Modern Fashion: Annette Azan Of Nuudii System On The 5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand Today
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Dreaming is the first step to reality. I worked on Nuudii for 8 years before it launched, and you have to stick to your dream. Hold onto your vision, and remember your dream has meaning.
Many in the fashion industry have been making huge pivots in their business models. Many have turned away from the fast fashion trend. Many have been focusing on fashion that also makes a social impact. Many have turned to sustainable and ethical sourcing. Many have turned to hi tech manufacturing. Many have turned to subscription models. What are the other trends that we will see in the fashion industry? What does it take to lead a successful fashion brand today?
In our series called, “5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand Today” we are talking to successful leaders of fashion brands who can talk about the Future of Fashion and the 5 things it takes to lead a successful fashion brand in our “new normal.”
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Nuudii System Founder & CEO, Annette Azan.
Annette Azan is a 25-year fashion industry veteran, woman of color and wellness visionary. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Annette worked with fashion risk-takers including Diane Benson, Norma Karmali and Donna Karan, launching, developing and driving sales for brands such as Urban Zen, Diane B. and Episode. Inspired by her own need for something to wear under her sheer wedding dress, Annette sewed the first Nuudii in 2011 and launched the product in 2019. Nuudii System allows women to reclaim and embrace their natural shape by creating a new category — between bra and braless.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I’m Lebanese, Jamaican and Cuban but was born in New York. I got the chance to move back to Jamaica when I was a teenager, where my father manufactured women’s undergarments. My parents always had their own businesses, which taught me that my security was based on what I could create. Growing up, I loved to dance and went to a high school for dance arts in Florida. I thought I would be a dancer, but then I sidestepped into fashion and loved the movement and feel of fashion. I ended up at the Fashion Institute of Technology and initially wanted to produce fashion shows.
Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?
I’ve worked in fashion for about 25 years now. In 2011 I was preparing to get married, and I bought this beautiful, skin-baring wedding dress. But I had trouble finding an undergarment that would properly support me while also highlighting my natural shape. I even bought a back-up wedding dress because of this problem, which led me to hand sew the first Nuudii. I went to the fabric shop, made it and thought “I can’t believe no one else has done this!” I put the first Nuudii in my safe, and — after the wedding — immediately started working on plans to launch Nuudii System as a company.
When Nuudii launched on Kickstarter in 2019, it sold ~$750K of merchandise in only 30 days, and we have come so far since then! We have 60,000+ customers in 40+ countries, and we’re now on Nordstrom.com as well. We also launched new WeFunder and Kickstarter campaigns this year, in addition to a backless Nuudii and plant-based packaging.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
An interested Nuudii customer messaged us saying she had had a stroke and was unable to use one side of her body. She asked if it would be possible for her to put on a Nuudii with one hand. I replied to her and said, “hold on, I’m going to try it.” I immediately tried to put on my own Nuudii with just my left hand and was so excited to type back saying “yes, you can!” These types of customer moments and relationships are priceless. I have a customer service team now, but I still love to get on Instagram and other channels to see real-time customer feedback.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Vision, tenacity, and flexibility have been vital to my success as an entrepreneur and innovator. I look at vision as a goal post by which I can lead, and a direction to take when the path ahead isn’t clear.
In addition to this, tenacity keeps me moving forward towards these goals when it feels easier to give up on an idea or project.
Finally, and most importantly for the fashion industry, is flexibility. Fashion is constantly evolving. I aim to stay up-to-date on what people are wearing and why they’re wearing it. Fashion is an amazing outlet for creative expression, and I’m always learning from the people around me.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We tell it like it is! We’re calling BS on the bra industry, and that takes courage.
For centuries, boobwear aimed to enhance cleavage and narrow the waist. This was the sole purpose of the bra’s predecessor, the corset, and when society introduced the modern bra, things did not get more comfortable. Pushing up, flattening down, perfectly molding, erasing the nipple — we’ve been conditioned to believe our boobs are flawed in their natural form. Now, hundreds of years later, it’s astounding how little has changed… until Nuudii.
