Career Chic: Interview with Ava James NYC Founder
It has been just over a year since I left my professional day job and became a full time blogger, and even longer since I worked in a corporate setting with a strict dress code, but I still remember the pain of trying to find stylish, office-appropriate clothing all too well. Even when I had money to spend on quality workwear, the options just weren’t there. I was around a size 14 at the time (the smaller end of plus), and still struggled to find things on par with my thinner co-workers. Brands like Tibi and Reiss had the styles I wanted, but they stopped below my size (and ran small, so there wasn’t even a chance of squeezing into anything). When I saw the first previews of new label Ava James NYC on Instagram, it felt like corporate Sarah’s prayers were finally answered.
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With a “Powerpoint-to-Pinot” vibe, the dresses looked like they could actually transition from meetings to drinks with ease, and I was seriously drawn in by the rich color offerings. The inaugural Ava James collection is available in sizes 12-18, a small range which I definitely wondered about. I got a chance to visit the Ava James studio in New York’s Garment District (they are an official Made in NYC business!), and check out the first collection from this new high end contemporary label. I took the opportunity to interview co-founder Eugena Delman and get some answers to the questions I had:
Sarah Chiwaya: What blank space, aesthetic-wise, do you want to fill with Ava James?
Eugena Delman: We design for professional women who want dresses that are appropriate for the office but versatile enough to wear on dates or dinners post-work – ourmotto is “Career. Cocktails. Effortless fashion.”Our style is chic and classy while feminine and sexy.
From a fit perspective, we keep our dresses tailored to the body to flatter rather than hide. We know that’s structurally difficult, but by working with expert patternmakers here in New York, we are up to the challenge. We firmly believe that clothing that shows off a woman’s silhouette and doesn’t overwhelm or cling is universally flattering.
SC: Why did you choose this size range to launch?
ED: We launched a limited inaugural collection for two reasons. The first was simple – we found that the 12-18 size range was unusually underserved by the fashion industry, particularly for premium workwear and cocktail dresses. The inspiration behind Ava James NYC is my sister, a size 14 woman. She found that while designer labels generally topped out at around size 10, traditional plus retailers typically started around size 16. It has always been a struggle for her to find the perfect dress. We wanted to include women who were overlooked like her and also serve the broader plus market.
Secondly, we wanted to master these four sizes before expanding our range. A perfect fit is important to us. That means having each dress go through a rigorous fit and correction process. Now that we’ve got these sizes down, we are excited to introduce additional sizes.
SC: You beat me to my next question! So you will be expanding your size range?
ED: Absolutely. We aim to offer additional sizes in 2019.
SC: I’m so glad to hear that! What is the best thing to hear from an Ava James customer?
ED: That they feel like a new woman. I love hearing that our dresses give them an extra shot of confidence. As corny as it sounds, it really isn’t just about looking great, but feeling fabulous too.
SC: I completely agree. Having the right thing to wear makes all the difference. Last question: If you had to pick a favorite from your inaugural collection, what would it be?
ED: The Madrid dress in Blood Orange. I’m a New Yorker so I’m practically allergic to color, but I absolutely love how this one stands out. And the fit-and-flare complements every figure. It seems our customers agree – it’s proving to be our most popular dress!
Eugena is right, that color is gorgeous! Unfortunately, the cut and non-stretch fabric on the Madrid did not work on my busty frame in the current size range, but after chatting a bit more with Eugena while I tried on some Ava James dresses, I understood the decision to launch with a limited size range. The average woman in the US is a size 14/16, and still has so many fewer options than women just a few sizes down, and the personal motivation of having her sister so affected is real. I am definitely looking forward to the size expansion myself, as the Madrid and more fitted styles like the Berlin do not work for my bust, but I had much better luck with the Chicago dress from Ava James NYC.
In the size 18, this Ava James NYC dress fit me perfectly. I put it on and immediately felt powerful and chic – the dress version of a impeccably tailored suit. The thoughtful details and construction immediately set it apart from cheaper mass market options. The dress is fully lined, both making it feel beautiful on and helping it lay perfectly on the body – no slips required.
The open, almost shoulder-skimming neckline lays just right, and brings a little sexiness to the long sleeve style, all the while staying unimpeachably professional. This Chicago dress is available in both classic black and this gorgeous forest green, and I honestly want it in both colors and more.
The material on this Ava James NYC dress is a thick ponte with a slight stretch – enough to keep you comfortable through a long day of meetings and work, but not too much so it loses its shape with wear. I plan to wear this to an upcoming conference where I need to dress to impress – it does just that.
Ava James dresses are thoughtfully designed in a way that takes a lot of the guesswork out of styling, and the pieces truly do speak for themselves. All I needed was a classic pair of pumps for a complete, pulled-together look. The sleeveless dresses all would look amazing with a blazer, making them appropriate for even the most conservative dress code. I’m excited to see luxe options like these dresses being created above the usual size 10 cut-off, and I look forward to the upcoming expanded sizing. Of course I’d love if every new brand launched with a full plus line out the gate, but having consulted for many companies, I know getting the right fit is not as simple a process as it might seem, so I appreciate young self-funded companies taking the time to do it right. If you are in the current 12-18 Ava James NYC size range, shop now to support, and tell your curvy corporate friends too – they will thank you!
This post is sponsored. All thoughts and opinions my own, as always!