In an era of Marie Kondo minimalism and monochromatic capsule wardrobing, a little color and kitsch can make a bold, even refreshing statement. Take, for example, what many of us might consider a childhood relic of the ’90s (or, as cyclical fashion goes, the ’50s and ’60s): carefully curated patches and buttons on a favorite denim jacket, the self-identifying embroidery of Grease’s Pink Ladies or the outerwear that marries both – a varsity letter jacket, a veritable wearable scrapbook of one’s persona.
Designers have begun to breathe new life into this vestige of the past in recent years, with models sporting colorful pins and patches as they strut runways for DKNY, Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu. And locally, designer Abbey Eilermann of kitsch-tastic Daily Disco has been rocking the boat of fashion neutrality with her bold embroidery, custom-designed patches and enamel pins.
Eilermann’s designs are a far cry from understated – in her world, after all, a cat named Dolly Purton serves as mascot and pink, in the right applications, can be used as a neutral. This larger-than-life Daily Disco style has caught the attention of not only enthusiastic customers across the country but also André Leon Talley, the former editor-at-large of Vogue. Eilermann’s senior collection was featured in the highly selective Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) fashion show, and after the show, she was approached by Miss J (J. Alexander, perhaps best known for his work on the reality-TV program America’s Next Top Model), who informed her that Talley wanted to see her.
Eilermann and another student were invited to Talley’s apartment to review their collections. “It was crazy,” Eilermann says. “He put me and one of my good friends on this bus, and it was us, Miss J, [designer] Vivienne Westwood and the president of SCAD. It still doesn’t seem real.” As a result of that encounter, her collection, “Fiesta Forever: Mexico Meets Disco,” was featured in the magazine Teen Vogue and on elle.com in 2015. “It was exciting seeing my work in publications that I had been reading forever,” Eilermann recalls. Following her graduation from SCAD in 2015, Eilermann went on to study at Ecole Lesage in Paris, the prestigious haute couture embroidery house of Louis Vuitton, Chanel and more. Eilermann cites her art teacher at Whitfield School in Creve Coeur, Ann Kram, as the one who first encouraged her to attend fashion school. “I don’t think I was as technically talented in art as some other students, but I was really creative, [and she saw that] and encouraged me to go to fashion school,” Eilermann says.
After the November 2015 Paris terror attacks, Eilermann moved back home to St. Louis. “I didn’t know what I was going to do, so I started having fun with Instagram,” she says. “I was creating art and sharing it on Instagram and started to get more followers – I remember hitting 1,000 [followers], and it was a big deal! That’s really how Daily Disco started; I started making things, and people wanted them.
“I started with pins and now do embroidery – jackets and things to put on the jackets,” Eilermann continues. “We do patches, pins and custom-embroidered jackets. The custom jackets are all one of a kind.” Customers send in their favorite jacket to the Daily Disco embroidery studio, located on The Hill neighborhood of St. Louis, and Eilermann works with her employee and teammate, Claire Boxdorfer, to sketch a design. Then Eilermann does the patchwork and embroidery and sends the finished product back to the customer. Although most of her work is bespoke product, she does carry her own lines of pins and flair and patches.
“My last little collection was vintage Vegas-inspired – I have a couple pins from that, [including] a sparkly cigarette and some [tiny replica] neon signs,” Eilermann says. “Right now, we’re expanding our bridal collection – our ‘just married’ iron-on patch is our best-seller.”
Other designs include whimsical mermaids and unicorns, personalized with names or slogans, with some especially cheeky patch-and-embroidery matchups, like “Dolce and Banana” with a banana patch, or the “funky chicken” jacket she designed for her mom – “funky” in bold red embroidery, with a giant chicken patch sewn in just below. One of her favorites – of course – is a jacket she did for herself of Dolly Parton. Eilermann gets to be part of some great stories for families across the country, designing a custom jacket gifted to a customer’s newly adopted daughter or one inspired by a 50-year-old postcard from Mexico.
Eilermann’s embroidery is not your basic monogram work, either. She works with four hand-cranked chain stitch machines, dating from the late 1800s to the 1950s. “[The machines are] geared underneath with a wheel,” Eilermann says. “I think of it as a nice way to mix hand embroidery and machine embroidery – it’s like painting with thread; there are no hard edges, and you create everything with tiny circles. It’s a slow practice – they can take up to 10 hours to do – but I love being able to create almost like wearable art for people.” The process, which Eilermann shows in little video snippets on her Instagram feed, is a mesmerizing circular stitching motion that, in effect, “paints” the thread on the fabric. The result is more durable, keepsake-quality embroidery.
Custom orders take about four to six weeks to complete, with some design inspiration on the Daily Disco website, Etsy page and Instagram. Pins and patches are ready to order through both the Daily Disco website and Etsy page.
Disco’s flair is anything but rote and requisite – it is, in Eilermann’s own words, “serious fun.”
Daily Disco, dailydisco.com