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“My brand started out of pure frustration,” says Dima Ayad, the founder of her namesake plus-size fashion company. Her frustration boils down to this: “finding clothes that suited me has been a daily challenge ever since I can remember.”
Ayad grew up in the Middle East, and has been plus-size throughout her adult life. She says, “fashion just wasn’t available for me and many like me.” She doesn’t mince words, and calls this lack of access to clothing in extended sizes “an epidemic.”
This epidemic played a role in the brand’s origin. When I asked her what factors went into deciding to build her own company, she told me a story about missing a very important event because she couldn’t find something to wear:
“It all began many summers ago when I had many weddings and events to attend. I was looking both regionally and internationally for pieces that first and foremost fit me, but that were also my aesthetic and were available at a decent price point. None of the above was available.”
Ayad was a size 14/16 and said she couldn’t find anything that was long enough and that contoured her body: “Larger sized clothes always had a more loose fit and was not figure-hugging to accentuate curves.”
She created her own solution to the problem.
“I finally made my own pieces and everyone asked me where I got them. And then I dabbled with making things for others.” Fashion was a hobby until a big moment changed her career trajectory.
“Then came one of my best friend’s weddings on an island and my luggage never arrived. I scouted that island inside out: no dress, no wedding. I didn’t make it to one of my best friend’s wedding. And then came the aha moment – it’s time to make change and contribute to inclusivity. The brand DimaAyad was born.”
Ayad brings up the metaphor of clothing as armor more than once. “It sounds crazy but clothes are in fact armor and really act as temporary shields. They give you a boost, and can also seriously depress you. You can be confident all you want when you go to battle, you also need the armor to fight.”
She says her brand has been shaped by her own hardships and experiences, as well as her most vulnerable moments. She tells me she wants to make the brand the best it can possibly be. When I asked her what that means to her, she said she seeks “to provide strength and armor, and to empower women to really understand that they are enough just as they are.” She says DimaAyad is about encouraging her customers to celebrate themselves.
Many brands with designs in extended sizing start small and size up. Typically, a women’s clothing brand will find a fit model and create its size 6 based on her measurements. Then it will use software to mathematically scale the dimensions up or down for its other sizes.
DimaAyad does the opposite: “The key to designing for all shapes and sizes is really to design with a size 18/20 in mind and work my way down as opposed to the other way round. The ethos of the brand is to design for women of all shapes and sizes. I try to appeal to all as much as possible. I also look at previous styles that have succeeded and re-introduce them in slightly modified styles and different fabrics to bring them back.”
Who inspires Ayad? “I salute Patrick Herning who isn’t plus himself, but who has seen, felt and believed that change needed to happen – 11 Honore, his vision, guidance, and responding to an email I sent to him when they launched. He’s pioneering in this space and getting brands to buy into plus, allowing women to wear luxury fashion – that’s a dream!” She names Candice Huffine and Ashley Graham who she says “used their stories to tell women and the fashion scene that it’s high time they pay attention to this woman.”
When I asked her what she wanted people to know about the clothes she designs, she said, “The versatility of them, their timelessness, their ability to make you feel free – no special underwear, no spanx. These are statement pieces that no one will forget!”
If you’ve seen anything that Ayad has designed, I think you’ll agree that every piece is entirely unforgettable.
May 28, 2019 at 12:03AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs