Jessica Wenger McPhaul, a costume designer from Arizona who was working as an assistant apparel design in Los Angeles at the time, was fired for not having the correct shade of bras to match diverse skin tones.
She was hired by an Emmy Award-winning designer and given the task of shopping for "nude bras" to fit dancers without seeing them. She returned with the bras she found -- gray and beige.
McPhaul said, 'The most beautiful dancers from around the world are here.' Here are the most beautiful African women and I have these beige and gray bras, which are not even close to a skin color.
McPhaul, the producer who was responsible for McPhaul's firing on the spot, was visibly upset by this.
Naked Rebellion is a Phoenix-based company that makes nude underwear in shades from the palest to the darkest.
McPhaul realized that her idea was a good one, but she knew it wouldn't be possible to start a company based solely on passion. She put the idea aside until she could secure the funding. Her dream was realized nearly 20 years later, and at the perfect time.
A brand that is inclusive has been born
McPhaul has designed eight seasons of Dancing With the Stars', Daddy Daughter Trip', which was filmed on location in Arizona, as well as the Emmy nominated Netflix series House of Cards. McPhaul, her husband Jay and the co-founder of the company, Jay, returned to Arizona when 'House of Cards,' which had been filmed in Maryland for six seasons, ended.
Naked Rebellion, a brand launched by the Baltimore couple in July 2019, was funded through the sale of their home. The show featured three bra styles, namely bralette, racerback and tank, as well as underwear in three different designs, namely thongs, briefs and high waisted, all in an array of skin tones, from milky almonds to espresso. Black is also available.
The duo worked in an office without windows and a basement for six months to launch the business.
McPhaul said, "We would lock ourselves into a room and hash out all of the business plans. We had nothing, we just had an Idea." McPhaul said, 'We finally came up with the entire business plan, marketing strategy and all samples.
Funding would be the biggest obstacle for most startups. Manufacturing was expensive because of the many designs, colors, and sizes. McPhaul says that in most cases, it is better to launch a line with a few shades in order to save money. However, the goal of an inclusive product line is what she prioritizes.
McPhaul stated that 'we couldn't claim to be inclusive without actually being inclusive'. We knew that nine shades of color and seven sizes were needed because we wanted to be able represent as many women as possible.
Naked Rebellion: ensuring all body sizes are represented
McPhaul says that standard sizing, along with a limited range of colors for different skin tones is another fashion faux pas. She believes that companies have too much freedom when it comes time to label a garment. This makes it difficult for customers to shop. She explained that a size 10 in one brand may not be the same as a size 10 in another.
We wanted our customers to feel represented. McPhaul explained that if customers were used to purchasing a particular size most of the time, they wanted to be represented in the brand.
She has a model in every size to ensure that the brand meets this standard.
Making big moves
McPhaul, who was spotted in Scottsdale Quarter's Junk In The Trunk Vintage Market, was approached by someone about opening a pop-up store at Biltmore Fashion square. Customers could try out their products from February 2021-2022.
NBC Today's 'Steals & Deals' offered them the chance to appear on the show, but they had to keep bulk inventory in stock. McPhaul was able to meet this requirement by obtaining a $50,000 loan from Chicano Por La Causa Prestamos. This program offered 1% rates of interest for small business owners, specifically women and persons of color, in Maricopa County.
McPhaul stated that he had done everything by himself up until this point. This is a bit bananas. We have a business with virtually no debt, and a lot of opportunities.
In less than 24 hour, the website 'Steals and Deals' sold $70,000 in merchandise.
The line is currently sold online, through wholesale, and in 28 stores across Canada and the United States. Products are also available in Valley shops, such as Story Essential, in Phoenix. McPhaul calls Story Essential 'the best bra fitting shop', as well as in other independent shops located in Scottsdale's Uptown, and Old Town.
Macys.com will launch May 1, and there are top-secret upcoming projects, including one with QVC, as well as a subscription service and other top-secret projects.
The company is seeking funding in order to expand their brand inclusiveness mission by introducing a line genderless products.
McPhaul stated, 'We are super proud that we built a community-first brand.' We're building our brand on the backs and wants of our customers. It's exciting. It's exciting.