All-inclusive luxury basics line Universal Standard continues to break barriers when it comes to democratizing fashion—both in-store, and underneath it all. In the past week, the brand has made two major announcements. First, it’s moving into the underwear arena with its upcoming “Foundation” line, a series of lounge-ready underpinnings styled to fit sizes 00-40 and featuring body-positive activist and curve model La’Shaunae Steward in its advertising campaign.
But the brand had an even bigger reveal in store—no, literally: in store. Achieving the much talked-about but still elusive dream of fashion equality in the retail sector, last weekend the brand opened its first brick and mortar location in New York City’s glamorous (and retail-heavy) Soho neighborhood, at 65 Greene Street.
The move represents a democratization of fashion that has quickly made the three-year-old e-commerce brand a pioneer in its field. “This is the only brand in the world that is doing this,” co-founder Alex Waldman told Vogue about the new location. “We wanted to, not just in our store but in general, show the industry that this can be done really well to the benefit of all concerned.”
The issue is personal for Waldman, a plus-sized woman who started the label to address her own difficulties finding high-quality, fashion-forward classics in her size.
“I think there’s a huge lack of actual access for women of all sizes to be able to walk into a store and say, ‘I like this. Can I have that in my size?’” she told Vogue, speaking on the decision to open a flagship in one of the world’s trendiest neighborhoods. Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Max Mara are just a few of the luxury retailers within blocks of the new location. “I love this neighborhood but the only thing I could buy here were candles and purses—it breaks my heart to walk into a store where I’m with my friends and I just have to stand there.”
Of course, this move comes after a hugely successful summer collaboration with J. Crew, which significantly raised Universal Standard’s profile while adding a much-needed infusion of inclusion to the legacy brand. (Fun fact: the two retailers are now minutes away from each other in Soho.)
No word yet on whether we can expect to see more Universal Standard locations—or where—but the new store is all about embracing its shoppers of all sizes. The showroom not only enables guests to consult with stylists one-on-one, but also features a mini-library lounge area where shoppers can revel in the communal feeling the brand is trying to build. “It’s a destination in a way. You can just sit down, have a drink, flip through a magazine and you can shop or not,” Waldman told Vogue. “I’m pretty practical and I just wanted this to be an easy, accessible, and welcoming place.”