FASHION SCHOOL ALUMNI DIARIES: HANNAH HARRIS OF ‘BROWN GIRL HANDS’
The recent SCAD graduate reflects on how her fashion school education informs her work, both as a marketer and a creator working in the beauty industry.
By ANGELA WEI
Like many beauty influencers, Hannah Harris spends her time testing a lot of products. But unlike most of her peers, her hands are more recognizable than her face.
Harris is the marketer, creator and hand model behind @browngirlhands, an account that addresses the lack of skin tone representation in beauty by creative-directing photoshoots and modeling products with her own hands. She started posting on it in 2020 (while she was a student at SCAD), and the page now boasts over 12,000 followers. She’s collaborated with brands like Glossier and Sephora, all while working another full-time job in the industry, as a Brand Marketing Coordinator at Summer Fridays.
But her journey into beauty began while she was still a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design. She graduated — as Valedictorian! — in 2022 with a degree in Business of Beauty and Fragrance. Almost a year after she got her diploma, I sat down with Harris at SCADstyle, a three-day event that celebrates fashion and innovation, where she was a guest speaker, to talk about her experience at the school and how it’s informed the work she does advocating for representation in the beauty industry.
Like every other student at SCAD, Harris had to take foundation classes, which equip undergraduates with a comprehensive visual, conceptual and creative base.
“The foundational classes are fine art,” she explains. “My first year, I took Color Theory, I took Drawing one, I took Design one, I took 3D Design… The foundation classes here are really tactile. It’s definitely more like traditional art, but I wouldn’t be scared of that…. I can’t draw to save my life. They really judge you against yourself, and I improved so much.”
SCAD offers a plethora of diverse degrees beyond fine arts — case in point: Harris’ degree in the business of beauty and fragrance.
“It’s an overview of the beauty industry,” Harris tells me. “You have a few classes where you’re learning about developing products and how to launch them. And then you have a few classes that are about merchandising, and a few about creative development and creative direction.”
This meant she could dip her toes in various parts of the industry: “What that allowed me to do then was to try merchandising and say, ‘I don’t like that.’ And then try creative direction or production and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, that I like,” she says.
THE BEST CLASS SHE TOOK
Ask any student, and they’ll likely tell you their senior thesis was their most tedious class. But Harris found hers to be the most fulfilling.
Her capstone project involved coming up with a beauty brand, imagining the products it would sell and devising a launch plan. “You have to do the branding, the naming, the identity, what are you selling, what are your products, prices, the design — everything,” she says. “That’s where you really find out who you are within beauty.”
Harris was also actively involved in a range of clubs and extracurriculars while she was a student at SCAD.
“When you first start college, you don’t have anything to put on your resume. Before my first internship, what was on my resume was the school stuff I was doing. It was the clubs,” she says.
Her work with SCAD Manor, the student-run fashion publication, stands out to her: “Getting to say that I wrote these beauty articles and that I interviewed these people… that was also giving me interview access to people.”
THE PEOPLE YOU MEET
“It’s crazy that you go to a panel and you can leave with an internship,” Harris says about the opportunities you get as a student at SCAD to network right on campus.
For example, she attended a panel her freshman year with beauty-industry professionals, and interviewed the panelists for the school newspaper. She got their contacts, and emailed them afterwards asking if they were taking interns. That’s how she landed a marketing internship at Merit Beauty for that summer.
“SCAD is like the jumping-off point,” Harris says. “If you take the opportunity, you could really turn it into something.”
HER POST-GRAD LIFE
The multi-hyphenate splits her time between being a brand marketing coordinator at Summer Fridays and growing @browngirlhands. Despite having only graduated a year ago, she possesses a strong understanding of personal branding and direction.
“I think brands these days are looking for something that’s really authentic, and you get that with a smaller creator,” she says. “With a smaller creator, a lot of times they have a smaller audience, but they have a higher conversion because people are loyal to them. People trust them. I think the future of content is going to be less curated, more real. I think that’s what made TikTok so successful — people were kind of over a perfectly curated feed.”