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The Best Women’s Suit Designer in New York You’ve Never Heard Of

The Best Women’s Suit Designer in New York You’ve Never Heard Of

What’s it like for a designer to reach cult status? Surely Daniella Kallmeyer knows. For the past 10 years, the New York–based, South Africa–born designer of her namesake label has been outfitting New York’s most sophisticated and understated. The knowledge that she creates a killer three-piece suit or a popcorn-fabric, open-back dress is passed through word of mouth; she’s never staged a runway show or joined the CFDA. Still her client list includes actors Sarita Choudhury (who wore a suit to the premiere of And Just Like That…) and Emmy Rossum, sculptor Simone Bodmer-Turner, and poet Rupi Kaur.

“It’s a combination of knowing it and ignoring it that’s keeping me moving forward,” Kallmeyer says of her dedicated fan base. “When you ask me about a cult following, I don’t feel that. But I do know there’s an emotional exchange that happens between my customers and me, and they come back for it.”

Kallmeyer fall 2022

The idea for the label first came to Kallmeyer when she was studying at the London College of Fashion and scored a job at Alexander McQueen through a college placement program. It was around the time that the brand was launching the diffusion line McQ. “It was the start of my falling in love with clothes that can be worn,” Kallmeyer says. She came back to New York during the recession and started to freelance for brands like Proenza Schouler and Alice + Olivia.

This was the early 2010s, when 9-to-5 blazers, ruffled J.Crew cardigans, and Theory separates reigned supreme; none of those options really appealed to Kallmeyer. “As a 20-something living in New York, you could either wear a fit-and-flare floral dress or you could dress corporate,” Kallmeyer says. “This was also when I was coming out as a queer woman, and I didn’t feel connected to the type of fashion assigned to women my age. I just believed that women should wear suits and not in a way that was, like, with a black pump and your hair pulled back.”

Cheered on by her mentors—including Trevor Ballin, an alum of Proenza Schouler, Isaac Mizrahi, and Calvin Klein—she launched Kallmeyer in 2012. She made her first set of samples out of her Upper West Side studio and has “experienced incremental growth since then.” In 2017 she rented a showroom at 611 Broadway and in 2019 launched a pop-up turned permanent store at 83 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side.