Universal Standard is a clothing company that vows to change with its client base. Founded by friends who identified a lack of diversity in the fashion industry, the brand is focused on providing stylish garments for sizes 6-32. In a letter to their customers on their website, Polina Veksler and Alexandra Waldman highlight how a majority of women in the United States wear a size 14 or greater. However, their options are limited in the industry. The level of style and quality varies greatly when it comes to clothing for different body types.
The two friends set out to make a “universal standard” for all women, so that regardless of their size, they could all shop in the same way, using style as their only filter.
The best part about their business model, which recognizes that weight is not stagnant, is that they change with customers as their size changes. If a piece from the collection no longer fits within a year of purchase, Universal Standard will replace the piece with a new size, for FREE. The pieces that do not fit are then donated to charities such as Dress for Success, which are also lacking in plus sizes.
Universal Standard’s mission is for women of all sizes to feel valued and respected when searching for their bodies in the fashion industry. Unfortunately, for other companies the concept of “plus size” may only be a niche market that they capitalize on as it gains momentum. Veksler and Waldman highlight that it is ridiculous to consider this as a niche market when so many women wear plus sizes.
Diversifying the fashion industry on any front is a difficult venture. Not only are brands that advocate for plus sizes judged based on the quality and style of their garments for all women, but they are also critiqued on the way they market those pieces. Universal Standard has been criticized for how they announced their size expansion, for example. The fact that they used models under a certain size and that met a certain height provoked some negative responses. Although their goals for designing garments for women of all sizes are admirable, it may be that they have yet to master how to exemplify their values in other outlets, such as through marketing.
The company’s goal to focus on a universal standard for women is satisfied in their stylish collections and in their innovative exchange policy to change with women’s bodies. We look forward to seeing how an exchange policy like this can be implemented in other brands, or even extended past the one year time period.