Late last winter, after an arctic blast brought temperatures across the Hudson Valley down into the double negatives, Jonathan Osofsky received a chilling phone call. “It’s raining in the store, what should we do?” a staff member at Kasuri—Hudson’s post-avant-garde clothing boutique and DIY punk-rock art space—asked him. A pipe had frozen in the night and, having burst in the day, sent hundreds of thousands of gallons of water into motion, flooding the entire building and forcing Kasuri to relocate.
Since opening in 2014, Kasuri has been a singular Hudson Valley destination for the sartorially inclined. The shop carved out a name for itself with its curated cross section of avant-garde haute couture that leans heavily Japanese, with designers like Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake, and Yohji Yamamoto, plus other European icons like Vivienne Westwood, Rick Owens, Bernhard Willhelm, and Henrik Vibskov. But unlike other high-end shops where associates are “studiously ambivalent or even hostile,” to quote Osofsky, Kasuri’s creative director, the goal at Kasuri has always been to welcome everyone in and make them comfortable. This extended into the community with fashion programming for local youth.
“It’s a miracle that we still exist,” says Osofsky of the winter flood’s disastrous aftermath. “We lost so much money.” After salvaging what they could from their flooded building at the foot of Warren Street, Kasuri set up shop in the back of Hudson’s Antique Warehouse, selling their international inventory worldwide. Online sales helped keep them afloat until they found a new home.
It’s hard to miss the new storefront, a large brick building at 361 Columbia Street. The building boasts over 6,000 square feet and has served many purposes, playing host to a wide array of souls and enterprises. It was once an active cannonball factory, when the cannon industry proved less than lucrative it was abandoned, then revived as an Etsy customer service building. Following a shift in pandemic-era working patterns, it was left empty once again—until last October, when Kasuri moved in.
“There's no reason for us to be in this space if we can't use it to build something in the community that’s meaningful and not about commerce,” says Osofsky. “The new space is so exciting to us because it allows us to do so much of the DIY punk rock stuff we were doing in our old space. Youth fashion workshops, art openings, readings. We’ve been kind of seduced by this building, but we have to figure out how to inhabit it.”
Inside the brick façade, house music drones through the ample space tastefully stocked with racks of designer clothing, alongside objets d’art and a selection of books of intrigue. But Kasuri’s own inventory alone wasn’t enough to fill the space or the team’s expanded mission—they needed to pull in other businesses.
The inside may be cavernous, but people seem to know one another. Someone in the corner behind the checkout stand is getting a tattoo, talking with a customer from across the room. Uri Pema Braun, the resident tattoo artist, is booked by appointment only. Specializing in fine line, minimalist, and traditional tattoos, he exclusively does black work, with an eclectic portfolio that blends perfectly into the Kasuri scene.
The Backroom, the most recent addition to Kasuri’s kaleidoscope of material and programmatic offerings, is a queer bookstore operated by Nathan Rapport. His past project, Los Angeles-based Dream Brother Gallery, highlighted working queer artists. When the pandemic shuttered that business, a natural progression of events led Rapport to open the Backroom. He turned much of his former gallery’s art into a printed publication Vision One, which features works by artists David-Simon Dayan, Kim Thompson, Zackary Drucker, Zach Grear, Michael James Schneider, Lauralee Benjamin, Christeene, and Alexander Ad. It is one of the many books the intimate space carries.
Featuring gay erotica, art, and eye-catching wallpaper, The Backroom fills a void in the Hudson gay community. “There isn’t even a queer bar in town, so having a physical space like this is important,” Rapport says.
In their lofty new space, Kasuri hopes to continue to build community and expand upon their myriad of programming that already includes readings, art installations, queer figure drawing, and the newly established Queer Ass Film Club which recently screened the films Querelle and My Own Private Idaho.
“Since moving into the building, its large size offered the opportunity to do a lot of different things. Nathan and I have been trying to instigate some programming and events without a budget to foster queer space in Hudson,” says Osofsky. “We’re trying to do as much as we can in a kind of DIY way—not to make more money, but to make more things happen.”
Sitting outside of Kasuri and watching the many friendly faces that come to shop, gather, and celebrate there, one gets a sense that things are indeed happening. In the midst of designer fashion and vibrant artistic expression, the air is charged with potential, with the promise of community, workshops, art, and who knows what else.