For many women, every last, seemingly minute detail of an outfit is important. From what earrings to wear, to what shoes she’ll put on her feet, pieces of an ensemble can actually be quite complex. But what some people may not realize is even undergarments are a very important part of an outfit. Aside from wanting to feel comfortable, confident, and sexy, wearing the right bra and panty can make or break an outfit. For example, most of us wouldn’t wear a fluorescent pink bra underneath a sheer top. A black or white one would probably look better, but still wouldn’t quite do the trick. So, nude it is. But take one look around in your average big box lingerie store, and you’ll see that the “nude” bras really only match a fraction of skin tones. That’s where Love & Nudes founder Chantal Carter Taylor saw an opportunity to redefine what nude looks like.
As we all know, skin comes in a variety of beautiful shades and colors—this much is evident especially within the Caribbean community. So, unsurprisingly, beige simply does not blend in with more melanin-rich tones. Chantal uses an example of a lace dress to illustrate the need for nude undergarments that actually look nude on the wearer. “I love lace, and sometimes I just want it [undergarments] to look like my skin underneath that top. But I could never achieve that. I always had to wear black or whatever bra was the colour of the lace top. And I was like, ‘I don’t want to do that, why do I have to do this?’” From that frustration with a lack of options for herself, and for people that have skin tones outside of beige, came Chantal’s inspiration to take matters into her own hands.
Chantel has been in the world of fashion for several years, growing up in Montreal while her mom worked in the clothing manufacturing industry. She grew up around clothing and sample sales, even before sample sales became popular. She has first-hand experience with the industry, including its shortfalls when it comes to inclusivity. “I worked as a wardrobe stylist, and I saw that there were new trends out there, but it was always for beige or European skin tones. When models came to shoot, they were expected to have nude undergarments. But what they didn’t get is that there weren’t really any nude undergarments for darker-skinned people. And I want to wear fashion in the same way. I would search, and search, and search for it in North America, but never found it. And that planted the seed, my love of fashion and my feeling that something wasn’t right,” she explains.
Chantal’s feeling of something not being right seems to be part of a larger, widespread shift towards people of colour demanding to be included in more spaces in society—and creating those spaces for themselves if those demands aren’t met. It wasn’t that long ago when people of colour would only see themselves reflected in background roles in movies or television shows, if at all. That is finally beginning to change, with more and more TV shows and films showcasing people from several walks of life in leading roles. It’s only natural that something as important as fashion also follows suit. Seeing ourselves reflected in the mainstream is vital, especially for building confidence and self-esteem in young people. “This is a huge reason why we have this brand,” Chantal says. “It’s about enabling women of color to love who they are, regardless of the skin tone, because when you don’t see products that look like you, subconsciously, you internalize that you’re not significant, that you’re not beautiful, you’re not good enough, because there’s nothing out there that looks like you.”
No matter what your skin tone is, at Love & Nudes, you will find undergarments that blend in with you. Since the bras and panties are mostly sold online, the company has created ways to help determine which of their four shades offered would be your best fit. The first is to go by the shade of foundation you usually wear. On the Love & Nudes website, you’ll find a chart where you can look up your shade of foundation, and the Love & Nudes shade that corresponds with it. The site also has printable colour swatches, so that if you don’t wear foundation or are unable to find your shade in the chart, you can simply print out a sample of Espresso Empress, Knockout Nutmeg, Butterscotch Beauty, or Honey Love, and check it against your inner arm or your chest. Chantal says anyone with a skin tone from olive to deep will find a match.
Aside from finding your perfect shade of nude, at Love & Nudes, you’ll also find underwear that is comfortable, and as any woman knows, that is of the utmost importance. Pokey underwires are not something you’ll find here. “We did some research and found a lot of women complained about underwire. We wanted a bra without that, and because Love & Nudes is about feeling comfortable and natural in your own skin, I thought it was very fitting to do something that was totally comfortable. We want the bra to mold to their body, not the bra to mold the woman’s body,” she explains. The bras also include a hook at the back, so it can be worn in racerback style. And the fabrics used in their garments are moisture-wicking, meaning you’ll be feeling fresh and dry all day. Chantal describes the cut of the panties as a hybrid of a thong a cheeky-cut, with a double panel to help smooth things over.
Love & Nudes aims to provide its women with a sense of confidence and empowerment, and that doesn’t stop at their clients. “We work with women who are also trying to empower their community,” Chantal says. They work with South American manufacturers who focus on employing single mothers and giving them a fair wage. “We need to be conscious of where we’re buying our clothing from, and who it’s supporting.”
So, if you’ve been on the hunt for that perfect bra and panty set that will have you looking and feeling the way underwear should make you feel, have a look into Love & Nudes, who is here to enable women of colour to love who they are.