Name: Chantal Carter
Business: Love & Nudes
Industry: Fashion/Apparel

Tanya: So officially – what is Love & Nudes?

Chantal: Love & Nudes is a brand that is a vessel for self-love. I developed the line of skin tone intimates in different shades of brown to support, recognize and celebrate, Black women and women of colour.

Tanya: What is your story and path to entrepreneurship?

Chantal: I grew up in fashion, born and raised in Montreal. My mom was in the garment industry, and I ended up being a wardrobe stylist. Back in the day, when models would come in, they would need ‘nude’ undergarments for the photo shoot because if you have something that’s close to your skin tone, it’s not noticeable under thinner fabric. But the darker-skinned models never had this option.

I observed that a lot and I wanted to wear nude as well. I saw the gap in the marketplace. I bought a white bra and a white panty, and I painted them with fabric paint till they matched my skin tone. And I wore it. The fabric was very crispy and uncomfortable, but I didn’t care. And I was like, no, you know what, no, this is crazy. LOL.

Tanya: No, you should not have to do all of that.

Chantal: I mean, I know I’m resourceful, but I was like, but damn. I just wanted the look. Desperately.

Tanya: I mean, I know that desperate times call for desperate measures, but that’s crazy. It’s assumed that beige is ‘nude’ for everybody. And that is not the case. If my white friend wants to go to a store, she can just go in and walk in and know that she’ll be able to find her skintone match in make-up, or lingerie, or even heels. It rarely occurs to people in the industry that there is a need for different shades of “nude”. And t’s mind-blowing to me, how there are so many people who don’t understand the extra weights and obstacles just to exist in our skin.

Chantal: This is why I have to say, we gotta do what we need to do for us because we’ve become an afterthought to the powers that be. It’s not even intentional. They’re just going with what they know. This is why I think it’s so important there’s representation in business, in all industries like fashion.

Tanya: How did you officially start the company?

Chantal: I was working as a stylist, and it kept bugging me. I was always writing ideas, I would start, stop and start again. But I kept it to myself, not telling anybody my ideas because you know how West Indian parents can be. “Don’t trust nobody”.

Tanya: And, “You chat too much”.

Chantal: Exactly. I used to be heavily into reading biographies and one resonated with me that said “talk to the right people and talk to people who have what you want”. So, I did just that. I reached out to someone in fashion, and they responded and threw me some seeds. “Look here, go there”. They provided information to help connect me to the right people to help me do this.

Tanya: What you just said, that’s so important – you reached out to the right person who shared some information with you. They shared their wisdom and told you to go forth and do the work. But they didn’t do the work for you. There are so many people out here trying to cheat code their way to success. They said, here are some tools. Here are some people, here are some places – now go do the research. People look at your business now and see success, but you had to do that work.

Chantal: Yes! Those undergarments that I made, are made with love, for myself and for women who are not aren’t always top of mind – women of colour and Black women. Black women who are always doing the most struggling, lifting everybody up in the community. Who’s lifting us up?
Tanya: Questions that need answers.

Chantal: I wanted to put something out there that I’m passionate about. Wear something that I love. I want to live a simple, graceful, beautiful, easy, magnificent life looking and feeling fabulous. And I want my undergarments to be that too. The garments represent a shield of protection to remind you of your beauty and your strength and that you – we belong here.

Tanya: And that’s what comes through. I’m sure the naming of your business was very purposeful. It’s clear that you take the first word of your business name very seriously. What would you say has been your boldest business move besides experimenting with fabric paint and perfecting your concept?

Chantal: Reaching out to people that I didn’t think were accessible to me. In the early days, we were blessed with a lot of press, and people would ask, “who are your PR people?” I was like PR people? We are the PR people. It all started when we had tickets to go on a CBC TV show and be part of the live audience. I brought my product with me and made a point to hunt down the producer right after the show to show them. They were interested.

I believe that you have to really believe in what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. And when you’re very clear on your why, everything else comes in focus and you start seeing opportunities. But you have to be open to them and be ready to accept and action on them. When I went to that studio, I didn’t even have my website launched yet.

Tanya: OMG. Really??

Chantal: Yep. I was going to crowdfund. But CBC is showing interest and planning for photo shoots, and I was like, my website’s not ready. Are you gonna wait until my website’s ready?

Tanya: LOL. News waits for nobody!

Chantal: Exactly. They were like – your segment is going out the day after it’s recorded. That just forced us to launch earlier. If it hadn’t been for that – we would’ve taken way more time, but God knows how long that would’ve taken.

Tanya: Sometimes, you must have all your pieces lined up, to make it easy. But on the flip side, and we women do this a lot, we wait for perfection before we put something out into the world. Men rarely do this. I remember reading about this app. They got millions in funding, and they weren’t even available on Android! The version they finally put out and made them popular wasn’t the first or even the second version.

Chantal: When you put yourself out there, and I still struggle with this, you can feel naked and like, oh a million people are gonna come and look and see and point and laugh. She doesn’t have a logo. How dare she put this up with no logo? Meanwhile, no one really noticed, or maybe a couple of people did. It’s just getting something out there.

Tanya: So, what would you say has been the biggest financial turning point for Love & Nudes? Your “I made it moment”

Chantal: My first is when I was able to get a big increase in my line of credit. I was approved for a loan, but I was afraid of the loan. So, I didn’t take that. But the line of credit I was more comfortable with at the time because I felt like I could navigate that as I saw fit. So that was a pretty big moment for me.

Tanya: What would you say to someone who thinks your business is not universal. Like opposed to a national chain that targets to everybody, your business is specifically for black and women of colour.

Chantal: Love & Nudes is for everybody. A white person can see it as a neutral colour that accentuates their wardrobe just as well. I made it for Black women and women of colour because there was no ‘nude’ for them. But I have Italian women with deep tans who buy it. Or another client, who has red undertones, our product brings that out and it’s beautiful on her.

Tanya: Thank you for correcting me, that’s so important because we already know the extra obstacles to marketing products to non-white vs white. Moving along, so pandemic – how did that affect you?

Chantal: For business, it was crazy, good and challenging because it got people more comfortable with buying online. And also during that time, there was more of a movement to support black-owned businesses. The issue though – I ran out of stuff. And everybody had supply chain issues. At the time my product was produced in South America. But nobody was getting anything for months, so it caused me to pivot and produce locally in Montreal. Our latest collection was made there. It’s called the Hochelaga Collection and it’s made of cotton and bamboo. And when I tell you, Tanya, I looked up at the street name where my producers are – and it was the same street my mother worked on when she was working in fashion years ago.

Tanya: NO. WAY.

Chantal: I wanted to cry.

Tanya: There were definitely some challenges, but there are some silver linings that came out of it. So that’s beautiful. And, I love a full story moment. I love that. I’m so glad I asked that question.

Tanya: Is there anything else that you want the people to know?

Chantal: Show me the money. Without the strings. (laughing) But seriously, get on the Love & Nudes train now. Whoever’s out there – we’re coming. We’re here. If you believe in multiculturalism and expanding our economy to include everybody – then let’s go. Our business is creating social wealth. We will build on that and the financial wealth will come. Thank you.

Tanya: Mic drop.


Where to find Chantal


Bold & Black is a monthly interview series conducted by entrepreneur and Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence Honouree Tanya Hayles. Tanya is the founder of Black Moms Connection, an online global village of almost 30,000 and a national non-profit in Canada providing programs and financial tools through grant programs generously supported by BMO. The statements and opinions expressed by guests & interviewees are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bank of Montreal or its affiliates.