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If tie-dye makes you think of impossibly cool and elevated pieces in modern silhouettes with perfect fits and dreamy feels — and not patchouli-scented garb from the Woodstock era — you have Kalen Kaminski to thank for that. The Brooklyn resident is the creative genius behind Upstate and calls on shibori and hand-dying techniques for the tops, dresses, pants, scarves, and more that have garnered her a cult following.
The busy designer and prop stylist has the power to transport you out of the city (mentally, anyway) with her wanderlust-y designs, so we had a feeling that a day with Kalen would be full of imaginative activities and hidden-treasure spots. She was nice enough to take us around her Fort Greene neighborhood and prove that hunch of ours right.
FRENCH GARMENT CLEANERS: 85 LAFAYETTE AVENUE
If anyone thought Fort Greene was devoid of luxury fashion and independent labels that are simultaneously trend-conscious, unique, and timeless, French Garment Cleaners will instantly squash that false assumption.
"French Garment Cleaners has been a favorite of mine since before I moved to the neighborhood," Kalen says. "They carry the best of the best. The store has a beautiful, clean, tasteful aesthetic and the service is incredible. Everything I've purchased over the years is top quality and never goes of out of style."
We second every part of that sentiment because this store is a serious wish-list land. We don't know what we want to try on, fall in love with, and treat ourselves to first: minimalist staples from Nomia, edgier street-style looks from Adam Selman, the perfect ankle boots from Rachel Comey, cool shades from Illesteva, or calming candles from Lola James Harper.
THE GREENE GRAPE: 767 FULTON STREET
We spend so long shopping (well, ogling, really) that we have to demand snacktime of our guide, and she happily obliges. Kalen leads us to The Greene Grape, one of those perfect Brooklyn markets that is jam-packed with all things delicious and a knowledgeable staff ready to help guide you through your sweet or savory cravings, yet remains laid-back and unpretentious.
"This is my favorite market in the city," our guide declares. "It's high quality, natural food sourced from over a hundred family-run farms. Everything they carry is fresh and delicious. I could eat the cheeses and roasted chicken for days!"
We're not known to argue with exclamations about cheese, and are thus all too happy to feast on The Greene Grape's offerings. We also visit the fruit and veggie section, and then treat ourselves for eating healthy by snagging some just-made cookies from the bakeshop. On our way out, we can't resist grabby some pantry gems like American Spoon's ramp kimchi and Ethereal Confections's blood orange and vanilla bean meltaway.
JILL LINDSEY: 370 MYRTLE AVENUE
Satisfied with our snack break, we're ready to get back to shopping. Kalen leads the way to Jill Lindsey, which she's really excited to visit. "This is one of my favorite stores and favorite people in this city! If you haven't been to Jill's boutique, you must go. It's a little off the beaten path, but well worth the journey. She sells everything from clothing, accessories, flowers, and home goods, and has a beautiful wine and coffee bar. The backyard is beautiful and she turned her basement into a peaceful wellness center. It's the ultimate one-stop shop!"
We first fall in lust while browsing the store owner's own line of feminine-meets-downtown capes and dresses before checking out cheeky tee shirts and under-the-radar gems like Delfina Balda blouses, plus some Upstate tie-dye pieces from our very own guide.
We stock up on candles, cards, and incense before taking forever to decide between all the very covetable stacking rings, and then get to relax at the café with coffee, tea, wine, and beer. The backyard is the perfect final stop at the boutique because we already feel like we've visited four places all in one — four very cohesive, thoughtfully stocked, and well-appointed places.
FORT GREENE PARK: WASHINGTON PARK AND ST. EDWARD STREET
We take a break from shopping for a walk through Fort Greene Park, where our guide treats us to a little nature refuge. The exciting vibe of this neighborhood suddenly takes a relaxing turn, lulling everyone who enters this park into taking their weekend strolls just a little bit slower.
It's "the best park in the city!" Kalen says. "There's a farmer's market on the weekends, tennis courts for early morning matches in case you don't have a permit, and the dirt path weaving around the perimeter is great for a secluded nature walk or jog."
The park strikes the ideal balance: it's more laid-back and private than a sprawling, touristy spot like Central Park, but it's got just as many options of things to do, whether you want to get active or indulge in a lazy afternoon.
BAM ROSE CINEMAS: 30 LAFAYETTE AVENUE
We end the day the way all perfectly fun-yet-chill Saturdays should: with a movie. But our guide knows how to make two hours of getting lost in a film with more popcorn than is ever necessary a stylish affair. She leads us to BAM's Rose Cinemas, a movie theater with a bit of grandeur and the kind of cool curation that only an institution like BAM could master.
"I feel so lucky to be able to go see movies and concerts so nearby at such a gorgeous, cool venue," Kalen says. "It's amazing how this place is home to major international artists along with locals in music, theatre, film, dance, and more."
For sure, catching a flick at BAM feels more like a cultural activity than hitting your average multiplex. It's a little more special and a lot more quintessentially Brooklyn. There's always a mix of current must-sees, events and screenings of under-the-radar gems and classics. Right now, you can see new movie The Witch, relive the glory of A League of Their Own, or learn about a 1990s cult film, A Brighter Summer Day.