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Legacy makeup brand Fashion Fair relaunching, entering a growing field of companies catering to women of color

Lauren Zumbach, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Fashion Daily News

CHICAGO — Chicago-based cosmetics brand Fashion Fair will soon be back on store shelves — with a bit of a makeover.

When Fashion Fair launched in 1973, it was one of the only makeup brands creating cosmetics designed for women of color. But the brand struggled in the years before its parent company, Ebony and Jet magazine publisher Johnson Publishing, went bankrupt in 2019.

Now, two former Johnson Publishing executives are reviving the brand, rolling out new products with a focus on natural, vegan ingredients and swapping department store counters for Sephora shelves to appeal to a new generation of consumers in a highly competitive beauty market.

One thing they plan to keep: a sense of the brand’s history.

Fashion Fair “was at the forefront of making sure that beauty really was something that every woman had the opportunity to experience, especially Black women and women of color … We want to keep that entrepreneurial spirit, that historical spirit,” said Cheryl Mayberry McKissack, one of the brand’s owners.

Former Johnson Publishing executives Mayberry McKissack and Desiree Rogers bought Fashion Fair out of Johnson Publishing’s bankruptcy for $1.85 million in late 2019 with the help of Alec Litowitz, founder and CEO of Evanston, Illinois-based hedge fund Magnetar Capital. The company, which has about 10 employees and a network of 60 consultants, is headquartered in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart alongside Black Opal, a mass market cosmetics brand also owned by the Fashion Fair team.

 

Now they’re preparing to launch their first new products, which will be sold on Fashion Fair’s website and at Sephora, available online as of Sept. 1 and in stores later in the month.

Some of the first six products will be familiar to loyal Fashion Fair shoppers, including a crème to powder foundation and a lipstick where 10 of 14 shades are part of past collections. But all products are available in a wider range of shades and have been reformulated to use vegan, natural ingredients.

“It’s part of this merging of the past and present,” Rogers said.

Fashion Fair will have more competition from other brands catering to diverse consumers, such as Rihanna’s high-end Fenty Beauty brand, which launched with 40 shades of foundation in 2017. It’s not just new Black-owned brands either — established beauty companies have been expanding their options.

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