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The Fixer: Dia&Co is Helping the Industry Dress Every Body

In the four years since Dia&Co burst onto the direct-to-consumer apparel subscription scene, it has become one of the few authorities seen as a go-to resource for fashion brands looking to branch out into extended sizes for curvy bodies.

The company targets the estimated 67 percent of American women wearing a size 14 or larger (though it’s likely that the oft-repeated stat from 2012 has crept even higher, given U.S. obesity rates that only continue to move in one direction).

Unlike Stitch Fix, whose similar on-demand subscription box offering relies largely on sophisticated algorithmic alchemy, Dia maintains a team of stylists who hand select the pieces that fill each box, drawing from a quiz that gathers intel on shopper demographics, budget, body type and preferences. Shoppers are matched with stylists at random but can request specific staffers if they’ve built a good connection over time as “a lot of the personalization comes with communication,” the company said.

Along the way Dia has gleaned extensive insights into customer likes, dislikes and preferences, and that subscription-box curation of third-party brands was just the beginning for the startup, which has raised more than $90 million in venture capital to date. The New York City-based company now operates 12 private label brands “centered around feedback from our customer on styles she wanted the most but was unable to find elsewhere,” noted co-founder and CEO Nadia Boujarwah.

Today, developing in-house brands allows Dia to address—and rectify—perhaps the biggest problem in plus: fit, which Boujarwah described as the company’s biggest investment.

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And it’s lending a hand to fashion players making a move above the straight-size threshold. Designing for plus-size presents a particular set of challenges that are typically unfamiliar terrain to pattern makers accustomed to one kind of physical morphology, according to Boujarwah.

“Often when brands that have been solely dedicated to straight sizes choose to expand into plus size, they execute these lines as an extension of their straight sample sizing,” she explained.“When grading for these lines, brands will distribute fabric evenly the same way they do when sizing up a medium to a large. However, in order to get the perfect fit, extra fabric will be required in specific places but not everywhere.”

That means brands often make the mistake of creating a size XXL blouse that has three extra inches added to the torso area, where it’s needed, but with an unnecessary three extra inches of sleeve length as well, for example.

“As our bodies get larger, our limbs don’t get longer,” Boujarwah added.

Dia’s product development team brings “decades of plus-size fit experience” to the table. “We bake three rounds of fit into each development calendar, but fit as many times as necessary to ensure the garment meets our standard,” Boujarwah explained, describing fit as absolutely critical to products’ performance and the customer experience.

“If we can’t get the fit on a piece to work in time for production, we don’t proceed and continue to iterate until it’s just right,” she said.

That was the case with Dia’s launch into denim, a category it entered in response to customer demand.

“We heard from our customers that fit in denim was a particularly big pain point—well-fitting jeans were the most difficult closet staple for her to find,” Boujarwah explained.“So instead of sourcing more types of denim, we created our own.”

Fitting jeans “hundreds of times” prior to launch helped Dia nail down every detail of how the product fit and flattered, as denim patterns for plus sizes, versus straight, need to offer a roomier fit in the rise, back and crotch area to accommodate generous bellies, hips, butts and thighs.

“As a result, our skinny jeans became our best-selling item across all our brands,” Boujarwah noted. “Our ability to listen and iterate on her feedback has resulted in our private-label brands accounting for over half of our business.”

Fit, the Dia raison d’etre that has propelled the brand to success, is “something we’re consistently looking to improve upon,” Boujarwah said. “This is why when brands like Betsey Johnson, EleVen by Venus Williams and Nanette Lepore look to expand their lines into plus, they come to Dia for help on fit and design.”

This piece originally appeared in Scaling New Heights, Sourcing Journal’s second DTC State of the Industry Report. Click to read insight from the investors who finance these digital native brands, the retailers who sell them, and the brands themselves.