Yolanda White, founder and CEO of Dayo, wants women to feel as powerful and beautiful when relaxing as they do in their work outfits. In 2018, the long-time leadership executive left the corporate world to create a line of fashion she saw missing— modern, elegant loungewear for the home. We talked to her about the creative ways she’s found to share her collection with buyers over video, the intimacy of entering people’s homes through Zoom, and how her connection with her community is stronger than before—even while everyone’s staying home.
How did you start Dayo?
As women, we show up for the rest of the world beautiful, but when it's time for us to show up for ourselves and the people we really love in our safe haven, we usually go to the most casual, bummiest thing we can find. I decided to be an answer for all the women who get so busy in the mayhem of life that when we get home, we need a place to be comfortable, and we need style that reflects who we are today.
When I created Dayo, it was about working with the best and delivering the best— having a point of view about sustainability and the world, using all-natural fibers, and leaning into businesses that were women-owned were really important to me.
I launched my first collection at the end of 2018, and we've been in business for a year and a half, going strong.
What a time to have a young company!
Yeah, it's pretty exciting. I feel like I was given a vision that was probably ahead of its time. No one was talking about loungewear, and then all of a sudden we were stuck at home with people in our houses and we were like, “Oh yeah, I like the t-shirt, but then I have to get on Zoom.” I actually have been able to endure a pretty successful COVID period, honestly. I think we all are challenging this paradigm that you have to be in lacy, constricting stuff in order to be sexy.
And how has your business changed with the pandemic? What's different from what you were doing before this all started?
A lot. Community has always been at the core of Dayo. I say we’re more than fashion, we’re a self-love movement. We were able to deliver this to the community through physical activation primarily. And honestly, with the pandemic, no one's leaving the home. So my ability to allow people to feel the brand, see the brand, and experience what we’re all about has to be reinvented from a digital, virtual perspective. It was a complete evolution to virtual shopping parties to virtual fitting parties to different consumer engagement promotions that were taking place digitally. I feel like I didn't sleep during COVID because I was having so much fun engaging and connecting. And then I found mmhmm.
How did mmhmm change things for you? And can you tell me about your virtual shows?
Well, you know, the one thing that's happening is that everyone's sitting behind a computer screen. And so it was acceptable to be very basic at the beginning. Then it became, I'm kind of fatigued sitting in front of a computer. We were delivering all types of experiences—I was doing scavenger hunts, DJs, dance parties, mixologist parties, but it was almost like I needed a technology platform that would allow me to communicate clearly.
There has to be a lot of surprise and delight for the people that I'm talking to across the screen.
What's really important is that things can't be stagnant. There has to be a lot of surprise and delight for the people that I'm talking to across the screen to keep them captivated for an hour. Like when you tell them you're taking an hour of their time, it has to be something that really does ignite their spirit. What I’ve realized is that I set the tone and I set the pace. Having the flexibility to change that experience in that moment throughout the meeting is something that we haven't done yet, but that's what I'm looking forward to doing in order to create a more meaningful experience.
These video calls must bring you into someone's home.
This is so personal. I have watched women literally start off, like, I don't know if I'm ready to shop. By the end of the call, they're usually standing up, and I'm assessing their body size to tell them what size to wear. It's such a personal experience; it’s so up and close.
We have a unique opportunity to be invited into people's homes. But with that comes a level of trust, a level of openness. And as a leader, I don't take that lightly at all. I've learned to cherish the fact that people are opening up their space to me, and I allow it to be a way for me to even deepen that connection authentically.
What’s the best thing to come out of this pandemic experience or you and your business?
Joking-wise, I've become a badass mixologist. This weekend I pureed watermelon and agave.
But, I will tell you, I am a mom. I have two sons that are teenagers. And honestly, the closeness of the family has been something that I've been able to really cherish. And I think what makes it really deep is that this has been a tough time from a not just from a health perspective with COVID, but racially. As an African-American woman with two boys, what they’re seeing and what we have to talk about in our house is something that even I don’t have answers to. It's been really beneficial to be able to engage in those conversations in a way that's vulnerable.
I tell you, these events have really challenged me to be honest about my point of view. I think as leaders, there's no room to sit on the fence about where you stand with things. Mother's Day is one of my biggest performing holidays, and then we got into Black Lives Matter. Typically I’ve never made a political statement with my company, but it was a time to say, “Enough is enough.” We need to have a voice about where we stand. Now I’m talking about Black Lives Matter. And of course I’m going to talk about Pride. Last year I was all about women and self-love, and I’m still about that, but if we love ourselves, we are embracing people with whatever they're doing, you know what I mean? As a leader, these events have really made me be fearless in my ability to communicate my point of view and do it in a way that’s inclusive and powerful, for all women to join the journey.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.