At a glance: Upstate began as a simple shibori scarf shop, but has since expanded to a fully mature and stunning womenswear collection while retaining the hand-dyed fabrics as the central focus of the line.
Who’s behind the brand? Astrid Chastka and Kalen Kaminski do all the dying and they work with a local tailor on the pieces with more construction elements. Kalen has a background in anthropology and Astrid has a background in architecture (which helped when it came time to use complex wooden shapes cut with a CNC Router to clamp on the fabrics), and they both moved to New York from Boulder, Colorado and Reading, Pennsylvania respectively, only to find that what they had studied was not what they wanted to be doing. They worked in set design and prop styling for a while, and that freelance lifestyle allowed them to play around with the extra time on their hands. They started dabbling in dying and one thing led to another and a friend’s shop in San Francisco (Gravel & Gold) placed a real order, and thus Upstate was formed – organically and with pretty much no planning or forethought. We’re glad it did though, we love what they do! The name Upstate comes from their love of the great outdoors, and though they love the big city, they share a love of escaping it from time to time and dream of having homes in the countryside in the future.
What do they do? These ladies hand-dye everything using traditional shibori techniques as well as some of their own resist methods that they’ve developed over the years, a process that leads to gorgeous and exciting (if sometimes unexpected) results, as every batch is an adventure. When they first started out they thought of themselves more as artisans than fashion designers, but as the business grows and they expand their line they are getting more and more excited about the design aspect. It helps that they're incredibly good at it. They’re also expanding into home goods, quilts, and bedding. At present everything they sell has passed through their own hands, though the demand is so high they’re in talks about expanding the operation somehow. At this point their expansion plan simply involves “buying more buckets”.
What materials do they use? Lots of them! The majority of their pieces are 100% silk, including their huge quilts (with cotton batting inside). The stunning bomber jacket and slouchy sweatshirt are made of a super soft sueded twill. The weekend bag is linen with a cotton canvas lining. The bedding is 100% organic cotton. They are in the process of switching over to all natural dyes.
Where are they based? They hand-dye every one of their pieces themselves out of their tiny workshop in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.
Funny part about being a small business like this? They used to work out of their apartments, doing all the dying in the bathtub, but then when they needed to wash the pieces they would run to the Laundromat, making a huge mess and getting stares and glares from everyone there. They’ve since expanded to their own studio where they have a washer and dryer, but the image of these two women dripping indigo dye all over while normal folks just try and get their clothes clean kind of cracks us up.
Any special collaborations we should know about? Actually, they've recently done a batch of hand-dyed fabric for fellow Goat & Gramp business Fair Ends. Check out the cool shibori caps they've done!
Editors’ favorites from the line? Honestly, we love it all. It’s like a more mature vision of tie-dye and every single piece is totally wearable. Their staple kimono pieces are stunning, and the extra drape from all that flowy fabric read so well with these patterns, but we also love the simplicity of the sweatshirt style tops. Oh and the bomber jacket is ridiculously cool. The home goods are super tempting as well, the biggest luxurious splurge would be one of their new silk patchwork quilts, made with remnants from all their other goods. Can you imagine curling up in that at night?
Where can I get the goods? Apart from their online store, their work is now being carried in tons of shops in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, plus a handful of other shops throughout the US, as well as in Australia, Canada, England, Iceland and Switzerland. Check here for more info if you want to see the goods in person.
You can also get select pieces at other online shops including Pour Porter, Ethica, and Bona Drag. This is a good thing to keep in mind because there are limited quantities of each individual item produced, so if there’s something you’re in love with and it’s sold out in one spot, it’s worth checking another one of these sites.