Designer Kalen Kaminski—whose style is informed by her Boulder, Colorado, upbringing and a connectedness to nature as well as her time living in NYC—debuted her fashion label, Upstate, in 2011. Known for her highly patterned pieces that are all made in America, Kaminski creates designs using a Shibori dyeing technique, giving them each a special, one-of-a-kind feel.
The Brooklyn-based brand has evolved into a full-fledged fashion range that, as of this week, includes home decor. The 22-piece collection of bedding ($140 to $350), table linens ($18 to $92), throw pillows ($96 to $174), and blankets ($180 to $350) utilizes new dyeing techniques and subtle pops of color.
We caught up with the designer to get the scoop on the new range and to find out what’s next for Upstate.
First, what is the meaning behind the name Upstate?
“Upstate is a state of mind eluding to escape!”
How were you introduced to Shibori dyeing?
“My former roommate, Nicholas Ozgunay, is an amazing artist, and he first introduced me to his incredible Shibori pieces. He taught me a few of the basics, but I learned a lot through books and YouTube videos.”
How did your dyeing technique develop?
“In the beginning, my dyeing technique was very technical and complicated. It was easy for production since I was creating such small orders. I could dye it in my bathtub, sew it in my apartment, and ship it down the street. Fortunately and unfortunately, that’s not an option anymore with the high demand of orders. Now we will do special one-offs that are more technical, but overall, for production, we have to keep everything streamlined and accurate since making more complicated styles adds more room for error, especially working with dyes.”
You’ve dipped your toes in the home decor realm, but now you’re debuting a complete collection. What inspired your decision to go full-on with home goods?
“As a freelance prop stylist, I’ve always had a love for textiles and home decor. Interior styling made me realize the gap in the market place for beautiful hand-dyed home goods. I only see this area of the company growing.”
How do your designs vary between fashion and home items?
“I think what’s in for fashion right now are items that are a little more tonal and subtle. People are looking to buy the perfect piece that can be worn with anything and for anything. In comparison, with home decor, I think there’s more room for vibrancy and contrast. A lot of times people are buying a throw blanket or pillow as a pop of color for the home, rather than having it blend in.”
Which piece from the new collection is your favorite?
“This is a toss-up between the blue lagoon throw ($180) and the Taarik cover ($312). I am in love with the Taarik cover. It’s a soft linen top sheet—heavier than a normal sheet but lighter than a blanket—and it’s the ultimate summer bedding. The yarrow and sangria colors are some of my favorite color combos in the new collection. They look good with just about anything! The blue lagoon throw is a really beautiful mix of blues, and the linen is super soft. I use it as a towel, throw blanket, or shawl; it’s super versatile.”
How does your brand’s aesthetic compare to your personal decor aesthetic?
“Upstate embodies my core aesthetic. I make what I love and therefore love what I make.”
Do you use any of the pieces in your own home?
“Of course! I think all of the pillows work well together, so I have a mix of them on my couch and floor. The new linen throws are incredible because they work as throw blankets on your couch, towels in the bathroom, or as a scarf or shawl when you’re out and about.”
Fill in the blank: If I found out that ______ owned a piece of my work, I would just die.
What’s next for Upstate’s home collection?
“I would love to make wallpaper, cashmere throws, stools, a day bed, velvet bedding—the list is endless.”