After graduating and finding myself sub-employed in the world of retail, I have had the opportunity to closely explore the cosmetics industry. While in university I acquired my Makeup Artistry certification from a recognized school in Canada because I enjoyed colour and makeup so much. Since I was a child I enjoyed playing with my mom’s cosmetics, and I used to long for the day that I would be allowed to wear lipsticks and eye shadows.
Yet, after working so closely in the cosmetics industry, it is easy to see the challenges that come along with gender and the politics of ethnicity, which, I must admit, have made my love for makeup wane.
The cosmetics industry is often a place where beauty standards are created, defined and imposed. It is based on dreams (and training materials often indicate: “sell dreams, not products”) and on the idea that women need “help” to be beautiful or even to look healthy (thus the creams and treatments).
Cosmetics companies contribute to ideas of hegemonic beauty while exploiting them for profit. Whereas this is not surprising, the profit that comes from individual cosmetic counters is enormous. In North America (including Canada, the U.S. and Mexico) stores such as Sears, the Bay, Macy’s, and Holt Renfrew, and their associates set daily targets ranging between $100 and $5000 dollars for each individual beauty advisor in a counter (thus the annoying cosmetics ladies chasing you around, especially on slow days).
While working at the counter, I have realized that a large portion of my clients are Muslim women; nonetheless, the industry does not seem to acknowledge this trend. As I have explored in previous posts, Muslim women have claimed a place as designers, models and stakeholders within the fashion industry; however, they hardly seem to have a place in typical Western-style cosmetic houses. [Read more...]