Alex Waldman is fine with exclusivity. She’s fine with exclusive pricing, she’s fine with exclusive materials, and she’s fine with exclusive designs. But what she’s not fine with is exclusivity in sizing.
As the cofounder of Universal Standard, an upstart fashion brand that makes clothing in sizes 00 through 40, Waldman has made it her mission to not only bring stylish apparel to the women most often excluded from the industry but to bring it to all women. “We don’t even like to say ‘size inclusive’ because it kind of implies this golden inner circle that has to open its gates up to include everyone,” she says. “Size is much simpler than that. It’s size equality, and that hits a little differently.”
While recent years have seen size diversity more widely embraced in the pages of magazines and on runways around the world, and the birth of many brands that are built upon body positivity, Universal Standard isn’t interested in activism. “We are not a body positivity brand because we feel we don’t have the right to be. I think body positivity is a very important and very personal thing, and no brand should highjack that idea in order to sell clothes,” Waldman explains. “We’re a brand, we make clothes, and if you need clothes, come and get clothes—as linear and standard as that may sound.”
Since its launch five and a half years ago, Universal Standard has built a reputation as a pioneer in the democratization of fashion, and it now boasts the most expansive size range of any non-bespoke brand. But more than that, the company has encouraged others in the industry to follow suit. Over the last few years, the brand has partnered with the likes of Adidas, J. Crew, and Rodarte to create special capsule collections, and now, for its latest collaboration, Universal Standard is joining forces with ERDEM.
Synonymous with femininity and bold romanticism, the celebrated British fashion house recently announced its commitment to extend its size range, and the collaboration with Universal Standard only furthers that. It also marks a new interpretation of ERDEM’s classic aesthetic—one that, for the first time in the brand’s history, will include denim. “There’s a beautiful universality in denim, and with careful design, you can achieve a wonderful permanence,” says Erdem Moralıoğlu MBE, the label’s eponymous designer. “Fashion for everyone means designing consciously beyond the boundaries of shape or trend.”
The collection consists of eight pieces in total—a wide-legged patchwork boyfriend jean available in dark wash denim and white, a high-waisted skinny jean with sailor buttons, a denim jumpsuit, a deconstructed white denim skirt, a floral print shirtdress with a ruffle trim, and a short- or long-sleeved floral print smocked shirt. “Like you would with any collection, Erdem proposed a number of pieces, and we sat down with him [over Zoom] and thought they were really fantastic,” Waldman recalls of the design process. “And these were the pieces that we thought would be a really great way to herald this collaboration to a new client base.”
The ERDEM collection launches on the Universal Standard website today and is expected to garner huge demand, but Waldman won’t stop until the entire fashion industry sees women in a different way. “I think the important thing here is that we keep doing the work and we keep showing up and showing everyone that this is absolutely possible, absolutely doable, and absolutely necessary,” she says. “That’s ultimately the material point, if you forgive the pun.”