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Desiree Rogers buys Fashion Fair out of bankruptcy

Crusader Staff Report

Desiree Rogers

Former Johnson Publishing Company big wigs Desiree Rogers and Cheryl Mayberry McKissack have bought their former employer’s iconic Fashion Fair cosmetics line out of Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The two executives along with the hedge fund Magnetar, bought the cosmetics line on November 7 for $1.85 million.

“Fashion Fair is just too valuable for our community to lose,” Rogers said in an emailed statement. “We plan to modernize the brand and products, but will remain true to the company’s roots, which was to create prestige products focused on women of color.”

Fashion Fair was created in 1973 out of the traveling fashion show Ebony Fashion Fair, once believed to be the largest traveling fashion show in the world.

While producing fashion shows, Johnson Publishing Company founder John H. Johnson and wife Eunice struggled to find makeup to match the darker skin tones of their models. When the two started Fashion Fair, they were turned down several times before they finally persuaded department stores such as Marshall Fields and Macy’s to carry makeup for women of color.

Fashion Fair at one point was the largest Black-owned cosmetics company in the world and sold skin, hair and fragrance products in department stores and online.

Fashion Fair over the years experienced a decline before the brand expanded into stores in Europe in recent years.

Rogers tried to revive the struggling Fashion Fair brand with new colors and a fresh marketing campaign. Still, Fashion Fair struggled to keep its items stocked in department stores.

In April, Johnson Publishing Chairman Linda Johnson Rice filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy and sold its prized photo archive collection for $30 million to a group of foundations.

In 2016, Johnson Publishing sold its iconic Ebony magazine and Jet online publications for an undisclosed price to Clear View Group, a Texas-based private equity firm.

Rogers, a former White House social secretary under President Obama, was hired as Johnson Publishing CEO in 2010. As problems mounted for Fashion Fair, Rogers left Johnson Publishing to work for the city tourism agency Choose Chicago.

Mayberry McKissack, who once served as Chief Operating Officer for Johnson Publishing, also owns Black Opal, another beauty line specifically for women of color, which was started in 1994.

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