In 2010, Daphne Javitch had been working in the fashion industry for a decade — first as a costume designer, then as a stylist — but she still couldn’t find the perfect pair of underwear. “I wanted a more considered, luxurious version of what you might buy as a three-pack from Woolworths in the 1970s,” she said. “I actually bought and wore children's underwear. The shape was right, but, let's be real, the seams were ripping.”
So Javitch promptly decided to make a pair of her own. Her line, Ten Undies, which is now sold at Steven Alan, Opening Ceremony, and many other cool-kid retailers, offers a simple-but-sexy alternative to lace tap pants and push-up bras. The cotton styles — a boy-short, a triangle bra, an ultrahigh-waisted brief in colors like cobalt and matchstick red — are inspired by Jane Birkin, Diane Keaton, Lauren Hutton, and other style savants whom Javitch personally admires.
As Javitch has gained a following among the fashion set, her ambitions for Ten have grown. The Cut spent a morning with her talking about costume design, building her business on a navy bikini, and the search for really comfortable pants.
Where did you grow up?
Here on the Upper West Side. But I lived in Italy for three years when I was growing up. I did my first two years of high school in Rome. And, fourth grade — I went to a Spanish school called Rainbow in Rome. My father is a college professor and his focus is on the Italian Renaissance.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I actually think I wanted to be a teacher. That’s probably because both of my parents were teachers. And it’s also a fun game to play when you’re a little kid.
When did you start getting into fashion?
Well, I think I was always … I come from a very academic family. I wasn’t allowed to have Barbies, because my mom thought that they weren’t a realistic representation of women. But I was always just very innately interested in aesthetics and fashion and, really, the narrative of fashion. When I was 19, I started working as a costume designer, and I did that for ten years. It was amazing because I got to tell stories through clothes.
How did you end up doing that at 19?
I went to an acting conservatory and realized really quickly that I didn’t want to be an actress, but I loved working collaboratively. I loved clothes and I loved actors, so I started working as a costume designer. First, I did a small film, then I assisted a bunch of people. What I love about costume design is that you get to explore clothing in terms of how people see the world and express themselves and in order to perpetuate a story.
So, how did you go from costume designer to launching your own line?
I wanted to do something for which I was more responsible. With a film or a play, as amazing as it is to work with a million people, you only impact one area. And I wanted to explore a project where I could decide what compromises to make and what to fight for and what was important and what wasn’t. I knew I wanted to design a pair of underwear. I thought, “How hard could that be?” I took all these style and spirit icons that really influenced my aesthetic and things that I was drawn to visually. I just wanted to make a pair of navy-blue underwear. But I soon realized that you can’t really run a business on one style and one fabric and one color.
What was your solution?
I have one friend who’s a designer who always makes fun of me because we only now have six [styles]. He blatantly laughs in my face. From consulting and working in the business, I know how to merchandise a collection: what sells, what people want. But I’m a super-particular person — very detail-oriented — I can’t just make stuff because I know that it’s going to sell. Shockingly, I’ve had the business for three years, and it’s never even plateaued — it’s only grown. So I do evolve the brand, just super-slowly. Every piece is considered. Also, as a consumer, I like to find the same product over and over and over again. If I fall in love with something, if it’s a foundation piece, an essential, a can’t-live-without thing, I want to know that it’s going to be there every time I look for it and not going to change.
Let’s talk about the color navy. I’ve heard from mutual friends about your obsession with finding the right shade.
I get made fun of a lot because I’m obsessed with navy. To me, a true navy begs the question “Is that black?” Actually, a lot of people think our navy is black, which is fine because navy is just a softer form of black. I don’t wear a lot of black. It’s such a severe color, and I think that navy blue is such a beautiful color because it’s a neutral, but has depth and dimension.
You started Ten with a navy bikini. Where has it moved from there?
I actually started with navy, white, and red because that year Opening Ceremony was doing their French thing and we prelaunched there with those three colors. The red color was called Match; it was the color of the tip of a matchstick — that fluorescent, orange-y red.
And when did you start doing bras?
