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Nubian Skin: The Moroccan Nights Collection

Nubian Skin Shadow Bra

Nubian Skin's 2014 debut was a watershed moment for the lingerie industry. After years of campaigns like "What's Your Nude?" being ignored (if not outright mocked), here was a lingerie brand created by a woman of color for other people of color. And the response was explosive.

Not only was Nubian Skin featured in O Magazine, Ebony, Self, and Allure (not to mention MTV, The Los Angeles Times, Elle, and Cosmopolitan), the label was shared were shared by celebrities and fashion icons like Kerry Washington and Jourdan Dunn.

Perhaps even more importantly (because press mentions are nice, but they don't pay bills), Nubian Skin was picked up by two major retailers - Nordstrom and ASOS - single-handedly kicking off a revolution in how lingerie brands and lingerie stores viewed their customers of color (and, let's be real, especially their Black customers).

Hidden Figures

Not a brand to rest on its laurels, Nubian Skin has become the go-to brand for the entertainment industry, able to provide performers and actresses with bras, panties, and hosiery in a range of darker skintones.

Beyonce selected Nubian Skin to furnish her Formation tour underpinnings, and they were also chosen to equip the cast of Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, with hosiery.

The label has gone from strength to strength, adding plus size hosiery to their selection and also continually refining the fit of their collections (both in core sizes and the soon-to-be-released fuller figure bra collection). Through it all, they've maintained a clear and unapologetic voice and vision, proudly serving a customer demographic the mainstream lingerie industry has been all too happy to neglect.

It's pretty much impossible for me to overemphasize how profound the "Nubian Skin Effect" has been. If you're a darker-complexioned bra-wearer, and you've been able to go to a department store or a mall chain or even your local lingerie boutique and buy a nude bra in a shade other than beige, Nubian Skin is to thank for that. As someone who watches the lingerie industry, I've seen more brown bras in the past year than in the previous seven...and more Black women modeling those bras as well.

Nubian Skin Midnight Sleep Set

This year, Nubian Skin has launched something completely different with their Moroccan Nights Collection. A luxury, limited edition lingerie and sleepwear line with an emphasis on breezy lace and loosely fitting silhouettes, Moroccan Nights yet again displays Nubian Skin's penchant for departing from industry tradition. This is a collection "inspired by Africa" (Morocco, to be specific), without a single "tribal" or "ethnic" print and it features a Black woman.

Very often when Africa, the second-largest and second most-populous continent on the planet, is discussed, it's from the perspective of charity. Brands raise money for Africa. They donate to Africa. They organize outreach missions to Africa. But rarely is the beauty and heritage of any one of the hundreds of cultures across the continent put front-and-center.

Even when a fashion label chooses to produce in Africa, the "charity" story is always first and foremost, as though a brand is doing the people a favor. While that narrative may have its place, it's not the only story that should exist. Similar to how Nubian Skin challenged the lingerie industry's view of the color nude, they're now challenging how the industry views lingerie made by and for Black people.

Nor is this a simple "inspired-by" collection with no ties to the region. The Moroccan Nights Collection was manufactured in Morocco. Nubian Skin hasn't tucked this little detail on hangtag or obscured it with "Designed in the UK" marketing speak. The country of origin is an intrinsic part of how they want this new collection to be viewed.

Nubian Skin Shadow Sleep Set

One of my ongoing points of contention with the lingerie industry is how, despite often being "inspired by" by Asia or Africa (or whatever the continent du jour is), brands rarely use models from those parts of the world.

Nubian Skin again turns that dubious tradition on its head through the use of a Beninese model, incorporating another element of cultural richness and heritage into the collection. Their chosen model is gorgeous - radiant even - with her dreadlocks, tattoos, and scars clearly visible. I'm looking forward to the upcoming interview on Nubian Skin's blog where the model herself shares the story of her body art.

