Dressing up

Credit: Bill Cunningham, The New York Times
“On the Street – Tucked In” – Sunday, November 25, 2012

Today’s New York Times Style Section, On the Street with Bill Cunningham, highlights men dressing up and looking very much like the classic dandy. Notice the layering, waistcoats, vests, and impeccable tailoring? Designer Cally’s Kal Rieman is definitely on to something!

What do you think?

Cally: Fine and Dandy

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”

Go West Young Man!

Vidar with his daughter Charlie

Vidar was born in Norway and lived there until he moved to upstate New York for Graduate School. From there, he moved to New York City and remained in the tri-state area to live and work and raise a family. Why leave a comfortable and affluent life in Norway? Vidar explains …

I was seeking something that was the opposite of everything I knew. I left a very comfortable life in Norway because I couldn’t imagine not making my own destiny. My father was self employed and my grandparents were as well. That inspired me to do the same. I was ready to ‘Go West Young Man!‘ …

I love New York City! I love it! It had everything that Norway did not: concrete, skyscrapers, noise, diversity. It took me fifteen years to realize that none of those things matter to me now, except the diversity …

I think fashion is about identity. When I was young I thought about clothing as a way to tell a story about myself – who I aspire to be. But that doesn’t send out a signal of confidence. Quite the opposite. Once I got older and became more comfortable in my own skin, I didn’t care about fashion, but I cared about style. Fashion is something you can buy, style is not. This means I no longer dress for others; I dress for myself …

Norwegians are influenced by fashion trends as Americans are. In Norway, however, you can recognize those who have money even though they are not flashy. You see it in their fashion choices; they choose to live a healthy lifestyle and that is reflected in their preference of high-quality outerwear, sportswear and hiking boots. They like to show off their lifestyle, not their wealth.”

~ Vidar

Rachel and Josh

Rachel and Josh

Rachel and Josh are young newlyweds about to celebrate their first anniversary in November. Full of life and love, they have a unique way of expressing themselves. They joke that Rachel dresses in anything soft and Josh dresses like a kid’s dream of his future self! I just had to know more about these two …

What has been your personal philosophy when it comes to fashion?

Josh: My personal philosophy has always been – is it comfortable? And do I think it’s cool? What’s cool for me is patterned shirts, t-shirts, and chucks*. I design some, but I will wear others. I like an original t-shirt. I try my hardest to make sure my clothing reflects my personality, so that when people meet me, there’s no question who I am. For our wedding, I didn’t feel comfortable wearing JUST a suit; I had to have more of “me” in it. I designed sneakers that Rachel and I could wear together, and Rachel also got me a fantastic vintage monkey tie clip because I collect anything with monkeys.

Rachel: I’m with Josh on comfort, it is very important for me. I have Sensory Processing Disorder, a neurological condition affecting the way I take in sensory information, so if I’m not comfortable, no one is comfortable! This was the case with my wedding dress. I adored it; it was like wearing a gorgeous nightgown. Reminded me of the Great Gatsby, the way they describe billowing curtains in the warm breeze. My everyday wear is not nearly as much fun. I would run around in soft, stretchy, and baggy if society let me. Otherwise, I go for classic 1950s, like dark rolled up jeans, A-line skirts and dresses. Anything to compliment my Mad-Men-esque figure.

Have you changed your fashion choices since getting married? Do you find that you are holding tight to your individuality or do you dress more as a couple?

Josh: I’m more expressive with my outfits now than I was before Rachel and I were seriously dating. Before then, I was single and trying to impress women and get women. And now I impress Rachel enough, she appreciates me for who I am, so I can dress how I want to dress.

Rachel: That is true, I absolutely love quirky, funny, wonderful Josh! I guess I dress up a bit less now, mostly because I’m in grad school. That, and Josh knows I’m cute, even if I need to crawl into something soft and comfy when I get home. I love wearing his fun t-shirts at night. Figure they probably look better on me – haha.

I bet they do, Rachel!!

* I needed to ask Josh what chucks are. For those like me who need clarification, they are Chuck Taylor All Star by Converse, the “classic” sneaker that has been around forever. Below, a photo of the custom Pro Keds sneakers that Josh designed for their wedding …

Sweet feet or sour?

Nike’s LeBron X Basketball Shoe

Okay, so Nike is about to release LeBron X, the newest basketball shoe named after pro star LeBron James. Are you sitting down? It is said to retail for $315 as quoted by The Wall Street Journal. Nike has yet to verify the actual price; $315 may be the cost for the super-version with built-in motion sensors, while a more standard version may retail for $180. But hey. Are you still sitting? They are saying people will buy it. I asked a 16-year old guy I consider to be an expert on all things basketball – shoes and otherwise – what he thinks about this news. In a word? Ridiculous! His comments: “Why would anyone want to spend that much on basketball shoes when you could get a great pair for $125?” (I’m thinking what’s wrong with this picture when $125 is the low-end figure, but I didn’t let on …). And then he thought a moment, and reasoned, “I guess you might pay for it if you were really into basketball.” And there you go … really into basketball … maybe like LeBron James himself. I think he and Nike just created a shoe that only he and other pros like him can afford!

What do you think?

“Steven’s message to guys …”

Steven, Designer and Stylist

“… Don’t be afraid of fashion. Don’t be afraid to play with color, with silhouette, with volume. Don’t be afraid to express yourself. I am so in love with European men’s fashion. They’re not afraid to ‘go for it!’. There is a great European magazine, called L’Officiel (Hommes) that reflects this carefree spirit. American men’s fashion is more rigid. My challenge is to take American men out of their comfort zone and expand their thinking. They can play with what is stylish and still look masculine.” ~ Steven

What do you think?