Modern life means facing decisions again and again. From what to wear to how to address a problem at work, the need to check yes or no is never-ending. Most choices are of the humdrum variety, but some forever change everything that comes after. In an ongoing series titled “All the Difference,” we ask women to think back on a pivotal moment that affected everything.
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Everyone needs a bit of encouragement here and there. Sometimes it comes from a conventional channel (like a boss pulling you into the corner office for a closed-door check-in) and other times from seemingly inconsequential moments that reveal their importance only later. The latter was the case for Ade Hassan, the US-, UK-, and Nigerian-raised creator of Nubian Skin, a lingerie brand that set out to redefine what “nude” means, offering essentials in four different colors; current pieces include bras, underwear, hosiery, and shoes. Approaching its second anniversary this fall, its fair to say the label and its founder are killing the game: Nordstrom carries Nubian Skin in the U.S., and last month, Hassan was placed on the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to fashion.
For Hassan, reaching this stage in her career was a journey paved by friends, family, and mentors. In celebration of her latest recognition, ELLE.com asked Hassan to reflect on one small moment that made a big difference. Here, the story of the world’s best birthday card:
I loved the idea of Nubian Skin, but I hadn’t quite figured out how to make it happen. I needed to save more money, and I was working in a demanding, client-focused job, full-time in finance at a boutique private equity placement agency. Essentially, I was distracted. I was making a nice amount of money and enjoying the benefits of that, while also working on average ten to eleven hours a day, so I wasn’t quite focused on turning my dream into a reality. It was my 29th birthday [when things changed]. A really good friend, and at that point, the only non-family member with whom I’d shared my dream of Nubian Skin, sent me a birthday card with a message saying she loved the idea and hoped to see me on the cover of Forbes one day. The next day, I registered the company and started the trademark process. It was as if a switch had flipped, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was pretty much non-stop from there, waking up very early and going to bed very late because I was still working full-time, but driven by adrenaline. I slept with a notebook beside my bed because I’d have ideas come to me in the middle of the night, and I had to write them down. It possessed me.
Nubian Skin bras and underwear start at $55 and $16, respectively; shop here.