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Gugu Intimates: Nude underwear for African women

Meet Gugu. Founder of Gugu Intimates and Yoco merchant #10 703. Her goal is to make African woman feel comfortable in their skin. Here's how.
Gugu Nkabinde, CEO and founder of Gugu Intimates.

The need is real.

Nude underwear has for a long time been designed for pale skin tones. For Gugu Nkabinde, founder and CEO of Gugu Intimates, the question was: would a business catering to women with brown skin tones be something that could sustain itself? The doubt came from not knowing whether this could be a viable business idea. It takes an intrepid person to forge their way into a new market and Gugu fits the profile.

It baffled me that on a continent with multiple skin tones when you said nude there was no underwear that matched an African person.

When she tells the story it’s clear that fate was pushing her to start this business. As a brand and marketing professional with stints at Unilever, SAB and in advertising she had no reason to pursue entrepreneurship, but the stars just seemed to align. Coincidence struck: she got the chance to attend an underwear and textile fair in Hong Kong and then some money came her way. And so Gugu Intimates was born.

“Nobody wants to help you build the supply chain, they just want you done and ready. Retail-wise they also want you done and ready. We have to grow ourselves in interesting ways.”

Despite all of this, she’s built a brand that not only fills a commercial gap, but also has deep meaning for her. In an industry that values the Western ideal of beauty, having something as simple as underwear that matches your skin tone is as much about identity as it is about fashion. Feeling as if you belong in your own skin. Her company manifesto summarises it beautifully:

Gorgeous and important
Setting the world ablaze with a spirit
Beaming brilliance from a dazzling
height in this body
Your body
Each body

Her bravery and perseverance has been rewarded with a brand that is shaking up the industry. You can find Gugu Intimates in stores in Johannesburg, New York and Harare and on the pages of fashion-forward publications. The journey never ends, but entrepreneurship is under her skin.

Gugu Nkabinde of Gugu Intimates at a film shoot.
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