Quality is key when it comes to clothing, but vibrant colors, silky soft fabrics and flattering designs don’t hurt either. Kyra Rehman and Troy Bush accomplished exactly this in creating Vellu, a luxurious and eco-friendly brand featuring pieces made with bamboo satin that prioritize a love of the female form and dedication to sustainable fashion.
With Vellu, everything is intentional, and the soul of the brand is the process and detail that goes into making each piece, all the way down to the source of the fabric itself. “In every piece of clothing, you’ll see those little details, and there is that little story behind all of it,” Rehman said.
Rehman and Bush met through mutual friends and shared interests in artists such as Orville Peck and LCD Soundsystem. The extent of their relationship initially was through Instagram, as they sent songs and memes to each other. As time went on, they started to become closer friends and the two eventually started living together.
Rehman hasn’t always been involved in fashion. Instead, she has extensive experience in marketing and advertising. Since graduating from CU Boulder in 2012, she has worked for a multitude of companies, specializing in digital media marketing while working in various management positions. For her, Vellu is far from the organizations she has worked with previously but is the business where her heart is. In February of 2022, she put in her two weeks and left her job as an advertising executive to follow her calling.
Bush got his start in the fashion industry while he was in high school, launching a brand by the name of Twist Snowboard Apparel. It was the 80s and snowboarding had just started to gain popularity, so the gear was relatively new to the scene. He and his brother were partners in the endeavor, and neither had any prior garment training, making their learning curve even harder.
Bush then worked at Burton Snowboards, where he was the creative director for five years, aiding in their immense growth during that time period. Following his work there, he honed in on freelancing and did design and production for various brands. It was in these 20 years of freelancing that he saw, firsthand, the good and bad of offshore manufacturing, as well as the environmental impacts that fast fashion has on the world. About 12 years ago, he began the process of trying to bring more manufacturing to the U.S. to provide jobs and be closer to his work.
One night at dinner, over a bottle of Chateauneuf du pape, Bush and Rehman started talking about the popular 80s satin bomber jackets and how they should make a comeback. Specifically, they reminisced over a bomber jacket by the brand Neighborhood that Bush had obtained from his time in Japan. With Bush’s 35 years of garment expertise and Rehman’s passion for feminine clothing coupled with her business experience, the idea fell into place perfectly.
“Vellu kind of brought together a lot of our interests and a lot of the resources that we’ve built up over time,” Bush said.
One of the main goals of Vellu for Rehman was to fill the void for soft, sexy clothing that is tailored to fit the curves of the female body. She felt that recent trends have gravitated towards an amorphous shape, rather than being reflective of varying body types. So, through tailored fits and a-line skirts, Rehman had a mission to highlight the perfect curvature of women.
“The female form in every shape and size is gorgeous,” Rehman said. “Our clothes are going to look good on anyone who wants to bring out that feminine aspect of themselves. We want to be inclusive of everyone who wants to feel a little sexy.”
The most iconic piece of their collection is the satin bomber — the main inspiration for the brand. It comes in four different colors — lipstick pink, turquoise, ice dye sunset and limo black — and all have the same embroidery and design. On the front is an evil eye, a homage to Rehman’s Albanian heritage and a tribute to her great-grandfather, a Muslim-Albanian refugee who immigrated to the U.S.
“With everything that’s going on in the world, it was a way for us to kind of make a political statement without being political,” Rehman said.
The back of the jacket, a flower design, is inspired by art deco architecture, specifically the Ace Hotel and movie theater in Los Angeles.
It all starts with the satin, which, unlike most satin fabrics, is made entirely from bamboo. Originally, satin was made from silk, but modern versions are done with a blend of polyester and rayon, making it petroleum-based. In creating a brand that aims to be sustainable, the duo chose a different route and ventured into a satin fabric developed from bamboo. In Asia, people use bamboo charcoal to heat their homes or cook their food. Bamboo is quickly renewable with how fast it grows, making the use of bamboo charcoal a much better option than gas or coal. This charcoal can then be transformed into thread, which is used to sew satin weaves. Bamboo fabric is commonly used in sheets, towels and other household items. However, turning bamboo into satin is a fairly new venture, making Vellu all the more unique.
“Doing it in this way is really turning ashes into something beautiful,” Rehman said.
Given that the fabric is entirely plant-based, it is naturally antimicrobial as well, meaning products come with added benefits of a longer lifespan, staying clean and fresh longer and needing fewer washes.
Cutting, Sewing and Embroidery
The duo is immensely proud of Vellu’s ability to maintain domestic manufacturing with women-owned factories for all cutting, sewing and embroidery of clothes.
“It’s nice to be able to show up and look your factory workers in the face and know that they’re making a good wage and they like their job and they’re happy,” Bush said.
The team works with a factory owned by a long-time partner and friend of Bush, Nana. In their partnership, they are able to take pride in knowing that every employee is treated ethically.
