Actress Danielle Brooks Couldn't Find What She Wanted In Fashion, So She Created It

We've never seen overalls look this good.
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We've never seen overalls look this good.
Photo: Heather Hazzan/Universal Standard

Photo: Heather Hazzan/Universal Standard

As any fashion fan can attest to, there's always an item that triggers a bit of sartorial lust, especially when it's out of reach. Often it's a hot-off-the-runway design that's too rich for our bank accounts, or a sold-out item from a fast-fashion designer collaboration. But for those who wear size 14 and above, it can be, well, practically anything — so it's no surprise that actress Danielle Brooks' collaboration with plus size brand Universal Standard is full of items she’s been missing in her wardrobe.

"It was a very selfish collection," Brooks told Fashionista. "I was given permission by Alex [Waldman, Universal Standard's co-founder and CCO], who said, 'If you had the freedom to design anything that you always wanted in your closet what would it be?' This is what I came up with. Luckily, it totally fit the brand of Universal Standard."

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This is Universal Standard's second collaboratory Tria collection. The first was with a trio of plus models: Candice Huffine, Georgia Pratt and Katy Syme. While each woman designed only one piece for that inaugural collaboration, Brooks' own trinity of designs is proof that good things happen in threes.

The size 10-28 collection features a pleated wrap shirt dress that's a twist on the classic style, a snuggly sweater that could easily be worn as a top or a dress with a neckline that can be worn off-shoulder, cowl-neck or as a hood, and a beautiful pair of elevated overalls. Brooks was able to put her personal touches into the collection, while still maintaining Universal Standard's elevated minimalist-chic design aesthetic. 

Photo: Heather Hazzan/Universal Standard

Photo: Heather Hazzan/Universal Standard

"I have three pieces that I feel are super versatile, and that is important to me because I am constantly going from being this fashion queen to wanting to chill and relax in some Uggs," Brooks said. "So these outfits can go either way."

Brooks, like many fuller-figured women, has dealt with some seriously frustrating fashion moments. "I think I was at [a department store], and I was looking through clothes and trying to find something in my size, and this woman came up to me and she was like, 'you know you can’t fit in that.' I didn't know this woman from Adam or Eve, and she had the nerve to tell me that I couldn't fit," she says. "That, to me, made me feel like we have so far to go. I want to walk into a store and say 'yes, I could fit into anything here,' and unfortunately I am not allowed that opportunity."

Thankfully for Brooks — and us — this collaboration with Universal Standard was presented to her. "So instead of begging and pleading to these companies that we're important too, and I want to wear your clothes, I thought, how much cooler — and just a better fit — to go with someone that has that vision. Why not support that, instead of putting more money in the pockets of someone who doesn't care? Why not work and collaborate with someone who does?"

Waldman clearly has her customer's best interest at heart, not just through her chic designs and celebrity collabs, but through the creation of the "Universal Fit Liberty." An ingenious trade-in service that allows customers to swap out their items for a larger or smaller size provided it's within a year of purchase. Waldman understands that weight fluctuations are real, and you shouldn't fall into that classic negative trope of not dressing yourself in what you love until you hit some specific body benchmark.

Photo: Heather Hazzan/Universal Standard

Photo: Heather Hazzan/Universal Standard

Waldman's refreshing sartorial take carries her optimism into the future of plus and inclusive fashion. "I think the barrier that held everything back is withering away to a membrane and will break very soon," said Waldman. "I think that there are a lot of reasons people gave themselves in order not to participate in this change. Like, 'Oh it is a brand risk, I don't want the girl that is a 24 wearing this out because the girl that is a size four won't want to buy it maybe.' I think there is an intrinsic quality to fashion that is exclusive, but I think this world is changing and the way we look at things is changing, and what we consider to be beautiful is changing. I think that all together there is this notion or movement to inclusivity and a much broader understanding of what's beautiful."

But Brooks has her own take on the industry. "Know before I say what I am about to say, I second everything Alex has said. I also think there are a bunch of old farts out there that are lazy, and old and stuck in their ways. They have all the tools to do it, they just don't want to. I don't know why they feel that way. This business, these women that are size 12, 14 and above, this is a billion-dollar industry they are missing out."

Brooks continued, "I just don't understand why you wouldn't take the opportunity to dress these women. Do you all just think we are broke and don't have the money? Do you think we don't have style? We are ashamed to go shop? I think it is just a bunch of people stuck in their old ways. I do think we are moving forward slowly, but there are some people who are not. There are some people that are big designers that don't even know if they have plus size clothes in these stores they sell to."

Photo: Heather Hazzan/Universal Standard

Photo: Heather Hazzan/Universal Standard

So has Brooks been bitten by the designing bug? Should we prepare our wallets for a stand alone collection? "The way I work is I like to see where things lead me," she mused. "I don't like to force anything. I do love working with Universal Standard, and if that comes up again I would totally get on board. As far as designing my own line, I don't know if that is my calling right now. I say that because my first passion will always be acting, and I see passion — and I do have passion too, don't get me wrong — but the passion that these women at Universal Standard have... whatever I want to do I want to go full force, 100 percent. So I think starting with the Tria collection is great for me. There is time, there is so much road ahead, maybe in the future."

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