10MINUTES with Ade Hassan, MBE
Ade Hassan, MBE, is founder and owner of Nubian Skin. The young Nigerian lady five years ago floated the now internationally acclaimed underwear company for women of colour. Nubian Skin does skin tone, lingerie for women with darker skin.
With a master’s degree in Banking and Finance, in the U.K., Ade Hassan had a stint at work before plunging full time to face her passion – Fashion.
The young entrepreneur was late last year recognised by the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II, with an award of the Member of the British Empire (MBE) for ‘Service to Fashion.’
She was in Lagos for Christmas and spoke of her passion for fashion.
What was your parent’s role in the enterprise?
“Of course, my parents played a major role in the formation of Nubian Skin, because at a very young age, I saw both of my parents develop their company, from nothing to something substantial, and that has always been a source of inspiration for me. Because I have seen what hard work and perseverance can accomplish”.
So, what motivated you to start Nubian?
“Women like the lingerie, hosiery and shoes. Nude is an essential colour, when you are wearing it, like the light colour. You don’t want your bra to show through what you are wearing, that could be distracting. So it is very nice to have something nude. If you are wearing something like lace dress, or something in the region of such fabrics, underneath, you deserve your modesty. So for years and years, that was possible for white women, but it was not possible for black women, or Indian women or anybody with darker skin tone. So, I decided I was going to open a company to change that”.
How did you go about it?
“I have been trading for five years. I came up with the idea in 2011, that is eight years ago.
I live in London, I did my master’s in the UK and started working. So it was straightforward to start a company. My Masters is not in fashion; rather my Master’s is in Finance and Banking. I came up with this idea because I have always wanted to do something on style. It has been my passion. So, I decided to save my money for a few years and then start this company.
The company is growing. Now we have three staff. It is still a small company, (laughs)”.
Tell us about the Queen’s recognition:
“It was shocking, first of all. I was not expecting it. I started crying when I received the letter. I was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) for ‘Services to Fashion.’
To me, when you start a small business, it is always difficult because you are still worried: Is this done right? Is this done well? Is it worth it? Am I putting my energy on something that is worth it? So, to receive something like that from the Queen of England, it’s like ‘ok, I am not doing this for anything. It has an impact. And people can see it.’ It was surprising to me; it meant a lot. When you are working very hard, it is nice to have recognition.
Can you compare this to Nigerian leadership that hardly recognises talent?
“You know, these are two very different countries. Nigeria has its benefits and its challenges. In England, they have had that system for hundreds of years. Now to get this award, you have to be nominated, and the person who nominates you must have seen something evident in your work.