Men get asked the question “boxers or briefs” as if that is the fundamental undergarment question. Women wish it were that simple. Instead they contend with: Wireless or soft cup? Thong, boy short or full cut? Strapless, T-back or regular straps? And now, thanks to a new business, there is the question that should have been asked years ago: Which nude is your nude? Nubian Skin, a London-based lingerie line, is providing a range of shades of “flesh-toned” underwear that answers that question by acknowledging that flesh comes in many shades and colors. It’s a simple concept, but one the fashion industry has long ignored–until now.
The new company, which opened in October, was founded by Ade Hassan. The Londoner had studied English and economics and was in a career in finance. Her fashion background went as far as a few sewing and pattern-cutting classes. However, she didn’t need a fashion degree to spot a real need in the market. She only needed to look at her own underwear drawer. “I’ve never been able to find flesh-toned lingerie,” she says. “The most annoying part about it was simply not having complete freedom in what I wanted to wear due to undergarment restrictions.” In 2011, Hassan decided to stop waiting for established brands to develop a line she could use, and she made her own that could benefit all women of color. Funded by friends and family, Nubian Skin was also launched, in no small part, because of an unexpected contribution. “The thing that really gave me the push I needed was receiving a card from my friend which said, ‘It’s time to start living the life you have always imagined.’ So I decided to do just that.”
For Hassan, the most challenging part of the experience has been finding a manufacturer. “As a new and small business, a lot of manufacturers simply didn’t respond to queries, and others were looking for incredibly high volumes, so it was tricky,” she says. One full year after finding a company that could do what she needed, Hassan released Nubian Skin. The line, which includes push-up bras, briefs, lace shorts, and T-shirt bras (all priced at $60 and under) comes in four colors, Cinnamon, Café Au Lait, Berry, and Caramel. For women who aren’t sure which they may be, the models on the site have a full range of skin tones, making it easier to shop.
Before the company launched, accolades poured in from social media and even fashion titles like Lucky, praising Nubian Skin for successfully solving a long-ignored problem–while gently chiding mass-market brands for failing to do so before. That leaves Nubian Skin in a desirable, yet also dangerous, position. Once the big labels notice that they could be selling a lot more items if they diversified their offering of “flesh-toned,” how does Nubian Skin plan to compete? “We have a lot of ideas up our sleeves,” says Hassan. “Currently our focus is on broadening our size range.” And the company will launch a hosiery line in December. Next year Hassan hopes to expand distribution beyond the Internet and sell Nubian Skin at various brick-and-mortar retailers.
For Hassan, it is clear that a lot more has happened since the launch of Nubian Skin than women simply having more underwear choices. Her company, she believes, is contributing to a larger cultural shift. “Women are more comfortable with who they are today, and we realize that it’s okay to treat and take care of ourselves,” says Hassan. “I think a lot of people simply like the fact that they are being told they matter, because they do.”