In a world of frills, lace and overdone trims, Co-founders Lauren Schwab and Marissa Vosper want to bring the S back to simple and sexy in the lingerie space. Having launched in 2014, Negative’s belief of “less is more” is a reflection of both their price points and brand attitude.
“We believe that the shopping experience offline for lingerie today is rather broken, and so we are hopeful that we can streamline it and give one the opportunity to try it on in their living room.” Priced between $35-$200, Lauren and Melissa wanted to make high-quality lingerie but also have it be accessible for women to purchase online. By removing the middle man, Negative has managed to keep its price points lower than its competitors such as La Perla and provide a collection for everyday usage. Not to mention, their products are extremely comfortable, perfect for those long flights or for times when you accidentally lock yourself out (yes, we own a pair).
Freshman besties from the University of Pennsylvania, Lauren and Marissa had no prior experience in the fashion world. Lauren majored in Art History and Diplomatic History while Marissa explored Politics and Spanish. Upon graduation, Marissa worked as a Brand Consultant for agencies and Lauren joined the dark forces by entering a private equity firm.
While you might be wondering, there wasn't really an “aha” moment for Negative. The idea came about while sitting at lunch with their girlfriends around the age of 26, discussing what the next steps for their lives were and how they didn't want to continue working a corporate job forever. Like most of us around this age, they were rethinking life.
“Our brand is all about taking away the unnecessary”
With no previous experience in fashion, “we decided to take classes together at FIT and it wasn't necessarily with the intention of ‘let’s do this’ and start a business immediately, but more from the mindset of we’re two smart women, and we love fashion, maybe there is something we can think about doing differently than just going and getting a job in an existing business.” By enrolling in classes together, they understood how they both worked as partners and as individuals. “Our time together in classes solidified that we both had a similar vision of why we wanted to do this and our aesthetics are very aligned so it made it very easy. We certainly weren't lingerie enthusiasts before we started. I think we spent most of our time in class and on the weekends exploring opportunities in markets where we felt there were innovative businesses and a white space. It’s funny, we’re all very brand loyal to the things that people can see but not to our undergarments and we thought that was a huge opportunity.”
Divide and Conquer
Coming from a branding background, Marissa is the guru behind the brand ethos and strategy for Negative while Lauren heads product development. Fun fact: Lauren’s family is fourth generation in designing and manufacturing children's wear. ‘I didn't want to go back and work for the family business because I didn't see a white space in that market. I don't have kids, but I wear lingerie and it just seemed natural to go in that industry because I was the target audience.” Working two jobs until the launch in 2014, Lauren explored the product development stage for three years and tells us how complex and technical the development of lingerie is. “We basically looked at our network and said who do we know, who can we ask questions to because at the time there were no books on how to make lingerie. You had to talk to people in order to learn how to make the product. So we asked a million questions which eventually led to finding our manufacturer in Colombia.”
As for the packaging, it was inspired by a Lacoste shirt, which was vacuumed packed and allowed you to see the shape. “We loved that idea and went with our current silver foil packaging. It is simple and also helps maintain our inventory efficiently.” (Talk about space saver!)
“Originally we had created the brand with ourselves and our taste in mind, but our target market has evolved. We haven't tapped into a certain demographic, but a psychographic where women range from teenagers to 80 years old. Some of our most loyal customers are in their 50’s.”
Before launching, Negative conducted focus groups and invited friends of all shapes and sizes, breasts and thighs. Not wanting anyone to feel left out, they started a campaign called “Support The Girls” to create a movement that helps women feel comfortable with their body instead of constantly criticizing it. “It’s about them dressing for themselves instead of their boyfriends, husbands, and significant others. It was extremely successful and we hope to continue to make it bigger.”
Negative’s exposure in numerous publications such as the Wall Street Journal before Valentine’s Day in 2014 also helped boost their brand and increase sales. Despite selling online, the brand is also available for purchase by appointment in their rad SoHo showroom. However, their most successful marketing channel has been Instagram as it is a good way to express the brand voice and vibe. Negative also engages in email marketing, which is a growing channel as well as conducts events (pop-up truck) around the city.
Their Piece of Advice:
- Go for it - you won’t know what to do until you actually do it
- Do your research
- Leverage your network, you never know what comes out of conversations
In the future, the ladies hope to expand the product line and have already released their t-shirts and bodysuits. If you’re looking to get in touch with them, want to collaborate or just say hi, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org