In Conversation With Daniele King

Photo credit: 35mm film and 8mm by Emmanuelle Pickett

Welcome to a new series where our Founder and Creative Director Marina Cortbawi speaks with women who are integral to Merlette, from long-time supporters to creative collaborators. We’re thrilled to start with Daniele King, a Los Angeles-based Creative Director who was not only one of the brand’s first customers but has also directed videos for Merlette (and inspired some helpful laundering tips!). Read on for a candid conversation around everything from career paths to personal style choices to motherhood.

Wearing the BRANDARIS dress 

M: I wanted to talk about when we met — you were one of the first people who just really got the brand. Creatively, how did you feel that connection?

D: I was in love with everything about the fabric, and I felt so inspired that this was a very European-looking brand for me. I was so happy that you were, of course, out of New York, but it reminded me of living and spending time with all the things that I liked to buy when I lived in the south of France. So that was the immediate connection that I had.

Wearing the LELIE dress

M: I always think of you as one of the people that I design for, because you embody that spirit of ease and timeless elegance. I also notice you have a very curated wardrobe and often wear garments made of natural fibers with loose fits with subtle details. I see you in color sometimes, but I mostly see you wearing white and natural fibers like cotton and linen. Is that right?

Wearing the VLIELAND dress and MARIS bag

D: Yes. I think part of it is that I grew up in California and I also spent most of my time at the beach surfing with my friends. And I think I didn't just create the white uniform. When I look back and have spoken to friends of mine that knew me when I was younger, they're like, “you've always worn white.” I did always wear white. I’m just attracted to the simplicity of white.

As I started to work, I wasn't distracted in my creativity that I needed to do for a film or for other characters or for actors. I just sort of came in as a very kind of neutral palette, just neutral for people. And then of course it was easy. I'm a fantastic laundress. So, I'm not afraid of white because I can get everything super crispy clean.

Wearing the VLIELAND dress 

M: Actually, I follow all your white cotton care tips and I've shared them with people before because I think by having a lot of neutrals in your wardrobe, you need to be able to know how to care for these pieces to have the longevity we want for Merlette.

D: From shopping at the flea market or going to the vintage dealers, I’ve seen over the years the quality of the things that have lasted for so long because people didn't put things in dryers. So, I never machine dry anything. I feel like if people really understood how to care for their whites, which is not really that hard, they would wear more white because it's so crispy and beautiful and fresh. I often hear people go, "How do you keep it clean?" And I think that's usually the hesitation.

M: I’d like to know, as fashion has been said to be a language, what does wearing white say to other people about you?

D:  I think when you see people in white that they are not intimidating. They're approachable. There's something that is inviting. And then, it has this ease and people feel like, oh, they can talk to you. Also, it's timeless, it's classic and all of that texture and detail add to the layers of your white. You can just have a white pair of jeans and a beautiful little smocking shirt of yours on and it just elevates it. Or you can have a white t-shirt on and throw one of your blazers on with it. The detail is really what I'm attracted to. It's elegant, incredibly elegant and simple. 

Wearing the VLIELAND dress

M: So, tell me about your career. How did you start in the industry?

D: I studied photography and I thought I really wanted to be a photographer. And it's somehow come full circle, but a friend of mine asked me to do a music video for her because she couldn’t make it. So, I did, and I had a lot of fun. It was with Michael Bay and then I got another job. And then from this circle of people, I got another job. All of a sudden, I was a stylist and started doing music videos. And then I worked for this incredible, incredible costume designer named Susan Becker and we worked on the film True Romance together. And I learned so much about fashion and building and making things. She's still my very close friend, and she was a great mentor to have.

This was in the ‘90s. I did Smashing Pumpkins with Yelena Yemchuk, who is fantastic. We did this crazy job where we did all these Victorian hats and costumes that we rented from the costume house. And it was really elaborate. We shot it out along the water. Then that just evolved and I went on to work with Tierney Gearon, another incredible creative. 

Wearing the BRANDARIS dress

M: Oh, I love her work. It's just so iconic.

D: You learn so much from people like that. I finally decided I just really wanted to direct, although I love costume design and styling. I thought I'm going to go back to that original passion, which is photography and directing. I started directing my friends and people's products. So that's what I do now.

M: I wanted to touch on just your other life. I know you are a Creative Director, but you're also a doula. How does that choice come about? And how does that blend into your fashion life?

Wearing the BRANDARIS dress

D: Well, it started really with my friends. I was Tierney’s doula for a couple of babies and I couldn't believe it. It was great. Then my children got a little bit older, and I felt like I could do it. I wanted to do it for women that needed the support — women that didn't have a partner with them or didn't have the financial means to have it. For all sorts of reasons, women need other women to be there and create community for them. I started doing it and I've done it internationally, I've done it on zoom all during the pandemic and for women that are in Los Angeles and women that are in New York. After all the years of nurturing people, actors and models, I really wanted to give it back to women that are having children and need someone to reassure them. 

Wearing the LELIE dress 

M:  I think that's so important, being for women and mentoring other women and nurturing them is everything. Do you have an early fashion memory? 

D: Who knows if this is where the love for white came from, but my grandmother had the most beautiful wedding gown from the ‘20s. She had that beautiful veil that just rested on her head with all the lace trim, all of that scalloping along the side. I love my grandmother — she is the biggest part of my heart. I'm sure that somehow influenced the texture and the white because I associated it with her. And I bet you, that is where it started.


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