Levi’s® Monthly Muse


November 2021

CAROLINE KAUFMAN in her levis overalls and jeans displaying her artworkCAROLINE KAUFMAN in her levis overalls and jeans displaying her artwork

In this interview series, we introduce you to the people who inspire us most: creatives, educators, activists, community leaders and the everyday super-humans who keep us on our toes. We’ll take you inside their day-to-day lives, homes and workspaces. We’ll talk motivation and inspiration and, of course, all things style.

Meet our November Monthly Muse, Caroline Kaufman. Caroline spends most of her time walking and biking in Brooklyn between her Park Slope apartment and studio in nearby Greenpoint, where she creates singular works of art using textiles, paints and every medium in between. We recently caught up on the phone with Caroline and chatted about telling stories through color, how her childhood love for fashion inspired her to consider sustainability throughout her work and much more. Check out the interview below to hear more from Caroline, in her own words.

Are you from New York?

Nope, I moved here for college in 2010. That's what brought me from West Virginia to Brooklyn — I studied fashion design at the Pratt Institute, and I've been in Brooklyn ever since. It's a hard place to leave as a creative. So now I run my textile design art studio in Brooklyn. I do a lot of custom artwork — textile art and painting. I also do some licensing work with interior designers, so everything under the umbrella of textiles.

Caroline Kaufman wearing a levis denim jacket

How'd you get into textiles?

I studied fashion design and was always interested in the art side of it: making fabric, knitting, weaving, that kind of stuff. And I also really loved the functional aspect of it, which led me to learn about fashion. But when I graduated and started my studio, I found I didn't always align with everything in the fashion industry, like from a sustainability or a waste standpoint. So I veered more to the art side of things and making textile pieces for the wall, so that I could still create things that felt meaningful.

Caroline Kaufman wearing a levis denim jeans and standing in front of a shelve full of different colored yarn


Caroline Kaufman wearing a levis denim overallsCaroline Kaufman wearing a levis denim overalls

Were you an artistic kid growing up in West Virginia?

Very much so! I was always drawing and making things, always collecting and collaging things. Being from a smaller town, I feel like that was almost my entertainment — just making up things and creating things indoors and outside. My mom's an artist, and my two sisters and I had a really creative upbringing. So I never really thought that I would be anything but an artist.

How would you describe your artistic style?

I'm really interested in color, and how different combinations of color interact to evoke feelings and memories and tell stories. That's what inspires me. And so I combine simple shapes and textures in ways that evoke something new in me, and maybe other people. Sometimes my pieces are just about a simple memory.

I like to do a lot of creative writing, so I might write a phrase that I really connect with. And then I try to go to the board with the textiles and express what that phrase or what that thought or what that feeling would look like in a color sequence.

Caroline Kaufman wearing a levis denim overalls displaying her work

How would you describe your personal style?

I feel like my personal style is functional, comfortable. I live a pretty active lifestyle in New York City — I'm always biking to where I need to go, and the work I do at my studio is pretty physical. I'll be on the ladder stretching cloth and canvas — just moving a lot. I have to be in clothes that support that first.

My style is so different now than when I was younger. I used to love to put together these really creative outfits. I even remember wearing heels and wedges to class — I just loved the art of dressing up. I can't even imagine doing that now because I'm walking like five miles to where I need to be!

But I’ve always liked color and texture. I like wearing natural fabrics like cotton and linen. And I love vintage clothing, and combining things that feel interesting but also fit my lifestyle.

Caroline Kaufman wearing a levis denim overalls in front of her artwork

Let’s back up. You said you didn’t align with everything in the fashion industry?

Starting a fashion line is massively expensive. It’s hard. And to do it correctly is even harder, because it's not really an industry that always supports positive values. A lot of people are doing really amazing things in fashion, but they always have to push up against the industry. Being sustainable, being size-inclusive, paying the people who are making your clothes a fair wage, contributing to social justice, and giving back directly to my community, are values I won't compromise on with my work.

There’s also a lot of pressure to always be creating new collections and new stuff all the time. People don't really value clothing and the way it's made the same way that they value other forms of art. So somebody might see a $2,000 painting or a beautifully made piece of furniture and say, “Oh, this adds value to my home.” But fashion is different. We buy a shirt; it's cheap, it's quick, it's disposable. And then we buy a new shirt. We don't value fashion the same. As an artist and a creator, I can't see myself making meaningful work within the system as it currently stands.


Caroline Kaufman wearing a levis outfit standing on a ladder in a garage with art in the background

Caroline Kaufman wearing a levis outfit holding a large framed artwork

How did you first start becoming interested in and educated about sustainability in fashion?

Well, I wouldn't even say I'm so educated from a consumer standpoint, right? But when you’re growing up and in high school, fashion is this really rich canvas for self-expression — you’re displaying your identity through clothes. And I remember going to the Salvation Army with my friends, and we'd get just trash bags full of clothes and make these amazing outfits. I wanted every day to have a new look, so that’s how I started thrifting and vintage shopping. As I got older, I started to realize if you go into a mass-market store, every single day they have a whole new floor of clothing! A lot of those clothes end up in landfills. It made me look at the impact of our own consumption.

There are still areas for me in my work that I have to improve upon. A recent one has been packaging; I’m trying to use recycled or compostable materials to package art. Other times I need bubble wrap, so I try to reuse it from a friend. It’s a constant thought of mine.

What do you do when you’re not in the studio?

I'm always creating something. It's my favorite thing to do. I feel like that's such a cheesy thing to say, but it's true! Like, I love making things just for my apartment. I've started making all these clay light switches for my home and painting some furniture. And I cook for myself, almost every single meal. I see it almost as its own meditative creative hobby. I have a little Brooklyn apartment so I haven't been able to do it so much in these COVID years, but my favorite thing is to host a dinner party for friends at my little Brooklyn apartment. If there are more than four of us we usually sit in the living room on the floor around the coffee table with plates of food in our laps or perched on pillows. I can't wait to get back to that.

Caroline Kaufman wearing a levis denim jacketCaroline Kaufman wearing a levis denim jacket
Photo Credit: Corbin Chase