Nadia Boujarwah co-founded the styling service Dia&Co in 2014, but the idea for the company began with an experience Boujarwah had while growing up.
“I have distinct and formative memories of what it felt like to shop in larger sizes. I think the plus-size industry overall has been anchored in a more mature customer for a long time. So shopping in that category as a young adult was particularly difficult,” she said. “What I realized was that I had these experiences that felt so personal to me, but in reality, they were identical experiences [to] women around the world.”
On the 32nd episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, Boujarwah said she kept coming back to the same problem within the clothing industry for plus-size women. While purchasing garments in store allowed customers to determine the ideal fit and clothing size they needed, it could also lead to uncomfortable experiences, from finding a specific size on the rack to feeling comfortable in the changing room.
Ordering plus-size clothing online allowed customers to do so from wherever was most comfortable and convenient for them, but at the expense of being able to determine fit and size.
“We said ‘If we have a blank piece of paper and we had to imagine the most compelling set of experiences for this women—including distribution and product—really kind of a 360 degree view, what would that look like?’ And that’s what we started building two years ago,” she said.
Dia&Co started as a personal shopping service tailored to plus-size women. Bourjarwah said she thought New York City would be the easiest place in the world to shop, but finding enough clothing in the right sizes was a challenge and many large retailers were suspicious of her new business. More specifically, they sent her cease and desist orders for ordering bulk amounts of clothing.
“I think they should have been paying us a customer acquisition fee,” she said.
In speaking with her early customers, Bourjarwah discovered that many women were searching for something more than just a personal shopping service.
“One of the biggest challenges in the space is that this woman has not been represented and has not been spoken to as a consumer of style and fashion. Our work begins with inspiring her to participate and ends with her finding beautiful products in her size that she loves. It’s the entire set of experiences that we have to be ready to build,” she said.
In its current form, Dia&Co focuses on helping customers define their personal style, rather than just simply pick out clothes. After filling out an online style profile, customers have handpicked items sent to their door that they can try on at home. From there, it’s even simpler: keep what you love, send back what you don’t.
“For us, the human connections that we’ve been able to create with our customers, not only her connection to us, but her connection to other women in her community, have been the most important part and what we’ve focused on,” she said. “The most important thing when you’re working with a smaller group of customers is understanding what needs to scale and what doesn’t.”
Bourjarwah said that Dia&Co’s obsession with their customers, even as the company grows, has been a cornerstone of the company’s success. And that’s not going to change anytime soon.
“The key insight that we had at the beginning of this was the fact that if you actually listened to how these women were describing their shopping experiences, they were almost always shopping alone,” Bourjarwah said. “We can fix that.”