FUNMI FETTO wrote Palette after years of being asked for advice on products suitable for women of colour, a group largely excluded from mainstream beauty coverage. As a contributing beauty editor for Vogue, she was ideally placed and Palette brings together tips and advice on hair and skin care, make-up and body products never available in one volume before.
Palette by Funmi Fetto (Hachette, £25) is one of my favourite beauty reads ever. Not only is it aesthetically gorgeous (with illustrations by Spiros Halaris), organised into logical sections all beauty buffs will love, it is also an intelligent read.
Outlining key ideas about products at the start of every new category, Fetto’s ready wit and humorous asides enliven her informative reviews. She provides good detail about why she likes them, what they do and don’t do, and to who they are most likely to appeal or to suit.
Fetto’s writing style can be hilarious. I love her imagery – as in this example: “The liquid has the lightness of a watercolour, and pigment that, on a scale of intensity, is like shopping in IKEA on a weekend” – and her honesty, and I love many of the products she recommends.
Let’s be honest, Fetto’s book isn’t aimed at me. I bought it because I enjoy her column (in The Observer). Also, ALL makeup artists should know how to make up any colour skin tone, as well as knowing about age needs and skin type. It is shameful that we still need a book which holistically provides for women of colour.
‘(It) should complement your skin and not act as an opaque cover up: it’s a complexion not a scandal,’ Fetto writes about foundation. (Look at images of Grace Jones in the 80s, her beautiful skin ashy with the wrong product, to understand why Rihanna’s Fenty foundation range was such a ‘thing’ almost 40 years later.)
There have been some changes with regard to people of colour and the fashion and beauty industries, notably following Edward Enninful’s appointment as editor of British Vogue, while Rihanna’s make-up range too made waves. It’s no accident that Fenty’s launch mobilised other large beauty brands to extend their own foundation ranges, but it is shameful that it took a woman of colour eating into their profits to do so.
Fetto recommends many mainstream foundation brands as well as some lesser known ones. Her opener offers a hint to cosmetic producers, “if you look grey, red or cantaloupe, it is not the light.” Those who work in Product Development should devour Palette and take notes.
I love the fact that it feels as if Fetto really writes as herself: ‘It might sound like an odd thing for a beauty editor to say… but I find applying make-up laborious.’ It seems like you’re hearing her voice when she makes a quip or quotes African relations and their imagined reactions to mascaras with names like Perversion and Better Than Sex. I love her humour too, “Now, if I slathered my face in Vaseline, my skin would give birth to aliens.”
I’ve tried several recommended products; four mascaras, two blushers, a lipstick and a bronzer. I love them all. As a huge fan of Beauty Pie I was overjoyed to find hitherto unknown skincare recommendations. ‘Not all cults are bad,’ Fetto notes, in a statement guaranteed to be bad news for my bank balance! ‘Case in point: Beauty Pie and its followers. Of which I am one.’
The book feels like Fetto’s personal journey as a beauty editor, navigating the world of skincare and makeup. There is so much to learn from this book; which products to explore, how to combine them, which to celebrate. I cannot recommend this book enough.
The more people write about diversity hopefully the better things will become. When the writing is as expert, funny and charming as Fetto’s the impact should be even greater. We need more books like this; more training for staff in stores and across the press. Palette isn’t merely a book about beauty, as Fetto says, “It is about representation and being treated equally.”