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Plus-size ‘inclusive’ fashion start-up gets new funding; showrooms coming

Universal Standard, the plus-size “inclusive” women's apparel brand known for its sleek, stylish fashions and unusual return policy, is looking to expand — in several different directions.

The company, which launched in 2015, announced it has closed a $7 million round of Series A funding. The funding round was led by Imaginary Ventures with additional participation from actress Gwyneth Paltrow; Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms shoes; and Sweetgreen co-founders Jonathan Neman and Nicolas Jammet.

Universal Standard plans to use the new capital to extend its size range from the current sizes 10 to 28 to sizes 6 to 32, and to add new executives. The company also plans to expand its showroom format nationwide. It currently has two showrooms, in New York and Los Angeles and open by appointment only, where customers can shop the full collection and consult one-on-one with in-house stylists.

In addition, Universal Standard wants to expand into new categories. The brand recently launched its first activewear collection, a five-piece line that sells from $45 to $85.

One of Universal Standard’s most notable — and unusual — features is its size-exchange policy, which it calls “Universal Fit Liberty.” Here is how the company describes it:

“Whether you’re a size 6, 16, or 26, weight fluctuates. It can go up and down creating not only an emotional rollercoaster, but a financial burden. If a piece from our core collection no longer fits due to size fluctuation, we’ll replace it with your new size, within a year of purchase, for free.”

The gently worn, returned clothing is cleaned and then donated to Dress For Success, a non-profit group that helps homeless and low-income women gain the skills needed to find living-wage jobs.
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