Online Exclusives

The Beauty of Diversity

By Nancy Jeffries, Contributing Editor | December 4, 2012

A rainbow of colors makes the glamorous world of cosmetics even more appealing, say speakers at the The Fashion Institute of Technology conference.

How do beauty companies demystify the vague nomenclature of globalization and diversity? FIT’s School of Graduate Studies, in a Symposium on Diversity and Globalization in the Beauty Industry, addressed this question in the first of a series of Symposia scheduled for 2012-2013 in New York City.

Dr. Mary E. Davis, dean of graduate studies, welcomed attendees to the Katie Murphy Amphitheatre at The Fashion Institute of Technology, on Friday, November 16, announcing the Symposium series launch, and relating it to the real world challenges facing us today. “We are the place where creativity gets down to business,” said Davis, affirming the university’s role in addressing these challenges via diverse programs and initiatives, as well as strategic professional partnerships, and acknowledging the support of L’Oréal’s Corporate Diversity Program.

Professor Stephan Kanlian, chairperson, Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing Management, FIT, thanked contributors who worked on the Symposium Series and introduced Keynote Speaker Tonie Leatherberry, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP. Leatherberry provided context by defining diversity and inclusion, noting that diversity is a collective with many layers that really includes everyone.

Panel Discussion (l-r): Moderator Ellen Byron, The Wall Street Journal, with panelists Cheryl Wilson, director, global business development ethnic hair care, Unilever; Alexandra Fritsch-Gil, FIT MPS Class of 2012, marketing manager, Bumble & Bumble, The Estée Lauder Companies; Nicholas Gavrelis, VP-global product development, MAC Cosmetics, The Estée Lauder Companies; and Ursula Wynhoven, general counsel, UN Global Compact Office.
“It’s not just about blacks, Latinos, gays, and lesbians, but also everyone else.” she said. Further, she stated, “Diversity is a fact. Inclusion is a choice.”

Providing a graphic wheel for visualizing the many-layered elements of diversity, Leatherberry noted that age, identity, religion, working style, class, economic status, region, credentials, function and industry specialization, among others, comprise that wheel. “If we can recognize these characteristics in one another, we can start to engage with where an individual is, and that’s what we’re doing at Deloitte,” she said.

Leatherberry noted that by 2025, 50% of the US population will be multi-cultural.

“For business, this takes on many levels as to how we address this shift,” she said. Also, by 2014, the global earning power of women is expected to overshadow the growth in the gross domestic product of China and India combined. These statistics indicate a major shift is underway and significant changes will be required to address the needs of particular communities. As an example, she cited the hair care category and its lucrative potential for business in the ethnic market; and further explored the emerging market needs of communities in the BRIC and MIST countries.

“Understanding emerging markets requires working with local business and this is part of the global shift that’s taking place around the world,” she said.

The key question posed by Leatherberry, was, “How do you mirror the changing complexion of customers today to be more competitive?” She referred to the Capstone models of FIT, citing The Bridge, to connect consumers to business leadership; The Bonding Helix, which reaches the diverse consumer in innovative and creative ways; and Beauty Fusion, in which cultural fusion is incorporated into beauty through beauty rituals, indigenous ingredients, and sensorial experiences. “Leading brands embed inclusion within the organization and they are making an impact on the communities they serve,” said Leatherberry. In order to accrue the greatest benefits, Leatherberry encouraged leadership development, retention of top talent, cross-cultural training and diversity representation. “Embrace these opportunities or you’ll miss out. Forego all the stereotypes and appreciate the differences, and challenge the status quo,” she said.

Panelists Explore Brand Image and Diversity

A panel discussion moderated by Ellen Byron, of The Wall Street Journal, introduced Cheryl Wilson, director, global business development ethnic hair care, Unilever; Alexandra Fritsch-Gil, MPS Class of 2012, marketing manager, Bumble & Bumble, The Estée Lauder Companies; Nicholas Gavrelis, VP-global product development, MAC Cosmetics, The Estée Lauder Companies and Ursula Wynhoven, general counsel, UN Global Compact Office.

Wilson kicked off the discussion, noting that Unilever’s diversity marketing revolves around determining what to eliminate, what to integrate, and what to create.

“Care solutions for hair are key,” she said, and determining what new ways of communicating and innovating, with the right people on the team, will ultimately do to “meet the challenges of creating the right product and delivering a beautiful shopping experience.” For example, noted Wilson, Unilever is looking at brand image that works for North America, Africa, Latin America, and the diverse preferences around the world.

