Taking the music industry by a storm for almost 15 years and being hailed as a style icon for just as long, it’s no surprise Rihanna’s beauty range, Fenty Beauty, had around the block line ups at Harvey Nichols stores across the UK. There is no denying the brand’s success is clearly here to stay, but the question plaguing so many brands seeking to emulate Fenty’s success is not ‘why?’, but instead, ‘how?’ Whilst for some the answer is straight forward – Rihanna’s personal brand is so strong it almost guarantees everything she touches turns to gold; for others – like myself – it goes beyond this, and remedies an issue that has been long-fought for by women of colour in the beauty industry.
Before launching her first line of Fenty cosmetics, Rihanna pressed that the point of Fenty Beauty as a brand was to be inclusive of ALL types of women, and ALL of the skin tones these women come in. In response to a personal message she received enquiring whether the rumoured 40 shades of foundation was true, Rihanna responded with a humbling ‘You knoooowwww it!!!!’ going on to explain women of colour had been overlooked for too long in the industry. Rihanna’s vision of making Fenty Beauty a brand with a universal shade range is clear from the outset of the campaign, especially social media, which focused on using diverse women, and the continued explanations of how existing brands were failing to cater to certain skin tones, specifically those on each end of the shade spectrum. The inclusiveness of Fenty Beauty doesn’t stop at colour, though. The line also featured women of different cultural and religious backgrounds, one of which received the most attention being a young muslim woman who wears a hijab, Habiba da Silva leading to young hijab wearing women and beauty gurus alike to rejoice in such an inclusion; Youtuber Dina Tokio even mentions this as one of her favourite parts of the campaign in her online review of Fenty’s products.
Why does inclusiveness mean Fenty Beauty’s success is here to stay?
From a personal point of view – it’s obvious. I grew up surrounded by brands doing little other than marketing their products to a select few women. Most brands used well-known models or actresses making the idea of these products being for girls like me an even more distant thought than it already was. Sometimes coloured women were lucky to get a mention at the end of a commercial or in the fine print at the bottom of the billboard which read something along the lines of ‘available in 12 shades’ but only going on to be disappointed in realising none of these shades were a match for my skin tone. It made me feel like even more of an outsider when I’d browse the beauty section drugstores trying to find products that would match my skin tone only to go on and be disappointed. This feeling is largely reflected in the reviews I’ve come across from leading publications like The Telegraph but more so from the Instagram/ Youtube community, whose reviews I’ve been shamelessly binge watching.
Whilst it could be argued there are others in the industry looking to remedy this underrepresentation – like Maybelline’s release of the FitMe foundations, which now stocks over 40 shades. However, hunting these shades down is a dilemma in its own. Most drugstores tend to stock between 4 to 5 of their most popular shades; two ‘light’, one or two ‘medium’ and one ‘dark’ and Maybelline not having a storefront of it’s own makes getting shade matched correctly almost impossible, unless you’re willing to order a few shades directly from the website or use their online matching system which doesn’t include the full range in its results. Alternatively, MAC’s Studio Fix Fluid exceeds Fenty and Maybelline’s 40 shades with a whopping range of 42 colours and corresponding undertones, with plenty of storefronts and staffed counters to match you correctly. Though Maybelline and MAC may remedy the shade representation, Fenty hits another ethical dilemma by opting to be a cruelty free brand. If shoppers are not cruelty-conscious, Fenty Beauty’s final reason to stay is for the line’s ultra competitive price point; every product is priced at under £30 – packing a punch against it’s non-cruelty free competitors (NARS, Bobbi Brown, Dior) and falling just below or in-line with those who are (Too Faced, Urban Decay and Tarte).
From using diverse women in the launch campaign, to it’s cruelty free status and price point, Rihanna seems to have hit every box on the checklist. But this isn’t just about Fenty’s success – it’s about the gap Rihanna saw in the market that clearly needed filling and took it upon herself to do so. While other brands may be starting to roll out larger shade ranges, for the ones who are not, Fenty’s success will be sure to give them a kick up the backside. Yes – it cannot be denied that price-point, the anti-animal testing and personal brand affiliation has rendered the brand successful, it also cannot be denied that the shade range is a big part of the success, too. Fenty’s campaign goes to show when women of colour are represented, women of colour engage. The line is set to extend it’s release to eyeshadows and lipsticks by the end of the year, and I’m confident Ms. Fenty will change the game, yet again.