Have you ever typed the term “nude-coloured fashion” into Google? If and when you do, you are met with a set of images that consist mostly of white models in beige outfits, with the odd picture of a woman of colour wearing clothes in a deep, dark brown shade. These images reflect fashion’s one-size-fits-all approach (no pun intended) to its long-running love affair with the colour nude. The colour nude in the fashion world often ranges from a light sand colour to a deep caramel tone at best – something that does not adequately reflect, or cater to, the needs of our ever-growing multicultural society.
But, while many high-end labels and high-street shops have been slow to extend their definition of “nude”, there is a handful of independent, women-run fashion brands that are diversifying what the term looks like. Companies such as Nubian Skin, Brun et Noir, Bianca Miller London, Being U and Ownbrown are among those providing women of colour with both hosiery and underwear that is more suitably matched to their skintones.
Ownbrown founder Nadine Ndjoko Peisker explains that her company was borne out of deflating shopping experiences when looking for flesh-coloured hosiery and lingerie to wear underneath her work clothes: “As a black woman and as one of the few black lawyers in Switzerland, I was always frustrated when it came to the moments where I needed to find nude hosiery. We had a dress code in the law firm I was working for and I needed nude hosiery to meet clients or to go into court. I didn’t want my clothing options to only be black tights or trousers. I trawled through all major retailers to try to find lingerie that matched my skintone, but found nothing.”
Likewise, Nubian Skin founder Ade Hassan, who launched her company in 2014, said that her business was borne out of “personal frustration”. She also shared why her brand started off providing underwear and hosiery for women of colour: “Nude underwear and hosiery are the essential basics of every woman’s wardrobe, so I felt that we should be able to have the same options that other women have in most shops. We have expanded into other items – we created a limited-edition collection of shoes and, more recently, our Naked Collection, which includes a bodysuit, camisole and slip.”
There has been progress made when it comes to catering to the nude needs of all women... However, there needs to be change at the top of the fashion chain if we are to continue to make significant progress
But the conversation around diversifying “nude” doesn’t begin and end with extending the colour palette to darker tones. Women on the other side of the complexion spectrum are also neglected in terms of having nude clothing to suit very pale skin. Nunude, founded by Joanne Morales, sells reversible clothing items, as well as swimwear and loungewear, and ensures her clothes cater to all women of all complexions.
“Yes, paler-skinned women are absolutely forgotten when redefining nude shades within fashion. I am really passionate about diversity as a whole and we need to ensure skintones across the board are catered for when it comes to nude-coloured clothing.”
And it doesn’t stop there. In 2016, Ade Hassan answered Beyoncé’s call when she was asked to provide the nude underwear and hosiery for The Formation World Tour. Since then, Hassan has expanded the Nubian Skin range to ensure that women who identify as plus-size have options when it comes to nude staples for their wardrobe. Morales also acknowledges this by offering an extensive range of nude colours for all women – it is a building block to create diversity all round when it comes to the fashion industry.
“Nunude provides skintone underwear to women of all sizes; however, diversity shouldn't end on just skintone. The diversity issue was far greater and I felt that it was down to Nunude to make a change.
“Our first campaign released was in January 2017, just over a year ago; we got 15 girls of all complexions, shapes and sizes to come and star in our campaign. I feel this really helps the diversity issue as a whole.”
No doubt, there has been progress made when it comes to catering to the nude needs of all women and not just those who tick the beige box. However, there needs to be change at the top of the fashion chain if we are to continue to make significant progress and Hassan has an idea of why there is still an ongoing battle for the fashion industry to expand its view of nude.
“A lot of the people at the top creating these products don’t always have those experiences. I think one reason that it has taken so long [for change to take place] is because a lot of large [fashion] businesses are owned by older, middle-aged, white men who don’t necessarily face the same issues (such as needing the right bra to wear under clothes) on a daily basis – it doesn’t affect them so they don’t realise that the need is there.”
The purpose of any business and/or industry is to serve those in need and, for far too long, the fashion industry has refused to do its job and serve all women of all races. By nude being defined as beige, it tells women who aren’t that complexion that they are invisible. But, thanks to women like Ade Hassan, Joanne Morales and Nadine Ndjoko Peisker, women are powerfully reclaiming the colour nude and illustrating that it can no longer be – and never should have been – defined as a single shade (or two) of beige.
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