Proclaim: Behind the Brand
Interview by Devon Lach
Photography by Marissa Alves
Shobha Philips is a one-woman-show battling to expand the definition of nude lingerie. As the founder and only employee of Proclaim, she’s built a thriving brand by immersing herself in the fashion industry and developing close partnerships with every vendor she works with.
When Shobha and I first met, back in the Spring of 2017, she was still working another job and conducting pattern tests for Proclaim on the side. We met for tea at a small cafe in San Francisco’s financial district where she shared her personal struggle to find a nude bra that matched her dark complection. This struggle led Shobha to found Proclaim and provide the answer she had been searching for.
I'd love to start with a little bit about you and your background, how did you get started in the fashion industry?
So I started the company when I was living in San Francisco and working full time at a proper job. I was researching on the nights and weekends; I always knew I wanted to start my own company.
It took almost two years. During that time I was trying to find vendors and suppliers for the materials. I didn't have a fashion background so putting together the puzzle pieces, being an outsider, took a while.
I found a designer to work with to kind of come up with the designs and concept and started the production at a place in the Dogpatch in San Francisco.
Tell me the point when you knew you wanted to start the brand and the emotional impetus behind starting a nude lingerie company that had a selection of nudes skintones.
It is something that has always bothered me, something I've been aware of–none of the nude colors fit my skintone.
Because it was everywhere it just felt accepted. I just wanted to create something where I saw myself.
In all of our marketing I work with models of color; I try to work with photographers that are women of color as well...people that are underrepresented in the industry.
I want people to look at the imagery and see themselves. I don’t see a lot of representations of Indian women especially, like myself.
How have you seen the Industry change since you started Proclaim in 2017?
There have been some other brands that joined in the movement. But it’s a slow process, It’s shocking... if you walk into most department stores and you look at their selection it’s still pretty much a sea of beige and black. There is still a long way to go but people are more aware of the issue and that’s really the first step. In that way it is positive.
Tell me about the name Proclaim.
Coming up with a name was really hard. I shared a document with my sisters and parents and when I saw Proclaim at the end of the list I felt like it explained how we do business.
I feel really proud of being transparent with everything we do. Trying to lessen our impact on the environment and being socially conscious about paying people fair wages.
The product also represents that we want people to be proud of their skin color and feel included.
What prompted your move from San Francisco to Los Angeles?
I was running the business in San Francisco for a year and I felt that to grow the business I needed to move to LA where there was a more robust fashion industry. Moving to LA we were able to scale up production.
I am really glad I did it; it’s been a really smooth transition.
What are some of the steps that Proclaim takes towards being a sustainable company?
I weave sustainability and the environmental impact into every decision I make,
Every material we use is eco friendly, from recycled polyester to recycled water bottles to Tencel made from Eucalyptus fibers. Most of the chemicals from our productions are reused in the process.
Sourcing local for everything else. Our packaging is all made from recycled materials from a company in Colorado. The tags are made from recycled paper at a local printer. It’s really localizing every detail.
Sustainability is an overarching thing that is always in the back of my mind.
Can you describe what the design to production process looks like as a one-woman-show.
I start with inspiration. I have a living document of things that inspire me: art, pictures I take outside. I put all of this into a mood board and go over it with the designer. We do a few rounds of sketches then a few rounds of samples.
We try it on as many bodies we can so that we can accomodate women of all sizes–since last winter we offer up to 3x.
Then we do several rounds of sample making and tweaking the design before it is taken to production.
We do a first design production run, check everything for quality and then we do the full production run after that.
Can you tell me a little about the bra color names and the inspiration?
I wanted to name the bra colors after women of color that I admire.
The tones are:
Ada after Ada Lovelace, a mathematician
Ella named after Ella Fitzgerald
Maya named after Maya Angelou
How have your styles evolved over time?
I started from comfort, something that women wanted to wear. For me that meant wire-free. As we’ve evolved we are trying to make sure we offer support and coverage while still making women feel powerful and sexy.
We do small batch collections and then move to the next design. Focusing on one thing at a time so we can source it right.
What are some exciting things you see coming in the future for Proclaim?
Camis, slips, other bra styles, strapless, other underwear styles–we are going to do a thong, high rise.
Beyond that I think what people have really responded to is the ethical fashion component so I think there is room to grow in general.
Visit Proclaim’s website to see their latest collection.