We talked to Priya Downes of Nudea on how beautifully crafted and engineered to fit, is changing how to feel in underwear and this is what she had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Priya Downes: We’re all keeping well, thank you! It’s been a strange time and a real chance to connect with the family, I had a baby right before lockdown and in some ways forcing us to be at home has gifted me time that I would otherwise not have given myself running a start-up.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Nudea.
Priya Downes: My first job after university was as an Actuary. Although it was a great start for getting comfortable with data and numbers, I knew it wouldn’t 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, working for brands like Chanel and Burberry, and since then I never looked back! Working in Luxury cemented my appreciation for quality, design and craftsmanship that I now seek in my purchases.
I have been disappointed by the offers in the bra market, something that I wear and have worn every day of my life since I was a teenager. I was fortunate to meet Sophie in a previous role, a great talent in the world of lingerie design. Together we saw the opportunity to leverage our skills to create something truly unique; modern essentials and an experience that makes women fall in love with their underwear again.
How does Nudea innovate?
Priya Downes: NUDEA is all about empowering bra-wearers to own their fit and shop for underwear in a modern way. That’s why Nudea has created a unique fitness offering with and for bra wearers. We were born from data. From the first 1,000 Women we worked with pre-launch to the additional 6,000+ customers we have fitted since launch, we will continuously use the data we collect from our fitting tools to offer a better product and fitting experience.
Using the insights we collect from the customer we fit and feeding this into our product, we can continuously remain ahead of the curve when it comes to engineering a better product. We have already bought the best bonding, moulding and raw material innovation to create a seamless cupped bra up to a GG cup. Very few brands, especially in the UK and Europe, have provided cup support outside of stitches and seams. We are pushing the boundaries in manufacturing to create a better fit experience, no matter your size.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Priya Downes: As a DTC online-only brand with a vision to disrupt bra shopping by bringing the whole process – from measurement to try on – to people’s homes, we were already well placed for growth when the pandemic hit. The pandemic only served to give us a tailwind to grow even faster than we could ever have predicted. Whilst we had started to experiment with pop-ups and physical fit parties pre-lockdown, we were very quickly able to pivot to bring the best of these physical interactions to the virtual space. For example, we recently launched our program of virtual fit parties on Instagram and our virtual one-to-one fittings have been hugely popular since lockdown started and are likely to remain a permanent feature in our customer experience.
As we emerge from lockdown and news of a vaccine giving us all a glimmer of back pre-lockdown life, I believe that retail has permanently shifted. Industry experts predict that online shopping space has accelerated by 3-4 years in the space of 6 months. We genuinely believe customer behaviour has permanently shifted too, and the future of the bra shopping is virtual, online and at home.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Priya Downes: Yes many, running a start-up even at the best of times requires difficult decision-making and the pandemic made it even harder. We were only four months launched when the pandemic hit, and we had to act quickly and make decisions in the face of an even more uncertain future than we had before. One such decision was bringing our fulfilment in-house, worried about how we would cope with warehousing in lockdown. We had to set up an entire warehouse operation, something that would typically take weeks, in a matter of days. In the end, it turned out to be one of the best decisions we ever made, not only did it mean we could continue fulfilling our orders, but also I learnt so much about our customer from being so close to fulfilment and experience.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Priya Downes: WFH has added a whole new dimension to stress and anxiety that never existed before. The balance of family time readjusting is for the better, but I miss not being able to go out in the same way or be around colleagues and friends as much. My best outlet has been taking regular walks and exercising to relieve stress and anxiety. I took up beekeeping over the summer, and it has given me something entirely non-work related to escape to, also bees are fascinating. I’ve started to explore cognitive brain hypnotherapy to help with compartmentalising stress and anxiety.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Priya Downes: In a mass of underwear brands, Nudea stands out for its appropriate credentials. In comparison, several established players have been slow to act on body positivity branding, sustainability, and a female-led approach to underwear. We have built a reputation as the go-to brand for a fit, and there is a real opportunity to own this space.
Your final thoughts?
Priya Downes: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced change for many businesses and, for Nudea, the brand has certainly evolved for the better. Given 2020’s circumstances, we’ve been in a great place to establish Nudea as the go-to brand for at-home underwear fitting. Our bespoke Fit Tape Measure (developed leveraging data collated from over 1,000 women) and Virtual Bra Fittings have been all designed for self-measurement, thereby eliminating the need to go to a physical store. As a new and agile brand, we’ve worked tirelessly throughout lockdown. We’ve released a new bikini brief line, responded to customer demand with a reusable, washable Face Mask sold out three times, and established an enviable brand reputation as a go-to brand through extensive on and offline marketing activity and seamless customer service and support.
And finally, moving into 2021, as part of our commitment to ‘Buy less and care more’, we’re supporting our customers by creating comfortable underwear, which designing is perfect to fit better and made with premium quality materials that last longer. Our new mainline is made from responsibly sourced materials across the board from the new Second Skin collection featuring 82% recycled polyester to the 100% recycled fibre laundry bags which come with all Nudea bras. And we’ve just launched a Bra Care Kit; an entire laundry care system devoted to prolonging the life of bras and briefs, in line with our commitment to more responsible fashion and essentials.