A gen next fashion designer with batik as her oeuvre
Colombo-based fashion designer Yathra Jayawardene was the cynosure of all eyes at the recently concluded HSBC Colombo Fashion Week when she showcased a fabulous collection of batikwear under the Emerging Designer category. Tasked with the honour of closing the show on Day 1 of HSBC Colombo Fashion Week, Yathra sent twenty models down the ramp in an array of eyecatching batik ensembles. Arguably her talent lies in fabric design judging by the range of delicate prints she had created for collection. Her chosen hues combined harmoniously to create an almost Neapolitan colour palette with pale pastels, pinks, aqua and lilacs. Taking her rightful place as the next generation of designers in Swanee Batiks founded by her grandparents, Yathra is a young designer who is embarking on an exciting rollercoaster of a ride on her fashion journey.
What enticed you into fashion design?
I was always in love with turning all my clothes into 'new' clothes by chopping them up and restitching them since I was a child. Even though I was really young and probably ruined half my clothes my parents were amazing and kept encouraging me to experiment, which gave me a sense of freedom that in time developed into a deeper love for fashion design.
Why is batik your chosen medium?
I love the uncertainty and rawness batik brings, and you never really know what the outcome of colour and design a piece of fabric is going to be until the end of the whole process and that creates an emotional rollercoaster of expectation, apprehension and impatience that I personally love to go through. It almost has a mind of its own and that is intriguing to me.
What did you learn from your experience at HSBC Colombo Fashion Week Emerging Designers?
I learnt so many things that can help you build amazing character if taken the right way. Ajai and the CFW team put so much effort to teach designers to keep improving, and take pride in their work while staying grounded at the same time. Also that the limits you set for yourself can always be pushed a little further everyday.
What makes your clothes different from other batik designers?
Designing to me is a reflection of yourself which can be transformed in to different creative mediums. It’s a sum of things you've been exposed to, traits, likes and dislikes. And if I stay honest and true to that, I believe my designs would be different on many angles from the silhouettes and colours to the artwork.
What fires your inspiration?
Thankfully, many things. Mainly nature, it's always beautiful and in abundance around us, too much to soak up in one life time. Definitely a blessing I often take for granted.
Where does that drive to be your own boss come from?
My dad. He gave us the freedom to be independent thinkers since we were young but we had to take responsibility for it. Which was good because analyzing situations rather than being told what to do really made us sure of who we were as individuals as we got older. And that surety aids you to make strong decisions to be your own boss.
How important to you is practicing ethical fashion and keeping artisanal crafts alive?
It is important to me on many personal aspects. It is a special craft that gives you the freedom to create beautiful designs and colours by hand that is limitless in its combination of colour and design. The batik artwork is also very different in the few countries that do produce it. Sri Lanka has it’s own unique take on batik and we should take pride in it and keep developing and experimenting with it to reach further heights.
What is your five year game plan?
In general, it would be to keep developing myself in fashion design and in extension my brand, but I haven't made a solid game plan. I usually work a lot on intuition and I don’t mean that in an amateurish way of just doing what I want. For me it’s about making decisions that feel right after examining it from different angles and considering factors that are relevant in that particular situation and time.
INTERVIEW PHOTOGRAPHS by Nisal Baduge