With a name like Negative, you might expect New York’s newest underwear brand to be an underground, anti-fashion label aimed at scowling goth girls.
You’d be wrong. The name might sound like a downer, but the founders of Negative Underwear only want to bring a positive new direction to women’s wardrobes.
Their brand name, like the first Negative collection, is a response to the baroque styles and hyper-feminized marketing that lingerie shoppers encounter everywhere.
“We thought a lot about what we wanted to call ourselves,” co-founder Lauren Schwab told Lingerie Talk. “Our interpretation of ‘negative’ comes from the idea of taking away unnecessary things. At first glance it seems like the opposite of ‘positive’, but it’s really all about reduction and minimalism.
“It’s about taking away all the things that make bras and underwear uncomfortable.”
Negative Underwear bowed last month with a collection of five bra and brief styles in four fabric options, along with four T-shirt styles.
There’s nothing fancy here — and that’s the whole point. Negative is part of the new minimalism that is starting to make itself known in the lingerie market, a back-to-basics trend that arose in response to the increasingly ornate, decorative and complex underpinnings that are now so familiar.
Lauren, who has a background in finance, developed the Negative concept with co-founder Marissa Vosper, a branding expert, after the pair met at UPenn. They moved to New York after graduating, got jobs, and took design and product development classes at FIT in their spare time. Altogether, they spent four years bringing Negative to market, enlisting friends to help fit-test their samples.
“We felt there were really amazing ready-to-wear brands out there, but when it came to underwear there weren’t brands that we identified with,” Lauren said. “There weren’t a lot of options for beautiful, high-quality, everyday underwear.
“For both Marissa and I the first thing we want to do when we come home from work is take off our bra,” she added. “The wire is poking you, the lace is scratchy, the tags are leaving a mark.”
Negative keeps things simple but stylish with seamless, tag-free pieces designed not to pinch, poke, leave bumps or marks or generally cause a nuisance under your clothing. The underwire bras all have unmolded, soft cups that provide support but none of the structural shape-shifting common in T-shirt bras.
“In a world of pushed-up and overdone, we’re intentionally not,” the company says on its website.
With an emphasis on function and comfort that doesn’t sacrifice style, there’s something quintessentially American about this newcomer. Fashion brands like Calvin Klein and DKNY have defined the style, and independent boutique labels like Ten, Me Undies and Sloane & Tate have contributed to the growing less-is-more trend that finds beauty in simplicity.
And Negative isn’t afraid to do some name-dropping to help position its brand in the hipster marketplace.
“Negative is for the girl who wears Rag and Bone jeans and Alexander Wang T-shirts. It’s something that women want to feel good in,” Lauren said. “When you see that Rag and Bone and Alexander Wang girl, you don’t imagine she’s wearing a frilly pushed-up bra with bows underneath.”
Interestingly, most lingerie start-ups don’t usually launch with a companion T-shirt line; in Negative‘s case, the tee collection helps establish the style aesthetic they are promoting. There are four fashionable silhouettes, each a bit reminiscent of Alexander Wang, and designed to show off different parts of the bra underneath.
Most new brands also don’t start by calling out their competitors, but Negative doesn’t mince words when it comes to challenging the industry’s status quo.
Its marketing messages take shots at “crummy-looking” underwear and include slogans like “Bras don’t have to suck” and “Less fake, more real”.
“Our intention is not to upset other people in the industry,” Lauren insisted. “It’s just our personal perspective.
“We’re all about making very functional, very comfortable underwear that you don’t want to take off as soon as you get home.”
Negative Underwear is currently available only through the company webshop. Watch for announcements regarding retail distributors.