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Joanna Dai designs workwear women actually want to wear

Where comfort and empowerment meet
Joanna Dai makes workwear that looks like a power suit but feels like yoga wear 03:48

Constricting waistbands, rigid fabrics and outmoded styles are all too familiar to professional women, particularly those who work in fields with more formal dress codes. Joanna Dai, who in her former career as an investment banker was among the legion of sufferers, wants to change that.

"It hit me after a day of meetings in Stockholm. On the way back on the last flight, I'm sitting in my seat, waistband digging in, and I just felt incredibly uncomfortable and wished I were in my yoga clothes," she told CBSN. 

That was her "aha moment" — the one that led her to start her apparel company, Dai, which makes women's workwear including skirts, dresses, pants and jackets that look professional but feel and perform like yoga wear.

In 2016, the London-based entrepreneur left her job in finance with nothing but a vision for the company; now, Dai is in its third year.

"I believed in the concept and vision so much that I went to London College of Fashion, took design and pattern-making classes, did an unpaid fashion internship as a 30-year-old," she said.

Dai is determined to do well by working women — and the planet. The apparel and footwear industries in 2016 together accounted for more than 8 percent of global climate effects — the equivalent of 3.9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to a report from Quantis, an environmental sustainability advisory firm. 

"I wanted to make the best decisions for our planet as well as our people," Dai said. 

And so she uses fabrics that are recycled from ocean waste, including stray fishing nets, and that biodegrade to reduce the environmental toll of making clothes.

Ultimately, Dai wants women to break the glass ceiling — and be comfortable while doing it. 

"I want to build a brand in a world where clothes don't restrict us but rather empower us. ...because the world is better when women succeed," she said.

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