DESIGNER OF THE MONTH: Negative Underwear

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, one thing is on every Fashionista’s mind—undergarments. Whether you are single and looking to mingle or attached and ready to celebrate, there is no better time than Valentine’s Day to step up your intimates game.

But just like with fashion, when it comes to undergarments, minimal is in. Marisa Vosper and Lauren Schwab are changing the essentials game by focusing on fabric, fit and obsessive craftsmanship with their company, Negative Underwear. By giving woman what they want, they have created a line that is equal parts fashion and function.

We caught up with Marisa and Lauren as they discussed their fast friendship from their days at Penn, the premise of Negative Underwear and incredible advice for college students.

CollegeFashionista: Where did you go to school, and what did you major in?

Negative Underwear: We met as freshman at the University of Pennsylvania. Lauren double majored in Diplomatic History and Art History; Marissa double majored in Political Science and Spanish.

CF: What inspired the name of your brand?

NU: Our brand is intentionally minimalist (taking away versus adding on)—and also a bit edgy /irreverent (bras don’t have to suck). We wanted a name that communicated those concepts—a name that felt simple and straightforward, but also caught you and stood out in a category filled with feminine, frilly, girly, sometimes even silly nomenclature. We wanted something refreshingly different and Negative is definitely that. It sticks with you and packs a lot of meaning.

CF: What do you think is the most challenging part of shopping for undergarments?

NU: Honestly, what isn’t challenging about traditional shopping for undergarments?? Something that really surprised us as we started learning more about construction and fit is that there’s no one industry standard on bra sizing – every brand is different – which is why you can wear a 32D in one label and a 34B in another. As a consumer that can be really challenging, especially in the typical lingerie-shopping environment that’s overwhelmingly flooded with options. Trying on 20+ bras to find one that fits is no one’s idea of a good time.

With Negative we not only want to make a better product, but also a better shopping experience. We keep our product assortment thoughtfully edited, our fabrications as soft/silky/stretchy as possible to provide the highest likelihood of a good fit on first go, free shipping/returns on orders over $100 so you can try on easily in the comfort of your own living room, and great customer service to help you find the right product and fit when and where you need it.

CF: What makes your product different and cool?

NU: Our materials are really special and every component is considered – when you take away all the bells and whistles, the essentials that remain have to be the best. We hand-selected each and every component part over years of sourcing and experimentation from the best mills and suppliers around the world. From our beautiful micromesh fabrics to our silky plush elastics, down to our seamless microfiber hook & eyes and heat transferred care labels—our difference is in our hyper attention to detail.

In terms of cool factor – we like to think that being cool comes from our independence and confidence. We’re intentionally not like the rest – dressed down in a world of pushed up. Genuine, comfortable and easy in a market that’s often airbrushed, glamorized and augmented.

CF: What is your favorite piece from the line to wear?

NU: This question is honestly like asking us to pick a favorite child! No, seriously. We both really do wear everything from the line on rotation – we want to know first-hand how our products wear – and wash – over time and (even more importantly) where we still have opportunities to improve.

With that—our Essaouira pieces are great when you want to show some skin – under a sheer top or a cut-away tee – the open-hole fabric is so unique it really stands out. Our printed pieces (Boa and Albatross) are insanely comfortable – the fabric is seriously like butter. We both always joke that we’re wearing our prints when we’d rather wear nothing. Our Sieve collection is the simplest, but also perhaps the sexiest. Great for when you need to go from workday to date night… and when it comes to our tees, we both seem to wear our Muscle Tee at least once a week – hopefully not always on the same day!

CF: How would you describe the brand in three words?

NU: Uncomplicated. Considered. Minimal.

CF: What is your favorite part about the design process?

NU: We both get really excited by textiles – we’re drawn to interesting/unexpected textures and unique, often monochromatic prints. Because our line is very minimalist, we look for subtle details, quality and craftsmanship. When you get rid of all the fluff and fuss, simplicity can be quite inspiring, it just takes a keener eye to see it.

CF: Do you think you’ll expand and design a clothing line?

NU: The core idea behind Negative is less is more – taking away anything unnecessary, focusing on fewer better component parts, never cutting corners or compromising on quality, really considering and caring about each and every detail… As a result, product development is time-intensive for us, but we believe it’s crucial to building a differentiated product and a successful brand.

While we took this mentality to solve a clear problem we saw in the lingerie landscape, we certainly think the approach could apply to categories beyond underwear in the future. Especially as the line between innerwear and outerwear becomes increasingly grey, we see a lot of room to continue pushing the line towards more transitional pieces that can be worn in either context – under or outer.

CF: Any advice for college students hoping to create their own business?

NU: 1. Do your research. Take the time to understand the market—your competitors, your customers, your white space.

2. Leverage your network. So much of business is about relationships – we’re always amazed at how far ours has taken us. Being open and curious is key – you never know where a new connection might lead you. Generosity is crucial – relationships are a two-way street – be thoughtful about what you can offer, not just what someone else can offer you.

3. Surround yourself with support. There are enough people in this world that will tell you it’s too hard, that your idea isn’t good enough, that you’re not the person to execute on it. It’s really helpful to have people in your life that believe in what you’re doing.

4. Persevere. Don’t take no for an answer. Even when it seems like an insurmountable hurdle ahead, focus on the finite, immediate next steps and keep going – that will separate you from the rest.