Search “nude shoes” on your browser or on Instagram, and what you’ll find are endless styles but not endless shades. “Nude,” until the last few years, has been defined by the fashion industry as beige.
Enter Kahmune (pronounced “commune”), the latest player in the nude-isn’t-one-color campaign. The nascent British company’s mission is to cater to people of all skin tones, from the palest white to the deepest ebony — or as much of that spectrum as 10 hues can represent.
Founder Jamela Acheampong said she spent hours researching skin tones to narrow down the 10 shades her brand ultimately decided on. Despite the depth of “nude” hues offered, Acheampong doesn’t think 10 is reflective of what shoppers really need.
“There are so many hues that are left out, particularly those of the various regions of Asia,” Acheampong wrote in an email to Yahoo Style. “I also wanted to make sure I had a shade dedicated to both ends of the spectrum, very light and very dark.”
Acheampong’s hopping on the beauty and fashion trend that had been bubbling beneath the surface, but exploded in 2016. In beauty, the multicultural cosmetics market grew 3.7 percent in the U.S., more than the overall market for cosmetics and toiletries, as Bloomberg notes. In fashion, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (an industry-leading nonprofit that promotes American designers) issued a set of guidelines to designers ahead of New York Fashion Week in September compelling designers and casting agents to book diverse models.
Cultural norms in the U.S. have shifted to become more inclusive, reflecting the changing demographics. According to the Census Bureau, the U.S. will be a “majority minority” country by 2044, proof that the market for diverse beauty and fashion has room to grow.
Just as you’d be matched for a foundation at a makeup counter, Kahmune tries to help shoppers match their skin tone to the shoes by listing comparable cosmetics products for reference. So, if you typically wear MAC’s NW58, L.A. Girl Dark Chocolate, or Black Up Teinte 18, you’d buy Juba, the Melanin Supreme of South Sudan (what a name!), which is Kahmune’s deepest “nude” shade. Or you could buy the Juba if you’re fair-skinned and just like the color.
If you buy into the idea that Kahmune is a responsible company whose sole mission is to promote diversity and inclusion, consider the price point. Kahmune will sell two styles, a standard pointed-toe pump and a sandal with a 4.5-inch heel, and they’ll retail between $245 and $300, about one-third the cost of a typical Christian Louboutin heel, as Acheampong points out.
Speaking of red bottoms, in 2013 the French brand launched its own New Nudes series of heels in seven skin tones that spanned the spectrum of “nudes,” a huge win for women of color. The brand added a pointed-toe flat style to the New Nudes range in 2016.
Acheampong asks shoppers who might initially flinch at the price to consider what goes into making the shoes. They’re handmade in northern Italy using Italian and Spanish leathers, not outsourced to China or elsewhere, where labor is cheap and exploitative.
“I refuse to compromise on quality, and I refuse to sacrifice the livelihood of anyone that is part of the Kahmune manufacturing process,” Acheampong said.
A final note: Don’t rush for your wallet just yet. The shoes aren’t available until March, and when the company officially launches, you’ll only be able to purchase them on Kahmune’s website.