We meet Greta and Zulfi, the husband and wife team of designers who created Vel-Oh. We love Vel-Oh bags because they are designed with the cycle to work commuter in mind, but you certainly don't have to own a bike to enjoy them. Greta and Zulfi focus on giving each of their handmade products versatility – for example a totebag that converts to a backpack – but also keeping them super stylish. We had a chat with them to find out more…
Pssst, keep reading because we have a competition to win £100 of Vel-Oh goodies too.
Can you tell us a little more about when you first had the idea to create Vel-Oh?
Greta: “One day a friend was packing up his life in London and moving onto his next adventure – and he left me his bike! It was an old racer that had been hand painted gold. I started cycling to work the very next day. Zulfi also came into a bike not long after, so we were now both commuting to work by bike – which was great. But we struggled to find a stylish bag that made us happy and was also practical to cycle with. I’m quite a ‘do it yourself’ kinda person, always have been, all my friends and family have had gifts that I made – hats that I knitted, trousers, skirts, purses etc… So we went to the pub one evening, drew up a design on a napkin and created a prototype not long after that. Of course, it took a few prototypes to get the bag to look and do what we wanted but we got there by around number three. We loved wearing our own creations. We intended to just make one each for each of us, but we both got quite a thrill from the whole design process and we thought why not try and take it to market?”
When did we realise that you knew we could really make it happen?
”That’s a tough one. We didn’t – and on some level we still don’t! We’re just happy living in the now, using our creativity and making things come to life.”
We love your ethos about working and creating wherever you go – where’s your dream location? We know you recently moved to Ireland from London. How different is riding a bike there?
”Ah, I think our dream location would have to be where it all started – London. Maybe we’ll migrate back one day. When Vel-Oh started we both still had full-time jobs – because, let’s face it, London rent ain’t cheap – and after a while working two jobs just got to be too much. But we weren’t ready to give up so we had to rethink our living situation and see where we could compromise. Suddenly a family-owned holiday home in Ireland became available to us and we didn’t think twice before we jumped onto the possibility of living in the country. Giving Vel-Oh a real good go without any distractions or the need for day jobs. We’ve been here for just over two years now and we don’t regret making the move. We put all our energy into Vel-Oh, and now we’re at a place we couldn’t have ever been if we stayed in London – unless we suddenly won a lottery. But rural Ireland did come as a shock. Cycling is certainly not a popular thing to do, especially not for commuting… Roads here can get a little bumpy and so it required us getting different bikes. But we love it, it’s so beautiful.”
Tell us a little about the process of making each of your products? Do your skills complement each other’s?"
”Zulfi tends to do all the prep work as he’s more meticulous and patient, and I then put all those puzzle pieces together. We like doing different things in the studio so it works very smoothly – most of the time.”
What's it like working with your husband?
”Our battles are mostly about who’s turn it is to make tea – and they can get pretty heated.”
Do you have a favourite Vel-Oh bag or product?
“My favourite has to be the first bag we’ve ever produced, which is the Commuter bag, now reworked as the Worker bag. It is a totebag / backpack hybrid, because it’s why and where it all started!”
What does a day at Vel-Oh HQ look like?
”Our alarm goes off at 7am, but we’re usually only up at 8am. We put a pot of coffee on, check our emails, do a little Insta post and after checking the weather app we decide whether we’ll be going straight out on the bikes to post orders or whether we go into the studio first and do some manufacturing. Our days are quite similar but never the same as they’re dictated by the weather. We have to cycle 12km to the post office and another 12 back, and although we don’t mind getting wet depending on the volume of orders we can’t always protect them all from the rain. There are some days of course where we don’t manufacture and simply plan the next show, design some flyers or do research or work on a new design. But our days always end when our tummies start rumbling, asking for dinner.”
To be in with a chance of winning £100 to spend at Vel-Oh, simply answer the question below.
What's special about the Worker bag?
1. You can only use it for work.
2. It's a totebag / backpack hybrid and Vel-Oh's first ever product.
3. It's glow in the dark.
Iceberg T&Cs: The competition closes 22 March 2019. A winner will be chosen at random from all correct entries after this time and notified shortly after. Full terms and conditions are at icebergpress.co.uk/comprules.