Nyakio Grieco is a patron of poly-cultural beauty. Her first face and body care line, Nyakio Beauty, was inspired by the cosmetic rituals of her Kenyan ancestry. This month she launched Thirteen Lune —a name derived from her love of the sacred number, and the thirteen moon cycles in the astrological calendar—to offer a platform for other Black and Brown beauty brands.
Grieco has had a challenging journey with her own product line, which took 18 years to be picked up by her desired retailer, Target. She now wants to share her perseverance and experience with other beauty founders, channeling the challenges she faced to help others. As Black-owned brands received increasing recognition in the midst of the BLM movement, she realized that there was no unified retail channel for the diverse range of companies she wanted to support.
Nyakio found her ideal collaborator in Patrick Herning, creator of the size-inclusive fashion e-commerce platform 11 Honoré. After being introduced one and a half years ago by mutual friends, in the wake of the events of the summer of 2020 both realized that an all-inclusive beauty platform was the right project to pursue. “We knew that this is the important direction to take to celebrate, amplify, and support these Black and Brown founders because we still have a long way to go. Beauty is one-size-fits-all, meaning that it is something universal. The beauty industry has the power to unify in a way that maybe other industries don’t, and so we wanted to be catalysts for that change,” Grieco explains. “My co-founder and I both preach inclusivity. We thought, why not have a dedicated site where we can shop all of these brands by Black and Brown people, but the market size is everyone, because we can make products for everyone.”
They curated a selection of 13 product lines, ranging from haircare brand Charlotte Mensah to organic skincare company Dehiya Beauty, with plans to expand their selection in the near future. There is also an editorial arm, offering insight into the stories behind each brand. With a majority of retailers carrying only 2% (or less) of Black-owned brands in their assortment, Thirteen Lune presents an exciting new chapter and chance for growth. “We haven’t seen that true dedication to honoring this enormous amount of talent that exists within the industry. Beyond Black and Brown, it’s about poly-cultural beauty. There are such deep cultural traditions that have been passed down by generations and it’s an incredible opportunity to share that beauty wisdom on a platform where we feel seen and heard,” Grieco comments.
While the recent Pull Up for Change initiative encourages brands to have an at least 10% Black workforce, and the Fifteen Percent Pledge promises a minimum of 15% of retail shelf space dedicated to Black-owned brands, the need for change runs even deeper. According to a 2020 report by McKinsey & Company, only 1% of Black business owners receive a bank loan in their first business year (versus 7% of white business owners). The 2018 Small Business Credit Survey found that large banks approve only 29% of loans from Black business owners (compared to 60% of white owners).
“It has to go beyond the shelf space. There has to be a real investment in indie brands’ success. It’s just as important to speak to the efficacy of their products and the stories behind them because people buy into people before they buy into brands. We all can do a better job at highlighting these founders’ stories and speaking to a poly-cultural audience in a place of unity,” Grieco adds. This extends to the countries producing the product materials, as well as honoring the history and heritage behind them, according to Grieco. Fair trade and ethical working conditions present a step in the right direction, as 250,000 tons of shea butter beauty products are exported from Africa to Europe every year, and the global marula oil market is expected to have a CAGR of 4.8% until 2020. Another is consumer education. The levels of beauty product-related chemicals found in the body were higher in women of color than white women, regardless of their socioeconomic background, indicating an increased need for clarification around ingredients in these communities.
Above all, authenticity, whether in nurturing an inclusive business structure or allyship, remains key, and Grieco encourages the entire industry to continue rising to the occasion. “It’s having the uncomfortable conversations, being able to take a step back and figure out what we can do better. If you want to impact change, diversity, and inclusion, you’ve got to start from the top. Authentic allyship comes in the form of true honesty, how you can elevate your assortment to make it more inclusive,” she explains. “There’s so many different ways that we as an industry can come together to honor one another in our traditions and cultural beauty. That in itself will be unifying.”
Beyond simply introducing a wider audience to the abundance of Black and Brown beauty talent, Thirteen Lune aims to pave the way for future generations of beauty entrepreneurs. “I see my purpose as helping these brands get to success quicker and that by our successes we will then go back into our community and help build generational wealth, show that you can succeed in the industry,” she exclaims. “And by that we will level the playing field and help to alleviate systemic racism. That is the ultimate goal.”
Photo: via Thirteen Lune