We are constantly bombarded with so many products this time of the year. Most often, the labels bear the same ubiquitous names. The rare times I stumble across something that I am not familiar with, I take note.
I thought it would be a good time for an ongoing column entitled, “Under the Radar.” I initially found images of NUANCE, a unisex direct-to-consumer made-to-order apparel brand, on Instagram. I was taken with the leopard and cow printed footwear. The only reason it was not included in my last article, “The New Cool,” is because I wanted to focus on it in this column.
I reached out to Steven Black, who founded NUANCE in 2019. Through a series of emails, Steven told me that he’s an apparel designer based in LA. He has designed everything from household skate brands to high-end womenswear for The Dreslyn, a Los Angeles-based online specialty store. Steven has worked with all types of brands, retailers, manufacturers on all sides of the industry. He loves apparel and prides himself on being able to help companies with whatever projects they might have
Steven’s interesting resume includes a stint working at a sustainability agency on supply chain connectivity. Steven is always mindful of the materials he uses and the life cycle of his products. After 15+ years in the apparel industry, Steven wanted to create a company run as efficiently as possible with the least amount of waste. The result is NUANCE.
“With Nuance, I always want to be able to do what I feel is right and not get pigeon-holed into what a buyer wants the brand to be. I think we see that the brands with the best-staying power are those that can do what they want when they feel like it”. – Steven Black
Steven’s aim is executing ideas based on what inspires him. “We want to keep ourselves limited to a medium, and the result is cherished objects with a point of view. The goal is that people with a shared experience and taste level will identify with the outcome, see the wink and the nod, and catch the Nuance. Hence, the name of my company.” Steven also sees the word “NUANCE” as a nod to the brand’s indefinable points of interest, the blend of masculine and feminine, high and low, etc.
It all started with unisex leather jackets. In Bali, Steven was making the jackets, which were initially intended to be the brand’s focal point. They are priced from $499 – $599 and sized from XS-XL. Just by accident, Steven began using leftover scraps to make a few pairs of shoes for himself, and the response was great. Because Steven’s background is in apparel, he doesn’t think of Nuance as a footwear brand per se, but footwear has been the driving force behind the business. It’s easy to see why.
The unisex cowhide sandals, slip-on, clogs, and mules are right on the money. They are priced at $185 and $195 and sized from 36 – 45. The striking leopard/cheetah combination is made from cutting scraps of material initially used for their Mixed Moto jacket.
Steven has identified a few core shapes, and they will always be in the collection in one form or another. The color and material choices will be determined by what is available at the time. There will always be a shoe and jacket pairing, not only to merchandise but also to be mindful of how they will repurpose what would usually be considered waste.
For example, the Contrast Thread Sandals are meant to coordinate with the Contrast Thread Yoke Jacket. Pre-Covid, these items would be accompanied by other cut and sew pieces in new materials and shapes. Steven says they “pressed the pause button” during COVID to see how the market was moving, but in the future, Black hopes to inject more buy now, wear now collections comprised of about 5 – 6 ready to wear pieces with a few shoes to “support” whatever the look and feel of those items might be.
Black admits that he’d like NUANCE to be known for a recognizable style and a “touch” rather than a product category; in the same way that you can tell a piece is Prada, Versace, or Missoni from across the street without having to look at the label. “Right now, people are really looking at us for footwear, but I think the best is yet to come” Steven enthuses.