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Boss Ladies | Negative Underwear | Marissa + Lauren

02.16.17

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Photos C/O: Robert Massman

Lauren Schwab and Marissa Vosper are the co-founders of Negative Underwear, an everyday underwear brand for women by women that is obsessively crafted and accessibly priced. After struggling to find an underwear brand that didn’t seem like a compromise, they spent four years moonlighting to build Negative – a brand that merged fashion and function. Both Lauren and Marissa live with their husbands in NYC.

 

Growing up I really wanted to be
Marissa Vosper: A professional dancer. Or the President.

Lauren Schwab: a veterinarian. We had a menagerie of animals — a dog, cat, guinea pigs, bunnies, birds, hermit crabs and more.

I don’t know how I ever lived without
MV: Uber – with coconut milk ice cream as a close second.

LS: Podcasts – especially RadioLab and This American Life

One thing people don’t know about me is
MV: I met my husband my freshman year of college – I was only 17 and never thought that’s how my life would unfold.

LS: I was a competitive gymnast for many years until I broke my elbow and had to get 2 pins in it. I used to be able to do 50 pull-ups with weights on my ankles.

My real life hero is
MV: Beyonce

LS: My mother. She is incredibly smart, driven, elegant, hilarious, loving and so generous. She is always learning something new – whether its contemporary art, managing her stock portfolio, interior design, fashion, or philosophy, and never lets herself get bored. Nothing makes her happier than to help others.

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What I love about our work is
MV: Getting to build something from scratch – putting a piece of myself out into the world with the goal of improving something that was broken. Doing that on behalf of other women is especially rewarding.

LS: That we connect with women on such an intimate level. We are often the most critical of ourselves when we’re in our underwear. We hope to encourage women to feel good in their own skin.

The hardest thing about our work is
MV: Having to learn almost everything without the luxury of time, resources or infrastructure!

LS: Production. There are so many stakeholders – raw material vendors, pattern and sample makers, sewers, shippers, customs – and so many opportunities for things to go wrong. It’s a wonder that any of our clothes fit and have matching buttons. I now have a deep appreciation for manufacturing.

How we got started with Negative Underwear
MV: Negative was a moonlighting project for many years. It started with night classes at Fashion Institute of Technology where my co-founder Lauren and I honed in on what we wanted to do in fashion. It slowly took shape as we developed our collection, brand and vision, and finally took the leap in February 2014. It’s only been a few years and some days it feels like we’re just getting started, while other days it feels like we’ve been doing this for at least a decade.

LS: I always loved fashion, but right out of college, I went into finance – thinking it was the practical and prudent choice. A few years into my career, I started to question whether I was fulfilling my potential. Marissa was a good friend from college, and we decided to take night classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC as a creative outlet.

We used the time to consider potential business opportunities in the fashion landscape. We weren’t lingerie enthusiasts, but we neglected our undergarments because we didn’t have great every day options. We spent four years working nights and weekends — while still working our fulltime jobs – before we launched our brand.

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The dumbest thing I did when I was starting out
LS: Thinking I could plan for everything in advance. We took many years to launch the business, trying to conquer most major hurdles before we started. I’ve since learned there are constantly challenges, and the most important thing to figure out is a process for how to handle them.

My typical day looks like
MV: The things I try to do daily:
Take time for some sort of exercise, movement and/or meditation
Eat healthy/clean foods that fuel me and drink loads of water
Stay on top of both my inbox / immediate priorities as well as my to-do list / bigger picture tasks
Work with my co-founder and our little team to push ourselves forward every day
Meet and learn from a broader network of people and companies to help build our team and our knowledge base, including potential new hires, partners, collaborators and other businesses (especially fellow start-ups!)
Call my Mom or Dad to check in
Have dinner with my husband and/or friends
Make tea, do a crossword puzzle on my phone and get to bed at a reasonable hour so I can get the rest I need to work my butt off!

LS: I try to start every morning with a brief meditation using the app Headspace. When the weather is nice, I walk to work — such a treat.

Once at the office, my days vary from designing future collections, production planning, sales/inventory analysis, event planning, photo shoots, interviews, reviewing customer feedback and lots of problem solving. In the evenings, I generally meet a friend for dinner and wind down with Netflix.

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I used to think success meant
MV: Moving up the ladder as quickly as I could – bigger titles, bigger pay, more clout.

LS: An impressive-sounding title at a reputable company and a big salary.

My current definition of success is
MV: Doing something I love with people who inspire me in order to make a positive difference in the world.

LS: Building a business I’m proud to be part of and feel challenged by every day.

An example of when I had to push through my fear
MV: Pursuing and launching Negative — taking that first plunge, and quitting my comfortable job and forgoing my reliable salary and career trajectory was a big risk.

LS: When I left my secure and financially rewarding job at a reputable financial firm to start Negative. I had worked hard to get the job I was leaving, was terrified by the risk of pursuing the unknown.

XO,
Marissa + Lauren

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