Kalen Kaminski and Astrid Chastka design and are the creative force behind Upstate, a line of shibori-inspired women’s clothing and accessories. Shibori is a Japanese tradition of dyeing cloth, which relies on the folding, binding, and compressing of fabric in order to create an infinite variety of patterns, each piece unique from the next. Both women came to Brooklyn in 2006, and both came for reasons that resonate with anyone who has thought about coming to New York. Basically, they came for work, for inspiration, and for love, which Kaminski is quick to point out is “a little cheesy, but true.”
Chastka tells us, “I think that the people who are living and creating here are so driven and passionate about what they do and that energy is inspiring. It’s not the easiest place to be creative because of the competition and the expense of the city, but those who stick it out have a special kind of intensity that I love being around.” Kaminski agrees, saying, “I can’t imagine being part of any other artistic or fashion community! Brooklyn has such a unique supportive vibe and I feel so lucky to be a part of it. The convenience of being able to learn any craft, art or design is a very special aspect of this community. I agree with Astrid that the intensity and competition of this city can be overwhelming but if you stick to it and do a lot of work you start to see the results.” Although the designers are based in Brooklyn, the name Upstate is obviously evocative of, well, somewhere a little more rustic.
But both Chastka and Kaminski are quick to point out that while they are both, as Chastka tells me, “really inspired by nature and handcrafted items of all sorts, architecture is still very inspiring, as is the city itself. You can see the most bizarre and inspiring things just living your everyday life here.” Kaminski adds, “I am very inspired by this city; both the layout and the people living in it. I have always been a big people person and love being around a mix of inspiring characters. I find inspiration in small things like a tiny earring on a woman in a photo, a cuff of a blouse or a vein on a leaf.” Both women have the ability to see the small things in the larger picture, the forest for the trees, which is reflected in their work. Although using a centuries-old technique, they make something new every time. Never repeating themselves, always proving that, in art—and in life the possibilities are infinite.