Dia&Co. got its start as an on-demand subscription box trying to solve fashion and fit for plus-size women. Now, the startup has diversified its model, allowing shoppers to order stylist-selected five-item boxes as they always have, purchase items a la carte through a new e-commerce offering—or a buy through a mashup of the two.
The four-year-old, New York-based startup calls that mashup “co-curation,” which CEO Nadia Boujarwah says “absolutely came to life through our customers.” The company’s members have forged strong connections with Dia stylists over the years, she added, but the new co-curation approach affords shoppers “some agency in that experience.”
Co-curation gives customers the flexibility of ensuring they get an item or two that they really want while allowing trained stylists to step in and round out a head-to-toe look. Shoppers using this approach pay the standard $20 styling fee that applies to regular subscription boxes and is credited toward whatever they end up purchasing.
Someone shopping for a wedding, for example, might have her eye on a particular dress but want to enlist the expert eye of a style maven to suggest accessories and accoutrement to complete a special-occasion ensemble, Boujarwah says. Or maybe she’s buying a coveted pair of jeans—a category Dia has labored to perfect—and also is interested in having a stylist show her what’s new for winter.
The hybrid nature of co-curation “brings the customer into the center of the experience in a really meaningful way,” Boujarwah added.
Dia’s newly broadened spectrum of shopping experiences—e-commerce on one end, stylist-picked boxes on the other and co-curation in the middle—creates new business challenges, Boujarwah says, but that’s why the company built the majority of its tech stack in house, from software that manages warehouse operations to e-commerce to the internal tools the team relies on daily.
Investing in technology, versus purchasing off-the-shelf systems, has “given us a lot of flexibility over time,” Boujarwah explained. “There’s a lot of complexity to physical flows of inventory and orders in that [subscription-box] business that most traditional commerce softwares are really not built to support.”
By creating its platforms from the ground up, Dia has been able to “focus on the things that really differentiate us for our customer and make the business sustainable economically over time,” she added.
Dia has grown from curating third-party apparel brands to expanding that selection with a dozen private-label brands developed in house to address members’ specific pain points, like their trouble finding denim that works on plus-size bodies. Boujarwah says Dia’s new business model will help put those private labels—among its most well-loved brands—in front of more customers.
“Within the styling service they’ve been incredibly popular with our community, and we would expect that to be the case in these new models as well,” she added.
Boujarwah says the company, backed by investors like Sequoia Capital and Union Ventures, which have invested more than $90 million to date, will keep a close eye on how shoppers respond to the evolving Dia experience, adding, “The business will follow where our customers lead.”