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Brief Published: 20 Jan 2020

Universal Standard’s NY Flagship Trades on Access

Universal Standard

Extending its ethos of access to its physical retail strategy, Universal Standard – the American inclusive womenswear brand – has opened an apartment-style brand hub in SoHo, NYC. Customers are invited to host their own events within the clubhouse like space, exemplifying the commerce-light, community-centric approach outlined in Soft Sell: The New Retail.

The 2,500 sq ft fourth floor apartment on Mercer Street is one of just a clutch of spaces for the primarily digitally-based brand and is intended as ‘a pied-à-terre for customers’ delivering individual styling sessions alongside a small retail area.

Customers can book the space for free via an online booking form – using it for events such as dinners, book club meetings and art exhibitions, all without a membership. Called Universal Standard 1:1, its name references both the brand’s one-one-on-one personal styling service and its long-term focus on community engagement ­– it will continue to coordinate its own calendar of programming in partnership with local non-profit organisations, artists and brands.

“Universal Standard is about access – period – and the community we see coming together in these spaces all over the country is everything we intended to bring into being when we started our company,” said co-founder Alexandra Waldman in late 2019. “Shopping in a physical space needs to be about much more than the purchase transaction. We wanted to create a space our customers felt was theirs as well.”

The concept underpins its expansion plans: after trialling a sales-driven pop-up in 2018, Universal Standard opened its first 1:1 brand space in Seattle last June and has established bases in Chicago, Houston and Portland over the last six months. It plans to open 10 additional US-located clubhouse style bases during 2020. Its NY space also comprises its head office, housing 25 staff members.

For a precursor of this breed of retail generosity, see also Ikea Offers Dinner-Party Apartment, Warsaw (2016).