Often, when a brand does something revolutionary and finds success, as Nubian Skin has, it's seen as a foregone conclusion. The accomplishment - its weight and significance - is diminished under cynical statements like, "Anyone could have done this," or "Why are we celebrating this?" But I vividly remember how, as recently as two years ago, brands were still giving the party line of "beige is a nude for all skintones."

For Nubian Skin to so explicitly target women of color, and Black women in particular, with diverse images of Black beauty is a profound thing. At this point, Nubian Skin is building more than a brand. They're building a legacy. And I love them for it.

What are your thoughts on the new Moroccan Nights collection? If you liked this blog post, please share it with your friends!

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Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

16 Comments on this post

  1. Ketty says:

    I admire this collection.
    The model is very intriguing and her body art is absolutely exquisite and unbelievably amazing to me.
    I was so busy admiring her body art to tell you the the truth I didn’t really pay attention to the lingerie at first but now that I look at it is very beautiful.
    I hope more vibrant colors are introduced.
    I congratulate Nubian Skin on their success and I look forward to
    more collections that reflect, intensify, and Adorn all our “hueful” beauty.

  2. the entire article is beautiful. have loved nubian skin – the concept and reality from day one but to incorporate the entire package in the narrative /nailed it. the model is beautiful as are her body adornments/they are all of a piece.
    just visited the mood indigo exhibition at the saam in seattle . the immersive indigo piece by rowland ricketts with nobert herber sound has set my mind reeling in the blue sphere. then to come home and open this gorgeous post, what a perfect way to start a monday.
    thank you , thank you for sharing the wondrous variety to be found. makes life so interesting.

  3. D says:

    I love the blue sleep set. However the model is so absolutely beautiful she outshines the lingerie! Who is she?

  4. Lauriana says:

    I really like the blog post and I (not being the target customer) think Nubian skin is doing something great. But something about the story about Africa bugs me: Morocco is on the Mediterranean coast, north of and in the northern Sahara and just a very short boat ride away from Spain at the closest point. Its inhabitants look more Mediterranean or Arab than what we usually consider “African”.
    Of course, just like the old mainstream brands showing Asian inspired collections modeled by white women, Nubian Skin can choose to show its Moroccan inspired collection worn by this beautiful lady from Benin but the text seemed to gloss over this a bit…

    • Cora says:

      My understanding from the collection (and Nubian Skin’s entire “Made in Africa” series, of which this is meant to be the first piece) is to show a Pan-African vision of the continent. The designer is Ghanian-British. The model is Beninese. The lingerie itself is made in and inspired by Morocco. To me, that reflects the Pan-African intent, and is not the same as a brand painting white women in yellowface to suit their vision of what a geisha is. There is no stereotyping happening here; if anything, I would say it’s exactly the opposite as I’ve never seen a dark-skinned black woman with traditional, cultural markings modeling for a lingerie brand ever before.

      Of course, you’re welcome to disagree, but I don’t see the similarities in design, intent, or effect that you’re describing in your comment.

  5. Ana says:

    Love the images, and how graphic and geometric her body art is!

  6. Grace says:

    I love the collection, the inspiration, and the overall effect Nubian Skin has had on the lingerie market. As someone who grew up in West Africa, I love it when western brands (or really western people) recognize and glorify the amazing culture that comes from there. There is so much richness in textiles, art, music, dance, and cuisine that we’ve barely scratched the surface on. Personally, I’d love to see many more brands focus on African cultures as an inspiration rather than the often negative media portray they tend to receive. That being said, the scars of the model make me very uncomfortable. I think it’s dangerous to portray self-harm as glamorous, and having known many victims of genital and ritual mutilation I can’t help but feel squeamish at the look.

    • Cora says:

      Nubian Skin’s model is actually going to speak about her body art on the Nubian Skin blog, so please don’t interpret this as my speaking for her or on her behalf, but I believe it is vitally important to distinguish between self-harm scars (such as the scars I have on my arms) and cultural or traditional scarification that one voluntarily chooses to connect with their heritage (such as the model’s body art). While her appearance may make you uncomfortable, equating the model’s body art to female genital mutilation in an attempt to legitimize this discomfort is a stretch, and it may be worth considering how your own cultural biases are at work here in affecting your feelings over the model’s appearance.

