Ava James NYC began when Goldman Sachs employee Eugena Delman went back home to Hong Kong. She began to notice that there were hardly any clothing options for her sister’s size 14 frame whenever they went shopping. “I just couldn’t believe that there were times that we would walk into a store and [salespeople] would take one look at my sister and be like, ‘Oh, no size.’ We’re paying customers; I have my credit card and I’m ready to spend money in your store, and you can’t even make the effort to check the back. My sister was like, ‘This is my daily experience. I don’t know why you’re so upset.’”
Delman was never concerned with fashion; she majored in aerospace engineering and then turned to investment banking at Goldman Sachs to have her visa sponsored for her to stay in the US. So fashion was never really at the top of her priorities, until that fateful realization in the recent shopping trip with her sister.
Ava James NYC — Corporate Fashion Tailored for Plus-Size Ladies
Eugena Delman had been working for Goldman Sachs for almost 10 years when she decided to pursue the entirely different field of fashion. She lingered on the crossroads for six months and made the life-changing decision with no real plans set in place.
Seeing her frustration after that memorable shopping trip, Eugena’s sister jokingly suggested that she start a wholesale business that would import American or European plus-size brands into Asia. Her sister mentioned that there was a large expat community in Hong Kong and that there were more and more women who had struggled to find larger sizes in stores there. Eugena quickly considered the suggestion and began her research, only to find out that even options from the US and Europe were also limited! Let’s face it: social media may have massively popularized the body positivity movement, but the fashion industry still has a long way to go in terms of inclusivity and range for all body types. The plus-size divisions in some brands are fairly young, and representation is scarce.
“I started to realize how limited options were in the US, where the average woman is a size 14–16!” Eugena said in an interview. “It didn’t make any sense to me that a huge swathe of the population was massively underserved by the fashion industry. So I figured if it doesn’t exist, why not try to create it?”
Ava James NYC Creation
When Eugena Delman found that there weren’t many brands that catered to plus-size women in corporate environments even in western countries, she tapped her best friend, Saena Chung, to join her on this business venture. Unlike Eugena, Saena spent her entire career in fashion, so she was perfect for the plan.
“I met Saena when we were tweens in 90s Hong Kong. We actually have no recollection of how we met. It was probably at Korean Saturday School (every Korean in Hong Kong was forced to go to Korean school on Saturday mornings, which was universally hated) or at church (super stereotypically Korean!).”
Eugena Delman officially started Ava James NYC with Saena Chung in April 2018, and by August, only four months later, they had debuted their first collection. The two were able to get Ava James NYC off the ground so quickly because of the project management skills she acquired from years in investment banking. That same experience also gave her a more intimate understanding of what professional women want from their clothes.
“I spent nine years with my potential customer demographic, and I know what kind of outfits will work in an office setting and won’t work. These women, they want to look good and they want to feel good and they want clothes that are stylish, but they’re not super bogged down by what’s happening in the fashion world.”
Based in New York City, all the dresses in the line are hand-sewn by expert seamstresses with TLC in NYC.
Ava James NYC Style
The duo came up with the name of a woman who could be a potential customer—a sophisticated, elegant, and timeless name that could be easily spelled and pronounced. And indeed, the line lives up to the sound of its name. Ava James NYC is a brand of versatile, professional dresses cleanly tailored with fitted silhouettes for the modern plus-size woman.
“I wanted to create pieces that were not trend focused . . . that a grown woman could wear to multiple functions,” Delman explains. “Because, especially spending a lot of money, you don’t want it to be so special that you can only wear it to one type of event.”
Meanwhile, her sister back in Hong Kong is the brand’s unofficial sample tester. “The first time she wore [our Madrid Dress],” Delman says, “she actually told me that she never, ever thought that she could feel sexy in her life. That, to me, was straight-up validation.”
The range is simple and sophisticated, meant to go from the office to after-hours. Every dress is available in sizes 8 through 18 (with more coming down the pipeline). Prices start at $315 and cap out at $385.