Barney Grad Responds to Need for Tall Women
Diana Delva ’10 grew tired of endless shopping trips to try on clothing that didn’t fit. Topping 6 feet in height by the age of 14, she struggled to “shop tall.” It only got tougher as time went on and Delva adopted her own sense of style and fashion. Existing clothing options for tall women were basic, expensive, and limited.
Out of pure necessity for her and countless other taller women, Delva took matters into her own hands. Following her graduation from UHart’s Barney School of Business, Delva created Chèlbè, a fashionable and affordable clothing line that caters to women 5’ 9” and taller.
While a UHart student, Delva interned at the internationally respected design label DSquared2, where she received a valuable introduction into the fashion industry. Little did she imagine that just a few years later, she would be showcasing her own brand at New York Fashion Week while being named a “designer to watch.” Many customers are doing more than watching Delva’s clothing designs today—they are buying. Delva sells direct to consumers through her Chèlbè website, where the focus is on stylish garments at a price point of under $80.
A former standout on the Hartford Hawks women’s basketball team who is entering her 10th season playing professionally overseas, Delva had plenty of opportunities to learn that her teammates had similar struggles finding the same stylish clothing that was readily available for those of regular height. She says teammates would often exchange styling tips and share discoveries of where clothing could be found, but more often than not, Delva and her friends ended up in mainstream stores, forced to opt for plus-sized clothing, the men’s section, or a cropped look.
Delva thus founded Chèlbè to help taller women reach new fashion heights. The name comes from a Creole word that means elegant, chic, or luxurious in dress, style, or design. It is a word that Delva’s Haitian mother used frequently when she saw someone who was well dressed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought mixed results for Chèlbè. On the one hand, Delva has been unable to travel and oversee the manufacturers in other parts of the world who source her fabric. But on the positive side, her sales have risen in recent months as online shopping became, in many cases, the only option for consumers. In addition, one of the larger retailers specializing in clothing for taller women was forced to cease operations, enabling Chèlbè to pick up new customers.
“It has been a transition time,” Delva says of recent months surrounding the coronavirus, “and while I started simple, my next step is to adapt to the new scheme of the world and take Chèlbè to the next level.”
Delva resists becoming a visible face for the brand she created. Instead, she wants the designs and meaning behind them to be what stand out. “Chèlbè is a lifestyle that can be translated into everything you do,” she says. “I just help dress the part.”