‘We were born out of a love for style and a need for function, a call for quality and an understanding for value,’ reads Dai Wear’s website. ‘We are fast-moving and forward-thinking, and we want to be empowered by ease and authenticity.’ It might sound like quite an ambitious goal for a brand that’s just launched but, glance over its website and you’ll see the startup wants to put its money where its mouth is.
Dai Wear, launched in late July 2017, creates clothes for the professional working woman by combining performance fabrics, elegant tailoring and honest premium quality. By selling directly to consumers, the brand is able to maintain designer quality at contemporary price points, with pieces ranging from $175 to $475. Many of the pieces also are constructed with Italian sourced and patented Sensitive® Fabrics, and raw materials are Oeko-Tex® and/or REACH certified wherever possible. Beyond technical-meets-tailoring pieces, Dai advocates for sustainability and social impact. “Beyond just products, I had the vision of a brand that served as a community for women and a platform for more consciously sustainable practices,” says Joanna Dai, founder and creative director of the brand.
Dai Wear has partnered with Dress for Success Greater London, a chapter of the global non-profit organisation that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools. A portion of net proceeds from Dai sales will be donated to Dress for Success Greater London.
With all founding elements in place and a successful launch, we caught up with Joanna to hear more about why she started the brand, technology’s role in fashion and more.
Why did you decide to start Dai Wear?
I was inspired by my 8-year career in investment banking. The combination of 12-14 hour days of continuous hustle, constrictive waistbands and arm movement, and lack of functionality like large pockets were a few of my frustrations. I saw the athleisure trend take off and smarter textile technology readily accessible for casualwear. So I asked myself how I could create a solution for working women – one that is technical yet tailored. I believe comfort is confidence, and confidence is key to optimizing performance and presence.
Do you have a business partner?
No! I oftentimes wish I did. I listen to podcasts and read a lot about other startup stories for inspiration, and at times, I am envious of teams where there are 2, 3, or 4 co-founders on the journey together. Not only would it be nice to have a permanent sounding board to debate through tough decisions, I would love to have more bodies to get more accomplished every day. However, I’m very thankful to my personal and professional network who have provided me with advice in their respective fields and experiences.
How big is your team?
At the moment, I am the only permanent full-time employee. I’ve relied on freelancers such as my product development expert who has played a huge role. I have also outsourced my sampling to small factories across London who have the machinery and skilled machinists to bring the products to life. Only very recently, I’ve recruited a few young, talented interns on a part-time basis.
Can you tell me more about the smart fabrics in the clothing? Why did you decide that to be one of the fundamental elements of Dai Wear?
Using technical fabrics is not very commonplace in the workwear market. I’ve seen the technical trousers as a one-off for a few brands, but I wanted to introduce an entire capsule collection that is fashion-focused, design-led and technical. That includes 5 dress designs, our blazer and blouse (and of course, our trousers).
For all the dresses and suiting pieces, we use the patented and innovative Sensitive® Fabrics from Italian mill Eurojersey. Not only is the jersey fabric Oeko-Tex® eco-certified for chemically safety, it’s rigorously tested for stretch, recovery, pilling, and care stability. Our fabric is double bonded, meaning two layers melded together, which results in a fabric weight that’s great for tailoring and shape construction. Furthermore, the fabric is 4-way stretch, breathable and comfortable for that intense client pitch or crowded tube commute. Wrinkle release is great for travel, and several styles can be machine washable.
How do they [the smart fabrics] make you stand out from other companies producing workwear for women?
In the work-life hustle, balance and performance is important for professional women. To wear-like-a-powersuit yet feel-like-yoga is the unique proposition for Dai. Furthermore, not only are these fabrics eco-certified, we are one of the few ready-to-wear brands, and the only workwear dedicated brand (to my knowledge), to advocate for sustainability and ethical practices across our supply chain.
In your opinion, what is the role of technology in fashion?
Fashion reflects our individuality and is a part of our lifestyle. As technology advances, I believe fashion should progress with it. In our case, I see women’s workwear fabrics as lagging behind textile technology. I love the story of how Coco Chanel revolutionized women’s sportswear in the 1910s by using jersey in functional and comfortable pieces, when jersey was strictly used for men’s underwear at the time. I’m not saying I’d even come close to Chanel’s legacy, but it’s a great example of connecting the dots on how technology changes fashion.
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