What do you have to say about the invite to and the celebration of the Commonwealth fashion exchange held in the Buckingham palace earlier this month?
It was a great expereince seeing a creation each from 53 countries of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth fashion exchange was organised by eco-age in partnership with commonwealth fashion council and British fashion council. I felt it is a great start that the Commonwealth is looking at collaborating to create common opportunities for designers.
With fashion evolving, it is interesting to see new market opportunities present itself to promote our fashion industry in Sri Lanka.
With this experience, what have you brought back to the island and its bountiful designers?
It was very fruitful for me as the various meetings and engagements gave me an insight of the direction of where fashion is moving. London is one of the fashion capitals of the world and it can give you a sense. and then it helps you plan your direction. Two Sri Lankan designers were exposed in two different categories and that was very encouraging. I am hoping that through my role i will be able to expose more Sri Lankan designers and their unique creations. It also helps to understand what position designers from SriLanka need to ascertain to make themselves visible on global platforms. Overall that was a great learning and outing. It will be uselful for all.
We heard about the exciting private discourse with TRHS Duchess of Cambridge and Sophie the Countess of Wessex. Would you give us an insight to this meeting?
This was very interesting. 8 council members along with Dame Anna Wintour and Livia Firth were the core people invited to a private meeting before the Commonwealth fashion exchange exhibition. They were briefed of our roles. TRH Kate Middleton spent time along with Sophie understanding what we do and what we plan to do in the role we have. i was quite happy as i got the chance to share the responsible fashion movement with Kate Middleton as she had earlier announced that she would be suporting or lending her weight behind the eco-sustainable fashion. It was great sharing that. She is charming, intelligent and a good listener.
What was your most memorable moment during this event?
Well there were a few, being at Buckingham Palace and having a chance to meet and see people like Stella McCartney, Naomi Campbell,Suzi Menkes, Anna Wintour, Livia Firth, key representative of the council. It was quite memorbale as it broadens your scope and gets you to focus. i was so happy to meet my old friend Bibi Russell, who we all know, is such a global powehouse in fashion. She was the center of attention in UK too, covered in all the media. We are previliged that she visits us in Sri Lanka and spends time with our designers, with whom he was delighted to spend time with. I am planning more things with her here too.
How do you plan on broadening the responsible fashion movement?
The responsble fashion movement is aleady on its way and there are activities planned this month.We have done international tie-ups, so it can be given interntional exposure to showcase Sri Lanka through that lens. it’s a strategic step you will hear more of. people in London were very excited about the scope of it. It is very meaningful.
Any noteworthy and inspiring creations that you saw at the exhibition?
I liked Bibi Russells creation using Jamdhani technique, it was just stupendous. Stella McCartney’s creation with an Indian weaver was fun, then creation from Kenya and Karen Walkers from New Zealand was strong. Darshi was good and i also liked the one from Malaysia.
What does this role of the ‘commonwealth fashion council member’ push you to do for the fashion community of SriLanka?
My plan is to position sri lankan designers in a unique manner where craft, design sensibility and eco-ethcial methods are positioned strongly, so that more get exposed at this level. it’s a great opening. In addition to the commonwealth fashion exchange there was another program at council level that was 100% made in the commonwealth where we exposed talented young designer Vatshala Gunesekara who deisgned a backpack bag using cork material and natural dyes, which was produced in another country. this was also presented in another exhibiton the follwong day at london. we are now evaluating commercial production and retail for this bag in these markets.
At this present moment, how far have our lankan fashion designers come in keeping to the ‘ethical and sustainable fashion design’ movement?
This movement is very close to my heart, after coining the phrase ‘garments without guilt’ over a decade ago and leading a team for promoting it, i am glad that once again another unique movement which is end-to-end is taking shape and whats of greater interest is that we already have an envrionment for that but are not aware or educated about it. if the environment is present then the young designers are already at an advantage to be the early-movers and be an example to the region.
whats encouraging is that a numer of our young sri lankan designers that i meet already come with ec0-ethcial direction in their hearts. they are conscious of it so their actions are dictated by it. that itself is a good start. yes there are chanllenges to it but we are creating solutons working with subject matter experts so more Sri Lankan designers are part of it.