Fashion’s Feminine Future

Daniella Kallmeyers fresh take on femininity earns her Saint Louis Fashion Funds Emerging Designer Award presented by Brown Shoe Company.

 

Selected by an elite roster of jurors assembled by international fashion consultant Fern Mallis, South African-born designer Daniella Kallmeyer walked away with Saint Louis Fashion Fund’s first Emerging Designer Award—and $15,000 presented by Brown Shoe Company—during October’s Saint Louis Fashion Week. And what a win it was: Kallmeyer impressed jurors and attendees with her updated take on the feminine form, expressing both qualities of minimalism and refined wearability, complete with a preview of her new line of luxurious leather handbags. The budding designer proved herself a force to be reckoned with, effortlessly encapsulating her brand while staying true to her innate sense of what fashion is now and where it’s headed next.

ALIVE: What was the inspiration behind the collection that you showcased at STLFW?

Daniella Kallmeyer: The inspiration behind all of my collections is always my “woman.” It’s about simplifying aspirational dressing for the woman who nods to tradition with a fresh twist to personify the person she wants to become. This season the twist was travel. My collection took on some of the cleanest, most classic pieces of her spring wardrobe and infused them with the culture and narration of her exotic experience.

ALIVE: How will you use your winnings?

DK: Development classes are high on my list, especially for a collection that is all about quality and simplicity. The funds will allow me to have a little bit of wiggle room for experimenting, like the pleating I did this season. I’m excited to sit down with the judges and get into the mentorship and get their advice on how to move forward. Hopefully, with what’s left over, I can bring someone else on to help with sales and marketing. It’s important for me to return to a focus on design and creativity to really grow my brand.

ALIVE: How have your experiences working with Alexander McQueen, Proenza Schouler, Luca Luca, Les Chiffoniers and Alice + Olivia helped you to shape your brand?

DK: I was immediately inspired by my first internship at Luca Luca to understand fashion from a lifestyle and consumer perspective. Coming from an arts and theater background with a selective perspective of what was “fashion,” I fell in love with the understanding of designing clothes that women could not only emotionally connect with, but actually wear— and often. Even at McQueen, I worked on the McQ team and learned how to interpret Lee’s [McQueen] visions into everyday wardrobe collections that still had the same attention to detail and uniqueness of that atelier.

ALIVE: When did your emphasis on social consciousness develop? How does it inspire you?

DK: It came about when I was working for other brands. Beyond just having a sense of my own voice that I really wanted to express, I could feel that there was something happening in our world and in our generation that I really wanted to be a part of—I wanted to have a hand in making it better. Supporting women’s empowerment, supporting entrepreneurship, supporting US production and economic growth—all of those things in a massive industry like fashion really have an impact. We have such an opportunity to create jobs. I know right now the only job I’m creating is mine, but I really hope that this is a first step in creating a brand that will create a lot of jobs for a lot of different types of people.

ALIVE: Tell us how your upbringing in South Africa shaped and inspired you as a designer.

DK: My love for fashion began when I was 5 . My mom loves to tell the story of a phone call that she got from my kindergarten teacher saying, “When the other kids are playing with blocks, Daniella is drawing, and when the other kids are doing story time, Daniella is drawing, and I need you to talk to her and tell her to stop drawing,” and my mom said, “Absolutely not.” It really was soon after that that I started to sketch really weird abstract designs on people—I don’t know if you could even call them clothes, but it started the evolution of me being involved in fashion. I have a background in theater and fine arts. I designed my own figure skating costumes, and I was part of the costume department for theatrical productions. There was this pivotal moment right before I went to college where I fell in love with the wearability of fabrics and took my interest beyond the runway.

 

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Photo by Daniella Kallmeyer.

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