Getting the foundation layer right can make all the difference to your outfit – and your confidence. Meet two entrepreneurs who are offering a new approach to lingerie.
Two women who are shaping their underwear businesses with innovative concepts
‘It all began on a sweltering day when I was about to present to a room full of people,’ says Gugu Nkabinde. ‘I was wearing a white shirt, and was worried my underwear would show. So I layered a black long-sleeved top under my shirt.’ After discussing the scenario with friends, Gugu decided enough was enough. ‘Why couldn’t the underwear itself be the solution, not the problem?’
She searched for a brand that provided nude underwear for women with darker skin tones, and finally found one in the UK. ‘I paid almost R2300 for a bra and two panties!’ Never again, she decided. So at the end of 2016, she and a friend resolved to do something that would define their legacies, and Gugu Intimates was born.
Initially, Gugu wanted to create underwear to suit her needs, but realised there were many other women in the same boat. ‘I bootstrapped, using my own funds and whatever donations I could get, but it was tough without a funder,’ she says.
Gugu Intimates held its first preview in March 2017 – and broke the internet. The site crashed after receiving over 2000 visits a day, and the brand was trending on Twitter. This is what drew
the attention of the three women who later became the brand’s funders. ‘I’d wanted the brand to be by women, for women,’ Gugu says. ‘I found it difficult to explain the need for real nude underwear to men who were potential funders; women get it instantly.
‘There’s something to be said about the power of women supporting women, which is what Gugu Intimates is all about,’ she adds. ‘Women are beautiful no matter their shape or size; this is another idea I wanted to incorporate into my brand. No one shade is more beautiful than another, which is why the name of each shade in the line means “beauty” in a different language.’
As for the brand name, Gugu’s father suggested she use her own name, which means ‘your object of desire, something to be adorned’ in IsiZulu. ‘I decided on Gugu Intimates because of what my name means and because it’s authentically African,’ she says. ‘As South Africans, we should support more local brands and businesses, and take pride in where we come from.’
Gugu Intimates has two fulltime employees and one part-time. ‘We use pop-up shops and the official website to sell our underwear.’ New shades and a plus-size range are on the cards for the business.
Gugu has the words ‘follow your bliss’ tattooed on her wrist. ‘This is a reminder to pursue the path that leads to joy; this is what Gugu Intimates is for me.’