The first two seasons, I only made cotton bikini underwear. And then we started doing a boy-short, a high-waisted; and then we started the bra. Somewhere in that mix, I started doing a capsule collection of clothing that’s exclusive to Ron Herman in Japan. That fulfilled a lot of my design dreams. The idea was the make ten essential items for the Ten girl, including T-shirts, jackets, and jeans. In the States, we’re introducing a new bra and a new underwear. I’m hoping that within a year we’ll be doing T-shirts and sweatpants over here. I don’t want to call it loungewear, but that sort-of-lifestyle clothing. I don’t know a single girl who doesn’t go home and take her pants off and put on a pair of comfortable pants. But I wear those with real shoes and a jacket to go out.
Along with running Ten, you do a lot of brand consulting and styling. How have you managed to balance it all?
You know, I’m constantly working on finding the balance, because I get super caught up in any project I’m working on. If I’m consulting, I want the client to feel like I’m super-available. But now, with the success of the collection that I do at Ron Herman in Japan, I want to give more attention to Ten. I’m working that out.
Through costume design and brand consulting and now running your own indie label, you’ve seen everything. Do you have any advice for someone who’s just starting out?
This may be a five-part answer, but I think the most important thing to do is listen and develop some intuitive skills. To be really open and enthusiastic when you’re working with people. I think my history of collaboration has made me easier to work with, whether it’s a brand or factory. Being someone whom other people want to be around is maybe 80 percent of it.
Photographer: Eric T. White; Makeup and Hair: Tiffany Saxby using Makeup Forever and Davines at Factory Downtown; Manicure: Casandra Lamar using Revlon polish.
Most Viewed Stories
Did Lena Dunham Shade the Wing on Girls?
Self-Empowerment Is Just Another Word for Narcissism
What, Exactly, Are Melania and Ivanka Trump Trying to Sell?
When Good Christian Girls Need Planned Parenthood
Madame Clairevoyant: Horoscopes for the Week of February 20
Inside the Secret Dating App for Famous People
After Divorce, Angelina Jolie Tells BBC, ‘We Will Always Be a Family’
Nighttime Voice-mails From the White House
Alt-Right Troll Milo Yiannopoulos Uses Campus Visit to Openly Mock a Transgender Student
Melania Trump Is Reportedly ‘Miserable’ in Her Role As First Lady
The Cut’s Latest Fashion FeaturesCiara's Wedding Dress Was Too Big for the Chapel
To be fair, it was a 13 foot-long dress.You and Rihanna Will Both Want to Invest in Dior’s New Bag
It's got something for everyone.Polo Shirts Have Turned Their Back on Ryan Lochte
Along with his other major sponsors.Ryan Lochte Will No Longer Be Paid to Wear Tiny Bathing Suits
Speedo remains committed to transparency.Laura Brown Is the New Editor-in-Chief of InStyle
After 11 years at Harper’s Bazaar.Tyra Banks Is Going to Teach a Class on Smizing at Stanford
"If I see somebody not paying attention, I’m gonna call on them."This Floating Pier Is the Most Zen Installation Ever
Walking on water in Italy.Nation Is Appalled by Matt Lauer’s Nude Ankles During Ryan Lochte Interview
What’s the opposite of “Jeah”?8 People at the Life of Pablo Pop-up Explain Why Kanye West Is a God
"I mean, Kanye West is just Kanye West. There's not more or less you can say about Kanye West. He's just Mr. West!"A T-shirt Is Enough
Simplicity, versatility, and cool. What more could you want?
She took a perfect pencil dive off a 30-foot yacht.American Apparel Is Being Sued by Former Workers
As the company considers putting itself up for sale.A Gendered History of the Tailored Suit
From Marlon Brando to Coco Chanel.How Zendaya Developed Such Great Style at the Young Age of 19
The star's best looks from Disney to now.Proof That If You’re Chic Enough, a Little Federal Investigation Doesn’t Matter
Is this the best they could do?5,300-Year-Old Mummified Iceman Probably Would’ve Been a Street-Style Star
He had several different looks and was “pretty picky.”J.Crew Has Identified 226 Shades of Pink
Even more than there are shades of gray.Gigi and Bella Hadid Merch Is Now Somehow a Thing That Is Happening
Today in Hadidiana.Gird Your Loins for the Return of Yeezy to New York Fashion Week
The season approaches.This Indie Brand Had a Great Response to Ivanka Trump
When she bought one of their cuffs, they donated the proceeds to the Clinton campaign.