The colors of Vellu’s collection are nothing short of eye-catching, but they are also incredibly unique in not only hue but in the creative process as well. When choosing the color for the garment, there is one unlike the others called “ice dye fog,” which is made with the ice dye process rather than using a solid dye color.
The process of ice dyeing clothing is extensive and can take up to 24 hours, depending on the conditions. However, the result is a beautiful effect that can’t be accomplished any other way.
“It’s so ethereal and beautiful,” Rehman said. “It almost looks like when you crack an egg yolk and it just melts.”
To ice dye clothing, the garment first has to be soaked in a reactive solution, then rung to dry. The garment is then covered with ice, which is then covered with powdered dye. As the ice melts, the dye seeps through, creating different types of unique swirls and designs. The dye definitely creates a more artistic look, especially on satin.
“This fabric, as you can tell, is already iridescent and shiny, but the ice dye just really enhances that even more,” Rehman said. “It just looks like you’re glowing.”
Bush spent nearly three weeks, working 12 to 16-hour days dyeing the whole Vellu collection. As a result of the intense labor, they were able to produce a color unlike any other.
The Faces of Vellu
While Rehman and Bush are the head of all things Vellu, they have two main models, Scarlett Kapella and Zena Malak, who embody the brand’s philosophy that nothing is more beautiful than the female form.
Kapella is not only a model but a photographer, dancer and artist. She maintained a residency at the historic Jumbo’s Clown Room in Los Angeles in between her various creative endeavors. Rehman and Bush describe her as “beautiful, wonderful, amazing Scarlett,” and have developed a close friendship with her through her collaboration with Vellu.
“She has such classic beauty, but with tattoos, and we love that,” Rehman said. “It’s the classic tailored hyper-feminine, which our clothing represents.”
Rehman reached out to Kapella over Instagram, asking if she would be interested in modeling for the brand, to which she excitedly replied and agreed.
Alongside Kapella is Malek, also known as Miss Illinois of 2016. Malak, with a degree in business administration and management, works in marketing but continues to model on the side. Rehman and Bush met her through their photographer and instantly fell for her, knowing she would represent the brand perfectly.
The models met during the first Vellu shoot and immediately clicked. Now, the girls are the faces of the Vellu brand, with their pictures dominating Instagram and showing off the many styles on the website.
“Scarlett and Zena were just so heart open and kind and giving,” Rehman said. “They were just having fun and I think you can see it on our site pictures.
Future of Vellu
Being in the early stages of its life, Vellu has experienced many “firsts,” especially over the past few months. One of their most memorable experiences as a brand was their first photoshoot, held in Penthouse 64 of the historic Chateau Marmont. The penthouse, known for the many stars that have stayed there, is not typically open to the public, but the team was able to score it for the day. With their photographer, Sinuhe Xavier, they successfully captured beautiful shots for their website. Their biggest success, however, is their secret mission to ice-dye clothing on the balcony. The crew devised their plan to use rolling suitcases to hide and transport the contraband. They were able to ice-dye 140 pairs of shorts and leave absolutely no trace.
“It was this perfect storm of everything kind of coming together,” Rehman said.
The brand also got the chance to present a collection in its first runway show in August. Vellu was one of eight brands to show in the Emerging Designer Challenge, where they had the opportunity to bond with other designers in the Denver area, as well as represent their brand in a fun, unique way.
“It was just so nice to receive so much encouragement and we really developed a community to the point where I didn’t want there to be a winner,” Rehman said.
Clearly evident in Rehman and Bush’s partnership is their appreciation of one another for what they’ve given to make the brand thrive. With expertise on both ends of the fashion world, Rehman and Bush make a dynamic duo dedicated to making Vellu incredibly successful.
“From the very start, we knew we were going to work hard. We’re gonna bring our expertise, we’re going to power through and do what it takes to get it done,” Rehman said. “We’re also going to allow for chaos because there’s beauty in chaos. That’s where the art comes through.”
Within the next year, Rehman and Bush have plans to travel across the globe to places like New Orleans and Paris to gain inspiration for their next collection for fall 2023. A long duster and a pencil skirt are just two of the many styles they are looking to create, and they are planning on incorporating rich, decadent colors, such as emerald, navy, copper and burgundy. In the meantime, they are looking towards expanding to other states and participating in more trunk shows.
Although they frequently take trips to Los Angeles to work, the team currently resides in the place they call home: Boulder.
“It’s fun to bring it here and have it be something that’s so close to our hearts, and that we’ve put so much of ourselves into,” Rehman said. “That’s just what the brand is for me, it just feels special.”
As of now, Vellu is available on their website as well as in the boutique Haven, located in Cherry Creek and Boulder.
All photography courtesy of Vellu and photographer Sinuhe Xavier.