Nude is not a one-size-fits-all color—just ask designer and entrepreneur Rebecca Allen. After years of struggling to find a pair of nude shoes that complimented her skin tone, the former financial executive finally put her foot down. Allen left her position at one of the most prominent international investment banks to start her eponymous shoe label in 2018. With a retail partnership with Nordstrom under her belt and praise from stars like Veronica Webb and Michelle Williams, Allen is adamantly focused on using her footwear business to cultivate a more thoughtful industry.
Creating a New, Inclusive Pump
Though she is helping increase inclusivity in the fashion industry, Allen was by no means a born fashion fanatic. She had no experience as a designer whatsoever, "I was working in finance at the time," Allen says, "I was driven to find a versatile footwear solution for Black women in business. I needed a shoe that I could wear every day, and I knew other women probably felt the same way I did." That was all of the insight Allen needed. Shortly after her realization, the financier-turned-designer decided to embark on a journey of entrepreneurship and empowerment.
Creating her innovative shoe designs was Allen's next feat. Knowing options beyond palish tan and black were limited, Allen was determined to find a range of nude shades suitable for every complexion. "I had a bunch of swatches I would carry around with me and test on different people's arms," Allen says. "When I was out and about, I would carry them in my purse. While out to dinner or meeting friends, I would try to get a broad collection of shades represented. The other aspect of that process was that I wanted all of the shades to look great on everybody."
From there, Allen solidified the four (now five) shades she was confident would offer a solution to women of all skin tones. The label's debut style, "The New Pump," married comfort with wearability, featuring a scuff-resistant patent leather material and a timeless silhouette. "The design was very much born from wearing formal business casual [attire] to the office every day," she says. "Every white woman in my office had that go-to pump that lived under her desk. Maybe you would shuffle into work in a pair of flats, but then you pop that shoe on to go to meetings, and it just went with everything. I was looking for that classic style."
Diversity in the Fashion Industry
While inclusivity has always been a core value of the brand, Allen discusses how her position as a pioneer of inclusivity has changed in the wake of widespread social conversations that called more attention to racial injustice. With an increasing number of brands becoming more mindful of inclusivity initiatives, Allen says she wasn't surprised when other fashion brands' photography began to look a lot like hers, "We called it that everybody's photography was going to start to look like ours," Allen says. "We have always been putting Black and Brown folks at the center of the conversation and showcasing real diversity. So, for us, it's kind of funny to see everybody beginning to think about who gets represented in their print, editorial, etc."
Allen's next challenge remains, "thinking about how we press forward and keep the momentum around the conversation going." In true entrepreneurial fashion, inclusivity goes beyond the consumer-facing brand narrative. "We certainly think about how our team is constructed, who we work with, our vendors and suppliers, and certainly what their teams look like," she adds.
The Future of Rebecca Allen
Since the success of her initial design, Allen and her team have expanded their assortment to include two more shoe styles. And over the last year, the brand has also introduced a range of nude face masks with the hopes of continuing to expand into accessories in the future.
Allen credits the needs of her consumers with guiding the evolution of the brand. "We definitely think about who the customer is and how else she moves through her world," Allen says. "So, what we have coming in terms of new styles is very much considering other moments in her day, whether it's more casual or something for a special occasion on the weekend. We are expanding our offering with designs featuring different materials, different heel heights, and more seasonality."
The brand's rapidly growing fanbase isn't the only one to realize the ingenuity and necessity of Allens designs, retailers like Nordstrom have also noticed. Whether it's a retail partnership with a powerhouse department store or making their mark on NYFW, Rebecca Allen and her brand continue to be an exemplar of entrepreneurism and innovation for all of the voices who are demanding representation in fashion.