Nuudii believes in comfort over constraint and embracing your shape over constricting it. That’s why Nuudii is a boobwear body essential (not a bra) made with our customer’s shapes and lifestyles in mind.
Nuudii fuses fit, function and fashion. With a soft flex fabric that feels like skin, unique patented design and 12 ways to wear, a Nuudii is made for real life. Wear it while you: sleep, work, practice yoga, hike, nurse, dance and travel.
Long term, we would love for Nuudii to be available via special vending machines in airports, spas, hotels and other retail spaces for people to access on the go.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite quotes is “everything starts from nothing.” I think this really pertains to our brand story, because we’ve found a white space. When you allow yourself to see the white space, magic happens!
The bra market is so oversaturated with similar concepts, and I think taking a step back and allowing yourself to be creative is integral to any business structure.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
Genderless and ageless fashion! It’s been happening for years, but now there seems to be a spotlight on both. Fashion used to segment people in so many ways, but evolution is now showing us there is no right way to wear clothes.
We used to say we’re founded by women for women, and we gave that up. Nuudii is for anybody with boobs. There’s a place for everyone with us.
Can you share how your brand is helping to bring goodness to the world?
Our mission is to make lives easier, wardrobe choices broader and allow people to
reconnect with their bodies, fostering emotional and physical wellbeing. Clothing can be extremely freeing or extremely restrictive. Nuudii prides itself on being a fashion choice that everyone can wear — regardless of age, occupation, gender orientation or overall lifestyle.
Can you share with our readers about the ethical standards you use when you choose where to source materials?
We just launched a new packaging which is made from plants, specifically sugar cane (a renewable resource), replacing the virgin fossil fuels that make typical plastic bags. Nuudii’s packaging composition makes its production process carbon neutral, and printing is done with non-toxic inks. The packaging is still considered plastic, and is 100% recyclable with grocery bags and other soft plastics at your local grocery store. Also, for every bag made, our supplier removes the equivalent weight in plastic from our oceans.
Fast fashion has an advantage, that it is affordable for most people, but it also has the drawback that it does not last very long and is therefore not very sustainable. What are your thoughts about this? How does your company address this question?
Nuudii is strong but the fabric is not indestructible. With frequent wear, most people like to replace their Nuudii every 9 months to a year. To extend the lifetime of your Nuudii, we recommend washing it in the wash pouch that comes with the product. We also encourage removing your jewelry before putting on and taking off your Nuudii, to avoid snags.
Additionally, we believe minimalism is an important part of sustainability, which is why every “system” we design is multifunctional. The Tee System for example can be worn 12+ ways, replacing 12 different bra styles.
What are your “5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand”. Please share a story or example for each.
- Dreaming is the first step to reality. I worked on Nuudii for 8 years before it launched, and you have to stick to your dream. Hold onto your vision, and remember your dream has meaning.
- Customer service is key. If you don’t know what your customers are saying, how can you improve and make their experience even better?
- Serve your employees. Your customer-facing employees are the VIPs of your company. They represent your company in a very personal way, yet they are commonly ignored. As a leader, I’m here to figure out what my team needs to do their job better and give them those tools.
- It’s fast-paced, so keep up. The fashion industry is continually changing. If you’re not on top of those changes yourself you better make sure your team is!
- Remember, there is space for you. Don’t believe it when someone tells you, “it’s a crowded space” when referencing your product category. There are more than 7 billion people on the planet! How many do you need to be successful?
Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?
Make less clothing. Find ways to manufacture so there isn’t a huge surplus that ends up in a landfill. According to the University of Colorado Boulder Environmental Center, the average US citizen throws away 70 pounds of textiles, with 21 billion pounds of textile waste going to landfills per year.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
To help people know that their bodies don’t need to be shaped, and that they’re beautiful naturally. Whether your boobs are flat, pointy, big — embrace your shape. Have fun with fashion — it should be easy!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Modern Fashion: Annette Azan Of Nuudii System On The 5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.