Nadia Boujarwah knows personally that shopping for plus-size clothes can be difficult. But it was only while she was a student at Harvard Business School that she realized something else: The lack of options presented a commercial opportunity.
A year after graduating, Ms. Boujarwah and a business school classmate, Lydia Gilbert, began testing the market by acting as personal shoppers. And they saw their opening: offering women sizes 14 and up five articles of clothing chosen by a stylist who takes into account individual preferences. In 2015, they started an online retail site, Dia & Co.
“I hadn’t intended for retailing to be a career choice,” Ms. Boujarwah said. “But when I was in business school, I realized that my formative experiences were shared with millions of women. It was a call to arms for me. This was a problem for many women that I could play a role in.”
The scarcity of larger sizes stems from a deeply rooted stigma in the fashion industry — many designers either ignore or reject requests to offer their styles above a certain size. There are also manufacturing complications: Progressing from size 2 to 12 can be a simple matter of scale, but larger sizes often require a separate pattern to account for different proportions and entail more fabric, raising the production cost.