Iman has a major message she’d like to deliver to the nation’s mass-market channels: ethnic beauty can’t be confined to part of a cosmetics wall that changes infrequently, nor confined to a handful of doors in urban areas.
It’s a lesson she learned firsthand — as a model who is a woman of color, and then in seeking to place her cosmetics line in mass-market distribution.
Iman started out in J.C. Penney in 1994, in 400 doors, building the brand to about $25 million in sales by 1996 and selling in Penney’s and Sephora. After a restructuring at Penney’s, Iman Cosmetics found itself entering the mass channel in 2004 and, later that year, inked a distribution deal with Procter & Gamble Co.
Iman quickly learned mass operates differently than prestige. “It was this struggle of trying to find a way to exist in this new arena that I had no intention from the beginning to enter anyway,” she said.
Her biggest surprise? “In mass, it’s all on walls, and skin care isn’t marketed with color — and I didn’t understand that it was if they have 1,000 doors, 200 are for women of color,” she said, adding that she takes exception with mass retailers allocating “for you the doors that they think your customer is. I mean, I think, personally, if a black woman or a black family or a Latina family is shopping in your pharmacy, in a Walgreens or a Target, she probably would buy the cosmetics line if it was there.”
Trying to secure that distribution has been a challenge; while mass retailers sell her brand online, it is in limited store distribution. “I approached the players — Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens — and everybody knew about the brand and how successful it was, so everybody said yes to it,” said Iman. “But then there was this, ‘Oh we’ll test it.’ Like I just started, like there was no customer base for it. I tried to make them understand that I didn’t want to be tested in the whole of the U.S. — especially where we were very strong and where we were already at J.C. Penney’s, because those customers would need to be serviced.”
Overall, she said, “It was a no-go. They wanted me to be placed at the back, which they considered, like it is, for the ethnic section, which I was totally against it for no other reason but ’cause also I never considered myself an ethnic brand.”
“I honestly can tell you that the people are desperately looking for brands that they can believe in right here, right here at home,” Iman said to applause from the room, adding that a large percentage of her current business is done online. “There is growth right here, if only the retailers understood it. I have customers from all over the world that look for the products, but I also have customers in the U.S. that can’t find the product in a store near them.”
One particular opportunity for growth is foundation, a challenging category for many women of color, and a category that accounts for 75 percent of her overall sales, she said.
“Last year, I decided to create a liquid foundation, which I have been told numerous times by the retailers, ‘Oh, black women don’t buy liquid foundation,’ right?” she said. Rather than do a typical beauty-editor breakfast, she invited 40 beauty bloggers to an event and introduced the line to them that way. Within three months, the foundation was the number-one product in her brand, she said.
@kith is moving into children’s. The men’s and women’s streetwear brand has launched Kidset, a Kith kids line located in New York at 64 Bleecker Street. The line includes mini versions of staple Kith pieces like the Astor bomber jacket and the Kith box logo sweatshirts, along with a wall that can display up to 120 pairs of shoes from @adidas, @newbalance, @timberland and more. #wwdfashion
“I just wanted to create this fully rounded character, but I do think what excited me most was just the opportunity to give a group of people representation that I feel needs it. I like to do characters in projects that stand for something and Karolina definitely does, so that was really exciting to me,” @ginnygardner says of her new role in @hulu’s “The Runaways.” Gardner plays Karolina Dean, a queer superhero, which is a rarity for @marvel. Read more about Gardner’s character on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @dandoperalski)
@heriethpaul and @gracebol have a moment on the @victoriassecret fashion show 2017. See every look from the runway on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo) #wwdfashion #victoriassecret #VSFashionShow
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia