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It took a pandemic for Daniella Kallmeyer to put more of her own voice in the self-named fashion brand she started in 2012.
“I’m being more vocal about my personal experience and my political views,” Kallmeyer said on the Glossy Podcast. “I’ve given some really raw interviews over the past couple of months, and I certainly have had people reach out to me and tell me how much they appreciate that.”
Taking a stand on social issues is a big part of what companies are expected to do now, she said. And for those that don’t? “You could become irrelevant.”
Kallmeyer had projected “major growth” for the calendar year — “January was our best month in business, to date,” she said — but then the pandemic hit. Since March, she has temporarily closed and reopened the company’s newly opened physical store, and has launched a range of digital services for Kallmeyer customers.
Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
The effects of taking a social stand
“I think I’ve shied away in the past from being overly vocal or making myself the voice of my brand. I sort of tried to create a brand character in the past. I think one of the positive things that this year has brought forth is that that has sort of been stripped away; this ‘Wizard of Oz’ curtain has been moved aside, and that’s more important than ever. That’s an adjustment I’m making — as a person of my generation, trying to still get used to social media in the first place — trying to figure out how much of myself to put into my brand now. More and more, I’m realizing that the more I do that, the more positive the reaction is. I’m definitely very vocal with my community. What I consider my community has some differences in behavior and interaction than what I would consider my core clientele base. I don’t know if that’s something I’m trying to wrap my head around or trying to blend, as I’m experiencing challenges myself with what the right voice on social media is. My clientele seems to be a bit older and not interacting in that way. But that being said, I do have plenty of clients who do, who feel really positive hearing my voice. I’ve given some really raw interviews over the past couple of months, and I certainly have had people reach out to me and tell me how much they appreciate that. But it’s the younger generation or more of my peers who are interacting when I’m being more vocal about my personal experience and my political views.”
The Asian market has stayed afloat
“We were projecting major growth for 2020, between the momentum of the brand with our retail partners and the growth of the store. January was our best month in business, to date. We had higher projections, and some of those stores have closed — and not only stores that we partnered with but even some of our peers. Seeing Anthem close their doors almost right away was a really big wake-up call, and it made us question what we would do moving forward. But I feel fortunate that the vast majority of where we’re getting our wholesale from is in Japan and in Asia. They seem to have had a much speedier bounce-back than we have. While I’m seeing the remaining retailers that we work with reduce what they’re buying or changing how they’re buying, I had an increase in demand from some of our stores in Japan.”
What the CFDA can’t provide
“We’ve really never been connected with the CFDA [the Council of Fashion Designers of America]. We admire everything that the industry does for young talent, but we’ve sort of marched to the beat of our own drum. I’ve sustained my business and grown my business on my own, and with what I really like to call real life support — that’s mentors who I have an authentic connection with — that’s my clients, my community, my fellow designers. This year has really brought forth a movement of brands and artists sharing their own story. I don’t necessarily think that we need to be beholden to an antiquated system anymore. You’re not not a brand if you weren’t selling in Barneys. You’re not not talented or beautiful or relevant to a large group of clients if you’re not in Vogue. It’s not whether or not the CFDA is stepping up — it’s actually more [about] how inspired I am by watching the people behind the brands step up.”