The [Beauty] Revolution WILL be Commodified…
So maybe commodification gives you the heebie jeebies because it reminds you of all the ways in which Africa has been robbed, but this time I mean it in a good way— like when ‘bad’ means ‘good’ and ‘nasty’ means ‘awesome’… It’s the best way to capture what is happening here on the ground. There are a number of really great natural hair and body brands and products that have come to my attention since my original post on the beauty revolution. Just this past weekend, I had the joy of trying two new brands on the Ghanaian market: Shea Butter Cottage and Teiva.
Shea Butter Cottage (SBC), in my opinion, is basically the commodification of all the great natural beauty resources from Ghana and across Africa. She has essential oils, as well as fun mixtures largely for hair but also for body. She has also taken this incredibly great educational sin on her products. At the Sankofa day this past saturday, her event included a powerpoint presentation with a break down of her products and their value. SBC is also a fair trade organization which means she offered information on how the ingredients are sourced and what this means for local economy. She also gave away free goodies (which I am obviously a fan of) and I think she had an excellent understanding of branding and positioning. There wasn’t that large of a turnout which is unfortunate because it was honestly a really well organized event. The organization has been around for some time, but it is just starting its sales operations in Ghana.
Teiva is sort of this Ghanaian Bath and Body Works au naturalle brand that offers a really classy variety of excellent smells and fun cures for the skin. I am not one to be putting things on my skin but I opted for the lotion and soaps, so far I love the feel and scent of the lotion. It’s light but moisturizing with a slight oil— but not the kind that’s heavy and attracts dust. The chapstick is really simple and smells lovely. The store is absolutely beautiful and super comfy and I was just SO proud of it as a ‘for us, by us’ sort of endeavor.
So naturally I had to ask myself the following questions:
1. How do we get these things to be a major part of the exports coming out of Ghana?
2. What are the international linkages that need to happen to make ‘Teiva’, ‘Shea Butter Cottage’ and ‘peini’ household names all across the world?
3. Having had various hairdresser experiences, I know that Ghanaians are more concerned with the hairs end product. If this means they must burn, cut or pull out your hair to achieve this, they are more than happy to do so. One thing I have been thinking, and SBC brought to light, is the incredible educational opportunities available to get our people hip to all of the natural ways to preserve and protect our skin and hair. How can we ensure that local hairdressers and beauticians are using these products and are also educated on this?
4. Having spoken to a buyer from Macy’s, I know that major chain stores are really weary of taking on Africa products, largely because they can not produce the right quantities. I am wondering if this is the time to consider how Beauty manufacturing can happen on a larger scale in Ghana. What could this look like? Could brands actually share plants? Could they be powered by alternative energy sources (light out will not hold back the revolution!)?
5. What would a ‘Beauty Revolution Ecosystem’ look like? Would we integrate the use of these types of products into the hair dressing curriculum? Could the government sponsor this as part of their efforts to undergird Technical/ Vocational Skills Training? How do we ensure that those currently practicing hair and beauty techniques would tap into this knowledge pool and implement them?
If there is anything I took away from my one Local Economic Development course (shout out to my LSE prof)…I know that these things are greatly spurred by linking local networks, creating a buzz and then attaching them to multinationals. In my ideal world this looks like Ghanaians owning and using these products religiously and then some big company like Dark n Lovely, Target or even Miss Jessie’s coming in to partner and promote them. This is my nostalgia for the future of beauty for the world…
Before you ask, neither of these ladies even know I am writing this about them. I am just genuinely happy to see this stuff happening and I need for it to scale up and out asaptually within the next 5 years… let me know what needs to happen!!