A Nude Awakening: Is it time to banish the beige? 

nude tones in fashion

Nude tones: how flesh colored fashion is changing

To most the term nude conjures up images of a super feminine / magical mid-tone located somewhere between blush, beige and peach and historically, in the language of fashion this was the norm. However, things are changing and there’s a shift within all things neutral. It’s time to redefine the term. The commonly held vision of a “one-size fits all” nude tone is getting a (well overdue) shake up and is being viewed more of a concept than a colour.

It’s no real secret that the industry as a whole is seeing a positive move towards greater diversity, when we talk of nude now, and there is no specific shade, in fact I’d go as far as to say the term nude used in a singular sense is out-dated. At WGSN, when I talk about “nudes” I’m describing an entire colour group which ranges from super pale alabaster through to enriched cocoa. The old nude only speaks only of one small section of society.

Back in 2015 Kanye’s whole hearted embrace of diverse nude tones in his Yeezy collection began to stir mainstream interest in the topic and more recently Rhi Rhi’s sellout Fenty x Reebok collaboration, both reflect a more contemporary take on this colour range.

Inspiring product design solutions such as TruColour Bandages show how importantly, this goes beyond the fashion arena. The company offer a range of bandages and plasters in a whole range of complexions with the tagline of “Diversity in Healing” showing a commitment to inclusive design.

Pioneers and colour confidence

Thinking further about lingerie brands like Nubian skin, Hanky Panky, footwear label Kahmune and even well established luxury brands Christian Louboutin who are all now designing ranges specifically with inclusivity and diversity at their core – with colour in the driving seat.

We spoke to Ade Hassan, M.B.E founder and creative director of Nubian Skin who believes that “nude is what it says on the tin” in that the colour should be truly reflective of actual men’s and women’s complexions. Regards the design industry’s “Nude awakening” she says “For my brand, Nubian Skin, nude means truly giving options to women of colour, who have previously been excluded from the industry definition. I believe that nude as a shade is still generally considered the standard beige / blush colour, but there has been a lot of progress over the past few years, and it is becoming more inclusive”

When asked about what had prompted this new direction Hassan feels that it has been pioneered by a group of progressive and globally aware brands. She goes on to highlight “Brands, like ourselves, have made a conscious effort to change the very narrow definition of the word nude.  The amount of attention the range has received and the number of women who have begun to speak and challenge the norm has helped shift the conversation. We put a lot of effort into making them truly skin-tone as opposed to just a random collection of browns.” With Nubian Skin now stocked in ASOS and Nordstrom it seems that those in the wider fashion arena are sitting up and delivering a better nuanced product offering in response to consumer’s needs.

No longer are brands like Nubian skin delivering a niche product for a small slither of society, in fact  recent studies from Mintel and GOV.uk share that there are now 1.2 million people across Britain alone who describe themselves as mixed heritage, making mixed race the third-largest and fastest-growing ethnic minority group in the UK and with the black british population just under 2 million, it is clear that a demographic shift is under way.

Social media, particularly Instagram, has played a big part in ensuring that this topic has been promoted from a minority to a mainstream issue. Combining with the Self Love and Body Positivity movements, we see the hashtags of #Melaninpopping and #MelaninQueens trending across all platforms, creating digital communities audibly celebrating diversity. Vaby Endrojono-Ellis from lifestyle brand NuNude notes “Social media is a platform for self-expression and [as a brand] we get a lot of feedback on the decisions and colour choices we make… we strive to be more inclusive. The lack of diversity in the fashion industry has warped this definition to one that only suits people with lighter complexions. The more inclusive definition of nude is central to our brands message that whoever you are you shouldn’t be excluded”

Nude clothing- the fashion brands changing the definition of nude

Nude clothing- the fashion brands changing the definition of nude

Nude tones: The move to banishing the beige

Recently pink and peach tones have been revelling in serious commercial success for retailers (ahem Millennial Pink anyone?!) however it’s important to note the spike in their popularity is purely trend driven as forecasted, opposed to the long-term movement towards multi skin-tone offerings.  Hassan from Nubian skin says “Given the existence of so many different shades of people in the world, I really hope the industry sees this a norm, a continuity, it’s not just a flash in the pan. This will take a while, and a lot of it will depend on smaller brands continuing to offer this, to keep larger brands accountable. ”

As we move into a more multi-cultural world the term “nude” to really needs to embrace this change and reflect a true modern society, with brands championing change and proud to include more than simply one (or two at best) skin-tones into ranges. Definitely time to banish the beige.

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