Model and designer Lauren Chan debuted her fashion brand Henning — which offered workwear essentials in sizes 12 to 26 — in 2019, after her time as a fashion editor at Glamour magazine made it clear how underserved the plus-size market was. “Henning was built to make the world a better place for folks who wear size 12 and up,” Chan tells R29. “To provide product for people like me, who I knew were in positions of power and disadvantaged in their workplaces because of the clothing that they had access to, especially when you compare that to what their straight size peers had access to.” Now, thanks to the Henning x Universal Standard collaboration, the businesswear-focused brand is available up to size 40.
“It’s incredibly exciting for me to have this product that now I can touch and feel and see on folks beyond just what I was able to do with Henning [independently],” says Chan.
Ramon Martin, the chief design officer at Universal Standard (which acquired Henning in 2023), says that the collaboration feels important at a time when the fashion industry at large has been showing signs of backpedaling what little progress has been made toward size inclusion. “We’ve been seeing a lot of brands that have been exploring, experimenting, maybe even pulling back and not being sure of how to build a size-inclusive business in the fashion world. So for us, it was very important that both from the acquisition and then the partnership with Lauren that the design process was really focused on innovation, breaking new ground, and demonstrating to our customers and to the industry as well that there is still space for innovation,” says Martin. “We need to push forward and continue this conversation of size inclusivity.”
The design ethos of the original Henning brand is very much visible in the collaboration, with all nine styles in the limited-edition collection taking inspiration from the designs that resonated most with Chan’s original shoppers, including tailored pantsuits and trench coats. “We’re calling these ‘power pieces’ … made with the style of Henning and the fit, fabrication, and tailoring expertise of Universal Standard,” says Chan. “They are Universal Standard’s mark on Henning’s best sellers.” Plus, there’s a brand-new addition. “We [previously] made the Henning jeans that were developed and prototyped but not produced, “ says Chan. “Now the product is here as part of Henning x US.”
Despite women who wear size 14 and up being the majority population in the United States, it is still all too rare to see brands cater to them specifically. With this in mind, what sets Henning x Universal Standard apart from many other brands is the attention to detail. “We took the time to ensure that it fits well at all of the sizes and has Henning’s typical fit detail. [For example,] in order to keep the leg of the jeans straight, we have a seam in the back of the knee, which ensures that it won’t kick flare,” says Chan. “Reinforced inner thigh seams, secret buttons between the normal cadence of buttons, and hidden elastic back waist pants… These solutions aren’t rocket science. They don’t cost a lot of money. They just take somebody who understands the experience and cares enough to fix it.” Martin echoes the sentiment. “Having quality products that are made with fabrications and fit that meet the customer as opposed to asking the customer to compromise was really, really important.”
While designing the collection, the two kept Henning’s customer base in mind. “They are nurses and doctors and lawyers and politicians,” says Martin. “Our inspiration is to dress those people, to give them the choice, the experience, the quality of product that will let them go out and revolutionize their own worlds.”
In addition to being more accessible in terms of size, the collaboration means that Henning is now more accessible in terms of price, too. But while the price point is significantly lower for Henning x Universal Standard, Chan says that they didn’t sacrifice the quality her brand has become known for. “In order for my independent business to make something that luxurious without compromise, [Henning’s trench coats] had to be priced at nearly $1,000,” she says. “Now because of the size of the Universal Standard business and what that means for [stock-keeping unit] pricing, this trench is under $400.”
If you need further proof that the line fills a gap in the market, ahead, my review of a few key pieces from the Henning x Universal Standard collab.
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The first piece I ever tried from Henning’s standalone line was their signature trench coat. I immediately fell in love. The fit and style were amazing — it’s the type of timeless classic that can upgrade any wardrobe. So when I saw a preview of this collaboration, the first thing I wanted to try out was the new Henning x Universal Standard iteration.
When I read the description online, calling the piece “lightweight” and “unlined,” I thought it might be a bit flimsy or insubstantial, but I am happy that is not the case at all. Bonus: It is water-resistant and true to size. I got my usual Universal Standard size M, the equivalent of 18 on their size chart. The cut of the garment accommodates curves, with a built-in shape (even before the included belt steps in).
I’ve tried a lot of trench coats in my quest to find the best options, and this one immediately earned a spot in my list of top recommendations, particularly given the truly inclusive size range and great price point for the quality.
Finding a good pair of non-stretch denim that’s meant to be worn in to fit perfectly over time isn’t easy for anyone, but it was virtually impossible for plus-size shoppers for years. “This denim is special because straight-leg, light-wash vintage 100% cotton jeans have been trending for years, and still that style is not available in all sizes,” Chan confirms. “And if you are like me, you know that something that might seem as frivolous as the availability of a pair of jeans carries with it a deep message about who is valuable, how we can present ourselves and how we stack up against folks who have access to those coveted, luxury, enviable items.”
Upon first wear, there was a bit of tightness through the belly area on me in a size 20, but nothing that made them uncomfortable or unwearable. From experience, I also know that this type of rigid denim will break in over time, so I would not want to size up any more than I did. Both the color and cut of these jeans are current, and the thoughtful seam detail on the back of the calf to keep the straight leg silhouette from distorting works just as intended. I love the look of these paired with Mary Jane ballet flats, though I feel like this style works with lots of different shoe options, from minimal mules to this season’s kitten heel slingback trend. I expect I’ll be reaching for this pair regularly.
As a fashion blogger and lifelong lover of shopping, there’s not much that is missing from my wardrobe at this point — and even less now that I have my hands on the tuxedo-inspired Henning x Universal Standard State jacket, which is Chan’s favorite piece from the collection: “When I first put it on, I went, ‘This is so much better [than I could have imagined]!’ My jaw hit the floor.”
This satin-lined stretch wool blend blazer both looks and feels luxurious, and would be just at home in a formal setting as it is paired with jeans. I’ve been particularly inspired by RHONY member Jenna Lyons’ deep plunge neckline blazers worn over bare skin, and this jacket finally gave me a chance to try the look, and I’m so happy with the result. I sized up to L for a more oversized vibe, but I think this jacket would look great in a more fitted silhouette as well. Unsurprisingly, this style is already selling out in some sizes, so I’d recommend trying it before it’s too late.
When I was a young professional working in a corporate office setting, the existence of this suit alone would have been a game changer. It was almost impossible to find a high-quality, well-fitting suit in a size 14 back then, let alone in true plus sizes.
The blazer is fully lined and impeccably fit; Universal Standard’s sizing expertise is really apparent in this garment. I ordered this in size M, and it hit exactly as I hoped it would. Attention to detail is a throughline in the Henning brand philosophy, from the inner buttons to keep the double-breasted silhouette clean to the built-in darts and shape that accommodate a curvier bust. This blazer’s sleeves also tapered beautifully to allow room in the upper arms without excess fabric at the wrist, a rarity due to how many brands grade plus size incorrectly.
I’m currently between sizes in pants so I erred on the larger side and that was the right move, so I’d suggest doing the same on this style if you are unsure. If you aren’t a fan of a cropped length for suiting, they also offer a full-length suit pant style in both this rich brown and classic black. If I was still in a corporate setting, I’d be buying both styles and colors immediately.
Overall, I found all the Henning x Universal Standard items I tried to be true to the original Henning in both style and quality. Everything was comfortable and felt like it was made for a body like mine, with thoughtful sizing and details that solve many oft-voiced frustrations from the plus-size community. The fact that the full collection is available in sizes 00 to 40 makes it even better. If you are in the market for some high-end wardrobe staples at a very reasonable price point, I can unreservedly recommend checking out this limited-edition collection.
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