20 January 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
Priya Downes is the founder and CEO of Nudea, a fit-focused DTC underwear brand that offers contemporary and sophisticated essentials at an aspirational price point. Nudea empowers Women to own their fit and is changing the way we shop for underwear from fitting to try on. By focusing on building a collection of Bras and Knickers that fit and flatter, Nudea has beaten the pandemic by being on the pulse of comfort-first as well as offering easy at-home self fitting tools. Here Priya shares the story of the brand’s history and its success, as part of our Meet the Successful Founder Series.
My first job after university was as an Actuary and although it was great start for getting comfortable with data and numbers, I knew it wasn’t going to excite me enough to spend my whole life doing it. Eventually after a few years of finance, I moved into the Luxury Fashion industry which I was much more passionate about. After 8 years working for the some of the big houses, including Chanel and Burberry, I felt the itch to try something new that married my head for numbers with a love of great product. I knew straight away I didn’t want to create yet another fashion brand, it was important for me to create a product that served a need as well as being made with care and passion.
A fortuitous encounter led me to our talented creative director and Co-founder, Sophie, one of the world’s most experienced lingerie designers. Together, we’ve been building Nudea to fill a gap in the market: beautifully made underwear that actually fits. Our underwear is understanded, elegant and made with the small details that make it last longer. This is important in a world and time where we all are started to really care about the products we buy and where they end-up.
Underwear is an essential purchase for us all and therefore has a high replacement rate. When we created Nudea, Sophie and I felt that there wasn’t really a brand out there that embraced a new cultural shift that we were seeing around us– a move towards, comfort, inclusivity and sustainability.
Whilst we are trying to build better products designed for everyday comfort and fit, Nudea’s bras and briefs are anything but basic. Most bras have over 20 components and personally coming new into the world of lingerie, albeit from a fashion background, I have had an incredible hurdle to climb in learning about the world of bras and knickers. Looking back, my naivety actually helped me take risks that I probably would have been more reluctant to do if I had known fully what I was getting myself into. Everything from design to manufacturing and even marketing is ten times harder in this product category vs other clothing categories. I’m glad I did it, there was a definite gap in the market and Nudea’s traction has proven this. My naivety was the push I needed to take the leap and it goes to show that you don’t need to over-think or make excuses of not knowing enough. Passion, the quest to learn and hard work are really all you need to build a business.
In fact, being an industry outsider actually helps sometimes solve problems differently – in my case it allowed me to questions things such as the bra fitting process and why it had to be so complicated. Nudea’s Fit Tape was born out of my own personal journey to understand why self-measuring was so hard to do. Three prototypes down the line, we had created a tape that got rid of conversions and the need for a physical bra fitting with a 98% accuracy in self-sizing.
With challenges come rewards and it’s amazing to look back on our first year and know that we have helped over 6,000 women size up. I also get a huge sense of pride from seeing how much our customers value and appreciate those small details we agonised about when creating our products that make a world of difference to wearer comfort. Features such us as no side or cup seams and the fact that we offer a mesh laundry bag to every customer to help them care for their bras. It is features such as these that give our product such a high repeat purchase rate of 50%.
We are just starting out on our journey and we are very excited about the future. Nudea was already well positioned as a brand for lockdown life when covid-19 pandemic hit and have been lucky to not only have survived but have come through it thriving. Now as we look into 2021, with general macro uncertainty still remaining around Brexit, the new vaccine and overall impact on the retail landscape, there’s never been a more exciting and challenging time to be in an early-stage start-up particularly in retail.
What makes a ‘successful founder’? Do something you are truly passionate about, building a business is hard work especially in the early years, it will probably be the hardest you will ever work in your life, so if you’re going to give up so much of your time doing it then doing something you love will make it more worthwhile. It’s also so important not to give up, have the tenacity to keep going and believe in what you are doing even when it seems other don’t support you. It’s important to know how to drown out the negativity and remain positive but at the same time be open to feedback and striving always to do it better.
My top tip for any successful founder is to surround yourself with good advisors and mentors because it’s so easy to get consumed by your passion that every once it while it’s good to get perspective, both personally and professionally. It’s impossible to know everything about building business even if you know your trade inside and out. Build a good support network and be truly open to their feedback once in a while, to you give yourself the best possible chance of success.
Nudea IG @nudea.underwear