Negative Underwear, a small lingerie company, is making a name for itself in the industry.
The brand says it stands out by offering women comfortable, functional, and quality lingerie. This is not your three-pack of Fruit of the Loom.
When UPenn grads Marissa Vosper and her co-founder, Lauren Schwab decided to launch Negative Underwear after deciding that there were no big competitors to Victoria’s Secret.
“When we looked at the landscape, there just wasn’t legitimate competition for Victoria’s Secret,” Vosper said.
The two quit their day jobs in consulting and finance to focus on finding the sweet spot in women’s underwear.
There were two ends of the spectrum, Vosper and Schwab explained.
“A hyper feminized version of femininity,” Vosper said (the feathers, lace, and ostentatious styles of Victoria’s Secret) or “something that was really functional and maybe comfortable, but aesthetically didn’t match your exterior,” Schwab said, calling many of the more functional options “matronly.”
They felt that women didn’t have ideal destinations for lingerie — they just went where they could.
“I think there’s a lot of women who shop for lingerie by default, because it’s because it’s convenient, because they don’t have a better option, because they didn’t know something else existed,” Schwab said to Business Insider. “In the US. landscape, there just isn’t a lot of option compared to when you go to a country like France. There’s lingerie stores on every block.”
So the two women started taking classes after work at FIT to learn more about fashion — and soon, they started working on building Negative Underwear during their evenings and weekends. After a Wall Street Journal article brought attention to the brand at the end of January 2014, sales blew up, and they realised they were really on to something.
The brand is entirely self-funded — the girls put their own salaries and personal savings into the company, and they have been keeping the business alive using profits.
The women stressed that although they have big ambitions, they are not sure about how they feel about accepting funding down the line. Funding could help the brand grow, but the women also believe that if they continue to subsidise the production themselves, they can maintain their vision and create what Vosper called a “sustainable brand.”
There’s a temptation to compare Negative Underwear to another arch Victoria’s Secret competitor, the rapidly growing Adore Me, which has blatantly stated it’s out to crush Victoria’s Secret.
The women don’t even view themselves to be in the same category as Victoria’s Secret. “We’re doing something very, very different than what they’re [Victoria’s Secret is] doing,” Vosper said. “We’re targeting a woman who’s completely dissatisfied with that experience, who isn’t their customer to begin with.”
That’s a smart instinct — earlier this year, the New York Times published an article claiming that millennials were buying briefs — or “granny panties” — in lieu of traditional sexy thongs.
But like the lingerie behemoth that holds the majority of the market share, Negative Underwear’s lingerie is not cheap, either. Underwear ranges from $US28 to $US45, and bras run between $US55 and $US75 — but that’s because the women are focused on providing quality that caters to women’s needs — be it a bra without under wire for a mother who is breastfeeding, or something that provides ample, functional support.
The brand is primarily direct-to-consumer, although it’s about to launch its first in-store collaboration with Steven Alan. Other than that, the underwear is shipped directly out of the Soho space in simple with its no-frills packaging, zeroing in on how putting on this lingerie isn’t a spectator sport.
“A lot of other lingerie bands seem to design products form a voyeuristic perspective, it’s for someone else’s pleasure, not necessarily the wearer’s,” Schwab said, somewhat nodding to Victoria’s Secret’s man-focused history, “and often the wearer’s the afterthought … It doesn’t matter if the wearer enjoys wearing it, as long as the person looking at her is enjoying it.”
“And I think, from our perspective, we’re creating a brand for the woman who is wearing it … that also makes her feel proud of how her body is, [that] she doesn’t need to change it for someone else,” Schwab added.
On that note, the brand recently launched a campaign in collaboration with Girls I Know called “#supportthegirls” that brings to mind Victoria’s Secret competitor Aerie’s campaigns. The campaign — which has real women modelling in their own pairs of Negative underwear sets — features absolutely no airbrushing.
“I’m not a lace kind of girl, so this is my kind of sexy,” the caption for the photo above reads, “the right amount of coverage + the right amount of me.”
The message is clear: this is about what women want, and who could understand that better than two women themselves?
“[We’re] thinking about what a woman would want and how a woman would want a design to come across,” Vosper said, “I think that’s very exciting.”
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