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Call it a comeback, because that's what it is. Fashion Fair, the cosmetics brand created in 1973 by the late great businesswoman (and glamourpuss) Eunice Johnson, was initially conceived to give Black women actual makeup options that suited their skin tones back in a time when folks said they couldn't find a foundation or blush in their shade — and meant it.
Johnson, who was also the cofounder of Johnson publishing company, the firm that put out Ebony and Jet magazines, tapped now-legendary Black celebrities like Pat Cleveland and Aretha Franklin as faces of the brand back in its heyday. It was, for a long time, one of the few brands Black women could rely on to have shades to match their rich skin tones. "Their Burgundy Berry — or a similar name — was best for dark-skinned girls like me," Gloria Hobbins, a New Jersey-based travel advisor tells me when I ask her about her experience with the brand in the '70s and '80s.
We're now living in a post-Fenty Beauty era, where having a foundation shade range that includes the very melanin-rich is very much a pre-requisite if you want to launch a line to much fanfare instead of much vilification. But ask any Black person living in the U.S. in the '70s or '80s and they'll tell you — Fashion Fair was basically it. Until it wasn't.
In 2016, the brand filed for bankruptcy after Ebony and Jet were sold to a private equity firm, according to Vogue. In 2019, businesswomen Cheryl Mayberry McKissack and former Johnson Publishing CEO Desirée Rogers teamed up to purchase Fashion Fair, fresh off their acquisition of another noted brand for the melanin-rich, Black Opal. "[Fashion Fair] is an amazing American iconic brand, and it deserves this rebirth," Rogers tells Allure in a phone interview.
The brand's "rebirth," as McKissack and Rogers call it, is slated to happen September 1 (with just lipsticks) and September 9 (with the rest of the line) online at fashionfair.com and sephora.com with prices ranging from $27 to $37. This launch will start with six pieces, most of which are complexion products.
So what exactly can you expect? For starters, four different base color products, all in different formulas. Each starts in the medium skin tone range, getting deeper as you go along. "You still have a great range of shades," explains Fashion Fair global makeup ambassador Sam Fine. "[These] ranges lean into more olive and golden shades, as opposed to the red and orange which were of that moment."
After you anchor your face with the brand's peach-tinted FF Fabulous Priming Serum ($37), you can delve into the color offerings like the FF SkinFlex Stick Foundation ($37), boasting 16 shade options, which promises to give you buildable full coverage and a dewy finish. Then, there's the FF Crème to Powder Foundation ($37), a 14-shade offering with an oil-controlling formula and medium coverage. FF Set It Loose Powder ($34) comes in six shades that you can dust on to keep your beat perfectly in place and add a bit of a subtle glow, thanks to the micronized luminizers added to the formula. The FF Iconic Pressed Powder ($37) is indeed a new take on the classic product, coming in 12 shades and created for on-the-go application — just like how my mother and grandmother used it.
Speaking of throwbacks returning to their former glory, Fashion Fair is also bringing back some of its most-beloved lipstick shades, updated and reformulated to satisfy modern proclivities. In the 14-shade selection of FF Iconic Lipsticks ($27), 10 of them are inspired by the brand's classic colors, like Olé Orange and Chocolate Raspberry. The remaining four are brand-new nude shades sure to become favorites in no time. According to the brand, this is the largest selection of nudes it's offered.
Fashion Fair Set It Loose Setting Powder
Relaunching with a batch of lipstick and base products makes sense if you consider Fashion Fair's history as one of the few brands that created foundations for darker-skinned women when it first came on the scene. "This is not a shade extension. This is not someone vying for our dollar who didn't ask for it before, who we felt separated or disengaged from," says Fine. "This is me as a kid going shopping with my mom and seeing these beautiful Black images and always feeling seen at [the Fashion Fair] makeup counter."
Fashion Fair was a staple at department stores for generations, but this new iteration of the brand is taking into consideration the nature of makeup shopping in this day and age. First off, the brand mentions a renewed focus on creating products with better formulations, as well as the addition of skin-loving ingredients like hyaluronic acid, peptides, and moisturizing sunflower seed oil.
As the founders mention, the products were formulated to address skin issues that often affect Black women. For example, its new primer includes, as the brand verbiage notes, "skin-brightening actives" (which the brand confirmed is vitamin C) to combat concerns such as hyperpigmentation.
Fashion Fair Skin Priming Serum
There's also the fact that department store makeup counters don't have the caché they did in the past. These days, people are flocking to retailers like Sephora, where the new Fashion Fair will be available at the start of the month. Entering this particular space, the hope is, will help the brand become more accessible to modern makeup wearers who are shopping in stores and online — and putting all their findings on the internet for the world to see.
Plus, according to the brand, it created a list of "do-not-use" ingredients for this line in order to comply with the retailer's clean beauty standards. The brand declined to disclose which ingredients were discontinued. (If you wish to read about Allure's clean beauty standards, you can do so here.)
In a growing market of makeup options for women with deeper complexions, Fashion Fair, though a throwback, has its place. "Regardless whether they remember that it was their mother's favorite brand or not, Fashion Fair fills such a hole in the market," Fine explains.
Fashion Fair Iconic Lipstick
What makes Fashion Fair special is that it is a legacy brand. I myself have childhood memories of rifling through my mother's makeup bag and carefully opening each soft pink compact to reveal the rich, brown pressed powders I'd seen my mother and grandmother carefully apply with a sponge applicator.
For many Black people who wear makeup, Fashion Fair ignites those same nostalgic feelings Max Factor mascara or Nars Orgasm blush might for someone outside Black communities in the United States.
The cherry on top of all this? Fashion Fair's relaunching with a brand-new spokesmodel to tie it all together. If Beale Street Could Talk star Kiki Layne will front the brand as the face of its new generation. And what a pleasant face to look at, too.
You can shop Fashion Fair lipsticks starting September 1 at the Fashion Fair website and Sephora.com. Scoop up the rest of the collection starting September 9.
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