Why is it that although the majority of women in the United States are size 14 or above, they only account for 17% of spend on apparel? This is the question that puzzled Lydia Gilbert and Nadia Boujarwah. “The average size of women across all ages in the US is between 16 and 18,” said Gilbert. However, this market goes largely untapped by most traditional fashion brands and retailers.
“Style is how we express ourselves to the world. No women, no matter the size, should be excluded from that,” said Gilbert. Thus, she and cofounder, Boujarwah, together launched Dia&Co, a monthly personal styling subscription for plus-sized women, aiming to “spark radical self-love through style.” Customers take an online survey to determine preferences in style and fit. They are assigned a stylist to curate a selection of five pieces, which are then mailed to a customer’s home. Customers keep the pieces they like and return those they don’t.
Launched in 2014, the company now serves customers crossing all 50 states and in over 75% of zip codes in the U.S. The company has reportedly recently received a $20 million fundraise led by Sequoia Capital.
What are some of the ways they’ve been able to establish themselves as a powerful fashion startup, as they transform the plus-size market?
- Listening: “Listening is core to who we are,” says Gilbert. When they first started Dia&Co, Gilbert and Boujarwah spoke to their first 500 customers personally to learn more specifically about wants, needs and what Dia could provide. This act of listening has remained core to the company’s foundation. In fact, Gilbert and Boujarwah are about to start a six-city “listening tour” where they will sit down with customers, learn about variations in markets and glean insights to better personalize the customer experience. They also want to share this concept of listening with those team members who didn’t have the opportunity for such a direct connection when the company first began.
- Staying human in the age of tech: Despite an online ordering process, the customer experience at Dia&Co is strives to be personal. Everything other than the actual box which delivers clothing has a human touch to it, whether it’s the conversations or actual styling for customers. And the company wants customers to feel that human touch. For example, when a stylist picks out an outfit, she’ll often include a personalized note referring to the previous conversation, reaffirming that human element that’s essential to the brand.
- Building a culture that cares: Dia&Co mission focused on helping women love who they are. The cofounders say they are also dedicated to building a workplace where employees love what they do. “We want to bring the mission to the culture, and have that culture reflective on the outside to our customers.” For example, the company sends out daily emails to the company sharing stories of “delight” that highlight how Dia&Co has somehow touched a customer or changed a woman’s life for the better. “In doing this, we’re keeping our internal team motivated, while also keeping a connection to the greater mission.”
In an ever-expanding market of online retailers, Dia&Co is delivering to a segment of the market that is often overlooked by listening to its customer and staying true to the mission of sparking self-love through style.