, they’re now having to rethink their approach to product and marketing. Promoting activism, self-worth and happiness – that is, being comfortable in one’s own skin – is key.
Viewing cosmetics as an extension of the self, rather than a cover-up, is a concept currently being championed by ASOS. In line with the launch of its cosmetics range last month, the retailed rolled out a boundary-pushing campaign, Go Play, designed to “empower 20-somethings to confidently be themselves.” The company, which received praise from consumers back in June for choosing not to Photoshop models, released a campaign video with production company Somesuch to showcase a diverse range of faces, of all races and genders, experimenting with beauty products to complement their personalities.
Of course, ASOS isn’t alone in breaking down barriers and shunning stereotypes in beauty – take M.A.C. Cosmetics, for example, which has been inclusive (or, as its younger customers might say, ‘woke’) from the start. The cosmetics giant has long supported HIV/AIDS charities, and is keen to reduce the stigma that surrounds such illnesses. The full retail price of M.A.C. Viva Glam lipsticks (£16.50) is put into the company’s AIDS Fund, which has raised over $450 million for HIV/AIDS charities. The company – which states that its mission is “to be a safe place for LGBT and gender non-conforming people” – recently funded a docuseries, More Than T, that followed the lives of seven transgender people. Nancy Mahon, SVP at M.A.C., told AdWeek that the programme served as an extension of the “inclusion [that has been] part of [our] business model from the very beginning.”
For many beauty brands – M.A.C. included – there’s no easier way to demonstrate a forward-thinking, open-minded approach than to recruit a diverse lineup of ‘faces’ to promote your product. Gen-Z favourite Glossier chose to promote its latest range, Body Hero, with a bold advertising campaign featuring five women with completely different body types and backgrounds. Promoting body positivity, the campaign pushes further some of Glossier’s key values: filter-free, low-maintenance, ‘real’ beauty.
Covergirl is another company that’s rethinking the brand ambassadors of today. The cosmetics brand was praised for including Muslim Nura Afia in its #LashEquality campaign – which marked Afia as one of the only women to appear in an ad campaign for a major US cosmetics brand while wearing a hijab – and for recruiting 17-year-old beauty influencer James Charles as its first-ever ‘Coverboy.’
SVP of Covergirl, Ukonwa Ojo, has said in a company statement that the brand is all about “owning your identity and proudly sharing with the world all the facets that make you, you.” In line with this message, the company has continued to sign new, diverse brand ambassadors throughout 2017, including motorcycle racer Shelina Moreda, fitness trainer Massy Arias, chef and TV presenter Ayesha Curry, writer and actress Issa Rae and 69-year-old model Maye Musk. In recent years, we’ve seen several fashion brands slowly making moves to become more inclusive. It seems that, finally, the glossy world of beauty is following in its footsteps.
Image by Eva O'Leary for The New Yorker.