      • Grace says:

        I think the connection for me comes from knowing women with similar markings that were non-consensual. So to me, scarification has an instant strong negative connotation, particularly when it’s around the breast region. I will be interested to read her piece and see what they mean to her. I’ve never seen the practice from a light of anyone but those who were victims of a twisted version of it.

        • Dee Lushious says:

          There are a LOT of people with body mods in North America, too, with scarification becoming more and more common type of body mod. Most people I’ve known with scarification are involved with kink/alternative communities. That’s another area to look in to, if you’re interested in broadening your exposure to it to people who got thier marks 100% consensually. I’m also eagerly anticipating the interview with the model!

    • Catherine says:

      This is not self harm. As a psychologist working in Central London, I’ve worked extensively with self harm, also with FGM, and with survivors of violence against women. This has NOTHING to do with any of that. I have no idea how you would draw a link between body art and FGM.

  7. I am 100% in love with everything about this. <3 The model, the designs, the atmosphere, everything! I really want to carry the brand in store, particularly the hosiery. I am so glad the company is enjoying success!

  8. Darla says:

    Everything anout this brand makes my heart smile. Showing Africa in a luxurious light versus from a place a charity is quite refreshing. There is so much more than what is portrayed of Africa and other black nations (i.e. The Caribbean), and it is long overdue to show all facets of these cultures. I can’t wait to see what else comes from Nibian Skin!

  9. W says:

    Great article.
    In so many ways we have moved forward. Yet, in many other ways, particularly when it comes to skin colour darker than beige, we still battle to be seen, valued and heard. It’s not a ‘chip on the shoulder’, it’s a fact.
    Three months ago I went to a well-known beauty counter in John Lewis, Peterborough and was told, “there’s no call for cosmetics for black skins.” Yep, they still say that!
    I am proud of Nubian Skin for taking a stand and catering for the various shades of brown/black skin. It’s appreciated.
    No more tights that make your legs look ashy or having black underwear offered as the only option for darker skin tones.
    Times are changing, slowly but surely, and for that I am thankful.
    You can guarantee that those who turned Nubian Skin away, or laughed and said it would not sell are very sorry indeed.

    • AlexaFaie says:

      I’ve seen some adverts on TV recently for foundation in 23 shades I think. Whilst it may still not have the right tone for you, it might be worth checking out? Pop into boots to get your analysis done to see if they have a no7 foundation for you. I still think they need more darker shades than they showed on the TV but I’m not overly familiar with how close a match foundation is meant to be (I don’t wear makeup myself as it’s too much effort for me to bother with so am not that experienced with its ins and outs even for my skin tone). And it is at least a start. I’m speaking from a position of whiteness (so I know i have some privileges others don’t) but I’m pissed off with how long it’s taken to get better representation for all skin tones for things like underwear and make up. I’m fed up of the excuses that it “won’t sell” especially when the basis for that idea is that flawed. Of course it will sell if you market it correctly. The old excuses of “we made a brown bra but it didn’t sell well” don’t fly when you realise that it wasn’t marketed as a skin tone bra for everyday use, wasn’t kept anywhere near the everyday bras and probably didn’t work for all darker skin tones either or wasn’t in the right sizes for those skin tones. I’m so glad that finally the industry is sitting up and addressing a huge issue.
      I love what Nubian Skin is doing and what they stand for. Their advertising is wonderfully representative of people who are usually not seen in mainstream media. Showing someone not only of colour, but also with a traditional hairstyle, tattoos and scarification as beautiful is so important. These little victories should be celebrated. Can’t wait for even more companies to take note so that there is even more choice out there.

  10. Amanda says:

    ughh i love it soo much. everything is gorgeous.

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