By: Christina Vo
Meet Tanya Zhang! An Asian American entrepreneur who co-founded Nimble Made, a size-inclusive brand that is striving for representation and diversity in fashion. From witnessing her father struggle with finding a dress shirt that fits to seeing this issue amongst her friends and community, Tanya Zhang and her co-founder, Wesley Kang, knew they had to make a change to this. Tanya Zhang took a risk with her co-founder, Wesley Kang, and left her corporate job to create a brand of actually slim dress shirts for men, especially for Asian American Pacific islanders.
Tanya Zhang and Wesley Kang, Founders of Nimble Made
In our interview, Tanya will tell us more about her journey to creating Nimble Made to all the special details on what makes Nimble Made so unique. Tanya is an innovative, driven entrepreneur and an inspiration for all those looking to create change in their communities – I hope you enjoy reading this conversation as much as I enjoyed having it!
C: Tell us about yourself and the business Nimble Made!
T: I am a graphic designer, originally from Los Angeles. I started off my career as an art director in advertising and switched over to consulting before I started Nimble Made. I am now based in New York where Wesley, my Co-Founder, and I have started on this venture together with Nimble Made, designed to create slim dress-shirts for slimmer Asian Americans.
C: How are your struggles being an Asian American shaped who you are and the pathway to creating this brand?
T: The first thing that came to mind was how would I tell my parents about it, how do I tell them that I am going to quit a corporate job at a big firm to basically, make no money for a few years and start a brand. My parents immigrated from China to raise my sister and me in America. Culturally, there is an expectation to do well and stick to a conventional career path. One of the struggles to building this brand was figuring out how to get my parent’s blessing because it would have been hard to be able to do this without them.
C: What is the inspiration behind the business Nimble Made, what prompted you to start a brand yourself?
T: Wesley, my Co-Founder, was working in finance and had to wear a dress shirt every day at his banking job. He is a Taiwanese-American who is 5’5’’ and 130-140 lbs and more on the slimmer side so, it was hard for him to find a dress shirt that fit him well and made him feel confident in his own skin.Typically, American retail dress shirts are much bigger because the sizes are averaged out to cater to a mass market. I saw this personal struggle with my dad whenever we would go shopping together, he would say to me that “American shirts don’t fit me.” I saw my slimmer Asian American friends deal with the same issue. Women’s clothing has much more nuances in embracing different body types from petite to plus size, but men’s clothing is not as varied, especially for slimmer AAPI men.
C: What makes Nimble Made stand out from different brands, what do you provide that other brands don’t?
T: Nimble Made was created to bring more representation and inclusion in sizing standards, starting with a slim fit dress shirt that actually fits. There are brands that do dress shirts for shorter men, however, that is a different niche. Another thing that makes our brand unique is that we own up to our Asian American narrative as founders who are solving an issue we were personally struggling with. We take pride and draw inspiration from our Asian American experiences. For example, our pink dress shirt, one of the shirts that we first came out with, is named “The New Year,” inspired by Lunar New Year and the traditions of wearing red on the first day of it. We value our Asian American stories and make sure to embed our cultures within these dress shirts.
C: How does Nimble Made help out and tap into the Asian community?
T: We do a lot of grassroots partnerships! In NYC, we work closely with Asian American communities, such as Crushing the Myth, AABANY, Asian Creative Network to pop up, vendor, provide discounts directly to our target audience.” I would say we are ingrained in our Asian Community from the East Coast. Out on the West Coast, we work with Asian Cinema Entertainment, an LA-based agency that manages Asian actors, where we provide dress shirts for their auditions and callbacks.
C: What do you hope to see in the future for Nimble Made and some goals you have, anything we should expect these upcoming months?
T: Nimble Made is still pretty young, at less than a year old. Wesley and I just left our corporate jobs last November, so we are 9 months in. In the nearest future, we are still striving for that scale and growth, working towards getting recurring sales which has been a difficulty, but we are surely working hard towards it. We would also love to create a platform for Asian American entrepreneurs and creators to network and connect with one another. Wesley and I have this dream of once Nimble Made is sustainable, we can also create an accelerator for Asian Americans and people of color and provide the tools and guidance they need for their own start-ups.
*Pictures from Nimble Made
Nimble Made is a size-inclusive brand, founded by Asian American entrepreneurs, striving for diversity and representation in fashion.
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Tanya Zhang is an art director & designer based in NYC. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she graduated from UC San Diego with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Computing & the Arts. She moved to New York City to start her career in advertising and worked on integrated ad campaigns for brands like H&M, Nissan, McDonald’s, Michelin and more. She then became the first brand design hire at a fintech startup before she became a visual design consultant at Ernst & Young. She co-founded Nimble Made, a men’s actually slim fit dress shirt brand, in 2018 to strive for more size inclusion and Asian American Pacific Islander representation in fashion.
Follow Tanya on Instagram: @taneeyuh