Crystalyn's interview withn Urban Craft Uprising!

Crystalyn's interview withn Urban Craft Uprising!


crystalyn kae at urban craft uprising

Who are you and what do you do?

Hi, I'm Crystalyn and I make hobos, totes, and cross-body bags with a unique blend of sustainable materials. The main core of my designs are made with glazed fabric – which is a coated canvas that looks and feels like leather – but is vegan and machine washable. From there I infuse each bag with some personality: sometimes it’s a vintage silk from a men’s tie factory, other times it’s a ornate velvet upholstery fabric. You never know what I”ll come up with next and I get a thrill out of hunting for new inspiring prints and materials to create with.

recycled leather small cross body bags by crystalyn kae for sale at urban craft uprising

What’s the latest thing you’ve been working on?

A new little cross-body bag that is made entirely from reclaimed or upcycled materials!

I have partnered with local design houses in NYC to collect their unused swatches & fabrics to cut up and turn into new bags! Each bag is a colorful mix of leather, fabric, trim so each is totally one of a kind. I find the challenge of making a Zero Waste bag incredibly inspiring. And am happy that this process is not only eco-friendly but also allows for an affordable price point for my customers – while keeping my designs Made in the USA.

the very first bag ever made by crystalyn kae

What was your first memory of making something?

Since kindergarten my mom sewed all of my clothes. Dresses, pants, jackets – you name it. Partly because Mom is a prolific seamstress, and partly because we were a family of 6 on a schoolteacher’s salary. Each school year we’d come up with a color palette, select fabrics at the fabric store and she’d make my clothes. By the time I was 7 or 8 she let me try the sewing machine and it and I was hooked! By the time I was 12 – I made my first bag: a barrel-shaped duffel bag with neon pink straps and a zipper. I guess I haven’t stopped making bags since.

How far will you be traveling to come to UCU?

I will be traveling from NYC! I’m originally from the Seattle area, but moved to Manhattan a little over two years ago. I love the inspiration and fashion resources that the city life provides – but I miss the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. I’m taking a nice long trip and staying for 2 weeks, so I have plenty of time to hang out with friend & family, and get some quality hikes and coastline-wandering.

How did you get started in your business?

I’ve always done crafting and sewing as a hobby since I was in jr. high – but it wasn’t until after I’d earned my fashion degree and was designing for another company that I really wanted to break out and do my own thing. I was working really long hours and mass-producing clothing: it was really soul-sucking. At the time I had been making skirts out of vintage fabric pants and selling them to co-workers and they encouraged me to try a booth at the Fremont Sunday Market and Pike Place market. By 2002, I found an old retail space near Greenlake that I could live in the back of – So I cashed out my 401K and opened my store. (This was years before Etsy existed.) I sold my designs and creations of other indie crafters that I had met at the markets. As my business grew – I chose to focus solely on handbags. One particular batch of bags I had begun to make: crafted from vintage plaid golf pants like my Grandpa used to wear – were such a hit that I hit the road with them! I filled two suitcases with bags and went door to door to boutiques in San Francisco, and then New York. . .and full-fledged handbag company was born. This June, I am celebrating my 14th year in business and am so excited about where my entreprenurial dreams have taken me!

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