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Nubian Skin: Redefining 'nude' lingerie



It is time for “a different kind of nude,” according to Ade Hassan, founder of online lingerie and hosiery label Nubian Skin. Hassan aims to redefine the industry's definition of nude by offering lingerie in skin-tones suitable for women with darker complexions and filling what she see's as a big

gap in the intimates market.

“My nude isn’t the nude I see in shops. Despite the reality that women of colour have the same needs as all women when it comes to lingerie and hosiery, the industry simply doesn’t cater to us. So, I thought, it’s time to rethink the definition of nude,” said Hassan, explaining where she found the inspiration for her lingerie label.

"I wanted women of color to feel included"

The former economics graduate turned designer was frustrated by the lack of nude, or flesh tone options available to her and decided it was time to cater to the needs of women of all color. “If a woman works in a professional atmosphere and she wants to be taken seriously, she cannot wear a sheer blouse with a coloured bra or a white dress with yellow shoes and black tights because then she just looks like a bumblebee. I wanted women of color to feel included and to be able to shop their own shade of nude.”

Although other lingerie labels have tried to include darker shades in their nude range, such as Marks & Spencer with its Nearly Naked line, the color options have been limited to one or two deeper tones and restrictive in their sizing options as well. “I think that there a lot of brands out there making incredible items of lingerie, that is just a fact. But with regards to their nude offering I think that it is just something many designers, or perhaps decision makers at the brand, have chosen not to look at,” noted Hassan. “Or maybe they have and its just not something that has really taken off. I can't really say why they do what they do, but it's a gap in the market which we can address.”

Hassan felt that she was the right woman to address that gap in the market. “Launching my own lingerie line was not a very natural jump for me to make,” explained Hassan, who previously studied finance and development and worked as a strategy consultant and analyst, “but I have always been very interested in fashion.” To ensure she was successful with the development of her first collection and to understand the design behind the lingerie, Hassan took time off work to study fashion design in Paris before going back to London to launch Nubian Skin.

Once back in the UK, Hassan began researching which true-to skin tones would be best for the label. The lightest shade available from Nubian Skin is called 'cafe au lait' and is said to be suitable for women with a lighter skin tone, or with a mix of ethnical backgrounds. Then there is 'caramel,' a rich golden-brown tone, followed by 'cinnamon,' a medium dark color. Finally there is the darkest shade, Berry, “a really lovely deep, rich cocoa color.” In order to help her customers find a suitable match, Hassan has been uploading images to the label's Instagram account prior to the store' s launch.

that's me, that's my skin tone"

“We have had a lot of comments from users saying 'oh that's me, that's my skin tone' which is amazing, but we also have been using foundation colors to match the tones and act as guidelines to help customers find their match.” Once customers have found their match they can pre-order a bra, pants and tights all for under 100 pounds, as Hassan aims to have her label accessible to all women. For example, essential T-shirt bras retail for 29 pounds, thongs for 10 pounds and classic lace push-up bras for 39 pounds.

Although Hassan does have a good selection of nude-tones, some customers have been expressing their concerns regarding the sizing options available. Nubian Skin currently offer bras in sizes 30B to 36DD/E, which leaves out a number of women. “The decision to use the normal sizing range for the first collection was one we thought about a lot, since a lot of women of color are very well endowed,” explained Hassan. “But when you first start up a business you have to be incredibly practical about things, otherwise you will lose money before you actually start. So we thought we would be very conservative and see if there was demand and then go from there. But we have listened to the initial feedback we have received and it has always been our plan, if things went well, to expand our sizing offer.”

Expanding from the online realm into the world of bricks-and-mortar is another future plan for Nubian Skin, if everything goes according to plan. “If we were to partner with any department stores it would be amazing to be stocked in Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Debenhams, Selfridges or John Lewis in the UK. And in the US, department stores like Macy's, Nordstorm and Bloomingdales, that would be fantastic.” However, Hassan decided to launch Nubian Skin online because “as a start-up one of the easiest things to do is to start online," and ship internationally.

"There is a demand for nude lingerie and hosiery"

“But also given the fact that the mainstream has ignored the need for nude lingerie for women of color for so long, walking into a department store and asking them if they can stock us – well first of all you are not likely to get very much attention, second of all, when you do that you are almost putting all your power in their hands, which puts you on the back foot,” added Hassan. “And I knew there were a lot of women like me, who have darker skin tones, who have this problem and there is a demand for nude lingerie and hosiery. So I thought if we launched online and they could see what a huge following there is behind this, they will think twice and may pay attention to us.”

Since launching Nubian Skin's social media channels, as well as blog site, the label has gained a huge online following. “The number of people who have shown interest in Nubian Skin has been absolutely phenomenal, having a whole community of people behind an idea is amazing. The mainstream media have also been supportive and helped spread the word which is just amazing, I never expected this level of support.”

Nubianskin.com is currently open for pre-orders and will officially launch its e-commerce on October 1, 2014.

Marks & Spencer
Nubian Skin
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