Shopping for lingerie is not always a light-hearted task. From unforgiving mirrors to finding the perfect fit for your unique body shape, it can be a stress-inducing experience. Even harder though, is finding underwear options that aren't a gaudy shade of hot pink or over-embellished with lace and bows. Filling the void between T-shirt bras and impractical "special occasion" lingerie are Marissa Vosper and Lauren Schwab of NYC-based Negative Underwear. The two women design comfortable, everyday styles that still flatter with a luxurious, contemporary touch.
Schwab and Vosper met as freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania, and the pair both found post-grad work in New York: Schwab in finance and private equity and Vosper in brand marketing and advertising. But they began dedicating nights and weekends to a side project that—over time—grew into something much bigger. Their interest in creating a lingerie line that is "minimal, with an edge" saw the friends attend classes at FIT, spend years on research, travel to a Parisian trade show and try on every bra and underwear in Manhattan.
"We stood for hours in the dressing room, analyzing every single component—what pinched, what was flattering, what dug in, what was scratchy, what did we like, what could we do better," Schwab explains. While the two didn't have the strongest design background, their business-minded approach gave them a leg up in making their dream product into a reality.
"The problem that we were trying to solve is that we thought bras were really uncomfortable; the first thing we wanted to do when we came home from work was take them off," Schwab tells CH. "We wanted to create something that was functional and comfortable. We didn't understand why bras would have stiff lace; our bodies move and we should be able to move in our product. So we touched everything—and surprisingly, that eliminates a lot of fabrics. A lot of things are made more from an aesthetic perspective than a functional perspective. And then we also wanted to approach underwear from a less feminine perspective, so that eliminated all of the very traditional laces, a lot of the florals and polka dots and the girly designs."
In addition to concentrating on the tactility, they also worried about streamlining the construction. "In most bras, there are about 17 different pieces, and I think we reduced ours to around 12. We took away a lot of the ornamentation that people add to bras." They sourced a plush elastic band from Japan to provide strong but flexible support, and invested a huge amount of time into finding the ultimate wire casing for the underwire—the duo believes it provides a better shape and if formed correctly, women will forget they're wearing an underwire.
The micro-modal fabric holding the hook and eyes is imported from France and is just as noticeably soft. Instead of a tag, all the info is printed onto the bra strap (many luxury bras come with visible tags that actually get scratchier after you cut them off). Schwab adds, "The way that we were able to achieve such a comfortable bra was really by focusing on the details and not compromising. There's so many different suppliers that we have to work with, and it would be really easy to say, 'Oh, this one doesn't matter.'"
Another goal was to create an affordable piece of lingerie. "We wanted to create something that was everyday; that gave you another alternative to the other everyday product that was out there," says Schwab. Out of Negative Underwear's five different bra designs, we're particular fans of the Essaouira demi bra. The eyelet-like holes in the fabric actually make the bra feel as light as air and very breathable, not to mention aesthetically pleasing.
"The goal of our business was to disrupt the lingerie landscape; we wanted to do something different than what was being done," says Schwab on deciding upon the brand name Negative. "When you talk to most women about their underwear, there are very few people that say they love their underwear. They're either neutral or have complaints; at least, that's what we found when we were doing our research. We wanted a name that communicated the minimalism, the taking away of the unnecessary things, but also a name that took your attention and wasn't another French, frilly name.
Negative Underwear bras start at $65 while thongs and briefs start at $28. Their newest offering, sheer T-shirts and tanks, start at $55 and will be available for purchase from their online store from 17 June 2014.
Photos by Nara Shin