Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I still reach out to my peers for advice or opportunities. If I’ve exhausted all other avenues on my own and I still find myself in a bind, I don’t shy away from a helping hand.
As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Montes. She is a fashion-design graduate tuned fashion and beauty editor with bylines in Elle, Women’s Health, Brides, Byrdie, and more. With years of experience behind the scenes, duct tape was always the secret to styling plunging necklines and backless styles. After trying the duct-tape styling hack made famous by celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, Kim Kardashian, Cardi B, and more, she decided to create her own line of body- and shade-inclusive breast tapes that lift, while also being gentle on the skin. Nue is hypoallergenic, latex-free, waterproof, sweatproof, easy to remove, and comes in three skin tones. Nue blossomed from Montes’ own personal need into her mission to cater to women of all shapes, sizes, and skin tones. She says, “I’m Latina. I’m curvy. I’m short. I get insecure. I rarely feel spoken to in marketing campaigns, but Nue is about to change that. I do what I do to serve an already-underserved market of women. I see you. I’m just like you.”
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Truthfully, it was a layoff that got me here. Almost two years to the date of Nue’s launch, I was let go from my full-time editorial job. I worked freelance for the time being, but I needed something else to pour myself into. I wanted to create something that was mine, something I could be proud of, and something that proved I could be in charge of my own destiny. The idea for breast tape came from my own personal needs — I needed a solution for wearing backless and strapless styles without clasps or straps of a traditional bra showing. I figured if I needed a solution, there would surely be countless women needing the same, so I invested a portion of my savings in creating Nue.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?
Covid-19 definitely made things interesting. I launched Nue on January 31, 2020, months before the pandemic. I’ve put in-person events, photoshoots, and so much more on hold but I believe if we can make it through this unprecedented time, we can make it long after things are back to normal.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Since Nue is available in three skin tones (a first for the body tape market), I had to hand-select all three shades for the manufacturer to recreate. When I was selecting the shades from a collection of paint chips out of a Pantone book, it was so difficult to imagine the color on a fabric that complemented various skin tones. I requested sample swatches, which came with an additional cost and an extended timeline. Luckily I did because when the medium shade came back, it was a bright shade of orange. I still count my lucky stars I didn’t rely on photos and email correspondence because I would’ve been stuck with unusable stock.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The fashion and beauty market is incredibly saturated, so while I dreamed of creating something that I could call my own, I never wanted to slap my name on something that already existed. I knew if I invested my savings and all my energy into it, my product would have to be innovative and speak to women of all shapes, shades, and backgrounds. I never wanted to launch a product, just for the sake of launching a product. The breast tape space is growing, but I believe being a pioneer in the category and catering to women of all skin tones has set Nue up for success.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Stop glorifying the idea of being “too busy.” My days are packed with running Nue, not to mention continuing to contributing regularly to my editorial bylines, but I’m never too busy to take evenings off, sit at the dinner table with my husband, visit my parents on weekends, or catch up with friends. If I have a seemingly impossible to-do list, I rearrange things, but you’re never too busy to prioritize the things that really matter to you. Give yourself boundaries. Take nights off, enjoy a vacation day every now and again — you’re never too busy to do the things you love.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Since the inception of Nue, it’s was a non-negotiable for me to give back. My mother-in-law is a breast cancer survivor and since I created a product specifically for the breasts, it only made sense to donate a percentage of proceeds from every sale to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I believe Nue’s mission to lift women up goes far beyond replacing her bra.
Additionally, Nue donated a separate percentage of proceeds from the months of March through May 2020 to the Meals on Wheels COVID-19 Response Fund. And in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Nue donated to Color of Change and North Star Health Collective.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’ve always lived by the motto, “fake it ‘till you make it.” I’ve lacked confidence in the past (and still continue to from time to time) but this quote has always pushed me to commit. When I made the career switch from design (I designed socks out of college) to editorial, I was asked to build the beauty vertical of an online magazine from the ground up. Truthfully, a part of me doubted myself, but I’m smart, observant, and driven, so I went for it. The beauty vertical went on to become the most successful of the site under my leadership.
Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.
- Be nice to everyone. Your reputation is everything in this industry. I’ve always treated everyone with respect, from interns to CEOs, and over the years, so many of my peers have helped me along the way.
- Don’t be above working for free. In my early days assisting and interning, I worked for free a lot. The lessons I learned and the contacts I made in those days have been invaluable to my career.
- Give your all, even when executing the smallest tasks. I’ve always taken pride in my work, whether it’s heading up a department or grabbing coffee for a boss. It doesn’t matter how minuscule the task is, how you execute it is a direct reflection of your work ethic. People always remember a good work ethic.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I still reach out to my peers for advice or opportunities. If I’ve exhausted all other avenues on my own and I still find myself in a bind, I don’t shy away from a helping hand.
- Pay it forward. I never could’ve made it to this point in my career or business without help from others. When I can, I always pay it forward by helping others.
Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?
The fashion industry has made strides in becoming more inclusive, but we have a long way to go. We need more shade-inclusive products and more minorities in leadership roles at corporations of all sizes.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would like to see more companies give back. There are so many meaningful organizations that lack funding, but if we could all share proceeds with a cause that we believe in, there’s no telling how the world could change for the better.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Follow me at @stephanie_montes on Instagram and Nue at @the_brand_nue.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!