Cally Rieman with her collection
Cally is a fashion designer with purpose and a point of view. We met because she happens to have graduated from my Alma Mater, though I am older, but that doesn’t matter, right?! What strikes me most about Cally is not just her warmth and spirit, but also her commitment to her designs and the message she wishes to convey: That women can be every bit as pulled together as a man, and that we can make choices in our wardrobe that empower us and help us stand strong. Cally calls upon the image of a classic male dandy (definition: man devoted to style and fashion) to inspire her collection. In fact, every season she has a dandy inspiration to keep her designs focused. This year’s dandy impetus is the main female character in the classic movie, In the Mood for Love. I sat down with Cally to hear more about her extraordinary story …
Mel: When did you launch your company?
Cally: I launched Kal Rieman in 2009. My first delivery was Fall 2010.
Mel: Did you always know that you wanted to be a fashion designer?
Cally: No. I was going in to the business study program and became an East Asian Studies major. I wasn’t raised in the arts. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and was one of five kids. We were into sports and my fashion look growing up was preppy American – Ralph Lauren sportswear. Before J. Crew and Banana Republic modernized their lines, the big store for me was The Limited. It was a cool place to shop!
Mel: What happened to change your course?
Cally: I knew that I didn’t want to stay in finance. I had a feeling that I wanted to try fashion, but I didn’t know how to get started; I didn’t even how what a portfolio was. I had to learn and I decided to return to school. The next four years I immersed myself in The School of the Art Institute where I began to hone my design craft.
Mel: What inspires you as a designer?
Cally: I set out to build a wardrobe. My designs are not as trendy, but build on each other and make sense. If you look at a man’s closet, it is organized and clean. Their world is without chaos. Women’s wear tends to be more chaotic — too many pieces — leaving women to ask themselves: Why did I buy this? This goes with nothing!
Mel: Tell me about creating female dandy’s? What do you mean?
Cally: Dandy dressing is layering and styling to the full extent. It starts with the under pieces, blouses and shirts. We then add a vest (waistcoat, for men), followed by an impeccably tailored jacket (overcoat, for men). All the elements in the collection are building blocks and our client can add something each season that works with what she already owns. We add color; subtle in some places, vibrant in others. But we always stay true to our vision.
Mel: I love that you empower women with your designs. In your opinion how does fashion affect our self-esteem?
Cally: I have heard from many of my clients that the right clothing makes women feel confident. I think it all starts with a jacket. A tailored shoulder with a structured silhouette, a jacket is the strong foundation for any outfit. I think that if a woman’s clothing has structure, she can’t help but stand taller and feel better about herself.
Cally has said that her designs are inspired by her years in menswear and her time in Asia. She feels that she has always had an ability to “hang with the boys; not be an object, but someone to be taken seriously. That is Kal Rieman. Being able to work eye-to-eye with our male counterparts.”
I like the sound of that! What do you think?
(check out Cally here for a closer look … and by the way, every one of Cally’s designs is made close to home; in the same building as her New York City studio)
Kal Rieman red plaid suit – creating the female “dandy”