DIP 020: Overlooked and underserved

PLUS: Ilana Kohn x Molly Baz, Mary Cassatt-inspired baby clothes, and Ugg makes weighted blankets

👋 Hi. A handful of readers have suggested that I make a gift guide. There are enough gift guides out in the world so I’m not going to do that. However, if you’re really stumped on what to get someone, you can’t go wrong with L. L. Bean’s Wicked Good Moccasins, Cloudknit sweatpants from Outdoor Voices, or a three-pound bucket of Maldon salt. And because we’ve made it to DIP 020 (!), I made you a playlist. As always, reply with questions, comments, or thoughts about anything you read here.

The Chips 🍈

The Dip 🍣

As an intern at WWD’s Paris bureau in 2012, I learned a lot from transcribing interviews. One of the details that stuck with me came from an interview about the opening of L'Oreal's factory in Indonesia, its largest in the world. The new factory would serve as a hub for product development and testing that responded to the unique needs of Southeast Asia. Due to the region’s humid climate, shampoo fragrances, for example, had to be formulated to be sweat-proof and last longer.

While tailoring products to different regions is standard in global corporations, it was the first that I had heard of it. Now, the proliferation of digitally native, direct-to-consumer brands offers the opportunity to cater to previously overlooked communities, and to make those niche products widely accessible and available.

The things we don’t talk about

In the last year or so, I’ve noticed a steady stream of brands launching with products geared toward perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. There’s Rory from the team at Ro; Kindra, which was incubated by P&G and M13; and Ritual’s 50+ multivitamin. Arfa, the forthcoming house of brands from Henry Davis, has filed a trademark for “State of Menopause” in the category of feminine care products including lubricants, supplements, hand and joint cream, and CBD body oils.

This uptick aligns with the shift toward reproductive curiosity among women — they’re tracking ovulation cycles, freezing their eggs, and destigmatizing menstruation by simply talking about it more openly. It’s fueled by the growing number of women in positions of power. The reason companies like this haven’t existed before — or have been relegated to the back aisles of pharmacies — is because women were not the ones calling the shots.

High school health classes don’t address menopause, and they barely address female hormonal cycles. They’re both treated as miserable, unspoken things that you’ll only learn about by moving through it. But with education comes empowerment and the possibility of ownership and control.

In creating products that target a specific audience during a specific phase in their life, brands are facilitating education and destigmatization. And it’s not just happening around menopause — Bodily makes products that support postpartum recovery, and Thinx’s incontinence line, Speax, is popular among women recovering from childbirth.

If you build it, they will come

In 2018, data-driven editorial platform The Pudding published a deep dive into inclusivity among beauty brands, breaking down the distribution of shades among top-selling make-up lines. It’s thorough and fascinating and worth spending time with, and it shines a spotlight on the value of shade diversity, specifically in the context of Fenty Beauty.

In creating products for people who had, by and large, been previously overlooked and underserved, and by meeting their needs, Fenty Beauty profited.

Walker and Company’s Bevel launched in 2014 and made waves as the first shave brand that specifically responded to problems faced by men with coarse, curly facial hair. At launch, founder Tristan Walker likened Walker and Company to a Proctor & Gamble for black people. It's fitting, then, that four years later, Walker & Company was acquired by Proctor & Gamble for $20–40M.

The reason these brands have been so successful is that their products solve a problem in a way that makes people feel seen, validated, and understood. It’s equal parts product and brand, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

In and out of focus

Carol's Daughter and Sundial, maker of Shea Moisture, are both grooming brands designed for people of color that went on to be acquired by L’Oreal in 2014 and Unilever in 2017, respectively. In both cases, the acquisitions allowed the brands to scale production and distribution, and also gave founders a seat at the table of the largest and most powerful CPG conglomerates.

With the acquisitions, though, came backlash. Longtime Carol’s Daughter fans felt that the brand was selling out; they were the ones who had helped build it, and it was falling out of touch with its core customer. Sundial founder Richelieu Dennis promised customers that he would use his platform within Unilever to elevate entrepreneurs of color through a $50M New Voices Fund, and that its product would remain the same.

This has me wondering, though: What gets lost when a company that targets overlooked and underserved communities is acquired by a massive corporation? How do acquisitions shape consumers’ perception of a brand? And how do consumers reconcile the fact that a brand that was once made for them has to expand and offer products for everyone?

Still Hungry?

Real Dip 🍄

Beet and ricotta hummus.

Roast a softball-sized beet at 400 degrees for about 75 minutes. Let it cool, peel the skin off, and chop it up.

Add the beet, one drained can of chickpeas, three large spoonfuls of tahini, juice from two lemons, a large spoonful of ricotta, two smashed garlic cloves, a pinch of coriander, a few cranks of pepper, and two three-finger pinches of salt to a food processor.

Blitz it for a little longer than you think you need to, then taste it. You'll probably need more salt, and possibly more lemon juice, too.

Pairs well with pita chips, dark rye bread, and roasted squash.

Thanks for snacking,

— Emily 🍷

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