Gavrelis provided an overview of how MAC was born in 1997 in a bohemian neighborhood of Toronto, called Cabbagetown. It’s densely pigmented, high performance colors were the core of the line, and its customers were all races and all cultures. As the brand began its international expansion, they stuck with their non-traditional model of advertising, largely relying on their belief in the power of the word, and retaining their association with the artists.

“We still believe the artist is the first customer for MAC and we pull the artists into everything we do,” said Gavrelis. “When you have a shade line that is as extensive as ours, we need to have colors that will speak to women in Brazil, Africa, and Latin America. We have MAC flagship colors numbering over 100 shades, and our word of mouth keeps us abreast of what’s happening around the world.”

Ursula Wynhoven provided perspective from the UN Global Compact Office, saying, “Investment in women’s empowerment is key.”

FIT Dea Mary E. Davis, with Keynote speaker, Tonie Leatherberry, Deloitte Consulting.
She cited Avon’s cause-related marketing around women’s health and domestic violence, and Unilever’s efforts to empower women in business in Brazil, with micro-entrepreneurships, The Body Shop’s commitment to women’s issues and girls’ education, and MAC’s promotion of girls’ empowerment. “These initiatives create a business as well as societal impact,” she said.

Fritsch-Gil, Bumble & Bumble, citing the Bonding Helix model, said, “We are seeing the end of mass communication and the growth of bonds and touch points between consumers and brands. These one-on-one conversations enhance the community and help deliver value to the consumer.”

Gavrelis noted Leonard Lauder’s support of the “Boots On” approach, which while stating that the company is a US company, also encourages him to go where he needs to go, to work side by side with brand managers, whether that is the Asia Pacific, Seoul, Korea, Latin America, Europe, or the Middle East. “To make business sense, you need people in these markets to make sure there are the numbers to succeed in a marketplace,” he said.

Indeed, getting the inside track from local markets is significant in creating products that meet the needs of local populations. For example, Wilson suggested studying ethnic markets to see what the next oil might be, and added that it is a barometer to gauge what trends are being followed, what is changing, and how preferences are being shaped. She cited the example of the North American market, where there is acceptance of natural curly hair and products that are non-chemical based, offering more versatility and styling options.

“Having just gotten back from Africa I can say it’s not totally there yet. In North America it’s more about working with natural hair and caring for it. I do believe beauty ideas are going to change,” she said. Gavrelis concurred, “As the world gets smaller so does the awareness of trends and that power of word is so strong.”

In Latin America, for example, he cited the use of a particular shade of color called MAC Snob, by a telenovela actress. Sales of that color, from a one-time reference were increased so significantly that a“major Snob shortage” occurred.

“It’s amazing how one tastemaker can really create something that will have a life of itself impact,” said Gavrelis. Wilson, putting textured hair needs into balance, said, “I want to take the conversation off ethnicity and bring it to textured hair and consumer need, which is not based on a consumer’s color, it’s based on her need. That is a way to work against color segregation and toward specific hair care need. We’re looking at changing the descriptors as well, kinky, curly, coarse, it’s a question of creating manageable styles, rather than ethnic specificity.”

Wynhoven noted that industry responsibility entails corporate responsibility to embrace the notion of sustainability and economic viability, in the social and ethical realm.

“This includes supply chain networks which can insure the ingredients you need and also look at engaging with disadvantaged women. Communicating this effectively can enable ingredients to get to the consumer and also favorably impact the ingredient producers, so it’s an economic business opportunity as well,” she said.

Ethical Trade and The Body Shop  

According to Mark Davis, director, community and ethical trade, The Body Shop, ethics and business should work together for the greatest good. He said, “Body Shop Founder Anita Roddick’s idea was that business should be more than about the bottom line. It should benefit others as well.” Roddick, who started the Fair Trade Program in 1987, based the business on these founding principles. “The Body Shop is in 2,700 stores in 66 markets and continues to emphasize doing good business for the community as well,” said Davis.

It’s against animal testing, supports community fair trade, defends human rights, works for self-esteem, and protects the planet, a mantra that continues to support the brand’s connectivity to the world, and provides, according to Davis, “a limitless source of inspiration.” He discussed the importance of working with people fairly, not engaging in bio-piracy, or child labor, and opposing deforestation and GMO usage. “By buying things carefully, you can really help things change,” said Davis, who notes the transparent operation of the company, public charter, and funding for community projects that tie into predictable long-term demand.

“We are not a charity,” said Davis, “We’re in the beauty business, and we work with marginalized communities from Ghana to Namibia and beyond, based on the premise that they produce something fantastic for us, and we will put together a package that will benefit them and their community at the same time.”

Additional information about FIT’s programs and symposia details may be found at:

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