How 7 basic pieces sparked a revolution.
We wanted to change everything.
This was our credo - our guidepost and challenge for the past three years: change everything, break barriers, unite the divided. We set out to do this through clothing - something simple we all need, but don’t always get. It sounds small, but it means a lot. A t-shirt becomes monumental when you’ve never had one that fits you comfortably, that feels amazing on, or looks just like the one your friend has. In the same way, an image takes on a different meaning when you see yourself reflected in it - when the woman in your feed, in your inbox, on the poster you walk past every morning makes you feel seen. Because access to good clothing matters, and representation matters.
Six months ago we wrote “FOUNDATION” on a whiteboard and asked ourselves how this would be different than anything we’ve done before, yet encapsulate everything we’ve done so far.
It started with an idea for seven basics. Pieces that would be simple enough to style your way, pieces that would feel incomparably soft and act as a second skin, becoming the “foundation” of your daily wardrobe and allowing your personal style and individuality shine through. It was what we did best - elevate the wardrobe essentials. As we sat around the crowded conference table, coffees in hand, notebooks at the ready, brainstorming strategies that would make this collection what we thought it could be, a realization settled over the room. This was the moment. This was the moment to do sizes 00 to 40 for the first time - to let everyone shop together for the first time - to let everyone belong to the same brand for the first time. The collection was called “Foundation” after all, and this would become the foundation for the future of Universal Standard, a brand that’s for all of US. As we are.
The realization of what that decision meant set in. We would become the most inclusive brand in the industry, the first to provide access to everyone.
“That invisible line dividing women by size had to go, and this was the moment to erase it for good. When Universal Standard was still just an intention, and not a brand, we talked about a utopia where size was the last consideration instead of the first, where style reigned supreme and everyone could shop from the same rack. Foundation is the realization of that ideal. There’s an enormous amount of power in that reality. It means we’re all the same. That there actually is a place where size is irrelevant and the focus is shifted on the individual instead of the label.”
- Alex Waldman, Co-founder & CCO
How would we tell this story? How would we show this story? We asked photographer Ronan McKenzie to help us manifest an honest vision of FASHION FREEDOM and work with us to weave a tapestry of connectivity and representation, a visual story of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. We were heralding a new era of inclusivity and diversity, and chose to demonstrate that through 35 individuals that have shaped and inspired US - those that have been “foundational” to the brand - models, brand friends, influencers, employees, and our founders.
“Historically, the industry has been predicated on exclusion. It’s thrived on a singular vision of beauty - one that’s impossibly narrow and one-dimensional. Foundation is the antithesis to all of that. We wanted everyone to look at these images and feel seen. Our goal was to show the breadth and depth of real beauty, one that hasn’t been acknowledged, until now. The joy, confidence, and freedom that’s exhibited by the subjects in these images is a reflection of a collective, and of the viewer. It’s about all of US. As we are.”
- Henrietta Gallina, Head of Brand Marketing & Creative
There’s a difference between accepting inclusivity and diversity in abstract terms, and seeing it in front of you - on your screen and in the real world. We hoped our vision would be taken for its intention, and seeing the emotional outpouring and personal reactions to these images has been incredibly powerful. And yes, it’s important to acknowledge both sides of the coin. While some have accepted these images for what they are - honest portraits of a cross section of individuals, others have used them to push an existing agenda of exclusion, pointing to the fact that in many ways this dialogue is still very necessary and that there’s a long way to go until we achieve true acceptance. But change comes through open discourse, and we hope to contribute to the conversation.
Foundation is just the next step in our journey. We will continue to push forward, to break and rebuild the industry, to push for access and representation for all.
Everything we’ve done so far has led to this, and now there’s no turning back.