Whether it was Piet Mondrian who inspired Yves Saint Laurent in the 60’s or Gucci’s recent revolution with art murals up everywhere, fashion and art have mated for years. Some artists use empty walls as their canvas (hello, Banksy!) while others consider negative spaces on objects. But, there is one thread that stays in common: Art is what you want to see. Capturing this emotional sentiment and finding her own canvas in the threads of a denim jacket, Aparna Avarasala created DENIMRUSH.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Aparna Avarasala always had a creative inkling, whether it was painting or having “weird” ideas. While her parents didn’t allow her to attend an arts school, she graduated from the New York School of Interior Design in 2016 with a close enough match, Interior Design.
Although her early career gigs were within the hospitality and design sector, Aparna Avarasala found her calling by intersecting an expertise in design with her vision of converting art into wearable fashion. Pursuing her true love for painting, she launched DENIMRUSH in early 2017 to create one-of-a-kind wearable fashion pieces that celebrated art in a unique way. Handmade in New York with a lot of love, DENIMRUSH today offers denim jackets for men and women, ranging from $150 to $200, with some priced at $300.
In a world full of fashion brands, how did Aparna get her start you may ask? In [typical New York] fashion: at Brunch! Yes, that’s correct. Aparna rocked a personally painted Wrangler jean jacket to brunch and her friends were all over it.
In fact, it was during her senior year at college while she was finishing her thesis, working at a design firm and freelancing at creative jobs, that the idea truly came about. A painting expedition on a stretched canvas made Aparna realize how the fabric bended and reflected light, confirming that the same could be done with denim. This plus the fact that “I didn’t want a boring jacket and wanted to do something cool with denim” led her to the first DENIMRUSH jacket.
“We want everyone to appreciate art as a part of fashion and lifestyle.”
While Aparna initiated the brand with her own creative expression, she now collaborates with other passionate artists. With DENIMRUSH, she says, “You are like a walking gallery. You are a conversation starter. It’s that cool factor that only your jacket can have.”
Indeed, each DENIMRUSH collection has its own vibe with most jackets that are one-size-fits-all. The process begins with vintage pieces that Aparna sources from “some guy” that she then treats, paints on and treats again. For efficiency, she also mixes pre-treatment with her paint so that it can be used on any fabric canvas easily.
What drives her collections? Color! “My typical process when I paint starts with a color palette, getting inspired by codes in nature (flowers/trees/etc.) and then looking at a room to see the negatives and what colors will enhance it. I also get obsessed with a color when I find it and move on when I have found another.” It’s like cheating on color, over and over again!
Collaboration is the name of the game. Although Aparna had no idea how the brand would evolve, she thanks her incredible partnerships with WeWork, Denim Days Festival, Covergirl and many other cool platforms for her early success. As a direct to consumer brand, she also says that Instagram has been the best outlet for reaching influencers who can speak directly to your target audience, giving a better ROI than a “Shop Now” prompt.
Why the Name?
Like most brands, a name has a journey and with DENIMRUSH it began with “brushed art” that metamorphosed into “brushed denim” and finally decided to drop our favorite letter, the "r", settling into DENIMRUSH.
You're probably thinking of the Gold Rush right now, yeah? We were too! Fun fact: Workers used to wear denim as their uniform when mining for gold and that is how this staple fabric entered the fashion industry.
Aparna has been a go-getter since the age of 14. “My parents wanted me to focus on studying but I took on my first job as a Subway sandwich artist!” As a sole entrepreneur working round the clock since then, here are some quick tips from the denim artist herself:
- Don’t be afraid to f*** up! You will only learn from your mistakes.
- Make sure you have a schedule.
- Keep a photo collection of what happens throughout your business. It’s important to go back to those little moments.
- Take photos of everything! You never know where inspiration comes from.
Photo courtesy of DENIMRUSH.