When’s the last time you went to a major department store and found nude undergarments that were actually “your” nude hue and not the typical beige nude? You’d probably be hard-pressed to remember such as a time.
Well, Erin Carpenter, CEO/founder of Nude Barre, got tired of not finding underwear that matched her skin tone and she did something about it. She started the company in 2009 and officially launched a product line in 2011. As a professional dancer, Carpenter typically had to wear costumes that called for nude bras and underwear, but the costumes never matched her skin and she grew frustrated. Carpenter first started searching for a solution to her own problem, then decided this was a problem she could help solve for many more women, one of which is Wendy Williams who is a Nude Barre customer.
Nude Barre offers tights, fishnets, thongs, and bralettes in all shades of nude and Carpenter talked to us about how she is growing her vision and this much-needed business.
Erin Carpenter (EC): I always wanted to be an entrepreneur ever since I was a kid. I used to make bracelets and sell them. When I was a kid in college, I sold Mary Kay so I always wanted to be an entrepreneur but I wasn’t sure exactly how. In college, I was a dance major but a business minor.
MN: Why this product?
EC: All throughout my career, I could never find nude hosiery and undergarments that matched my skin tone and many of the costumes I had to wear demanded that you have nude undergarments. So on a weekly basis, I was dying tights, shoe, etc. and I knew there were others like me who wanted nude undergarments. Not being able to just go out and find your skin tone included in products on the market can really affect you over time. It is beyond frustrating.
MN: How did fund your startup?
EC: Initially, I just used my dancer savings. I also borrowed from family and friends.
MN: Why did you decide to make your products Eco-friendly?
EC: We use recycled materials to make the yarn and other material. We wanted to create something that not only felt good to the customer but also contributed to a healthy Earth.
MN: How does Nude Barre stand out from other companies offering “nude” undergarments for women of color?
EC: Currently, we’re the only brand that has 12 shades and that is the most shades. Most of the other brands are making an average seven hues. But think of your skin from season to season, you may need several different shades throughout the year. In summer you may have a little more coloring, for example. Most of our customers wear two shades.
MN: What have been some challenges in growing your business?
EC: When I first launched it there was a lack of understanding that nude should not be one shade. That it is not okay–we live in a global world! Even when I was pitching to stores it was like reeducating someone. And it is not just Black women who need these shades–all women need the variety of nude shades. Now, more people are getting the concept, and that is awesome.
MN: How are you marketing the company?
EC: We use social media a lot. Instagram wasn’t around when we first got started but now it is a great tool for us to connect directly with our individual customers. Our website also has a list of stores that carry the products, or you can order online.
MN: What’s next for Nude Barre?
EC: Right now we are working on a bra. We want to debut it this summer.
MN: What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
EC: The thing I love most is getting the positive feedback. I look at Nude Barre as a women’s empowerment brand. By offering customers something they need and that they have not been able to find in the general market, it’s empowering. Finding hosiery and undergarments that match your skin tone really is empowering.