IN­TI­MATE KNOWL­EDGE

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.

Fairlady - - CONTENTS - By Tif­fany Don­son & Lucinda Dord­ley

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.’

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