Universal Standard, known for a size-inclusive women’s clothing range than spans 00-40, takes the “go big or go home” mantra to heart and the proof is in a brand-new category for the groundbreaking brand.
As if giving women across the dress-size spectrum equal access to stylish garments wasn’t enough, the startup fashion brand backed by Gwyneth Paltrow has a new category joining its collection of elevated wardrobe essentials: footwear.
“Boots that marry chic style with comfort are not so easy to find,” says chief creative officer Alexandra Waldman, who led the footwear design. “Boots were one of the things that we wanted to create from the start because I could never find a pair of boots that were both cool and everyday. I wanted to make sure that everyone had access to this wardrobe essential.”
Customers can shop both of Universal Standard’s made-in-Portugal boot styles starting Aug. 22. They’re hitting e-commerce just as the end of summer is on the horizon, people are starting to swap out their iced coffees for pumpkin spice lattes, and stores are promoting autumn candles, clothes and décor.
Making a great shoe represents an entirely different skill set than producing great apparel, and Waldman says Universal Standard took its time getting its foray into footwear just right. “We took over a year to develop these boots because we wanted to be sure that we are bringing in items that people will love, which will hopefully allow us to grow that part of the business,” she explained.
Each of Universal Standard’s boots feature 100 percent cow leather sourced from Germany and knit upper material sourced from Spain for a product that’s manufactured in Portugal, a powerhouse in high-quality footwear craftsmanship. Both the ankle-height Porto style as well as the knee-high Lisbon boot sport 3 1/8 inch block heels distinguished by eye-catching metallic trim.
Waldman toyed with the idea of making the boots a vegan product. “We did indeed consider faux leather for the boots,” she added, “but we felt the materials currently available in this category were not strong enough to withhold the rain and cold these boots would need to get through season after season.”
Available in black, the boots bear all the hallmarks of Waldman’s “feminine minimalism” approach to design without ignoring comfort and wearability. “We’re talking about a lot of engineering details that have gone into the design,” she said of the shoes’ antimicrobial soles, extra-density padding for long-wearing days, and resistance to water and the elements to keep feet dry.
And the knee-high Lisbon, Waldman added, offers versatility in styling. Women can wear the boot at their knee, fold the shaft down a bit or scrunch it for a laidback, slouchy look.
Where Universal Standard really distinguishes itself, however, is in offering the boots in sizes 6 through 13. As any woman with larger-than-standard feet knows, the size selection at scores of stores tap out at 10, or 11 if you’re lucky. Nordstrom, with its heritage in footwear, famously carries a notably broad range of shoe size but remains an outlier in an industry that’s forced women wearing sizes 11 and higher to shop for their shoes online and fret over fit once their order arrives.
“When most brands stop at size 11, we’ve gone up to a size 13 and opted for a knit shaft that easily accommodates different fits,” Waldman said of some plus-size women’s struggle to find high-quality, wide-calf boots.
Women who fall into the plus-size category often have broader feet that require footwear that’s similarly wide. Plus-size retailer Eloquii, for example, carries footwear exclusively in wider widths. Waldman chalks up the decision to stick with medium widths to an attempt to reach the broadest customer base out of the gate. “This was also a question of balance and trying a new approach,” she explained, noting that Universal Standard wanted to focus on the product’s engineering.
And more important, Waldman added, “We wanted to see if there was a sweet spot that allowed most foot-width variations to feel comfortable without having to make a separate category.”
Shoppers visiting Universal Standard’s stores in Chicago, Seattle and SoHo can try out the Porto, which retails for $250, and the Lisbon, offered at $280, in person. They’re also sold on universalstandard.com.