In news that made me stop and say WHOA, Universal Standard has raised a $7 Million funding round from fashion heavy hitters like Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet, Matches Fashion founders Tom & Ruth Chapman, SoulCycle’s Elizabeth Cutler, and a few more recognizable names, as reported by Business of Fashion. And oh yeah, Gwyneth Paltrow. That’s right, Gwyneth Paltrow has invested in a plus size fashion brand.
The past six months have been relatively quiet in the plus size fashion startup space, so I was beginning to think that investors had moved into another headline-making area of the industry. Gabi & Nicolette launched Premme without outside investment (a total boss move). Hey Gorgeous closed early last year after founder Amy Cheshire wasn’t able to raise another round of funding to keep the business open. However, it’s worth noting that she’s since joined the Universal Standard team.
Accord to Business of Fashion, Univeral Standard has ambitious plans. In addition to using the investment for more styles and new fabrics, they also plan to expand the size range from the existing 10-28 to 6-32, a huge move for the wildly underserved market in sizes 30 & 32. Plans also include adding executives to the team and showrooms strategically around the country.
To their credit, Universal Standard founders Alex Waldman and Polina Veksler have taken on the many consumer stereotypes of plus size fashion with confidence. Experts believe, myself included, that plus-size shoppers are incredibly price-sensitive, mostly because those customers are incredibly vocal on social media. To their credit, the collection is rarely, if ever, discounted. Another long-held tenent of the industry is that plus size women don’t want to invest in themselves because they believe that their size is temporary because of plans to lose weight. To combat this mindset, US launched Universal Fit Liberty, a program that allows customers exchange items for a smaller or larger size within a year of purchase if their size should change. They’ve also launched two collaborations, including with Orange Is The New Black star, Danielle Brooks.
One of the biggest complaints whispered between US customers online and offline is the sizing inconsistency, so I would love to see them focus some of this investment to address these issues. Also on my wishlist would be more formalwear options and hopefully an expansion into footwear, because I selfishly would love to see the US quality and design aesthetic on my feet. Overall, this news has me extremely excited and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings for this innovative brand.