Universal Standard Is Revolutionizing Retail With Respect and Generosity

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Since its founding four years ago, women’s apparel brand Universal Standard has sought to overcome weight bias.

It’s one of the last remaining forms of prejudice that is socially acceptable, according to co-founder Alexandra Waldman, who spoke on Thursday during Adweek’s Challenger Brands Summit in New York.

“I, as an adult woman, could not find a T-shirt that didn’t have a puppy or a cat on it,” she said. “Why do I need a shirt that says ‘Live, Love, Learn’ on it?”

Universal Standard is fighting this prejudice by offering women the broadest range of sizes, from 00 through 40, of any apparel company, Waldman said, the point of which is to actually make sizing a non-issue.

The company’s sizing is based on research that says a true medium in the U.S. would be between a size 18 and 20, Waldman explained. “Once you take the spotlight and put it where it belongs, all sizes fall into place,” she said.

As the label’s website proclaims, Waldman and her co-founder Polina Veksler are not close to done in their efforts to make sizing an irrelevant topic. Universal Standard is engaged in conversations with the Council of Fashion Designers of America around industry standards on sizing.

Waldman went on to say that the brand is taking on all the risk, from creative to the consumer to the industry itself, in order to allow brands to see the opportunity in inclusivity. Thus far, the company has partnered with athletic footwear giant Adidas and lifestyle brand Goop, among others.

It’s not just through sizing and messaging that Universal Standard is appealing to consumers. The company has also opened stores, though they’re not your standard ground-floor retail. Instead, they are experiential places in spacious apartments located in city centers, Waldman explained.

Customers can make an appointment at their locations with a Universal Standard stylist, with Waldman emphasizing that they are not salespeople but rather there to give honest advice on clothing choices.

The spaces are also a place for customers to relax in addition to shop, and are available for hosting events from birthdays to meetings, which are free to nonprofits.

It’s in line with the spirit of Universal Standard, which is to be open, respectful and generous to its consumers, which Waldman predicted the broader retail world will begin to embrace.

“We are at the tipping point of retail,” she said. “The idea of desegregating fashion is more challenging than people think. It’s about a brand that is as attractive to a size 6 as it is to a size 26.”

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