Sean Combs, rapper, record producer, fashion designer and entrepreneur
Kal came to our offices personally to view our first collection, which consisted of velour tracksuits, denim hookups, coveralls, baseball caps, T-shirts and cashmere sweaters. He bought into it without hesitation. His presence front row at every fashion show I produced made a statement to the industry that we were serious about our business. Bloomingdale’s hosted our first event and gave Sean John their most iconic windows on Lexington Avenue. We were creating the future of fashion. Kal saw that from the start.
Michael Gould, Bloomingdale’s chief executive, 1991-2014
If Bloomingdale’s didn’t have the kind of customer service Saks and Neiman had, it had that excitement you got from Kal Ruttenstein going to Europe and finding things to bring back. He might see stuff at a flea market in Paris and give it to the Necessary Objects department to create a whole new line for us.
When I first went to interview with Kal, I told him right out I had no real qualifications for the job, but he saw something in me. He said: “There are lots of people much more qualified than you, but I’m going to hire you because you were a kindergarten teacher. That makes you a great candidate for the job.” I stayed at Bloomingdale’s for almost 30 years.
Jeffrey Seller, producer of “Rent” and “Hamilton”
After “Rent” exploded in 1996, Anna Wintour came to see it on her own. She loved the show, and she called Kal, and he fell in love with the artistry, the songs, the costumes and with Daphne Rubin-Vega. He started calling me every single day: “We have to do something!” We ended up doing a line of clothing inspired by Angela Wendt’s costumes.
I was writing about fashion at The Village Voice, and nobody would give me the time of day but Ralph Lauren and Kal Ruttenstein. He was a true explorer. He would come downtown. He would want to see something because it was representative of the hippie generation. He would ask: “Would you wear it? Would you buy it?”