Take a trip down memory lane for a moment where, as a teenager, you’d pop into your local retailer and pick up whatever foundation or concealer was the hot topic of that month. You could just grab your shade off the shelf with minimal thought to the process, right?
Similarly, think about times, perhaps as an adult, where you’ve gone away for the weekend only to realise you’ve forgotten to pack some of your makeup essentials. Not to worry! Off to the local shops you go where the problem is solved immediately.
Whilst it didn’t seem like much at the time, the ease in this shopping experience is just one of the ways the Australian beauty scene works in the favour of Anglo-Celtic individuals. As a nude-beige woman from way back, this privilege is not lost on me.
For the one in four Australians that are a person of colour, being able to visit a salon or cosmetic retailer and seamlessly pick their shade off the shelf is sadly still a wish. Instead, they’re finding themselves mixing multiple shades to create the closest match possible which inevitably sees them spending significantly more money and needing to go to considerably greater lengths to have access to suitable makeup.
One could say this is at the fault of the beauty brands themselves who don’t create an adequate shade range in the first place where others could suggest it’s the lack of diversity in marketing, leading to these brands catering for who they think the Australian population is versus an accurate depiction of the cultures that form our nation.
Irrespective of what side of the fence you sit on, inclusion shouldn’t be considered a privilege for selected people; it is a human right that should be at the core of everything we do as individuals and as an industry responsible for the uplifting of others. We must represent the underrepresented.
For Kate Morris, Founder of Adore Beauty, it was an email from her Head of Campaign and Strategy, Shanthi Murugan, that not only transformed their e-commerce offerings but kickstarted a global campaign for the beauty industry at large.
Kate shares that in 2017, an email from Shanthi is one that still fills her with shame. Shanthi explained that in the five years she had worked at Adore Beauty, she was unable to utilise her staff discount to purchase foundation as the company did not stock any suitable shades for her skin tone.
“I suddenly realised that the series of simple decisions that the business had made to try and manage inventory levels and cash flow, such as only ordering stock of the most popular 8 or 10 shades of any makeup product, had led to the exclusion of most people of colour”, Kate adds.
2017 was also the year the ground-breaking Fenty Beauty launched, a makeup brand designed by Rihanna that today, offers 50 foundation and concealer shades and, in a few short years, has skyrocketed to the value of $2.8 billion.
Fenty Beauty kickstarted a surge in overseas cosmetic brands, such as Morphe, Revolution Cosmetics and MAC, expanding their shade range to cater to their whole market. The problem was, despite the expansive shade ranges and diverse marketing campaigns, the actual shopping experience for people of colour hadn’t drastically shifted. It was a lot of talk and less action as stockists were not retailing the entire range in their stores, especially in Australia. Like Adore Beauty, they were selecting the most profitable shades rather than considering the entire landscape of the beauty market.
Advocating for equal access to foundation and concealer, regardless of one’s skin tone, Shanthi and Adore Beauty launched the Global Shades Initiative. This initiative calls for inclusivity in the beauty industry at large, including you, the professional salon owner, to provide equal access by the end of 2021.
In their open letter to the industry, Global Shades insists action from both the Australian beauty industry and their consumers is crucial. Acknowledging Adore Beauty’s contribution to the lack of diversity, the brand shares the steps they are taking to create a welcoming shopping experience for all individuals, including stocking 2,600 shades from over 350 products.
This shift will undoubtedly change the shopping experience for many, but it is important to note that not everybody shops at Adore Beauty. They cannot be the only solution for people of colour in Australia because if they are, the industry hasn’t joined the initiative but rather watched one brand do the hard work for us.
The Global Shades Initiative argues that our industry at large should be elevating the voices of the BIPOC community. As an industry, we need to start catering to the authentic Australian landscape, rather than just what marketed beauty standards have shown us for decades on end. As we know, clients visit salons, spas, and clinics to take advantage of professional cosmetic products and your expertise. If your business is unable to cater to their skin tone, you will lose their business to a retail giant that does.
So, as a member of the professional beauty industry, how can you support the Global Shades Initiative?
Foremost, visit the official website, globalshades.org, and sign their petition. Each signature, including those of yourself, your team and friends and family, provides the initiative additional support towards a more inclusive beauty industry for Australia.
Secondly, I encourage you to take a moment to learn about the experiences people of colour in Australia have had with the beauty industry. In addition to their trending hashtag #StockAllShades, The Global Shades website shares stories of people of colour including presenter Flex Mami, content creator Ashira Paraskevas and Miss Universe Australia Maria Thattil.
Despite their diverse professional backgrounds, these individuals shared common horror stories of professional makeup artists not having suitable products for their skin tone, being asked to bring their own foundation to photoshoots, and the line, “your skin is gorgeous, we don’t have to do anything”, universally known by people of colour in the fashion and modelling industries as code for “we don’t have any products to suit your skin tone”. I’m sorry, what? Imagine that being said to you by a business that has hired you fully knowing you are a person of colour.
Thirdly, after equipping yourself with a better understanding of what people of colour experience when engaging with the beauty industry, reflect on your own offerings in your business. Can the brands you stock in your business be doing a better job at representing all Australian consumers? If so, I encourage you to raise your voice for those that feel unheard and ask your retail partners to join the Global Shades Initiative and begin to prioritise ways they can expand their offerings and in turn, their inclusivity.
People should be able to see themselves represented in the products and campaigns we are exposed to as consumers every day. The feeling of inclusion goes beyond finally being able to select a foundation or concealer off the shelf; it’s about feeling like you’re acknowledged, considered in our industry and that you not only belong but you’re welcomed with open arms.