Long before Knix Nudes came onto the scene, Love & Nudes trailblazed the way for intimates designed with women of color in mind. Founded by Chantal Carter, Love & Nudes is Canada’s first Black owned intimates company that focuses on skin tones. A company both innovative and necessary, Knix sat down to chat with Chantal about her experience as a Black entrepreneur, inclusion in the fashion industry, and the importance of continually supporting Black owned businesses. Meet Chantal.
Hi Chantal! Why did you start Love & Nudes?
While working as a wardrobe stylist in fashion I was motivated by the glaring absence and misrepresentation of everyday products for women of color. Nude was only defined as beige in the fashion and beauty industries. I knew this wasn’t true, but it seemed like it was just accepted as fact because no one was making fashion based on darker skin tone colors. I saw how Black and dark-skinned models didn’t have nude undergarments they were expected to have for photoshoots! I too longed to wear my own nude in undergarments and clothing — to wear fashion without compromise.
In order for me to achieve the looks I wanted, I had to paint a bra and panty to match in my own skin tone color. I thought, no one should have to go through this. So I developed Love & Nudes with love for my melanin sisters. I wanted them to know that they mattered and they are valid regardless of their skin color. I am proud to say that we are the 1st in Canada to produce a diverse nude intimates line.
What was it like to start your business as a Black entrepreneur?
There was a lot of doubt, wondering why such a simple idea was not readily available and who was I to actually do this? However, I couldn’t let this misrepresentation continue! Believing in the viability of my product and wanting to bring it to market beyond a local target market, I pitched my plan to an investor — who happened to be a white man. He told me that my product line wasn't practical because the 4 skin tone colors that I wanted to produce would be just too much for a store to carry.
I was dumbfounded at his statement and I felt like I was being told that there wasn’t a need and that my life didn't matter. But this only fuelled my passion to continue making something to respond to the needs of melanated women. I crowdfunded to raise money to develop the first Canadian line of nude bras and panties for my melanated sisters and went to market with it. I refused to let the views of that man decide that our Black culture and our needs are illegitimate — which is part of the power of White privilege. This is only one example.
A few years ago I reached out to Joanna Griffiths, the founder of Knix, and got help and advice around starting up my nude product line of intimates. I’m a believer in women helping other women, so I was thankful for the guidance. Being new to the category it was helpful to get insight from someone within the industry. Recently Knix launched a nude line too. While I’m happy to have the needs of Black women finally starting to be recognized, ultimately I wish that the investment community would support Black owned businesses from the jump, so we can create and scale these products ourselves.
Love & Nudes is super community focused, down to the members of your supply chain. Can you share a bit about the women you work with and the importance of why you do?
I’m proud to produce my bras and panties in a woman-owned, woman-lead facility in South America. They are conscious women who are also all about empowering their communities by providing fair wages and working with studios that employ single mothers, giving them a chance to support their families in just working conditions. I was so excited to find women with the same fashion sense and philosophy as me— I knew the connection was meant to be.
Most of the businesses I partner with are also women-owned and Black and women of color owned. I believe it is so important to support businesses of marginalized communities and of people who aren’t given the same opportunities as white males. I want to show leadership and integrity in everything I do.
Love & Nudes is a celebration. Tell us about how #OwnYourTone is part of that.
It is a celebration of who we are, our voices and our experience as Black women and women of color. Love & Nudes Own Your Tone Series is about owning your voice, your story and cherishing your skin tone whatever the shade! We are celebrating, connecting and empowering women of color by sharing various women's stories, information and experiences. I want to encourage and inspire women especially Black women and women of color to see what's possible for us all regardless of our experiences and our skin tone. We post this on our website and social media as a way of connecting and inspiring women to live to their fullest potential.
Who is your biggest inspiration right now?
My biggest inspiration is former politician and MP Celina Ceaser-Chavannes, who I am so in love with. She is a strong and BEAUTIFUL Black woman who stands up for the Black community and fairness for all people. She is willing to stand alone for her beliefs, even when it isn’t the popular thing to do. She struggles with mental illness, as I do, and had the courage to speak about it openly. She made me feel less alone and less ashamed for my struggles with this. The world needs more people like her in our societies. I know she is going to even bigger places and will help to make things better for the Black community, people of color and ultimately all people.
Our voices need to be amplified and she is just the person for that. When she wore her hair in cornrows at Parliament Hill I got down on my knees and thanked God for her, as I know that could not have been easy to do and argue about amongst a majority of older white male politicians.
What are you proudest of?
I am proud that I challenged how nude is being defined (as exclusively as beige). I’m proud that this challenge helped me to develop the 1st Canadian line of nude intimates for Black women and women of color. I’m so proud to have taken the measures to help put an end to systemic racism that has plagued the fashion industry and our society.
What do you hope for the future of representation in fashion, especially the intimates industry?
My hope is an end to the systemic racism that stifles the economic growth and fashion needs of the Black community. We are the original influencers and fashion trendsetters in pop culture, along with being one of the biggest spenders (trillions) in fashion and beauty.
Recently Justin Bieber openly acknowledged that his fashion sense is influenced by Blacks. Yet we are typically shut out from behind the scenes and from the business side of fashion. Big name brands and businesses have always excluded us in the making of everyday products we need. Anything that was nude, like bandaids, intimates, makeup, and shoes were exclusively defined as beige and for white skin. This is very personal for me, and the crucial reason I started Love & Nudes, to challenge this non-inclusive definition.
The solution I dreamt up is now being offered by white big brands who couldn’t see nude beyond the color beige, as an opportunity to market specifically to Black people and people of color. This is the same idea investors and bankers didn’t see merit in when it came from me, a Black woman. Our businesses must be represented in the market to serve our community and the world, especially when it is products that specifically meet our needs. We need loans, investors and funding for our businesses, which is typically a challenge for the Black community.
Also, Black designers and brands must be included in retailers product offering. As designer Aurora James said, we should be stocking retail stores with 15% of products and fashion from Black vendors. My hope for Black entrepreneurs and people of color in fashion is an easier ability to gain access to funding, and the same opportunities as our white counterparts so we can successfully grow our businesses to become billion-dollar companies as well.
Why is it important for us to support Black-owned businesses? Besides Love & Nudes (of course!) are there any others that should be on our radar?
Again, to end systemic racism overall. It is vital for people to spend with Black businesses everyday, to help overcome systemic racism. In this COVID pandemic, Black businesses are especially vulnerable. When many people consciously spend with Black-owned businesses in lieu of spending with only big brands, it will spread the economic wealth and close the gap between white and black communities. This will also hold larger businesses accountable to hire more Black people and diverse workforces. I believe this will allow our society to thrive. If we all had the same opportunities our society would benefit exponentially with new ideas, innovation, creativity and economically. Here are links to 2 Black directories to find Black owned businesses in Canada: Afrobiz and By Blacks.
Here is a list of Black owned businesses led by AMAZING women you could help to support now:
Zade Jones Studio — Lifestyle and resort wear
Sade Baron — Vegan beauty products
Sugar Plum Scrubs — Skin and body scrubs
Kinky Curly Yaki — Human hair extensions
Diva Creations — Body and hair products
Jodianne Beckford — Photography portraits
Godzpeed Communications — Communications Consulting Agency
Bonafide Organizing — Personal Organizing and Home Improvement
Elleverity Wealth — Financial Advising
Kids Swag Co — Mindful Kids Retailer
Monique Bryan — Personal Branding