By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
Fashion and beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. For many women, shopping can also be a hassle as they struggle to find the perfect fit. In order to help plus size women find their style and fit, Nadia Boujarwah co-founded Dia & Co in 2015.
The company offers a personal styling service where women can shop from their own home. The online marketplace has a community of 5 million women.
Dia & Co, considered an industry leader in women’s plus size wear and fashion, recently launched Dia’s Holiday Market. Dia’s Holiday Market is a digital marketplace started to help struggling, female-owned plus-size businesses in America.
The online business features 10 female owned small boutiques that specialize in plus-size clothing from markets such as Los Angeles, California; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Atlanta, Georgia.
Boujarwah, the company’s CEO, explains why she started this platform.
“Dia is truly a labor of love,” Boujarwah said. “We founded Dia about five years ago and today we have the privilege of serving millions of women across the country, but Dia really started as an effort of myself. I have worn many sizes in the course of my life and I always loved fashion and style and the reality is that there are so many formative moments and formative memories in my life. I was never able to find the style that I felt matched my own personal style shopping at retail.
“These were thoughts that were very personal to me and buried in the back of my mind because I thought that there were things that I was only experiencing. About six years ago, I read an article in the New York Times about the lack of plus-size style bloggers and was completely fascinated by this world of plus style size that was forming on my mind that I never knew anything about, and it kind of opened my eyes on how universal this experience was.”
Boujarwah knew other women shared similar experiences as her.
“I know there are women all over the country at all sizes that were not able to realize their personal self in retail, and then I joined forces with my best friend, my co-founder Lydia Gilbert, and we set out to build a business that changed that,” she said. “Today Dia has a community of over 5 million women across the country, we have a passion for our own brand. We work with some of the best brands in the market and now we get to work with incredible boutiques across the country too, and it is just a huge privilege. I get to wear clothes that I love and I can share that with women all over the country. It is wonderful.”
Keisa Talley, owner of Lyfestylz Plus, is one of the boutique owners who is participating in Dia’s Holiday Market. She is based in Atlanta.
“I am a curvy woman myself, and I pretty much have been that way since I was younger. One of the things that fueled my desire to create a store and a place for plus size women to purchase stylish clothing is because growing up younger I had to often shop with my mom and get some of the same things that she would get. So I decided to start my own brand called Lyfestylz Plus,” Talley said.
Talley said her store catered to plus size women sizes 1x to 3x or from sizes 14-16 to a 20-22. She stated that her brand is unique and offers different styles for plus size women.
“One of the things that I really love about my brand is the fact that I like to see women dress maybe outside of the box,” Talley said. “I love bold colors and print and I just really want to introduce those things to women who may not necessarily go for those types of styles because I truly believe fashion is really a lifestyle.”
Talley is also thankful for the opportunity to work with Dia & Co.
“I appreciate Nadia for creating this platform and some of the changes I have seen perfect for my plan is my social media following has increased, and probably one of the biggest things is that this collaboration has just kind of opened up the door for my boutiques but other boutiques as well but just has opened up my site to attract so many different women and from so many backgrounds, and as I said fashion is a lifestyle for my brand, but I also have been striving to expand to some of the styles I provide just so I can have the variety,” Talley said. “The partnership and collaboration with Dia has absolutely helped me to get on that path.”
Boujarwah feels helping Black and Hispanic women in these businesses is important as well.
“As a female minority founder, I think the reality is how much harder it is to get a business off the ground and to get partners to believe in you to get all these things that need to happen, and it has been clear to me obviously with covid it has been a difficult time for business owners and for retail overall that I think as minority founders we just feel the challenge of that and much more,” Boujarwah said. “But being able to particularly do what we can in the holiday season which is such a critical time for retailers to bring our communities together and to support the incredible female entrepreneurs in our community has just been extraordinary and how resilient business owners can be and really help entrepreneurship particularly minority communities.”
Angela Rene, CEO of Rene Tyler Plus Sizes 12 and Above, is another boutique owner who is working with Dia in their Holiday Market. The store is an upscale plus size boutique that specialize in evening wear, but also sells casual wear. It caters to plus size women sizes 12 to 32.
“I decided to get involved because I am a plus sized women, and I have been sewing since I was 10 years old,” Rene explained. “Back then, when I was young it was really hard to find plus size clothing that was fashionable – that wasn’t maybe catered to older women, I would make my own clothes and people would ask me where do I buy them, and they told me that I like what you are wearing, and it just kind of evolved from there. And it is something that I always had a passion for, and I started sewing clothes for clients and next thing I knew, I had a small little business and it has grown so much from there.”
Rene, who admires the Dia brand, said working with the company has helped her brand and has helped generate more sales. She felt that, with retail sales dropping especially during the COVID pandemic, working with the styling service was a great way to get her brand exposed to a different market and people who may not have heard of her brand. As well as, it allowed her company to become more familiar with people outside of her circle.
“We are dependent more on online sales and our online sales are definitely up,” she said. “Due to COVID only three or four people come into the store in a day.”
Rene’s business is located in a mall in Las Vegas on the Las Vegas strip. She had to close her store two weeks after opening due to COVID-19.
She had advice for women seeking to start their own retail business or clothing line.
“Research to see what brands are out there and know their product and ask questions,” she said. “Being in the business you have to really adapt with COVID, and it has been a really challenging time for us as a brand but don’t give up. Just really know your market and your brand and what other people are doing in the industry and find out people who are successful and what they are doing. Stay focused and don’t give up.”
Boujarwah hoped the company would help drive entrepreneurs.
“We want more than anything just to be able to help other female entrepreneurs across the country in any way that we can,” Boujarwah said.
“The response from the community and from our customers has been awesome. I think everyone is so excited to be able to support local businesses and support incredible female business owners, and I hope that Dia is able to in any way we can help support these businesses in this critical time and make it to the other side that we can all be thriving female businesses again in the new year.”
According to Boujarwah, there are no security risks shopping on Dia since they process everything through their site.
“Our customers can return products anytime if there is any trouble at all with any order and we are more than happy to help,” she said.
Boujarwah said shopping in retail stores for plus sizes is a challenge since there are few stores to begin with.
“I think that in the world before COVID shopping was incredibly challenging for larger sizes because they are just so few stores that offer clothes that are size 14 which is where we focus in particular. The plus size market has been even more dramatically impacted than traditional retail because there are just so few stores to begin with,” she said. “We estimate that about 30% of plus size stores have shut their doors permanently through COVID and the impact on our community of shoppers has really encouraged me to provide the best possible digital experiences, and a women’s ability to shop comfortably from home and have a fitting room at home because we offer try ons really just created dramatically better experiences for our community in shopping.”
So far the market has been good.
“The market is off to a great start overall,” Boujarwah said. “I think we have seen just incredible results from our customers both in terms of sales and in terms of engagement socially, and it has been really positive.”
Talley agrees as well.
“I have definitely seen growth in my sales and in my overall presence in social media and just the community relationship,” Talley said. “I follow boutique owners who are part of this market, and I follow their stores to make purchases for them as well. We just all have been so connected and empowering to each other as business owners and I think that is just as important as sales and customers.”
Boujarwah said she is also inspired by the boutique owners.
“As much as we want to be able to do our part in helping these incredible female business owners across the country, they have been such an inspiration to us,” she said. “I have been seeing the resilience from them and the determination of each of these entrepreneurs and their businesses, and they are committed to their community which has been truly incredible. To me personally as a business owner it is exciting to see.”
Future plans include to expand the market to other locations.
“We have incredible markets right now from 10 other towns and states already and we hope that if this program goes well we will be able to expand as well going forward,” Boujarwah said.