OVER, UNDER LAUREN SCHWAB AND MARISSA VOSPER OF NEGATIVE UNDERWEAR

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The founders behind the lingerie upstart talk everything from the No Pants Revolution to inside-out confidence and building an underwear empire.

Images by Greg Mitola


 

On their lingerie philosophy…

We came from non-traditional business backgrounds and were avid students of fashion, but had never pursued design in any specific way until we started taking classes together at the Fashion Institute of Technology. We took product development and product design courses, but more with the intention of just putting ourselves in a creative space as opposed to a directed “I want to design a lingerie line.” Our design process has been much more tactile and organic then a traditional sketch-collection model.

We wanted to design something that was going to solve a real problem in the world and base it off of our own personal experience with what was missing in the bra market. A huge piece of our process was research. We spent weekend upon weekend getting every single bra fitting in the island of Manhattan, trying on, like, hundreds of bras, thinking “the band on this bra is great and the cups on this bra are really cool and this one looks really awesome but feels terrible,” and often times we would spend time critiquing what we didn’t think was working and talking about what we could do to make it better. A lot of our process was dissecting the way that bras were constructed and then thinking about how we could put them back together with less fuss and better quality.

For two women that loved fashion and had so many brands that we were advocates of, we didn’t feel that way about any lingerie. We felt that there were these really beautiful, high end, luxury brands that were so impractical and totally unaffordable for most girls for everyday wear and most of the time weren’t meant to be worn under clothes. Then you had the other side of the market, which most of us wear and shop, and it felt like you either had to settle for something that was super pushed-up and frilly and definitely not reflective of a New York-cool-girl sense of style, or you ended up with these really boring t-shirt bras that didn’t have any sense of design, that didn’t have a brand that made you feel proud. It felt like there wasn’t anything in the market that spoke to a contemporary woman from a marketing or aesthetic perspective and that it felt good enough that you wanted to wear it all day—how many of us get home from work and immediately want to take off our bra because it’s so damn uncomfortable?! We didn’t understand why bras had to suck, so we decided to fix that.

On the Negative girl…

If there’s something that ties the negative girl together, it’s a sense of independence and self confidence. You don’t need pads and bows to feel good in your own skin. It makes me proud when I see women that are like, thank goodness I can wear something that makes me feel proud of my body as it is.

When we started it, we were trying to solve our own problem, so we certainly had this vision of girls living in cities who worked and had a disposable income and didn’t have a lot of time to fuss with undergarments, and cared about fashion. But as we’ve grown the business, we’ve seen such a broader range of women and honestly I get so much more excited that we don’t have a typecast girl. We have customers across a crazy range - including an 87 year-old in Oregon and a 17 year-old on the Upper East Side, not to mention really loyal customers in Denver, Chicago and in between, that are in their 20s to 60s. I think that’s really cool as a brand that we’ve tapped into this cultural current that speaks to women of all generations and is more about mindset and priorities then it is about demographics or fashion sense.

I think one of our biggest goals is to change the way that we (as a culture) think about and define sexy. It’s been so dominated by one point of view—the Angel—and I just feel like our consumer culture has changed. I just think there is a new picture of what sexy is and it comes from self-confidence. Having women feel powerful and comfortable is the new form of sexy and we can help change that in the way that we present our lingerie.

On wearing underwear in…

At home we have a new appreciation for the role that brief-cut underwear can play in your life. Briefs are the best thing to sleep in, they’re the best thing to wear around home if you don’t want to put on pants—the no-pants-are-the-best-pants revolution. Walking around in a thong is a little bit much, but walking around in a cute, cheeky pair of briefs— they really do serve that perfect role in my mind. Styling a cute pair of briefs with a slouchy t-shirt or a sweatshirt is the most adorable an easy at-home look.

…and on wearing underwear out…

In terms of going out, I’m often looking for sheer or cut-away pieces that show off aspects of our collection, partially because I want to be a walking advertisement. I will certainly say that when you’re wearing well-fitting underwear that makes you feel sexy and confident underneath it just changes your entire look, no matter what you’re wearing on the outside. What you’re wearing underneath really does have the impact to change the way that you project yourself on the outside.

On building an empire…

Of course we want to build an underwear empire—the goal is to present a legitimate alternative to what exists today and be a disrupter. I also think that the brand isn’t necessarily going to be tied to just intimate apparel, or just womenswear for that matter. We intentionally chose a name that would allow for us to branch into a lot of different potential categories and I think the ethos—removing unnecessary elements to focus on fewer, better things—is quite applicable to a lot of categories. I don’t know if that means anything specific (as in a grand plan), but I think we could do a lot of interesting things with the brand as it grows.



UNDERWEAR AS OUTERWEAR

When it’s this good, why hide it? With the help of the Negative girls, we styled a shoot featuring bodysuits and bras galore—worn in plain sight. The result: sexy, effortless, cool… just like Lauren and Marissa themselves. 

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Right: skirt by Zara, top by Nasty Gal, balconette bra by Negative UnderwearLeft: denim by Redone, blouse by Iro, demi bra by Negative Underwear. 

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