One ‘Nude’? That’s Rude

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By Beulah Kruger

This article is exclusive to the online Edition 1 of VARSITY Newspaper. 


Up until recently the word ‘nude’ has been defined as “a pale pinkish-beige colour.” This has long been evident in the fashion and makeup industries where it has been near impossible for people with darker skin tones to find a ‘nude’ that suits them. Clothing brands, such as Christian Louboutin and Cape Town’s own Nude Wear, are looking to redefine the term which is commonly used to refer to the colour of a white person’s skin tone.

Finding the right shade of nude should not have to be impossible for people of colour. Last year Rihanna created her own makeup line, Fenty Beauty, which is one of the most inclusive makeup brands in the world when it comes to the shade range of her foundations. After extensive research, they managed to develop 40 shades of foundation and, unlike other brands, they have a large and diverse amount of darker shades. On top of it all, it is also 100% cruelty free! This is a major breakthrough in the world of makeup for people of colour.

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It is well-known in the fashion industry that nothing is more leg-lengthening than a nude stiletto. However, the hegemonic concept of ‘nude’ has made this fashion trick available to light skinned people only. Christian Louboutin, renowned for his red bottomed shoes, has expanded his line of nude Cherry Sandals to include 7 shades of nude. His cheerleading themed campaign included models of all complexions from light to dark. Louboutin realized, after a colleague told him that beige is not the colour of their skin, that he needed to look at the word ‘nude’ as a concept and not a single colour.

I had the pleasure of discussing this concept with UCT student and small-business owner, Denicke Cronje. She began her brand of swimwear, Nude Wear, with the objective to challenge the idea of nudity and of the colour nude. In her campaigns she uses women that are of varying skin shades and body types. She wishes to challenge the idea that only thin women should be displayed in swimwear and underwear. On the colour nude, she says: “Typically it has been presented as a caucasian tone, which it obviously is not”. Her brand believes that it is especially important in countries like South Africa to represent the multicultural and diverse nature of our population. The average woman in South Africa is not Caucasian, or even light skinned, yet many brands still favor this image of South African women. Cronje has received a lot of positive feedback from her online following.

It is encouraging to see people in the industry, internationally and locally, taking this issue seriously and stopping the portrayal of ‘nude’ as being milky-beige. In fact, the official definition of “nude” has even changed to “denoting or relating to clothing or makeup that is of a color resembling that of the wearer’s skin”.

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2 thoughts on “One ‘Nude’? That’s Rude

  1. Hanna Reply

    Absolutely loved this post. It was very informative and great to see South African fashion designers getting recognized.

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