April Ann Kohlmeyer: Handbag Designer Extraordinaire
Shame on me for being a little bit cryptic and evasive in my response here, but why box myself in with only three words when I can sound so much more grandiose and sophisticated by only providing one word? My style is honest.
What I mean by that is I make an effort to present on the outside how I feel on the inside. I’m fond of explaining how I came to my present work by revealing much of my childhood was spent in my mother’s sewing room. As such, clothes were so much more than simple coverings, but the means to express me and convey art.
If sporting an original design facilitates me displaying my inner rebellion, the sewing machine has and always will be my means to the sincerity of expression.
How do you feel when you wear BulletGirl Jewelry?
It’d be so straightforward to provide a pithy answer here, but to give this question the attention it is due, I desire first to provide some context.
The things that capture our hearts are always so much more than what presents itself at face value. A beautiful love poem is so much more than printed words when you understand it was written to a dying love. Tarnished jewelry received is so much more when you come to understand the hand that wore it was the last in a half-dozen generations who weaved through history to make it onto yours. No one I know hasn’t savored all the more a song that touched their heart when they become aware of the pain and grief that fueled the artist.
So to reduce BulletGirl jewelry to a generic, “This jewelry makes me feel powerful,” simply because of the themes it implicitly represents would not only feel like cheating an answer but would insult the woman I know who is fueling the art.
Art personifies the artist. As I’ve come to know Jessica personally, the force behind BulletGirl, I’ve been blessed to be made privy to some of her motives, struggles, and the obstacles she has overcome in bringing her dream to fruition. I find a kindred spirit and friend in her. Without fully disclosing her beautiful feminine mystery in its entirety, I will say that when I wear this jewelry, from the individual piece to the spirit instilled in it by its maker, “I feel like a woman.
You design beautiful couture open carry handbags. How did you come up with the idea?
Necessity provided the opportunity. Innovation and creative freedom were the means. I mean that my business partner and co-owner, JoAnna, recognized the necessity for our product. While the market is certainly saturated with concealed carry purses, there is an absolute absence of quality products that adhere to the highest standards of luxury and design without compromising functionality. Simply, there was a market gap that JoAnna readily identified and was motivated to provide like-minded women a solution.
When approached with the design parameters, I was afforded creative carte blanche to invent and innovate as I saw fit. Over the course of a year, we engineered, developed, and produced roughly half a dozen prototypes, each with their gradual evolution that progressed us towards a product we could hang our long-heeled stilettos on.
What do your clients love most about your pieces?
One of the highest compliments we’ve been paid is being told our pieces have become more than an accessory but an integral component of these women’s lives. Clothes can be used to express one’s inner self, yes. But when an item becomes entrusted to house the most essential pieces of a woman’s day-to-day, enhances her ability to protect herself, and heightens her self-confidence to unapologetically pursue her passions… well, there’s a level of contentment to be enjoyed I haven’t felt in any of my other previous endeavors.
What does the bullet motif mean to you?
The bullet motif holds so much powerful symbolism that can be readily applied to the practical life virtues of a woman.
A bullet must be launched with intentionality. It takes purposeful effort to squeeze the trigger of a weapon just as much as it does to pull the trigger on one’s life pursuits.
A bullet must be aimed with precision. There is little room for error regarding anything beyond the intended target. Whether in a life-threatening moment or life in general, there is no room for moral compromise or collateral damage.
A bullet must have an intended target and will not be deterred until it strikes. Likewise, any woman who sets course on her intended target should not be deterred until she hits her target. What about missing the mark, you say? Of course. We all fall short, but that’s why I’ve got a whole clip. I will send the hammer back home and send one after another downrange. However many it takes is how much it takes ladies.
The last thing, perhaps the most striking I feel when I see a woman wearing this jewelry or I have it on myself… is I see a woman who is not afraid to draw a line in the sand and communicate something about herself that is potentially controversial. In today’s culture of perpetual hurt feelings and political correctness, give me a woman who is not afraid to put on display the courage of her convictions. If fashion is a means to make poetry out of the inner desires of the heart, then set me ablaze with something that symbolizes what I feel burning inside of me every day I wake up.
What lessons have you learned from starting your own business?
Life hurts. Cry when you must. Remember to smile when the stars align and things inexplicably go your way. Have faith that there will be more the latter than the former—plan for more than expected of both along the path of entrepreneurship.
Empowering women is an important mission for you. What’s one way you like to empower other women?
This question strikes a chord regarding an issue that has been difficult to accept and articulate these past years. While we were certainly expecting Shash to experience friction from competitors who were already in the market, I was personally unprepared for animosity from the least expected place.
Yes, we empower women, namely, on the grounds of self-sufficiency and the right to self-defense. One would think that feminine empowerment and self-defense (however that might look to the individual) would be a universal cause all women could find commonality. And absolutely, we have struck a chord in so many women I would even be so bold as to call our rapid progression as part of a more significant underlying movement.
However, in the same breath, we have come to understand and accept that the most significant resistance we have encountered up to this point is not from unstable economic factors; fierce political resistance; or even some ominous, militant, anti-feminine system of oppression.
Tragically, while flying the flag of unapologetic feminine empowerment, the most significant resistance and criticism we have faced is from our fellow women. My soapbox moment: Ladies, the right to defend and protect your life is a divine provision that supersedes time, country of origin, race, ethnicity, body type, hairstyle, clothing brand, or make-up application. If you can’t dance to the beat of this drummer, it doesn’t mean the drum is bad… it just means you’re afraid of dancing. The world is already full of cynical people who would rob us of our self-esteem and self-worth… be a part of the solution, not another part of the problem. And we Love you, girl… even if you don’t love us.
What are your favorite BulletGirl jewelry pieces and why?
Vesper. If you can’t already get a taste of my flavor, I am not afraid to speak my mind. She gets me.
Do you have a life motto?
You can’t do it alone. As much as you will never be able to expect and prepare for all of the things that can go wrong in this life, you can equally never prepare for all of the people who will rise up to carry you along… even when you’re utterly convinced you can no longer carry yourself.