Katrin Reifeiss On Painting, Fashion And The Japanese Shibori Technique Of Hand-dyeing.


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Katrin at a temple complex in Angkor, Cambodia.

Katrin at a temple complex in Angkor, Cambodia.

Krrb member, Katrin Reifeiss is artist, maker and flea market vendor who loves her city. She is an expert in the Japanese tradition of Shibori which is the act of manipulating fabric to achieve a specific design while dying the material, similar to the western tradition of tie-dye. She uses soft silks as her medium and then creates beautifully elegant and unique dresses, tops and accessories. If you find yourself walking through the Dekalb Market in Brooklyn, make sure you stop by to see Katrin Reifeiss and her gorgeous work or you can find her on Krrb.

Painting by Katrin Reifeiss.

Painting by Katrin Reifeiss.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hmm… I always find this type of question difficult as I want to tell everything about myself or nothing at all. I guess I could start with when I became interested in fashion. When Princess Diana emerged from a fairytale coach to marry Prince Charles, that is when fashion came into my life. I was in awe of the wedding dress and had never seen anything so amazing and over-the-top up until that moment. For many years after, my sketchbooks were chock full of wedding dress designs but gradually moved onto painting at one point. I am also a painter and my most recent works are large scale oil paintings of hexagons, the ultimate shape. My love of fashion and painting is why I believe I fell hard for hand-dyeing fabric using the Japanese Shibori technique, perfect combination of fashion and art.

Where are you from and where do you currently live?

I was born in beautiful upstate New York in Manlius, (MAN LEE US is just outside Syracuse, you know the real upstate) and currently live with my husband Tom in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.

A Prospect Park picnic, in Brooklyn New York.

A Prospect Park picnic, in Brooklyn New York.

What is the most awesome thing in or about your neighborhood?

Prospect Park. It is a beautiful park and is right outside our door. While living here I’ve seen it change over time and it just gets more and more gorgeous every year. I think Olmstead and Vaux would be proud. Once I even became lost in the park and loved that I did. I couldn’t see any buildings, could barely hear people and at that moment it was like the park was all mine. Also the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is right next door – love the Cherry Blossom festival! and the free concerts also at the Prospect Park band shell. I love getting together with my husband Tom and friends, having a picnic, seeing a great free show.

A New York City sunset.

A New York City sunset.

What is your favorite place you go locally to discover hidden treasures.

I wouldn’t say I have one favorite place over another. I really just like to walk down the City’s streets and believe I’ve ‘discovered’ fantastic shops along the way. There is a place in the Garment District I just recently came across but I daren’t tell the location! It is really cool and have my eye on a few pieces that just have to be mine. All mine.

What blogs or websites do you visit regularly?

My husbands – Series-of-contradictions.tumblr.com, Fromme-toyou.tumblr.com, The New York Times, New York Magazine, SimplyLovely, Design*Sponge, Firstcamelove, Travel + Leisure, Jauntsetter… Plus I love to go on a favorite blog, see what blogs they like, click on one or two of those, and keep clicking on and on. I believe this is a fun way to find new blogs to love.

Hand-dyed dress by Katrin Reifeiss.

Hand-dyed dress by Katrin Reifeiss.

What do you create/make? What are you working on these days?

I create hand-dyed clothing and accessories using the Japanese Shibori technique. Currently I am working on my line for Spring 2012. I start with a sketch, then drape muslin on a mannequin, and sew the muslin pattern together. Next I’ll start to dye the fabric. I am determined to work with organic, eco-friendly fabrics. Once I dye the fabric for the design I’ll bring it and the muslin to a factory in the Garment District. With the exception of where the fabric is sourced I am determined to have everything made here in New York City.

Today, how often do you go to garage sales, flea markets, etc.? What is your modus operandi? Any personal tips you’d like to share?

At the moment we’re living in one bedroom apartment that is completely full of items from IKEA, family pieces, and those items brought home from travels – kinda full at the moment. Love to travel, love to shop when I travel, bad for the apartment. Also see below for answer to ‘Are you a hoarder or a minimalist’.

A cherished found chair.

A cherished found chair.

Have you ever taken home an object you found in the street or dumpster? If so, what was it? And where is it now?

Oooohhhhh yes. In college I lugged home this large, heavy green velvet chair, big enough to curl up in. It was terrific and in great condition but I left it in an apartment in Boston. A few years ago outside my building was an old wooden school chair, I picked it up, cleaned it and still have it. I’m happy that I ‘saved’ it from the trash. As a society, we are all so eager to throw things out in a blink of an eye. I believe that is one of the reasons I create hand-dyed clothing that is beautiful, one-of-a-kind, in stunning fabrics that are not cheap, toss away items. Why should clothing be toss-away anyway? Why should anything? (jab at Forever 21)

Are you a hoarder or a minimalist?

I would say mainly a minimalist. I love to clean and straighten up. I love that sense of accomplishment as if I got rid of cobwebs in my head after cleaning. As if a stack of magazines was this huge weight on my shoulders that after I recycle them, there is this happy moment of lightness. Also I realize how little I really need in my life. I do look around our apartment and think “wow, Tom and I brought all of this in here and we’ll need to bring it with us wherever we go next”. I want to be that woman in a black and white film that packs up all her worldly possessions in a suitcase, clutch under her arm and walks off along a train platform into a white steam of train engine smoke. But alas, I really like a lot of my stuff.

A treasured handmade vase by a dear friend of Katrin's.

A treasured handmade vase by a dear friend of Katrin's.

What is your most cherished handmade object you possess? What’s the story behind it?

The first item that immediately comes to mind is a porcelin vase my friend Keenan had made and gave to my parents while we were in high school. When she passed away they gave the vase to me. I always think of her when I see it and immediately makes me sad but happy at the same time as I then recall moments with her, things we did and her smile.

By the way, what’s your day job?

Press Relations. I call it my rent job but really enjoy it.

Thanks Katrin!

The Short List

Series of Contradictions
Fromme-to You
Simple Lovely Blog
Travel + Leisure

Local Treasures
Dekalb Market, 138 Willoughby St. (at Flatbush Ave), Brooklyn, NY

Find Katrin
Katrin online

  • When painting you house, you have to take note that different approachesand materials would be needed for different parts of the house. Different types of paint are to be used on cement, wooden walls and those parts that are most commonly exposed to moisture such as the kitchen or the bathroom. To let you know what those are, here are some of them.

  • For anyone interested in learning a few Shibori techniques, stop by the By Brooklyn shop on Smith Street this Sunday September 25th from 3-6pm, $35.00 includes supplies and blank silk scarves to create your own masterpiece. Don’t let Sunday be a ho-hum day! Come out and learn a craft and dye dye dye!! Click link to sign up –

  • Nanabob712

    YOU are so awesome. M.A.R./MOM

  • Thank you Elizabeth! I do always keep my eye out when traipsing around the City for vintage
    haircombs whether here in NYC or wherever I travel. I wore the silver
    flame with clear crystals comb for my wedding, others I have worn for
    costume parties or for an evening out. I love those from the ’20’s and
    have been lucky to receive some from my family, friends and Tom which
    makes the combs even more dear to my heart. I display them on my dresser that was once my Grandfather Reifeiss’s.

  • Share some pics! Sounds fabulous.

  • Anonymous

    Katrin is a good friend of mine and I loved reading this profile. She’s one of the lucky few who can manage being creative and utterly magical while still bringing things down to earth. I admire her very much – and can I toss in here a mention of her to-die-for vintage hair comb collection?