Sapphire’s new foundation range: who is it for?

The brand may have missed out on the 'South Asian' element of their make up range

By Farheen Abdullah

KARACHI: Sapphire is no stranger to the world of retail in Pakistan. Being one of the leading brands for high street clothing, Sapphire knows its customer base and position in the market quite well. Over the years, the brand has branched out into home accessories, footwear, sleepwear, lingerie and most recently, a make up line. Out of the last category, Sapphire’s foundation range has definitely caught some attention.

Read: This Pakistani model is calling out brands for whitewashing her brown skin

For many, the main concern is: who is the range really targeting? With a limited range of seven shades, which are also further divided into two categories (cream and liquid), for a population that consists of multiple ethnic groups, various skin tones, Sapphire did not make a good first impression.

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Please keep in mind that I’ve made this video from the point of a consumer, and not a digital creator. I hold no personal grudges against this brand or the bloggers who promoted their cosmetics. Fast forward to 4:30 if you just want to see the swatches and skip my rant. I am so disappointed in Pakistani brands for continuing to create products and messaging that is not synonymous with how real, Pakistani women look. Honestly, I am sick of inclusivity and self-acceptance and colourism just being thrown around as buzz words. I am so disappointed in the Pakistani blogger/influencer community for promoting these products while having conversations about how problematic “Fair & Lovely” is when the #UnfairandLovely and #BLM movements were trending. Please stop preaching about self-acceptance if you feel comfortable promoting a brand that is capitalising on the very insecurities you are so vocally trying to abolish. It just makes me, and I’m sure many of your other followers, question your credibility and morals. Most importantly, I feel that we as consumers of these products and content have a responsibility to hold both brands and bloggers accountable. Brands continue to make and sell sub-standard products and bloggers continue to mindlessly promote them. There is zero accountability in this scenario. A simple example of that is that the brand has not listed ingredients for any of their products on their website. Bloggers promoting these products have done no research on the ingredients in these products either. The next time you see a product recommendation by an influencer, really question whether this person knows what they’re talking about. I simply ran a google search for the ingredients in the cream foundation and these ones were cited as problematic: Talc, phenoxyethanol, propylene glycol, PEG-10 Dimethicone and PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone Please read up in detail about why these ingredients are/can be harmful to you when used in makeup/skincare/haircare especially when some of these are used in a product together. . . . #realitycheck #honestreview #sapphirepakistan

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Once the shade range was launched, Sapphire seemed to narrow down their target audience even more for the shades, ranging from Vanilla to Dark Chocolate, which did not cater to all South Asian skin tones. Vanilla, in particular, looks like white nail paint against one’s brown skin.

Dark Chocolate, available in cream form, might be an appropriate fit for brown skin tone but is far from how dark ‘dark chocolate’ actually is. More importantly, it is far from the darkest skin tone that can be found in Pakistan.

Read: Amna Ilyas speaks out about the discrimination she faced because of her skin colour

Did Sapphire consciously create a make up range that would only cater to a small percentage of its audience, or did the brand want to sell people ‘what they want’ as Pakistan is a country that is deeply affected by the gora complex and lighter skin is a goal that many want to achieve?

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Illustration credits : @newton_baraik Does one color fit all ? We've all used crayons as kids.⁣⁣ Crayola, an American company has a multicultural pack that comes with a variety of skin tone shades. ⁣⁣ ✋🏻✋🏼✋🏽✋🏾✋🏿⁣⁣ Indian crayon makers sadly, still make only a single shade ✋🏻 for skin color for the billion people 🇮🇳 they represent.⁣ ⁣⁣ For the same reason , a 20 year old law student , Chirayu Jain, has filed a case 🗣️against Hindustan Pencils Pvt. Ltd. for color discrimination. He has accused them of having only one 'peach' colored crayon ➡️ as skin color. For kids, this quietly reinforces 🔄 the idea from a young age 👩‍👧‍👧that fair skin is the only acceptable color.⁣ .⁣ Kids absorb things quickly. Learning #diversity and #inclusivity at their age can make a huge difference.⁣ Let's hope that we get to see this change ! —————————————————————————⁣—————————————————————————– We ♥️ it when you share our posts ! It means a lot more people are getting aware and hopefully inspired. 🙌🏼 We have just one request – since there are actual people behind all this – Please credit us. ⁣ We want to create more and this would really motivate us ! Thank you for loving our work ! 🙏🏼🥰 #kaaliandproud #kaaliisbeautiful #darkisbeautiful

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“In the first stage of Sapphire Cosmetics, we wanted to introduce a limited range of products to understand consumer response and needs. Therefore, it was of paramount significance that the shades we chose offer more breadth than depth. Hence, we settled for the 7 shades with the highest cumulative audience coverage,”  shared Sualiha Nazar, Head of PR and Brand at Sapphire, with Cutacut.

“There is a fringe sentiment, as you mentioned, that most of our initial range of foundations is rather light by South Asian standards. Although we understand why that sentiment would arise, we feel it is misplaced,” elaborated Nazar. “The skin tones and the consumer preferences of Pakistani women vary considerably from the general skin tones and consumer preferences of the countries that surround us, and that’s what we have focused on, because our target audience is Pakistani women.”

But then, is it not the responsibility of brands as influential as Sapphire to teach its consumers to love themselves and be comfortable in their own skin? Did profit stand as a bigger motive for the retail brand, and did they want to capitalize on their consumers’ insecurities? While fairness creams all over the world have been revisiting their brand names and the concept of lighter skin tones being more pleasing to the eyes, why does Sapphire seem to be going in reverse gear?

Read: Twitter is calling out Bollywood actors who are speaking for #BLM while having done fairness ads in the past

“Without giving too much away, I can assure you that the next stage of Sapphire Cosmetics will have a wider range of shades and product line. We are listening to what our customers are telling us, and we are excited about how they will react to what we have lined up going forward,” concluded Nazar.

Sapphire may not have been able to please its consumers with its recent choices but can the brand redeem itself with the promised new range? Guess we’ll find out.


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