If you have had the chance to visit our shop, you’ve probably seen the “IM-PEACH-MINT” candle and thought to yourself, ‘what genius created this’. We’re happy to introduce you to the genius Kate VanAsten! VanAsten is the brains behinds Chicago clothing brand Wulfka. We’re constantly inspired by VanAsten, whether it be her charitable ways or the adorable bikini set in her summer collection. Continue reading to learn more about this amazing woman.
What inspired you to start Wulfka?
When I was in high school, I took a class called Social Justice Issues and one section was about sweatshops. Our teacher gave us lengths of string and macaroni noodles, and asked us to crouch inside of refrigerator boxes while we strung noodles onto string. Anyone who didn't produce enough "bracelets" in the hour didn't "survive" the sweatshop, and had to write an extra paper as punishment. It's a silly exercise but it really sparked my curiosity about labor conditions around the world. I came to love all things manufactured locally and, after I graduated from FIT in New York, my love of fashion design and local manufacturing merged into Wulfka.
What’s your favorite aspect of being a designer?
Everything! I love that every day is completely different. I love the engineering challenge of patternmaking, the creative challenge of planning a photo shoot, and the non-challenge days of sitting behind a sewing machine while listening to podcasts. Every day is an adventure and each finished garment is thoroughly satisfying.
What inspires your style and designs?
I keep meeting these fabulous, motivated, intelligent women in Chicago who are starting businesses and passion projects, who are becoming politically active and working multiple jobs while maintaining their friendships and families. I want to make clothes for them. I design pieces that are subtly chic, but comfortable enough to wear all day and look good with flats. I only choose fabrics that are washable and breathable, because no one has time to go to the dry cleaner. Your clothes should work as hard as you do.
I'm proud of finding my community of like-minded designers in Chicago. Together we're creating a vibrant culture of values-minded locally-produced fashion. We share resources and ideas, and there's a feeling of a-rising-tide-raises-all-boats.
Can you explain the significance of slow fashion to you?
Slow fashion is prioritizing quality and ethics over convenience. The fact that so many people are asking questions about who made their clothes and what impact it has on the earth is revolutionary and inspiring to me! It means I'm on the right track!
Do you have any tips for making the transition to slow fashion?
Instead of impulse shopping, buy just a couple of beautiful pieces each season. Spend your money with companies whose values align with yours. If you want them to be in business in 20 years, you need to support them now.
Take care of the garments you already have so that they last longer. There are plenty of garment-care guides online but here's my favorite tip from Fabric Science class: if you have a vintage polyester piece that has a little funk no matter how much you wash it, have it dry cleaned once. Then continue wearing and washing as usual. Polyester is oleophilic which means that its molecules form a bond with oils instead of water. Since water and oil don't mix, water and detergent can't penetrate enough to clean it. That vague vintage store smell is rancid oils (eww but try not to think about that part). A little dry cleaning will double the life of your gorgeous pre-fast fashion garment and keep you funk-free.
What’s your favorite trend at the moment?
I love love LOVE wide-legged high-waisted pants! I find them to be flattering and comfortable, while immediately designating you the "cool kid" in the room. Pair it with a slim tank tucked in, or a cropped fitted jacket!
A fun fact about you people are surprised by…
I was a licensed massage therapist for ten years! I absolutely loved working in therapy, and I worked primarily in chiropractic offices where I affected palpable change in people's health. When I decided to go back to school, I seesawed between nursing and fashion design. Of course I ultimately decided on design, but the conversations that I had with patients about their bodies still inform my designs today.
Favorite spot in Chicago?
Movies in Millennium Park! I have a picnic blanket, a bottle of wine, and cheese & crackers ready to go just in case I can make it there on a Tuesday evening.
Favorite place to vaca?
My in-laws live in Hawaii so, yes, I won the in-laws lottery. My husband and I make a point to visit his family once a year which is always such welcome retreat!
Any fun future projects?
I'm always working on something! I'm considering expanding my size range to include plus-sizes. "Inclusive sizing," which is the preferred term, is going to be a challenge to do right and a significant expense, but I think it's an underserved population and will be worth the effort. Look for it in Spring 2020!