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New York Called Kalen Kaminski and Astrid Chastka

Upstate designers Kalen (left) and Astrid (right)Kalen Kaminski (above left) and Astrid Chastka (above right), founders of Upstate, phrased it perfectly: "One of the best parts of New York is that feeling you get when you leave for a bit and come back." As I'm getting ready to vacation back home in Seattle, I couldn't agree more. Even if you love the city - sometimes you need a break, and when you return to New York after a week away you feel refreshed and relieved to be back. This is what Upstate is all about - it's a lifestyle and state of mind and it caters to the city girl who needs to get away every once in a while.upstate 1Astrid grew up in Pennsylvania, outside of a town called Reading. "I spent all my time outside and my parents never let me watch television. My mom claims that's why I'm creative. I went to school at the University of Virginia and studied architecture. I moved to New York in 2006. After three years of working in architecture I realized it wasn't right for me."mood boardKalen is an NYC transplant from Boulder Colorado. "I also wasn't allowed to watch television. I grew up eating healthy and playing with our family horses. I studied anthropology at the University of Colorado and moved to New York in 2006. I was sort of lost the first few years I was here. I didn't know anybody and had no idea what I wanted to do."upstate stacks Kalen and Astrid met through a mutual friend. The longer I live here the more I realize that a lot of relationships (business, friends, romantic, etc.) in NYC begin with "friend set-ups." The two hit it off and both worked freelance in set design and prop styling. They had a lot of spare time on their hands which eventually led to the inception of Upstate.shibori upstateAs Kalen remembers, "I had this big awesome wrap that I found upstate [telling of the brand name, right?] and Astrid and I decided we should make it. My roommate at the time was an amazing artist practicing shibori, an ancient Japanese tradition for hand-dyeing cloth. It's a very intricate and labor intensive tie dye process that dates back to the 8th century. You create patterns with resist dying. The resist creates pressure in certain areas where the dye can't penetrate. There are board resists, clamp resists, thread resists, etc. [Astrid and Kalen have since gotten creative with wooden spoon and cactus resists!] My roommate planted this idea in our head and we taught ourselves the process from there."upstate wrap"We just started dying things. We started with the one wrap and our friend Virginia, who now runs our sales, told us we should make 5 other designs so she could sell it out of her showroom. She showed us what a line sheet was and helped us shoot a look book. We never meant it to turn into a company - it happened so organically. We were really the blind leading the blind when we started!"upstate topAstrid and Kalen have come a long way since their first real collection in fall of 2010. Everything they make is stuff they want to wear. From tunics to dresses, their collection caters to the girl on the go. You can wear it out, sleep in it, and go to the beach the next day. One of my favorites parts? Don't worry about grass stains - they'll only add to the unique complexity of the dye.tie dye"When we first started we saw ourselves as artisans, not fashion designers. Now we really love the design process. We're in about ten stores in NYC and really popular in California and warmer climates. We're experimenting with other fabrics and have a more cohesive collection in store for winter. We're also expanding into home goods and bedding."upstate materialsdye"The studio is the best thing that ever happened to us. We have a washer and dryer and utility sink which enables us to complete the entire dye process here. The work isn't backbreaking anymore. We were working our of our apartments at one point. We would work out of our bathtubs and schlep to and form the laundromat 4 days a week dumping blue dye in the washer. We'd make a total mess and people always stared. Looking back I don't know how we did that," said Kalen.shibori processI'm always very curious how people in New York leap into business ownership without knowing if they'll meet success. I asked Astrid and Kalen their perspective."You just have to jump and also know that you might never know exactly what you want to do. I [Astrid] knew exactly what I wanted six years ago. I thought I wanted to be an architect, and that clearly changed... As long as you're enjoying the process and what you're doing every day then you should go for it. Maybe ten years from now we focus on a different handcraft. Planning for the future is very important but so is openness. Amazing things can happen in New York when you're open. That's how we fell into this business."upstate pantsAstrid and Kalen still work freelance jobs and are experiencing the growing pains of their business. But they're confident that they'll "be happy making things" and doing what they love for the rest of their lives. They're the sweetest, most approachable people and completely down to earth. I had a great time in their studio and am thinking I need some Upstate for my upcoming getaway - it will surely be worn on departure, arrival, and more. Look forward to an outfit post featuring Upstate later this week.shibori Get social! Follow Upstate on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram, & shop here.

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