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DAI is on mission to empower women through comfort-driven performance, style and community. They are a performance womenswear apparel brand using innovative sportswear fabrics and sustainable materials to deliver versatile, functional design.
DAI’s story started at 30,000ft when the founder Joanna Dai worked in investment banking. After long hours, her workwear became uncomfortable, she asked herself – “Can I make this feel like yoga, and look like a power suit?” Soon after DAI was born!
Now raising on Seedrs, we sat down with Joanna Dai get to gain insights on her path to creating DAI and her plans for DAI in the future.
We’d love to know about your career before DAI and where you first found that entrepreneurial spark.
I worked in investment banking at J.P.Morgan for eight year prior to starting DAI, but I think my entrepreneurial spark started in primary school when I ran for Publicity Officer. In the US, we had an elected student body government to plan fun events for all students, and I did that all the way through to being President of the Class of 2008 at Cornell University. The first hint into fashion was when I sourced five different black glitter evening dresses with tailoring for the five homecoming princesses to suit their different body shapes.
What motivated you to start DAI and what problem are you solving?
I started my career in investment banking, working really long hours, 12-16 hours a day, running around the trading floor or running to meetings. And I always felt that clothes were incredibly uncomfortable and restrictive.
It hit me one day. I had a 4am cab pick-up, a day of meetings running around Stockholm, and on the 8pm flight coming back, my waistband was digging in and all could think about was how uncomfortable I felt. I wished I were in my yoga leggings, and that’s when I thought to myself, “could this feel like yoga, and look like a power suit? Why was it so hard to find brands designing comfortable workwear for women?”
I imagined a world where clothes didn’t restrict us, but rather empowered us, where performance of our clothes empowered the performance of the woman.
What can you tell us about the market and how DAI is positioning itself for success?
We’re not a fashion business. In a $292bn global women’s wear-to-work apparel market, we are a digitally native, ecommerce-first disruptor brand delivering comfort-empowered performance using a tech-enabled, data-driven approach, including our proprietary online Trouser Fit Finder Tool, coupled with real-time customer feedback to deliver the perfect product experience for every body shape. Beyond our digital growth strategy, we’ve proven our diversified omnichannel approach through retail, community, print marketing and press. We’re leading with authenticity and purpose, because at our core, we want women to succeed. We’re also a Certified B Corp with one of the highest scores in the global apparel industry, and we’re leading by example of what’s better, more responsible.
What does your competitive landscape look like and how does DAI differentiate itself?
It is a large market and there are many options, price points, design aesthetics, fabrics. Our vision for our products and user experience is “feels like yoga, looks like business”. We’re taking innovative performance materials developed by the sportswear industry, and designing them for the everyday, the sustainable way. Our key metrics paint the picture of our sticky differentiation and success so far: a single category of trousers drives 55% of our revenue, an astoundingly strong metric showing a clear gateway into our brand and strong customer loyalty: repeat customers make up 50% of our revenue, meaning they love our products and are coming back.
Could you tell us about some of your biggest achievements to date?
Within two months of our soft launch, The Times featured us as “the perfect trousers”. Our Power Move™ Trousers took off and we reordered 300 units the next week.
Holly Willoughby, Trinny Woodall and a whole host of high-profile trailblazing women wearing Dai.
We’re backed by Redrice Ventures, Closed Loop Partners, and Rianta Capital with an incredible board and advisors around us.
We not only survived but thrived since the pandemic; Q1 sales are +151% vs last year*.
Opening stores in Seven Dials, Marylebone High Street, King’s Road and Spitalfields.
*Based on unaudited management accounts.
What are some goals you hope to see DAI accomplish in the next few years?
Scale in the UK knowing our successful traction and channels, expand into the USA, launch our B2B division, grow our team, continue to innovate on sustainable materials and continue to empower women around the world.
How do you plan to create a scalable and profitable business model?
The dry answer is on a spreadsheet. We know our channels, they’re ready to scale and we expect to achieve profitability in the next few years. But the true secret sauce is brand purpose, mission, authenticity. We want women to succeed and we want to do better for our planet.
Why do you think right now is the best time for DAI to grow?
The time is now. After two years of pandemic, it’s back to life but comfort is here to stay. Personal brand and feeling confident will forever be important for women. And sustainability is no longer optional but the mandatory way of the future for all of us. We are a forward-thinking, trailblazing brand that represents the future of our industry, and our time is now.
What do you plan to do with the money you raise?
Scale our proven channels of growth, including v2.0 tech and data-driven dev and customisation of Trouser Fit Finder, grow our team and operations (a much needed boost ASAP given our pace of growth now) and expand internationally, starting with the USA.
What do you love to do in your free time?
Running, cycling, recently growing our own produce in our garden through composting our food scraps in a worm farm.
If you weren’t building DAI, what do you think you’d be doing?
Joining a body at the UN or the next climate tech startup to fight climate change, or building my own fully regenerative farm.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far building DAI?
You are more resilient than you can ever imagine, if you know your purpose and that purpose is bigger than you.
What advice do you wish someone told you before starting DAI?
They did tell me not to do it, that womenswear was incredibly challenging (“make a Post-It instead”), but I went ahead and started DAI anyway.
DAI is a B Corp certified brand, empowering women through comfort-driven performance, style and community. They have raised over £1.5m and are closing to investment soon. If you’d like to get the full story, check out their campaign here.