Making it in style
High school superlatives often set the stage for what some see their peers accomplishing in the life ahead. The list of successes – “Most Athletic,” “Most Spirited,” “Best Couple” – is emblazoned in high school yearbooks for life, no matter how accurate the title may be. In some cases, like Cally Rieman ‘93, the title captured a hint of what was to come: her peers named her “Best Dressed” for her Madonna-inspired accessories and tomboy-like style, not knowing that she would one day have her own fashion line, Kal Rieman.
Since its 2009 founding, Kal Rieman designs have been featured in Women’s Wear Daily, O Magazine, on the runway at the 2012 Lexus Nashville Fashion Week, and as a featured popup shop in New York. Her label is praised as a tribute to the crisp men’s style, with a feminine touch for today’s “power women.” Her eye for the strong, tailored look hails from her years as a designer at Hilfiger’s “H” men’s line and other prominent fashion houses. Rieman is creating a stir—challenging the standards of contemporary women’s style, and she’s earning a following as a result.
Rieman pursued an unusual path into the fashion world, which began at Denison when she was an East Asian studies major and political science minor. Her junior year studies took her to Taiwan, where she also tutored English. One of her students, the owner of a textile manufacturing and marketing company, allowed her to witness firsthand the business’ operations. It was a pivotal movement that propelled her fashion interests toward a passion, and after four post-Denison years working in the financial industry, she decided to follow that passion and enrolled in the Art Institute of Chicago. “I always knew one day that I wanted to work for myself, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I made it happen.”
Even though she says her first fashion sketches “really just looked like rice paddy workers,” an Asian influence she fine-tuned with fashion school, Rieman’s professors quickly recognized her talent. She now views fashion as an exploration of the modern woman, and she has taken her experience in men’s and women’s wear to bring the Kal Rieman line to life. Each collection is founded on a structured elegance and timeless look, enhanced by bright colors, sophisticated patterns, and pieces to strengthen a woman’s wardrobe. Opening up the look book for the Kal Rieman 2012 Fall/Winter collection, however, it is easy to see the Asian influence is still palpable: a model wearing a striking red suit wields a katana blade, invoking a samurai-like strength and precision that Rieman infuses into each piece.
And her business continues to grow, dressing celebrities and everyday women alike. The “super cool, super hip, sophisticated” female clients, as Rieman calls them, return to shop each and every new collection. Rieman, it turns out, has turned her life’s work into sharing the “Best Dressed” superlative.