Finding the right shade of clothing or makeup that matches the skin tone can be a challenge for women. But two recent Harvard Business School graduates, working from their kitchen table, are hoping to change how the retail industry sees and sells to women of all skin colors.
The problem, according to entrepreneurs Nancy Madrid and Atima Lui, has been fashion’s limited range in the color nude, reports Meg Oliver of CBS News’ digital network, CBSN.
“We are the first to tackle this problem for fashion,” Madrid said.
“When you were growing up, what did the color nude mean to you?” Oliver asked.
“It definitely meant beige. I have a lot of stories of wearing beige, nude hosiery and just having ashy legs,” Lui said.
The children of Sudanese and Mexican immigrants bonded over the lack of choices in everything from lingerie and nylons, to makeup.
“We were talking about needing flesh tone products and there just being this huge gap. And so it came out of this desire to do something good for the world,” Lui said.
On a mission to change the standard of beauty for women around the globe, they launched their company, “Nudest,” last July, just months out of school.
“You can come to our site, try our nudemeter. We digitize your skin tone and we match you with products that best matches your skin tone,” Madrid said.
They say their nudemeter is the first of its kind.
“Yes so it’s a proprietary algorithm. Between the two of us, we were scanning people’s skin and looking at different products versus skin tone, and coming up with what were the different variables that we need to measure to match product to skin tone,” Lui said.
Oliver gave the nudemeter a shot. It starts by taking a picture of your hand on a white sheet of paper.
“So then you select your skin tone, you self-select an area,” Madrid explained. “And then you shop your skin tone. And now you have this number seven – that’s your ‘nude.’”
Once you know your nude, the site curates a selection of lingerie, shapewear and hosiery to match. They’ve partnered with 11 companies that offer products in a wide variety of skin tones.
“Are you actually matching people’s skin tone with products or are you offering products that are close enough?” Oliver asked.
“We do offer products that are close enough because there is still a gap in the market for nude products,” Madrid said.
We examined that gap when we went to the websites of 10 major retailers. We found few options for women of color.
“The current definition of nude, the beige tones, do not match 84 percent of the global population,” Lui said. “So the opportunity is big to fix this.”
Julee Wilson, the fashion and beauty editor for Essence magazine, said expanding the definition of nude isn’t just a trend.
“I think it’s a movement,” Wilson said. “And everyone is talking about it right now but I feel like trends are fleeting and I don’t want this to be a fleeting thing.”
Consumers are talking about it on social media and fleshing out their concerns with hashtags like #redefinenude and #notmynude.
“I think social media is really the reason why this has all happened,” Wilson said. “It’s really kind of energized people to be more vocal about what they want.”
“Companies are being called out?” Oliver asked.
“Yes. Yeah, a lot,” Wilson said.
As more companies answer the call with more skin tone options, Lui and Madrid plan to expand as well.
“Nancy and I talk about launching footwear, which we call the most coveted nude item. Right now, if you go to Google and search ‘nude shoes,’ you are not going to find anything that matches my skin tone,” Lui said. “And our customers keep asking, ‘When is footwear coming?’”
“Shoes,” Oliver said.
“Women love shoes!” Lui said, laughing.
The nudemeter isn’t perfect just yet – the ladies are constantly refining the product to work out some kinks. But Madrid and Lui are already working on those expansion plans, and that means moving out of Nancy’s apartment into new office space, and even hiring some employees.