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Behind The Scenes

Kalen Kaminski and Astrid Chastka Let the Dye Move Them

If the dyeing process was a novel, the rinsing out stage would be the climax. “There’s all this dark, murky water, and you’re like, ‘What’s it going to turn out like?!” explains Astrid Chastka, one half of the vibrant Brooklyn-based line Upstate. “You can take the same fabric, fold it the same way, and use the same dye—and still, they’re all different.” That means Astrid and her partner Kalen Kaminski encounter curveballs—plot twists, if you will—almost daily, and they’ve learned to embrace them. Here are three winners they never saw coming. Kalen: This one on the left was a mistake.Astrid: But I love that it’s kind of like an acid-wash—subtler with less contrast. We finally figured out that salt is really key: When you add more salt, it makes it more intense. Kalen: With our black viscose, we use a process called discharge where you basically pull the color out of the fabric and get this green color.Astrid: But then we got a bolt of fabric, discharged with the same recipe, and it turned gray. Then, all of a sudden, on another bolt, it turned green again. We try to be flexible. Astrid: There are primary dyes, and there are what they call composite dyes. Turquoise, yellow, and fuchsia are the primaries. This gray is a composite.Kalen: When we started, we wanted to have this even, gray color—charcoal—like I’m wearing. But when you don’t agitate it constantly, the colors in the composite separate.Astrid: We love this more. We think it’s so fascinating, but there are some stores that are like, “What is that?” So Kalen changed the name from gray to earth. You can’t argue that this isn’t earth. Don’t miss out on the extra-special dye job Astrid and Kalen did for us! The top they made just for us is right here.
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Kalen and Astrid Think Big in a Really Small Space

Kalen (left) and Astrid in their workspace. A lot of the designers who we come across work out of their homes, but few have embraced tight quarters as enthusiastically as Astrid Chastka and Kalen Kaminski, who dream-up and dye their line, Upstate, from a nook in the Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, apartment that Kalen shares with her boyfriend (Jeff Thrope, the man behind the blog Cold Splinters). Here, the twosome shows us what they’ve done with the place. Kalen: I’m obsessed with feathers and crowns. It was just my friend’s thirtieth birthday, and we all went camping to the Delaware Water Gap. I made these big, pink headdresses. This is the one that I was like, “Oh god, nobody’s allowed to wear that.” Astrid: One thing I love about Upstate is that we constantly make one-off pieces. Kalen made this. It’s a giant poncho. We’ll bring it to our tailor Gustavo, and the instructions are just, “Neckhole!” Kalen: This Moroccan tile is really inspirational to us.Astrid: Yeah, the geometry of it. Kalen: There’s this children’s illustrator named Peter Parnall who writes these beautiful books. Jeff actually has all of his books, and I cut one of them up and made it into a little collage. Kalen: Astrid made it!Astrid: That’s Iceland. I used a CNC router. You basically draw a shape to scale in CAD, and it cuts it out exactly how you want. That’s how we make the shapes we use in the dyeing process. Kalen: You know that store, Andrianna Shamaris in Soho? She’s this global traveler and has the most amazing stuff. That rug is from there. Astrid: It’s so inspirational to see traditional dye techniques that we don’t know how to do—there are just amazing things people can do with shibori. The duo made a magical top just for us out of their rad little studio. Get one of the 31 right over here.
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Kalen Kaminski and Astrid Chastka Make our Shirts

Dye supplies In the time that Astrid Chastka and Kalen Kaminski have spent standing over dye buckets and folding fabric just so, they’ve learned that it’s pretty tough—okay, impossible—to predict exactly what a shirt, scarf, or poncho will look like. But they’ve also developed some tactics to ensure that each piece is something damn special. Here’s how the duo created the 31 singularly unique tops they made just for us. Scoop up one of the tops right here! These suckers will be gone fast. Astrid: These are part of the resist. The fabric is smushed with a clamp up against these, and that’s where it stays white. I think they’re really beautiful. We cut these especially for our patterns.Kalen: Astrid used to be an architect, and she has access to a CNC router, which cuts shapes that she draws with AutoCAD. We’re going for a more a graphic-geometric theme rather than psychedelic for our next few seasons. Astrid: The piece of fabric is 55-by-29-inches. It shrinks in the dry process—and it gets so much softer. Kalen: This folding pattern is an accordion fold, which you do for pretty much every shibori piece so the dye is even throughout the whole thing. Then we clamp the wood pieces to it. Kalen: The dye bath is in the bathroom—studio number two. We have to put gloves on. Our families have expressed concern for our skin. We shake up the soda ash and salt for a while, pour it the bucket, let it soak for 30 to 40 minutes, and then put the dye in and the fabric. Kalen: We use gray dye here. When we first started, I got so nervous. I would agitate it every ten minutes. Astrid: It sits overnight usually. This is a composite dye, so when you don’t constantly stir up the water, it breaks down into separate colors. When we take it out, we unfold it and run the shower to rinse it. And then we take it to the laundromat and wash them. It’s really funny because everyone else has their laundry and we just have giant shibori. Then our amazing tailor makes the fabric into shirts! Kalen: We had so many pieces that we were like, what is happening here? And where is the pink coming from?Astrid: It’s really funny too how it takes us awhile to get used to change.
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