Claudia Ried and I both went to Newark High School in Delaware. She was a senior while I was a sophomore—but we didn’t meet until 2016, in Palm Springs.
She moved here two years after I did. I think she’s stalking me.
Ried and her husband, Alan Kraemer, hit the town running with Palm Springs Point of View, an idea she’d been mulling in Irvine. Ried interviews interesting locals while Kraemer films and edits. (Conrad Angel Corral now co-hosts.) The show is on Facebook and YouTube.
That’s all I knew about Ried until today. Based on what I just learned … you should probably buckle up, and grab some popcorn. It’s a wild ride.
After attending the University of Delaware for two years, studying graphic design, all Ried wanted was to move to New York.
“I wanted to be a fashion designer. My parents didn’t want me to go,” Ried says. “There was an ad in the back of Mademoiselle magazine that read ‘Fashion Institute of Technology apply today.’ So I got this application, then an interview.”
Ried was accepted, her parents begrudgingly accepted. Two years later, she’d earned her degree.
Her first job was working as an assistant designer for Isaac Hazan. It was the mid-’70s, during New York’s halcyon club days. Studio 54 was the place, and fashion was hot, hot, hot.
“You didn’t even have to worry about a job; there were so many, and there was so much money,” Ried says.
After a three-roommates-to-a-bedroom situation, Ried got her own flat. “My first place was next to the Chelsea. So you could see all kinds of stuff going on in the middle of the night.”
That’s the notorious Chelsea Hotel, the one where Sid killed Nancy, where Robert Mapplethorpe lived with Patti Smith. The one where Jackson Pollock, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, Bob Dylan, Rufus Wainwright, Betsey Johnson, R. Crumb and Andy Warhol all once lived.
At 22, Ried began working as assistant designer at DD Dominick for Dominick Avellino.
“He had this partnership where he imported hand-loomed textiles from India—cottons and silks, beautiful fabrics,” Ried says. “He had a deal with Bloomingdale’s for a sportswear line. They needed someone to go to India to oversee production.”
That someone was Ried, and for six months, she traveled the continent. “It was amazing. I was so well taken care of. I met so many great friends,” she says.
When production went on break, Ried went from living in maharaja palaces to a houseboat on Dal Lake. She spent her time drinking in the culture.
The list of labels she’s designed for is extensive, including Liz Claiborne (for LizWear sportswear and jeans), Wrangler and Union Bay.
“Do you remember Parachute stores?” she asks. I don’t, because everything I know about fashion could fit in a thimble. “They were big in Canada, Montreal. The couple that had Parachute were very European, very French, very Thierry Mugler, very structured.
“We had this 10,000-square-foot space; one side was shopping and the store; the other side was bleachers and a runway where we would hold all these fashion shows. So I went with them and became Claudia Ried for Parachute.”
I Googled it, because that’s what I do, and found an adorable khaki jumpsuit from Parachute, Sgt. Pepper’s-style. One more click, and the label reads Claudia Ried. And it’s in the freaking Met Museum.
She has an incredibly badass story, but it’s Ried’s “yes” mentality that boosts her from badass to beast—and I am going to tell you why.
Ried’s landlord’s son was an avid mountain biker, so she gave it a try. A friend asked if she wanted to bike the Silk Road—a month-long ride, which she did, even after her friend dropped out, just eight months after Ried started riding.
She designed Wrangler’s Silver Lake jeans. “That ties back to the bicycle, fitting jeans in the saddle for all these rodeo gals,” Ried says. “I became this jeans-fit expert. I was always good with fitting a garment; I knew how things had to be cut. I went to rodeo events. It was fun. It got me out of Seventh Avenue.”
She follows with: “That’s how I learned how to ride.” She means horses. She first learned Western-style riding, then English-style, and then bareback.
Designing sweaters, nets and fishing vests for fly fishermen and women was next, selling to Orvis, a retail store for fishing enthusiasts. So, of course, now she’s a fly-fisherwoman.
Of New York, she says: “It was not like it is today. It was dicey in the ’80s and even going into the early ’90s.” That’s when she began working for corporations training women in self-defense, because she’s a third-degree black belt in martial arts.
For 10 years, Ried had her own successful niche-market company, Shebeest, designing road-cycling clothing and other activewear. She sold the company, and the couple moved to Palm Springs.
In 2020, they began Palm Springs Piano Bar, a Facebook streaming show from their living room. Kraemer is an excellent piano player; Ried supplies the thrust of the vocals and is always, always, always impeccably dressed. Before Piano Bar, she’d never stepped foot on a stage and sang.
Those online performances led to a monthly gig called Martinis and Moxie at the Palm Springs Cultural Center; the next events are scheduled for Nov. 19 and Dec. 12.
So, to recap: Ried is a collectable fashion designer, a mountain biker who rode the Silk Road, a horseback rider in three styles, a third-degree black belt self-defense teacher, and now a professional performer.
Claudia Ried’s mad skills got her far in the fashion world. However, this beauty of a beast achieved all the rest by simply saying “yes.” It’s a powerful message.