Style Observer

Love & Nudes

Sunday, July 15, 2018

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“I love lace and when I was wearing it I didn't want underwear that didn't look like my skin,” said Chantal Carter Taylor, speaking with Style Observer (SO) from Toronto. For the Montreal-born daughter of Antiguan immigrants, she saw an opportunity and took it.

In May last year, after a successful crowdfunding campaign, Carter Taylor launched her Love & Nudes line of underwear. The “melanin nude” shades cater to darker-skinned women who have had to make do with whatever they could find on the high street. Or, take matters into their own hands by dyeing their bras and panties with tea. Yes, that's a thing.

While working as a fashion stylist — some two decades ago — in Toronto, Carter Taylor realised that dark-skinned women had to take their own make-up to photo shoots. Models were also expected to wear 'nude' underwear but what is a woman to do when, as Carter Taylor put it, “'nude' doesn't include me?”

Love & Nudes is both a brand and a philosophy. Carter Taylor wants the underwear line to “influence change”. “I want to empower darker-skinned women to love themselves as they are!” Continuing with her company ethos, Carter Taylor manufactures the line in Colombia in a “woman-owned fair-wage factory that employs single mothers”. She, too, was once a single mother and understanding the patriarchal culture of Colombia, wanted to ensure that she was, not only producing ethical items but also helping women in the process.

With the launch of Rihanna's Fenty Beauty and subsequent Fenty x Savage underwear lines the world saw (finally) the financial power that black women yield. Even Christian Louboutin, back in 2013, noticed that nude did not encapsulate women who were not Caucasian. This resulted in the launch of Les Nudes range of his famous Pigalle heels. Today, there are seven shades of Les Nudes to choose from.

Love & Nudes ships worldwide and Carter Taylor would love to do a few pop-up shops in the Caribbean. A visit to her website will reveal a skin-matching guide and size chart to ensure that women are getting a perfect-fit bra. The fabric is lightweight and the bras are all wire-free to allow the pieces to feel “like a second skin”.

The first year of sales has been good for Carter Taylor but this is just the beginning. She has received favourable press from, among others, Ebony, the CBC and Flare. Harking back to when Love & Nudes was an idea and she was pitching to investors, she recalls: “One investor told me that it was too many SKUs (stock keeping units — the number above a barcode) so I asked, 'Is skin tone too much of a problem?'” But, with the skin bleaching industry forecasted to amass way over US$12 billion in sales this year, you can see that it really is.

Chantal Carter Taylor always knew that she wanted to marry fashion with something she believed in. “If you put something on that represents you, as you are, that's your armour to go out into the world and face the day.” Carter Taylor has stayed the course, ignoring voices of dissent, and has created underwear for women who look like her. Love & Nudes aren't just bras and panties — they are a part of a cultural zeitgeist promoting beauty in every shade.

— Vaughn Gray

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