Ade Hassan is a British entrepreneur of Nigerian parentage, who has carved a niche for herself in the women fashion business. She is an award-winning designer of specialized lingerie made for the Nubian skin. Her company specializes in making underwear in darker tones for women of colour. Calm and unassuming Ade was bestowed with the Queen’s Award of an MBE for her services to fashion industry and particularly in recognition of her commitment to redefining nude. Ade, a banker who became a designer recently visited Nigeria and shared how she felt when the award was announced. She also offered advice to woman concerning their bra choice.
Can you tell us more about you?
I got my advanced education at Duke University in the United States where I studied English and Economics, and graduating I moved on to obtain a Master’s degree at the school of Oriental and African Studies in London.
My early career was in private equity business but took a break from that for one year, to take courses in sewing and pattern cutting. Then in 2014, I founded Nubian Skin, which makes underwear in dark tones for women of colour. That same year, I was named fashion entrepreneur of the year at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. In October 2015. Nubian Skin was nominated for Hosiery Brand of the Year at UK Lingerie Awards and won UK Favourite British Designer of the Year. I was appointed a member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2017 for services to fashion.
How did you win the Queen’s award and how did you feel being recognized for this as a Nigerian?
I had never imagined that I would receive an MBE, and till today I still do not know who it was that nominated me! As the owner of a small, independent brand, it is an incredible validation of my goal of ‘Empowering women, embracing our colour.’ I feel so fortunate and am very grateful for all the people who have supported my vision and Nubian Skin and made it what it is today. I haven’t really processed what it means yet, but it does make me more determined than ever to keep working hard at keeping my dream going.
Where did you work after school and why did you settle for this line of business as an entrepreneur?
I was born in the United Kingdom, but my family is Nigerian. I grew up all over the world, in the UK, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and the United States. I’m pretty lucky to have the most incredible family, I feel like I won the lottery with them. After I finished my Masters’ degree I ended up in banking, which was something I had been interested in doing, but ultimately I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I came up with the idea in 2011, but I didn’t actively begin working on the company until 2013. The first step was really fleshing out the vision I had for the brand and then registering the company and trademarks. After that I reached out to manufacturers to see who could help me bring my vision to life.
Who influenced you more growing up, was it your dad or mum?
Both! They’re both entrepreneurs, so I guess it’s in my blood.
Any challenge so far in business, for instance, sourcing for raw materials and gaining acceptability, etc?
The lingerie industry was so different from working in finance, and I really had no contacts or knowledge about how it worked. So, the first large hurdle was figuring out how I could create a company in an industry I knew nothing about.
How do you get inspiration?
Inspiration can come from anything. A lot of times it’s not what I think I want, it is what we hear from customers saying, we really want this, we really want that and we take them into consideration. Also my creative ideas, things that I think are beautiful and I want to create.
How was life growing up?
I indicated earlier that grew up in a lot of different places. I also spent couple of years in Saudi Arabia then I came to Nigeria, also in United States as well.
Does the environment you live in influence your designs and patterns?
I think starting a business is definitely a product of things I saw growing up. Both my parents are entrepreneurs. In Nigeria, people are very entrepreneurial. In the fashion industry nude is beige. When I lived in Nigeria, everybody looked like me. It wasn’t that I was thinking that only this kind of people get this, why shouldn’t we get the same thing that they have? I think a big part of that is having grown up in Britain and everybody successful person I saw was black; it wasn’t a racist issue. Whether you are rich or poor, powerful or not, everybody was the same colour. It’s not only that I thought only white people should have this colour. Your skin colour wasn’t a limiting factor for anything. I think that definitely it was an influence. Why shouldn’t there be a company that creates things for black people? So, I could say I was influenced by my upbringing.
What should women consider when choosing a bra?
In a couple of times people get very fixated that I’m this size. One of the best things is go and try it on. Depending on the shape, the cup size, the band, even what time of the month it is, that could change your bra size. It’s really important. You may think you are a 36-D but when you take a different brand you might actually be a 34-E, just depending on the shape and how it fit. I always advise women, to get fitted by a professional at least once in a year or once every two years. Go to a very good underwear shop that ideally specializes in underwear; ask them to fit you so that you know that you are wearing the right bra size for the way you carry yourself, especially if you a woman that has a fuller bust. That’s a lot of weight to carry and if you are wearing the wrong bra size that can really affect your posture. Always go and get fitted once or once every two years, because the body changes all the time.
What is your favourite style as a person?
I like to experiment. I like wearing lots of different things, and it depends on my environment. A lot of times, if I’m home in Nigeria, I like to wear more native things, more colourful things. Where I am influences what I wear and how I dress like. Obviously in London, if its winter, it’s cold; you obviously have to pack yourself. I have a bit more of classic with a twist style.
As a bra designer, do you also make clothes?
I used to sew actually. Amazingly, I could sew some nice things but now, I could just don’t have time.
What advice would you give someone as regards the right bra to wear for events?
It really depends on what you are wearing. If you are wearing a blouse that is lighter colour or bit sheer, its better you wear T-shirt bra because that has no seams. You can’t see any line or anything in the bra that’s a clean look. If you are wearing something that is off-the-shoulder, it’s nice to wear strapless bra. No one sees your straps. It looks very presentable. Other than that, it’s up to you. Some people like lacey bras, some people like simple bra, it’s all about finding what’s more comfortable for you.
You have a lovely skin, do you mind sharing your beauty regime?
I’ve always loved skin care. I’m very regimental about morning, I cleanse, tone and moisturize; and in the evening, I double cleanse.
I use a pre-cleanser and a cleanser. I usually use a toner, a serum and a moisturizer. I exfoliate at least two times a week, and I do face mask at least once a week. I’m very strict about my skin care regime.