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Meet designer and self-professed empath Daniella Kallmeyer, who is spending her government-mandated free time hosting Zoom Shabbat celebrations and FaceTime personal shopping sessions.
By Naomi Barling.
Name: Daniella Kallmayer
We are living in unprecedented times, almost the entire creative industry as we knew it has been put on hold indefinitely. However, through the darkness, you can always find the light. A global shift in perspective has pushed artists and creatives towards a different way of thinking. Our mission is to reflect the current digital social interactions society is clinging to in light of social distancing, by conducting a series of interviews and digital portraits documenting creatives’ personal isolation stories.
Who is Daniella Kallmeyer?
I am a queer woman living in NYC. I am a passionate community builder, designer, artist, and empath. It’s about personal style and the psychology of clothing but I also make furniture. My brand is about creating a wardrobe for women that makes them feel that the version of themselves that they maybe hide from society is good enough.
For my last lookbook, I decided to forgo a traditional setup and not use models. I hired women who are all mentors or peers of mine because celebrating real inspiring women is what Kallmeyer is all about. I never wanted my brand identity to be about a pretty picture or a pretty woman wearing clothes.
I want women to feel strong without feeling like they need to be intimidating. I always strive for ease in my design. The pieces should always feel effortless, about the women wearing the clothing, not like a fashion statement.
How do you perceive creativity?
Creativity is like electricity. It’s something that is running through you all the time. There are always possibilities unfolding in my mind and evolving. There have been themes of overconsumption for a while and there is a fine balance between being conscious as a creative whilst never being satisfied with what exists.
What overarching feeling do you currently have?
There is a dichotomy to my feelings right now. I feel an absolute calm and stillness, and yet I feel this sort of stirring in me that something is coming and there is going to be a big change.
As more people start to take note, I can quietly remind myself that all the hard work, sticking to what I believe in and not giving in to society’s narrative of consumption was worth it.
Before lockdown, I was in the best place of my career. I finally had a store and I was building a community. Over the last few months, I have found it hard not to feel optimistic. Even on days when I’ve felt low, it’s been hard to get me down. So, it is sad that this feeling stopped so abruptly (when lockdown set in). At the start, it felt like a roller-coaster dropped off a cliff. Then I took some time and realized all of the things people are now talking about regarding changes in fashion and over-consumption have been part of my ethos from the start.
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What has fed your soul in quarantine?
Community. I host Shabbat dinners regularly so it felt like the natural thing to take this tradition online. The number of people that are coming to these Zoom Shabbats would fill a large table, so, for me, spirituality and community have been feeding my soul.
There is something so beautiful about this moment because the thing that is keeping us connected is technology, and what is keeping us grounded is returning to the old country, baking bread, and home cooking. It’s a fascinating paradox.
What had you forgotten you loved?
Taking a back seat and thinking about the reasons I opened my store has given me time to go back to the roots of the brand. I love to connect with people and Kallmeyer was founded on the idea of asking people who they want to be, not telling them who they should be. Luckily, I live opposite my store so I have been doing QVC, HSN style Instagram lives. I had forgotten how much I loved performing and connecting. I have also been doing personal shopping over FaceTime, walking people through the store, finding out about their personality, and suggesting styles for them. I am then sending them packages to try on at home. Being able to interact, especially at a time like this, is special.
How do you think your industry will change post-quarantine?
I think things are going to slow down. The industry was already changing; there were groups of people who cared and you could sense a call for action. Now everyone is being forced into it.
We don’t need so many seasons. We should be going back to two seasons a year, caring about the individual products that are being made, not just throwing things out. Time, thought and consciousness did not go into making every single object. We as an industry have a responsibility to shift and dictate how our customers consume. We have the power to change the process whereby everything is on sale before its even time to wear it. It devalues everything creatives do. The most hopeful sign that change may be coming is that some influential stores are taking a stand and recognizing they are buying too much.
I also hope things become more localized and we save the small businesses that rely on personal connection with their customers. I hope that people come out of this and think, I want that store where the owner knows my name.
What’s your biggest fear going forward?
My biggest fear is that this time of goodwill and hopefulness will expire, that if this drags on the little guys won’t be able to hold on long enough to survive and it will be the big companies that get the government bailouts and funding because they can be re-evaluated for cheap. Capitalism will win again.
I also fear the ones who have been the whistleblowers on how we treated the earth, politics, women, and underprivilege will become exhausted while we are in our homes alone not able to rally. I am terrified we won’t elect new officials who will protect us from this sort of catastrophic situation.
What will be your biggest take away from this time?
People are more valuable than things. Human connection can’t be replaced.
What’s your mission?
I will not let this beat me. I am determined to re-open the store. Before all this happened, I planned to make it a collective, and now more than ever I feel I have a gift I can offer people. I can offer people residency or a shop-in-shop when I reopen. I know small business owners who could potentially lose their stores or some of their accounts, and they will still have products to shift. I can offer them a space.
Remember to take deep breaths.
Portraits by Daniel Archer.