Despite the fact that more than half of American women are plus-size, the plus-size fashion industry is seriously lacking. However, there are a few revolutionaries who are making great style available to all. We spoke to two of these fashion rebels when they came into town recently for respective pop-up shops.
Universal Standard is a direct-to-consumer brand which aims to bring cool girl clothes á la Theory or Helmut Lang to all sizes – but it’s starting with the most underserved group of women. It currently carries sizes 10 to 28, but plans to expand its options in both directions.
Founders Alexandra Waldman and Polina Veksler started the brand to solve a real problem in the retail marketplace.
“Plus-size fashion is notoriously abridged. I couldn’t find anything that was quality, well priced and modern looking. I couldn’t find anything that allowed me to look like my peers who weren’t plus size,” Waldman says.
Waldman noticed that plus-size fashion was especially lacking in fashion-forward everyday clothing. She wanted Universal Standard to give women well-designed and modern clothing to live in on a day-to-day basis, “not for some bland special occasion, which is what most of plus-size clothing is for.”
The line carries on-trend items which are usually hard to find in larger sizes – chic tops, resin-coated skinny jeans, sheer mesh dresses. Things which are easily found for straight size women.
Universal Standard is “blurring and eventually erasing the line between ‘us and them.’ So plus size women are able to shop at the same rack as straight size women,” says Waldman.
As part of their mission, Universal Standard is going on a road trip to Nordstrom stores across the country. The brand is hosting in store pop-ups, as well as a country-wide model search in partnership with The Lions Model Management. The agency represents top girls like Irina Shayk, Kate Upton, Stella Maxwell and others.
“When you’re looking at the boards and you look at straight size, you have all these very interesting faces – they’re modern, angular, flawed, but in a very fascinating way. And when you look at this side of the board you have this very beauty queen aesthetic. We thought wouldn’t it be interesting to go out there and try to bring out from behind the scenes to the forefront that more modern, interesting face in this space as well,” Waldman says.
If the words “body positivity” come to mind, forget about it. This is simply fashion.
“Straight size girls don’t have to talk about their body when they find something that they want to wear – why should plus-size girls?” asks Waldman.
Universal Standard’s pop-up shop has already come and gone to the Nordstrom NorthPark store, but it’s available on Nordstrom’s website for a limited time, and, of course, on Universal Standard.
A Plus-Size Approach
11 Honoré is taking a different approach to the same problem. The new online shopping platform offers luxury, designer clothing in sizes 10 to 20. It hopes to start a conversation about inclusive fashion, and encourage designers to embrace women of all sizes.
In addition to the ecommerce aspect of the website, 11 Honoré will serve as a platform where women can engage with one another and read editorials, including profiles with designers and industry influencers.
Two fashion industry veterans, Patrick Herning and Kathryn Retzer, co-founded the company.
“We wanted to disrupt the way that fashion approaches this underserved woman and provide her with the most diverse and stylish options out there,” says Herning.
Though some designers do make runway styles in plus-sizes, they are rarely available outside of appointments and trunk shows.
“We’re thrilled to be the first retailer to offer runway fashion in sizes 10 to 20,” adds Herning. “Designers like Prabal Gurung have been designing up to size 22 for years, we are just bringing designers the platform to reach a larger audience. For smaller brands who don’t yet have the resources to scale their production, we are helping them with patterns and fit models so that we can bring our customer the best of the best.”
With the momentum of the, ahem, body positivity movement in the last couple years, plus-size women are becoming more common on the runways as well.
“The fashion industry is finally waking up and we’re excited to see what is to come,” Herning says.