My first impression of Kal Rieman was crafted as I gazed at the runway as the collection
took storm during Nashville Fashion Week on the 14th floor of The Pinnacle at Symphony Place . I watched in admiration as each piece boldly came to life, allowing for audience members to have no choice but to feel a sense of strength simply by being in the presence of the collection. As the models put motion to the pieces, one couldn’t ignore the Nashville city lights revealing the runway through the floor-to-ceiling windows providing a glow to the collection, not that the designs needed any help shining.
As I sat down with Cally Rieman, the designer, it didn’t take me long to discover that my first impression of the line was a reflection of the equally strong and independent woman confidently and comfortably sitting across of me. Cally held a cool but not too cool demeanor that immediately made me feel like I was in the company of longtime friend. Cally entered the fashion world as a late bloomer, not taking an interest in the craft until her mid-twenties. As a college graduate from Denison University where she majored in Asian Studies and minored in Political Science, Cally’s world rested in the finance community, but not for long. Little did she know that her career transformation would end up providing power, beauty, comfort and a hint of toughness to women’s wardrobes in the years to come.
Q: How did you get started in fashion industry?
A: After graduation I was working in finance and I happened to meet a girl at a salon who made costumes and she taught me how to sew. I would work my finance job during the week and spend my weekends with her learning how to sew. That experience was my entry into the fashion world and eventually I applied and got accepted into The School of the Art Institute of Chicago for Fashion Design.
Q: What is your inspiration behind the designs that you create?
A: A lot of it comes from vintage men’s wear; just the ease in which a man dresses and how comfortable they are in their clothing. I am always looking at old photographs where the gesture of dandies are really emphasized. Kal Rieman is the dandy for women; it enables women to feel proper and appropriate in an formality that doesn’t exist today. I am trying to find that female voice of strong women who like the balance between feminine and masculine. It’s all about the “I’m tough but I can still wear pink” attitude.
Q: Did you set out to create this type of style or is it something that developed along the way?
A: I sort of set out to create this style but I didn’t quite know what it was and I’m still learning. After three years of building this brand I feel that we are getting better every season. The growth has been amazing as our voice comes out in every collection.
Q: Your collection consists of wearable clothes for any occasion; do you ever see yourself going in the direction of gowns?
A: Not particularly, however I would think more about what the Kal Rieman customer would wear to an event. For example, something more simple and elegant with a little structure. We currently design dresses that can be worn to nice occasions such a chiffon duster we did for this spring- it is beautifully elegant but not too loud yet subtly turns heads.
Q: What is your favorite/least favorite thing about fashion shows?
A: My favorite thing is the energy and the whole idea of clothes in motion. The fun part is seeing your vision come to life. My least favorite thing is showing up on the runway to say “hi” to the audience. I am so camera shy and do not consider myself a stage performer. I’m a performer in the back quietly working towards something.
Q: In what way does Kal Rieman give back to the community?
A: We donate garments to be auctioned off to different organizations throughout the U.S. We are currently working with five different organizations to help raise funds. This is a great way for us to give back while we are trying to grow. Not only are we supporting their organization but we are able to introduce ourselves to new customers.
Q: What do you do when you are not designing?
A: I work so much but I am so good at doing nothing when given the opportunity. If you put me on a cot in the sun and leave me there for a long time, I’m happy. My husband and I are dorky sports people who love to be outdoors.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
A: To really build our domestic market. We are a small group of three who are working to spread the word. We want to find the right stores to talk about, talk to, and understand the collection; if they get it on the people, it will sell. We are looking to find the right relationships.
After my time with Cally Rieman, I left the show with a better understanding of the creative mind behind the magic known as Kal Rieman. Her warm confidence and powering ambition embody the very collection that sprinkled the runway and left the Nashville patrons wanting more. Her collection mirrors the very woman she is; just as the women of the runway wear Kal Rieman well, Cally Rieman wears the attitude behind the collection even better.