Next up in my interview series is Brooklyn based founder and designer of TEN underwear and creative consultant Daphne Javitch. Inspired by style icons of the sixties and seventies including Jane Birkin, Joan Didion and Romy Schneider, Daphne's line of simple yet chic cotton undies are the perfect foundation to a stylish yet hassle free wardrobe. Here she talks French New Wave and the quest for the perfect shade of navy... a girl after my own heart!
Hi Daphne! Tell us about yourself. How did you get into design? Hi! I’m laughing trying to answer this question because everything I write sounds like an online dating description! I’m originally from New York and I still mostly live there, but I spend lots of time in Los Angeles. I’m a New Yorker who loves LA- a California-girl poser I guess. I’ve always been interested in personal narratives which I think is what led me to design as a way of visual story telling. First I was a costume designer, then a personal stylist, then I started my underwear line TEN which is what I do now as well as consult for the design teams at Theory and Uniqlo.
What about your past jobs? What lead you to your current position? I was a costume designer for film and theater before I started TEN. I absolutely loved costume designing and did it from the age of 19 for 10 years, but eventually I really wanted to create something all my own. I wanted to be responsible for an entire creative project, to have input and impact on every aspect of what I was putting out there.
Tell us a bit about Ten. What inspired you to start designing underwear? Before TEN, I wore a lot of children’s underwear because I loved their simplicity and shape- classic full seat cotton bikinis. But since I’m not a child, fit was often a problem! So I started dreaming up my perfect pair of undies. After working out shape/style/fit, my priority was to make a true navy blue pair. I’m obsessed with navy. True navy begs the question “Is that black?” Navy TENs are very rich and often mistaken for black. I release new colors with each collection, but always repeat white and navy.
What inspired the name Ten? I wanted a name that had a classic American sportswear sound. Something that was timeless and also feminine without being too girly. My best friend and I always rate things on a scale of 1-10 so the name TEN refers to being the best on that scale!
What influences your designs? I’m influenced by narrative- so I always think ‘Who is the TEN girl?, What is she like?, Who doe she have a crush on?, What does she think, say, read, eat?”… The answers to those questions almost always lead back to my spirit and style icons from the 60s and 70s- Diane Keaton, Romy Schneider, Goldie Hawn, Jane Birkin, Joan Didion, Anna Karina, Lee Radziwell, Julie Christie…the list goes on and on! These are graceful, smart, straight forward, and playful women. That’s my kind of sexy.
Can you describe the design making process? TEN started with one shape- a classic full seat bikini, but now there’s a bra (for the small breasted) and two new bottoms styles: a boy short and a high waisted. After the styles and fit are perfected I choose a color palette for each collection. I aim for unexpected, exciting and desirable colors. To me, undies are the clothing equivalent of a surprise party- when you take your clothes off POP! There’s a pair of tennis ball yellow undies! I also like the look of modest shapes in bright colors showing through a vintage nightie or crochet pants…I think I’ve gone off topic! Anyway, all TEN pieces are custom dyed and sewn in the USA. Since we repeat styles an important part of the design process is contextualizing each collection with images. Each collection has been represented in a different way on our website in order to continue to establish the TEN world.
Who is the TEN girl? I hope every girl is a TEN girl. The goal was to create everyday undies that are suitable for an unexpected sexy situation! I think everyone needs a pair of 1970s babysitter white cotton undies because they’re downright sexy without trying too hard!
Tell us a bit about the Godard inspired packaging. I once sent my crush a pair of white cotton knickers in the mail…now every pair of TENs comes in a custom airmail envelope! I like the innocent and romantic nature of that gesture- even if you’re giving them to a pal or buying them for yourself. The TEN font is the same as the one used in the opening credits of Pierrot Le Fou and the envelope is a bit oversized and cartoonish in a Godard inspired way.
Nouvelle Vague has inspired your designs. What are your top 5 Nouvelle Vague films? I love A Woman is a Woman, Breathless, Stolen Kisses and these last two films aren’t New Wave but I love them so much and they endlessly inspire me so they must be included: Annie Hall and Two For the Road.
What other brands inspire you? I’m very inspired by Band of Outsiders. I love nostalgia and I feel that Scott really tapped into a collective nostalgia to design updated versions of amazing classic pieces. He also started with just ties and shirts and took his time expanding- he’s a perfectionist who cares about detail and it shows. I consider myself the unofficial brand ambassador for their women’s line Boy! I like to think that TEN goes with their whole vibe and that we share a girl.
How would you describe your personal style and how does that manifest itself in your designs? Hmmm…words that describe my personal style: balance, nostalgia, cartoon, and ease. I wear lots of classic things but I’m also very attracted to humor and adventure in clothes. My friend described my look as that of a super- hero wearing half of their super-hero and half of their society outfit! Does that make sense? The way it manifests is that the shapes I design are timeless and relatively basic but the colors I use and how I wear my pieces is un-boring. Chic muppet. That’s my style.
What are your 5 wardrobe essentials? The perfect trench coat, a small purse (laughing-matter tiny), boyfriend’s broken in APC jeans (tailored short a la Carolyn Bessette), a perfect vintage white tee (tubular) and something epic with a splash of cartoon like my highlighter-orange Christopher Kane lace dress.
What outside of work has inspired you recently? There’s a song I’m very inspired by at the moment, but I don’t want to name it because I’m musing up a little TEN film to use it in. I play it 4 times a day and dance around my kitchen trying to figure out what to do with it!
Can you give us a hint as to what’s coming up next? I’m working on a really fun collaboration with Ron Herman Japan that will be in their stores S/S 2013. We’re designing 10 items for the TEN girl. It’s my first clothing collection, a little capsule of essentials. I hope we keep it going for a few seasons because there’s so many pieces I want to make and wear! I’m also collaborating with one of my all time favorite designers A Détacher. We’re making exclusive TEN colors and styles for their New York store. It’s a dream come true project- A Détacher is one of my favorite stores in the world. And I’m working on the Fall/Winter TEN collection. I’m finalizing and perfecting the new colors now.
Describe your perfect day. My perfect day has double the amount of hours in it. It starts with an apple and a perfect cup of coffee. I go for a run or take a yoga class. I catch up with my 5 closest friends (and my sister) thoroughly on the phone or in person. It’s sunny and I walk around New York and end up somewhere inspiring, unexpected and fun. I see something I’ve never seen before. I learn the names of flowers and remember them. I eat a Pali-made salad, his steamed artichokes and corn on the cob. I take a bath. I stay awake into the night talking to my favorite people in my (or someone’s) living room laughing so hard my stomach hurts and at least 3 of us end up in bed falling asleep in the middle of more talking and laughing.
TEN underwear is available to purchase fromFor more of Daphne's inspirations, check out her blog here.
(Photograph by Ezra Woods courtesy of Daphne)