We take a look at the desk of entrepreneur and founder Joanna Dai
Following eight years in finance, Joanna Dai founded her eponymous womenswear brand Dai, "Performance wear for women who mean business." The digitally-native brand creates chic but comfy tailored business suits for women. Thanks to the textiles and cutting edge technology they use to make their products, you can buy a suit which is as comfortable as wearing a pair of yoga pants. You won't believe it until you've tried them yourself, and the unique idea came from Joanna's own experience in finance...
Tell us about how you made the switch from employee to entrepreneur?
I spent eight years in investment banking with long days and frequent travel, and experienced first-hand the importance of how we look and feel to empower our confidence especially as women in male dominated fields. I saw a huge gap in the market where clothes were made in traditional fabrics that were restrictive and uncomfortable. My a-ha moment was on the return flight of a 16-hour work day. The waistband was digging in, I was exhausted, and I wished I were in my yoga kit. I thought to myself, “Could workwear feel like yoga and still look like a powersuit?”
In a leap of faith in 2016, I left my banking job, took design courses at London College of Fashion, did a 3-month unpaid internship with Emilia Wickstead, sourced and rigorously tested 60+ technical fabrics for the first collection, and launched eight-piece capsule collection in July 2017. And we took off from there.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to make a big career change?
If you’re really passionate about an idea and it keeps you up at night, do it. Yes, do more research and do the work before you invest money into it. Naivety is bliss in terms of seeing a problem differently or not coming from the given industry. But it’s a rollercoaster and it’s really hard work, and the moments on the edge of failure are real. Your unwavering purpose and true why need to be strong enough because that’s your source of raw grit that will carry you through the toughest moments.
Where are you working from at the moment?
At home 4-5 days a week. I’m only biking into the studio for design and product reviews that I can’t do from home.
How do you manage your work from home set-up?
It’s a bit of hot-desking right now between the dining table and my Wahoo Kickr stand-up desk that’s actually for the indoor bike trainer, but moving between sitting and standing is good. I also try to take calls pacing around if I don’t need to be in front of my laptop.
Where did you find your desk?
The table is from a boutique furniture designer in Melbourne named Anton Gerner and made in 1999.
Scandi Desk, £3,279
What are three things you always have on your desk?
My AirPods Pro, Native Union Drop XL charging pad and my Chilly's Bottle for hot teas or to remind me to drink water.
AirPods Pro, £249
Charging Pad, £84.99
Greek Dream Bottle, £30
How do you stay motivated while working from home?
I run outside 3-4 times per week and make myself get outside when it’s still light out, and I just let my thoughts go and oftentimes come up with new ideas or solutions on my runs. I definitely switch off most evenings and on weekends so I’m back fresh for work.
How did you go about your office décor?
I have a fresh flower subscription from Freddie’s Flowers every two weeks to keep it feeling fresh and vibrant. There’s always a candle on my desk. Otherwise, it’s minimal and clean, and I’m constantly tidying up and putting things like the measuring tape away.
Seasonal Flowers £25
Tell us a story behind an item in your office.
Many months into lockdown and realising shooting content on sets with full crews will continue to be challenging, our team got me an LED selfie light ring on a tripod stand. Yes, one of those you see make-up influencers use. It packs down easily into my backpack for quick video content around London, and it’s so bright that it’s been serving as a camera light for Zoom presentations and panel talks since it gets dark so early right now.
Ring Light, £29.44
How has the pandemic changed your daily work routine?
It’s been great in terms of gaining back commute time and putting it towards yoga or reading news in the morning and making dinner in the evenings. It’s also put more importance on going outside for a break, either running or walking to the store to pick up ingredients for dinner. I’ve intentionally tried to spend less time online outside of work and have actually gotten more creative offline. I’ve learned to knit, crochet, make a Christmas wreath, arrange flowers, and try new recipes.
Do you use any apps that help you manage your workload?
Slack for communications with our team and professional services we work with, and Asana for project management.
Work Manager App, Free
How do you deal with work stress?
Balance is so important. My outdoor runs and workouts are great for endorphins. I also meditate and breathe a few times a week. Having a strict switching off, putting devices away, and turning off notifications creates more tangible boundaries between work and off-duty when you work where you live.
Do you listen to any podcasts?
I regularly listen to The Daily from NYTimes and Today in Focus from The Guardian. For longer feature podcasts, I like Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell and I’ve listened to many, many How I Built This episodes in its first few years.
What is the best career advice you have received?
During the most challenging and stressful times of my journey so far, one of my mentors challenged me to answer for myself, “What’s your purpose and is it strong enough for the pain to be worth the gain?” Yes, it is. I am building a world where women succeed through comfort-empowered performance and doing so with a more positive environmental impact.
How would you describe your work-from-home office outfits?
I think the psychology of changing into your office outfit is so important for your mindset towards the day. My WFH wardrobe is super streamlined and simple: one of our supersoft Eco Luxe Essentials and the feels-like-yoga Power Move Trousers or elasticated-waist Collateral Pant or yoga leggings. I switch into one of my more tailored tops or blouse for Zoom presentations and panel talks.
Describe a typical meeting outfit?
Out of lockdown, it was the Trail Blazer in Midnight, High Power Move Trousers in Midnight, and either the Now & Forever Blouse or an Eco Layer (our turtleneck) on top.
Trail Blazer, £325
Now & Forever Blouse, £225
How do you make your clothing so comfortable?
We’re using the most innovative performance fabrics sourced from environmentally responsible mills, and our fabrics need to empower women to move effortlessly and feel good on the skin. Our signature performance fabrics are 4-way stretch, breathable, extra comfy, quick dry, eco-certified, wrinkle resistant and machine washable.
Tell us about the smart technology fabrics you use?
We use patented fabrics from the most technologically and environmentally advanced mills in Italy. Our fabrics are 4-way stretch, breathable, wrinkle resistant, anti-pilling, machine washable and much more. Our fabrics are tested for over a dozen of performance attributes, report their EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) which shows their environmental impact including carbon emissions and water, and are Oeko-tex Certified for chemical safety.
Our latest performance fabrics in Black and Midnight are all made from recycled fibres which are GRS (Global Recycled Standard) Certified and our goal in 2021 is to have recycled fibres in 50% products. At Dai, we test over hundreds of performance fabrics to ensure our final selection in our designs and finished products deliver the best performance for our busy, high-performing customers whilst maintaining the clean, modern and elegantly tailored aesthetic that so many performance fabrics lack.
Tell us about your DNA Body Mapping experience?
It started with our Trouser Fit Finder, where our proprietary styling algorithm recommends the best trouser silhouette and style for you in under 60 seconds. Our Dai DNA Body Mapping Experience, which is both virtual and offline in our concept stores, is personal styling but smarter. It’s an innovative, tailored approach where our stylists map our customers’ core measurements, establish their fundamental shape, and share insights for dressing for that shape.
How do you think the fashion industry is going to change in the next 20 years?
Sustainability will be the baseline for every brand and demanded by consumers. The chain effect of this will be slowing down the trajectory of carbon emissions and therefore the climate impact contributed by the apparel industry. I believe the circular economy will be much more prevalent than it is today through recycling across the value chain and developing further textiles and textile technologies that allow for cradle-to-cradle or regeneration of resources. I also believe the way we consume fashion will continue to evolve and the new business models emerging today especially driving a shared economy such as rentals, trade-ins, second-hand, will mature together with further consumer adoption. I hope the majority of fashion brands and apparel companies become Certified B Corporations like us so we are all safeguarding our people and planet, and not just focused on profits for shareholders.