Alumna’s Firm Makes Comfy Corporate Attire for Women

Used to working at home in sweatpants? Engineering alum Joanna Dai ’08 has good news for your return to the office

A photo of Joanna Dai
A constricting outfit on a business trip inspired Joanna Dai to create her own clothing line. (Photo provided)

The models on the Dai website are dressed in stylish, office-appropriate attire, but they’re not behind a desk or in a meeting. Instead they’re riding bikes, walking on the beach—even doing yoga poses. Founded by Joanna Dai ’08, the four-year-old, London-based women’s apparel company sells upscale clothing designed to look professional while being as comfortable as leisurewear.

“A normal trouser, or even jeans, can get quite restrictive, depending on the fit and rise,” observes Dai, the eponymous firm’s CEO. “Our pants fully stretch. We want it to feel like you’re in yoga clothes—that you have the range of motion that you’d have in athletic wear, but with the aesthetic of tailoring.”

An electrical and computer engineering major on the Hill, Dai was inspired to launch the company after nearly a decade of having to dress for success in the banking industry: working for JP Morgan in New York and London, she wore business garb that was not only constricting, but wrinkled easily and had to be dry cleaned.

“I remember sitting on a flight after a 16-hour day; my waistband was digging in, my blazer was uncomfortable,” she recalls. “And I was like, ‘I wish I were in my yoga leggings. Can’t this feel like yoga clothes and still look like a power suit?’”

A woman wearing a navy blue top and capri pants stretches while holding onto the seat of a white bicycle.
Dai’s clothing (shown here on a model) is designed to go from office to leisure. (Photo provided)

After taking classes in pattern cutting at the London College of Fashion, Dai designed the company’s initial line of eight items; a story in the Times of London sparked a frenzy for her “Power Move” pants, which Dai says sold out ten times over. (Priced at $268 and available in four colors, they’re still a bestseller.)

It’s not just back to work, it’s back to life.

The company’s wares have since grown to include more than a dozen styles of trousers plus blazers, dresses, blouses, shorts, knitwear, and more. Sustainability has always been key: the company has “B Corp” certification (given to firms that demonstrate a high level of social responsibility), and the listing for each item includes information on the product’s origin and environmental impact.

A model squats while wearing a teal green short-sleeved shirt and capri pants.
A model in a Dai ensemble. (Photo provided)

Today, in addition to shipping worldwide via its website, the company boasts two brick-and-mortar boutiques in London. While plans for a Manhattan store were put on hold during the pandemic, Dai aims to open one there eventually. (The firm hosted a pop-up shop in the borough in April 2019.)

Dai says that while the pandemic has impacted sales due to the fact that many professionals have been telecommuting, the company still did well—particularly with blazers and tops, wardrobe elements commonly visible on Zoom.

And as people who’ve been working at home in their actual yoga pants begin to return to investment banks, law firms, and other settings that require a polished look, Dai says her company is well positioned to meet the demand.

“It’s not just back to work, it’s back to life—and for our customer demographic, comfort is going to be more important than ever,” she says. “They need to look smart and professional, but they also want to keep the comfort. I think it’s going to be a huge moment for us.”

Published October 5, 2021


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