A pair of Harvard Business students want to help redefine and expand what the color nude looks like in the fashion industry so that it can better reflect and compliment various shades of women.
Atima Lui and Nancy Madrid founded Mia Pielle after being fed up with the fashion industry’s limited definition of “nude.” The two women created the fashion-tech startup with the hope of being able to help women of all skin tones find apparel and accessories that would perfectly match their skin color.
“Unfortunately, the industry by and large defines the concept of nude fashion as a few tones of beige,” explained Madrid and Lui in a statement on the Mia Pielle website. “We are addressing this frustration for customers by curating many products that match different skin tones, but which are not necessarily positioned as ‘nude.'”
The concept for Mia Pielle came to the duo in December as they discussed how difficult it is for them find cosmetics and “nude” apparel that matched their unique skin tones. “We were just brainstorming one day about how difficult it is for [Atima] as an African-American woman to find the right shade of makeup,” Madrid, who is Mexican-American, told The Huffington Post. “And I mentioned [how] for me it’s hard to find the right color of nude shoes. Sometimes they’re too pink or they’re a shade that makes my skin look green, and we started playing with this concept and we thought, well, we have to come up with a solution for this.”
Madrid told HuffPost she and Lui initially toyed with the idea of creating a line of nude shoes to match a variety of skin tones, but they ultimately decided to go beyond just footwear.
“When we started doing research, reaching out to women and their nude needs, we realized that women are particularly interested in nude lingerie and nude shoes, and nude hosiery,” Madrid explained.
Using their proprietary “True Nude” algorithm, Mia Pielle curates products from existing brands, like Nubian Skin, in six different shades of nude — mahogany, chocolate, bronze, honey, pearl and ivory — providing customers with a personalized collection unlike what they may find in stores. Users are then able to select and purchase items from that curated list directly from a brand’s website.
The shades were determined by using a three-step process that included an analysis of 87 photographs of women from around the world taken by skin tone artist Angelica Dass, cross referencing the Pantone SkinTone Guide, and utilizing the Fitzpatrick Scale developed by Harvard dermatologist Thomas B. Fitzpatrick.
“What we plan on doing is partnering with existing brands and retailers to feature their products and monetize in an affiliate marketing model,” Madrid said of their business model. “That means that we get a commission when we drive sales for them.”
Still in its preliminary trial phase, or alpha test phase, both Mia Pielle and its founders are still growing and evolving. Lui and Madrid recently competed in Rent the Runway’s Project Entrepreneur competition for an opportunity to join their summer accelerator program. The duo’s also looking forward to competing in the Harvard Business School’s upcoming New Venture Competition at the end of April. And that’s just the beginning, according to Madrid.
“A year from now, I hope [Mia Pielle] reaches a lot of women and it gives them confidence,” she shared. “We want to contribute to a cultural change [in which] we are inclusive of everyone and every woman feels comfortable in her own skin.”