- Direct-to-consumer company Universal Standard has acquired plus-size luxury womenswear brand Henning, according to a Thursday announcement shared with Retail Dive.
- Universal Standard — which is focused on size-inclusivity — said the acquisition marks “the first successful exit of an independent, female-founded plus-size brand.” Henning’s founder, Lauren Chan, now acts as Universal Standard’s head of brand partnerships.
- Henning’s focus on workwear will contribute to Universal Standard’s fall 2023 collection, which is expected to launch in August.
Universal Standard CEO Polina Veksler and Lauren Chan have joined forces after developing a long-standing relationship outside of business, with Chan even modeling for some Universal Standard campaigns over the years.
“Despite current trends suggesting otherwise, the future of fashion is rooted in inclusivity and we are confident that embracing size-inclusivity will continue to be profitable for the business,” Veksler said in a statement. “Our acquisition of Henning is the next wave of our vital mission to make fashion more accessible for all people, whether a size 2 or size 32. I am thrilled to welcome Lauren, who brings a breadth of unique expertise to our team with experience at both the forefront and behind the scenes of plus-size shopping.”
Universal Standard said it would continue to explore “additional opportunities for sparking change in the industry” beyond this acquisition. The apparel company developed its own unique sizing chart “that prioritizes realistic body types” and sells a line of clothing ranging from sizes 00 through 40.
It’s also made a name for itself by collaborating with other brands to advise on inclusive sizing.
Universal Standard collaborated with J. Crew in July 2018 for a size-inclusive women’s collection of tops, dresses, skirts and pants in sizes up to 5X. The brand also worked with Adidas in October 2019 on a “collaborative performance collection” with a size range from XXS to 4XL.
The pressure on the apparel industry to become more size-inclusive has resulted in somewhat slow progress.
On the one end, Columbia Sportswear earlier this year revealed that for the first time, its spring 2023 collection would have price parity across sizing, according to reporting from Glossy. Plus-size brand Eloquii has worked with popular influencers such as Gabi Gregg of Gabi Fresh for new collections. And more exits for size-inclusive brands have happened as well, with 11 Honoré getting acquired by Dia & Co. for an undisclosed amount in June.
However, setbacks have also occurred.
M.M. LaFleur in 2020 announced it was pulling back on its plus-size apparel, saying that it was struggling to sell enough to offset the cost of producing such options. The following year, Loft faced an onslaught of criticism on social media after stating that it would phase out plus sizes. Then this past October, online retailer Stitch Fix closed a factory that had originally been acquired to produce its size-inclusive label “Mohnton Made.” As a result of the closure, the label was discontinued.
Old Navy has also scaled back its plus-size options when it announced last May that it would remove extended sizes from stores, citing challenges related to the launch of its Bodequality initiative. Although the brand said the sizes would still be offered online, a petition with over 26,000 signatures was launched on the Change.org platform to bring the options back to stores