Joanna Dai is the Founder of Joanna Dai Limited, a design-focused, ethical fashion brand delivering high- performance workwear to the professional woman, based at E1 Studios in Whitechapel. A US expat and former investment banker of eight years, Dai blends tailored fashion with technical textiles to create smart clothing with an elegant twist.
Where is home?
I was born in Shanghai but I’m from Orange County, Southern California.
First thing you do when you get into work?
Grab a cup of coffee!
Office view you’d kill to have?
I’d love the corner spot in a big high-rise looking out over Central Park. Either that, or somewhere overlooking the ocean.
Best place to celebrate a work deal?
My pattern cutter’s house in Surrey with a couple of G&Ts. She’s been on the Joanna Dai Limited journey with me right from the start, so I always celebrate with her.
Your go-to outfit?
A pair of vintage high-waisted mom jeans with a vintage T-shirt and brogues.
What motivated you to launch Joanna Dai Limited?
Before I launched my own business, I worked as a banker doing long hours in uncomfortable clothes. I couldn’t find any stylish work clothes that didn’t compromise comfort on the market so I set out to create them myself.
How do you let your hair down?
My hair is short; I don’t have to!
Best place to grab lunch near E1 Studios?
Grounded Coffee Company on the ground floor of E1 Studios. Their tea, coffee and sandwiches are amazing.
Top tip for creating a work-life balance?
Make time to create headspace. I often go for a run to get out of the office and think things over.
Who has been an inspiration in your life?
My dad. He immigrated from China to America to start afresh as an entrepreneur to give me a better opportunity for my future. His work ethic is inspirational.
Which company, other than your own, do you respect?
Patagonia. Their commitment to sustainability and their brand values run through the company’s veins. They’re shaking things up and it’s so bold and refreshing.
Dream business partner?
Natalie Massenet. She founded fashion portal Net-a-Porter.
One fact about you that always surprises people?
I studied electrical and computer engineering. There aren’t many of us in the fashion world!
Worst work habit?
Definitely procrastination. I’m sure I’m not the only one guilty of putting the hardest task at the end of the to-do list!
Favourite place to work out?
I love to run outside anywhere that’s got a river or lake. Regent’s Canal, the Thames... you name it.
If you were locked in E1 Studios for a night, who would you choose as your buddy?
Hmm... I’m debating between Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey. Can I have them both?
Best secret London spot?
I keep going back to The Laughing Heart in Hackney. They have really delicious biodynamic, healthy food.
What’s on your bookshelf?
Zero to One
by Peter Thiel. He was one of the Co-founders at PayPal and it talks about how to create value out of nothing. It’s a great book for entrepreneurs.
Read more about Joanna Dai’s ethical fashion brand in the latest issue of homeWORK. Discover her sustainable statement pieces at daiwear.com