When Kalen Kaminski was in upstate New York in 2011, she discovered an amazing vintage wrap at a thrift store that inspired her to start designing scarves using different textile pieces. And when she couldn’t find the right prints, she taught herself the ancient Japanese hand-dyeing technique shibori. Soon after, orders for the scarves began pouring in.
Fast forward to 2015, and Brooklyn-based Kaminski has her very own bonafide fashion brand—named Upstate to reflect her inspiration—that uses shibori and other artisan hand-dyeing techniques to make everything from women’s wear and accessories to home goods, with a very cool, even mindful sensibility.
“Yes, the scarf that originally started the idea was found upstate,” Kaminski explains, “but it also alludes to the idea of escape—this very special state of mind.” Think vibrant, versatile, effortless shapes that you can wear from “out in the woods to evening in the city,” she says. It’s a look that’s “Boho south of 14th Street.”
At her design studio in an old pencil factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Kaminski does 25 percent of the dyeing herself, which includes the shibori (folding fabrics into intricate shapes which creates patterns on the fabric), marbling, and abstract hand painting.
The rest of the production and dyeing she outsources to Downtown Los Angeles, and she commissions digital printing on special pieces in New York City.
“The fact that all of it’s made in the United States is really huge for sustainability. It’s so tempting to do it abroad because it’s so much cheaper,” Kaminski explains. “But it’s very important for us to keep it in the US, especially Downtown LA where there’s such a feeling of positivity.” While the dyes aren’t natural, Upstate’s fabrics are typically natural fibers like cotton and silk, which are from sustainable companies and are sometimes organic.
While many of her pieces are dresses and tops that have a breezy vibe, recently Kaminski collaborated with her go-to Manhattan Pilates studio The Swan (which she credits for “keeping her balanced”) on a pair of hand-dyed branded leggings that are sold in-studio. Women in boutique fitness studios from NYC to LA are probably hoping that signals a bigger foray into artisan activewear to come. —Jamie McKillop
For more information, visit www.youreupstate.com