Trina and Andy Kaye, a husband and wife team, are the owners of Katrina Kaye, based out of Amsterdam. They epitomize what it means to recycle, repurpose, upcycle and reuse by utilizing vintage fabrics in all of their unique designs. Andy was more than happy to chat with me about the who, what, why of their home based business as well as some of the ways their family lives green aside from that facet. Truly an inspiring story!
Can you tell us a little about what it is you do?
We design and create limited edition accessories, cushions and children's clothing using recycled materials and vintage fabrics.
How long have you been creating fabric items such as bags, cushion covers and clothes?
Trina has always been sewing and making things form a variety of materials. When we came to Amsterdam, Trina decided to not to continue her career in graphic design as she wasn't really enjoying it so she utilized her time by diving into and exploring her creative/ crafty side. Trina and I share a passion for good design especially 60's and 70's things so it was an easy choice after we realized we could get hold of these fabrics. This was about 4 or 5 years ago. Of course everyone wants these fabrics now so it's a lot harder to get hold of them and they are considerably more expensive.
What is the creative process behind your work? How does an idea take shape?
We like to brainstorm a lot and constantly talk about new things we can make. Inspiration comes from every facet of our lives but mainly from the fabrics themselves. It's always easier to design items when you have colorful, vibrant and tactile fabrics. Our problem in the past has been to whittle down the number of ideas into the most realistic and viable option. Since I quit my job 2 years ago we've had to become a little more commercial and get rid of products which, for instance took too long to make. Having a market stall is an excellent way to literally test market something on the public to see how it will be received and Amsterdam is a mixture of cosmopolitan tourists and thrifty bargain hunting locals. We therefore always try to think of a new product in terms of usability and value for money whilst still maintaining the handmade, recycled and unique feel.
Where do you acquire the vintage fabrics used in your designs?
Wherever we can find it... ;)
What inspired you to use recycled Army bags and vintage fabrics together?
It's not a new concept but something which was done back in the 1970's by left wing activists and hippies so we can’t really take credit for the idea.
How do you feel that selling and using vintage fabrics helps the environment?
By using what's already out there and already produced there's less need for us to go out and buy contemporary fabrics off the roll. Perhaps and more importantly we hope we are helping people open their eyes to the possibilities of re-using items which they previously thought held no value.
When did you first become interested in living and working in a green way by repurposing?
When we lived in England and after I'd shrunk 1 too many of her woolen jumpers in the wash she was inspired to cut up the felted jumpers and make them into things like Christmas stockings and blankets. That's where it all started. When we moved to the Netherlands we sold our car as the transport infrastructure is so good and all you really need to get around is a bicycle. When we arrived the Dutch were a long way ahead of the UK in terms of recycling and accepting their role in helping to achieve a greener environment.
There's a fantastic system of exchanging goods in Amsterdam. Every area has a certain day when second hand furniture and items can be left on the street at night and in the morning a local council truck comes round to collect it. Of course by then the discerning person has sifted through to see if there's anything worth saving!
Has any one green practice become second nature, something you personally do every day?
I suppose that through our business we are recycling every single day without really being conscious of it. We bicycle everywhere, use public transport and where necessary make use of a pooled car system called greenwheels.
What green practice do you recommend readers try?
Change to green sourced energy (like wind powered providers) and of course get on your bike instead of jumping in your car for local trips. It will help you to stay healthier as well.
As an independent artist what is your greatest challenge?
For sure it's hard to compete with mass produced cheap imports. People get automatically taken in by what they see as value for money. People seem to have so easily accepted badly produced goods which cause larger carbon footprints to get to the West. Thankfully a larger proportion of people are now doing more to support local economies whether it's locally sourced food or products and services from local artists.
After so many sales do you still get that giddy feeling with each item that sells?
Yes, absolutely. Every morning one of us likes to be first down to refresh the webpage to see if we've sold something. Most sales are to the US so we've usually made money whilst we sleep which always makes me giggle. When I take our wares to the market, it's a really nice buzz to share our concept and connect with people. Even if doesn't end in a sale, we just appreciate the positive feedback and the smile it has put on someone's face.
What is your advice to a fellow artisan who is new to their industry?
We were just featured in a 'Quit your day job' interview on Etsy where we tried to share our experiences.
Do you have online presences where your work can be viewed?
We wanted to set up our own website some time ago but we didn't really have the time. Trina was riding the front edge of the crafts wave which was forming online and was into websites like crafster and glitter where people were sharing and teaching other people their ideas. That's when we came across Etsy which was in its infancy and had such a great interface. It showcased people with handmade goods and you just knew it was the start of something big.
Our shop is Katrina Kaye
Is your work featured in a boutique or other brick & mortar location?
We wholesale all over the world now. Some of the requests come from people who have found us online at Etsy or from the market. We also started doing trade fairs in Europe this summer so have started to be present in shops in quite a few large European cities. We always welcome wholesale requests from anywhere in the world.
With such ultra cool vintage fabrics, inspiration to repurpose, working from home (saves on emissions!) and riding a bicycle or public transportation Andy and Trina have become an inspiration to me proving that by working hard enough, anything is achievable and that is why I am bestowing a Four Green Leaf Rating to their efforts. Hooray for making your business viable and going after your dreams while simultaneously helping the planet!