The statement two-thirds of American women would like to wear stylish, fashionable clothing probably does not strike anyone as all that earthshaking. It would be surprising if the majority of American women wanted the opposite — but two-thirds of women expressing that desire is probably what one would expect.
What would be a more surprising — though equally true — statement is that two-thirds of American women have difficulty buying fashionable and stylish clothing, no matter what their sartorial preferences are.
And that is because more than two-thirds of American women — 67 percent as of the last exact count — are a size 14 or larger, making them plus-size and thus not quite top of mind — or top of priority list — for the nation’s biggest names in fashion. Brands like Kate Spade, Tommy Hilfiger, Kenneth Cole and Diane von Furstenberg have looked at the $20 billion or so annual market in outfitting the plus-size shopper and said “no thanks.”
This, according to Dia&Co’s CEO Nadia Boujarwah, almost borders on hard to understand, given the state of retail today with shoppers abandoning brands and retailers in droves.
And it is business, that represents an awful lot of pent-up spend potential. According to a survey of 1,500 plus-size shoppers Dia&Co put out earlier this year, 78 percent of respondents said they would be willing to spend more money on clothing if more designers offered plus-size options, while 80 percent said they would likely purchase an item from their favorite designer if larger sizes were made available.
The money and interest is there — but the product is curiously absent.
It was a situation for Boujarwah that created a business plan. Dia&Co wanted to connect women — regardless of their size — to the kind of high fashion items they clearly wanted and for which they were willing to shell out money.
To use the service, customers fill out a survey so as to give Dia a sense of their tastes and style. From there, the customer gets a box with five items of clothing. The customer picks what she likes and sends the rest back — a model that may sound familiar because it is very similar to what StitchFix is doing. StitchFix also launched a plus-size line in February.
“We have heard loud and clear from our community that there is a deep desire to participate fully in fashion.”
And that is a message that Boujarwah is committed to bringing to the world at large. This year, the CEO got some big press attention when she took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to call out the fashion industry for so conspicuously failing to meet the needs of so many of their consumers.
The move was controversial, but she says it was worth it. Both from the perspective of representing her clients and from the perspective of advocating for her business. At the end of the day, Dia needs ideas to put in their customer’s boxes — the more brands that are designing for their market, the better and more varied selections they can make.
“We think we can prove to the world that clothing women can’t wear isn’t just a bad fit for them — it is a bad fit for the modern world.”