Many retail outlets are showing their support for Black culture and history this Black History Month. One of those outlets is Bath and Body Works. The retailer has a cult following who lines up for hours to grab their candles and wall flowers when they have their big yearly sales. This year, BBW released a limited edition collection in honor or Black History Month as well as made donations to the National Urban League and the Columbus Urban League.
Social media was in an uproar over the roll out. The packaging was said to be inspired by “handmade African mud cloth designs,”but no mention of what country, tribe, or the meaning of said designs. Also, they simply repackaged their signature scents and did not create new ones for collection. It gives very much “ How can we spend the least amount of money, show our “allyship”, while also making the most profit?”
While, Black designers for the packaging, here is how Bath and Body Works really could taken it a step further and made an bigger impact.
1. Collaborate with Black Candle Makers
Black candle makers are making waves in the streets. From Lit Bklyn, Harlem Candle Company, Forvr Mood, The Black Home, to name a few of many. Curating a limited edition collection and shining a light on a Black owned business by giving them shelf space for the month would have been well received.
2. Create New Scents
The body spray entitled “Empowered” is teakwood scented. Teakwood originates from Asia, not Africa. Next up is the coconut sandalwood “Unity” candle. While there are Black people in the diaspora from Caribbean nations where coconuts are plentiful, it doesn’t match the African themed packaging. In addition, sandalwood fragrance originates from India.
Absolutely_Arii wrote an amazing breakdown on the fragrances profiles they could have used:
3. Honor Actual Historical Figures
Trendy phrases like “unity” and “empowered” sound nice, but they don’t put a face to those who spent their lives fighting for Black people to be united and empowered. It takes away the profound impact the month can really have on one’s educational experience.
Companies who have never acknowledged Black history or culture have begun to do so within the last two years. In doing so, many did not hit the mark and I hope they are open to constructive criticism. To those within the Black community who think “we should just be happy” to be acknowledged, bare minimum is never enough. Our history is just as rich as any others and it deserves the respect of time and commitment to get it right. That means acknowledging your shorting and hiring consultants, partnering with creatives and small businesses. Cutting corners just to say you did something is not showing allyship nor respect for our culture.
Bath and Body Works missed the mark with this one, but next year (let’s see if they even try again) I hope they do better after receiving their community’s feedback.