The organization featured a lineup of leading industry figures — ranging from Desirée Rogers to Tatcha chief marketing officer Sarah Curtis Henry — and covered Black women’s inputs on various aspects of the industry, from retail to brand founding and clinical trials.
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Organization cofounder and chief executive officer Ella Gorgla kicked off the inaugural event by introducing keynote speaker Rogers. The co-owner and CEO of Black Opal started by addressing the growing attention given to Black consumers.
“Early in my life, my mother loved to recount stories of being excluded from parties because she was darker than a paper bag. We’ve come such a long way in our perceptions of beauty, and our acceptance of our own beauty,” Rogers said. “Times are changing, and we are here as leaders in the beauty industry. I would ask yourself, are you in it? Or are you on the sidelines? This is one of the rare shifts in the trajectory of the world.”
Rogers talked about the origin story for the new Black Opal, when she saw how few beauty companies — including those she hoped to work for — were willing to meet the needs of Black consumers. She relaunched Black Opal with the Black consumer in mind. “We’re not apologizing for not being for everyone. We’re clearly focused on women of color,” she said.
“I’m most encouraged right now by this moment. All of the sudden, Black women are emboldened, and this opportunity won’t last forever,” Rogers continued.
Angel Beasley, merchandising director, specialty hair at Walmart Inc., spoke about her experience stocking brands and what she looks for in the younger brands she hopes to sign. “When I meet with brands, I look through the lens of where my gaps are in the store, where my customer gaps are, and a lens of what my competition does,” she said.
Beasley also cautioned brands against going into retail before they’re capable of properly scaling their businesses in a long-lasting way. “There probably is a high-level checklist, like do I have the infrastructure to be able to ship,” she said. “For example, can I produce products, I’m not still making products out of my home, I have the money to support marketing, and my margins are competitive but I’m still making money,” she said.
The next session focused on new Black-owned brands with Tisha Thompson of LYS Beauty and Dr. Rose Ingleton of Rose MD Skin. Both came to founding their lines from different vantage points: Ingleton is a dermatologist; Thompson is a makeup artist and marketing veteran from Pur Cosmetics.
Ingleton founded her line with the needs of Black consumers in mind, although she said it was formulated to work on any range of tones. “I thought we deserved a product that could compete with the La Mers of the world,” she said.
Thompson saw a gap in clean beauty brands accessible to Black consumers. “A lot of times, in this space, these products aren’t made for us,” she said.
Dr. Michelle Henry, M.D. joined Carrie Strom, the president of Global Allergan Aesthetics, to discuss inclusivity on the clinical side of the industry.
Henry discussed her own patients feeling excluded from noninvasive procedures as a result of uninclusive marketing. “That’s why it’s so important that we think about true diversity, and representing real women, when we do advertising and marketing. A lot of my Black patients ask me questions like, ‘From a biological standpoint, does it even work on me?’” she said.
The next presenter, Angela Umelo, CEO of Salt & Earth, a lab and brand hub, also saw homogenous ingredient testing groups. “A lot of clinical trials and clinical testing on formulas and ingredients, aren’t being done on Black skin,” she said.
Curtis Henry stressed the importance of having a diverse team behind inclusive brand marketing and messaging, saying she hoped to “swing the door open” for more Black women behind her.
“I don’t think this industry has unlocked its full potential because it hasn’t unleashed the power of Black women,” Curtis Henry continued. “We as a community are able to bring a point of view, a rich history and culture, and a leadership acumen that is going to take any industry forward. That lack of representation is holding the industry back.
“There is clearly an issue with diversity in beauty and the onus is on all of us,” Welch agreed.
Yarden Horwitz, cofounder of search data tracker Spate, gave a presentation on trends among Black-owned brands, noting that searches for Black-owned beauty brands grew over 90 percent year-over-year.
The event ended with a conversation on Ulta’s Black Muses campaign, spearheaded by Karla Davis, vice president of marketing at Ulta Beauty, and Gabrielle Shirdan, vice president, creative director at McCann New York.
Corporate sponsors for the event included Allergan and Ulta Beauty.
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