Inside the studio of her custom embroidery brand on the Hill, Daily Disco, founder Abbey Eilermann stands among her stunning handiwork. A denim jacket, emblazoned with the chainstitched likeness of a celestial Dolly Parton, hangs on the wall alongside a bejeweled homage to Harry Styles, his face peeking out from behind his ring-covered hands. An entire rolling clothes rack is filled with various jackets designed by fervent Swifties who’ve requested one-of-a-kind attire to wear to their favorite singer’s Eras tour. Every single jacket is a unique expression, not only of their own relationship with Taylor Swift, but of Eilermann’s undeniable artistry. And yet, it took her a while to see herself that way.
“I’ve always been really crafty and have made things ever since I was little, but it wasn’t until I had a teacher in high school tell me that I am an artist,” Eilermann says. “In elementary and middle school, the kids who are told they are good at art are the ones who can draw inside the lines. I’m not a good drawer, so it wasn’t until that teacher told me, ‘No, you are an artist; look at what you make and how you dress’ that anyone had ever really noticed this in me besides my parents. She made me realize that there was something more to what I was doing.”
Now, a little over a decade since her teacher’s vote of confidence, Eilermann is proudly using her artistic voice in her own unique way at Daily Disco. Founded in 2016, the St. Louis-based custom embroidery business has grown into a vibrant brand that has had its work featured by everyone from the St. Louis Blues to LaCroix and Tarte Cosmetics, and worn by musical artists like Ally & AJ and Lizzo. As diverse as their embroidery needs might be, all flock to Eilermann for the same reason: her world-class custom chainstitching, which uses a machine and technique dating back to the 1860s that merges hand-embroidery with machine sewing to produce customized patches and embroidery work.
Eilermann had a feeling that she was destined to be in the fashion world, though she did not know exactly how that would look. At her high school teacher’s encouragement, she attended art school at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she found herself sticking out like a sore thumb as a fashion design major. While her peers were focused on a more melancholy, all-black aesthetic, Eilermann made cotton candy colored creations and wasn’t all that fond of sewing. However, when a teacher pushed her to look into the textiles side of the industry during her junior year, she felt like she had found her niche, and began developing a creative point of view that would land her on the radar of the iconic Andre Leon Talley, and then at the prestigious L’Ecole Lesage, the Parisian couture embroidery school that works with such fashion powerhouses as Chanel.
Though she loved Paris and appreciated the opportunity, Eilermann found herself creatively stifled as a couture embroiderer, executing others’ visions to their exact specifications with little room for interpretation. Still, she relished the opportunity to grow in her craft and might have stayed in Paris were it not for the 2015 terrorist attacks that took the lives of 137 people, which occurred close enough to her apartment for her to hear. Awash in anxiety, Eilermann returned home to St. Louis and took meantime jobs in retail and then marketing with her father’s company, unsure where she stood professionally.
“I was figuring out life after I moved back, so I made this Instagram name, website and blog, Daily Disco,” Eilermann says. “I knew I was building something. I didn’t know exactly what it was going to be, but I was building a brand.”
Not long after she launched the Daily Disco brand, Eilermann made a purchase that would define its identity. On a whim – while watching “The Bachelor” with a friend – she decided to purchase a vintage chainstitching machine from the 1920s. It was a style of embroidery she’d been looking into for a little while, and though she can’t quite say what propelled her to take the leap and buy a machine, she soon after found herself tinkering with her new purchase in her parents’ basement, taking it apart and putting it back together while relying on a social media network of fellow chain-stitchers who were willing to help her figure it out. As she gained her confidence in the technique, Eilermann began posting her work on Instagram, taking on custom orders here and there until she got too busy to deny that she was running a bona fide business, all the while working her full-time job, but knowing that she had to go all in.
“I got some really great advice from my dad, who told me that I’m not going to be able to grow this if I have one foot in and one foot out,” Eilermann says. “So I quit my full-time job, and he was right; more orders started coming in and things just started happening naturally. It’s grown organically from there.”
Eilermann went all in on Daily Disco in 2017, building her business to the point that she had to bring on someone to help. That first hire, Clare Boxdorfer, quickly became her right hand person who helps her in all aspects of running the business, followed not long after by embroiderer Kaylynn St. Peters, who Eilermann describes as the brand’s workhorse. With her team in place, Eilermann was able to take on even more work, in particular a partnership with the St. Louis Blues for custom embroidery during their Stanley Cup run. It was a big break for the brand and has led to an ongoing relationship that Eilermann is forever grateful for.
“I can go to any Blues game and see jackets I’ve made, which is super cool,” Eilermann says. “I am a dork; I ask them to stop and tell them that I made that, because I am so excited to see it. After we make something, it leaves us, so it’s really exciting to see it live its life.”
Though Eilermann is always excited to see how a custom item is worn, she and her team are more interested in the people wearing it. Much more than an item of clothing or a patch to adorn a jacket or backpack, she sees her designs as a way for people to commemorate the special moments in their lives and proudly express their uniqueness.
“It’s cool because it really is diverse, but it is also all people who love celebrating,” Eilermann says of her customers. “People do this for weddings, for kids, for concerts – it’s fun, and they do this because they feel they deserve it, and that’s so cool. Finding those people who just find so much joy in embracing who they are is what this is about. Those are our people.”
As Eilermann, Boxdorfer and St. Peters grow the Daily Disco brand, they are always mindful of this – that their customers are looking to them not simply for a beautiful piece of wearable art but for a way to visually tell the story of who they are as an act of empowerment and self love – one they are thrilled they get to help them craft one chainstitch at a time.
“It’s so intentional,” Eilermann says. “I love helping people celebrate themselves by highlighting their uniqueness and who they are. Every time they wear it, it feels like a hug of confidence. It’s like when you go into a gas station or souvenir shop and find a keychain with your name on it; it’s such a special feeling to see yourself in something you wear, and it makes me so happy that people are telling their stories and we get to help them with that.”
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