Yesterday was the second Keziah Connections Event. The inaugural meeting focused on why there was a need for women of colour to stand up and be counted in the beauty industry. The evening focused on people within the industry, what they had achieved and how they got there. Yesterday the focus on was on brand development.
The location was beautiful. Illuminum can be found down a narrow alley on Dover Street. The moment you step inside, the calm sophisticated ambience envelopes and you feel comfortable. I don’t know what the collective noun is for a group of amazing black women…and if there isn’t one, there needs to be. (If you have any ideas let me know). Inside the beautiful Illuminum boutique I was surrounded by brilliant women. Some, I had been fortunate to meet at the previous event, others I was meeting for the first time.
Christine Benson, was the keynote speaker. Christine is Illuminum’s Head of Product Development and Brand Management and is a woman who knows the industry inside out, back to front, upside down the right way round! Having worked at Selfridges and House of Fraser as a buyer, she has worked closely with a wide range of brand premium and mass market brands and has seen how well … or not brands for black women have fared on Oxford Street. Starting with Fashion Fair (great product, dodgy packaging) through to Iman (great product, never in stock) then Black Up (great product, dodgy name) and most recently Beverley Knight (great product, conflicted business strategy [premium product that backers wanted to promote as mass market]). Caroline is perfectly placed to advised entrepreneurial women with a gem of an idea, how to move it forward and the pitfalls to be aware of. She really got the group thinking about the possibilities and opportunities there are for us as consumers to become brand leaders.
I had the pleasure of chatting to the lovely Dr Yana Johnson MBE at the last event so it was really inspirational to see her talk so passionately about her brand Yana Cosmetics development over the last 12 years, from a table in Morleys’ Department store in Brixton, to its current success as a global online enterprise. Yana turned her ‘desire to look like black Hollywood’ into a reality. Moving into retail spaces overseas is the next challenge ‘…you don’t want to let your brand loose, and then see it selling next to chickens and tomatoes!’ Yana is an example of what can be done with belief, passion and energy and demonstrates that it is possible to make the dream a reality.
The final part of the evening gave us a taste of the Illuminum Experience. I love fragrance, so it was a real treat to be experiencing, amazing, fantastic quality fragrances from a brand that relishes the individuality that only a traditionally created fragrance can provide. The range is brought to use by Michael Boadi, hair stylist turned nose. The fragrances are divided into Citrus, Floral, Oud and Musk families and are made from only eight ingredients. The Vaporizors have about fifteen percent essential oils content and Haute Perfumes approximately thirty percent. The colours of each fragrance are determined solely by their ingredients. Inside each glass was a black paper which had been sprayed with the fragrance so rather the putting your nose to the paper, you put your nose to the glass. We were advised not to smell every fragrance as noses are sensitive, but it was difficult to stop sniffing once you started. My favourites, in order of preference, were Bergamot Blossom, Trumpet Flower, Vetiver Oud and Black Musk. The Black Musk and Trumpet Flower were applied to my skin and even as I type this, the following morning I can still smell them. I am definitely going back to Illuminum for the full fragrance experience.
When beautiful, professional, intelligent, savvy, strong women of colour come together, remarkable things happen. Watch this space … for accessible, premium and mass market skincare, hair and cosmetic products made for black women, by black women.