For fourteen talented aspiring fashion designers, this day would be one fraught with suspense.
After weeks of working to a theme, conceptualizing, sketching, finding models, making it through tough interviews and surviving the grueling quarter finals and semi finals, these contestants wait with baited breath to find out what December 13- the grand finale of Sri Lanka’s Up and Coming Fashion Designer Award- has in store for them.
The brainchild of young designer Zainab Ammarah, this competition is all about creating a platform for aspiring designers who have what it takes- the raw talent, passion, commitment and perseverance to follow their dream in the face of challenges.
“This year the contestants have really impressed us with their flair for the innovative. It is clear that there is a great deal of talent out there- when we called for entries, we received over 200, coming from all over the country- Nittambuwa, Galle, Puttalam, Kegalle, Kandy, Jaffna and many places I had never heard of.”
Most of the contestants are self-taught designers who know the basics of design but cannot progress further because of financial constraints and other impediments. “All they need,” explains Zainab, “is the opportunity to showcase their work- and this is what the competition provides. Considering what is in it for the designer who bags this award, the competition seems to provide far more than a mere opportunity to display creativity. The winner will receive Rs. 150,000 in contracts to make his/her professional fashion portfolio, an internship from NEXT, the opportunity to sell his/her line on erbenizer.com, a ticket to Paris and a gift voucher from Amira Jewellers.
Following the categories of swim wear, casual wear, party wear and the couture evening gown, the theme of this year’s competition is ‘The Iconic Statement’, where the challenge taken up by each designer is to modernize a look of a fashion icon of the 20th century- the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana, among others. Observing the Sri Lankan fashion industry, Zainab is encouraged by the progress she has witnessed over the past few years. “There is considerably more interest in fashion design as a financially viable career path and though progress appear slow at times we are definitely taking steps in the right direction.”
Having taken part in and won the ‘Fashion Designer of the Year’ competition in 2006, Zainab explains why she felt the need for the establishment of another competition. “The designers who took part in the competition were truly talented,” she says, “but I felt that the execution of the entire show was flawed. At the end of the competition none of the participants received any real recognition of their efforts, or the means to move further.
As the winner, my prize was a box of Tipee Tip! So I decided to put some effort into organizing a competition of international standards, which eliminates all politics and simply focuses on the strength of the designer.
For six months I did research on fashion competitions around the world and used what I learnt to establish the award for Sri Lanka’s Up and Coming Fashion Designer, where every participant is on an equal playing field and a genuine effort is made in assuring total transparency. The objective here is to give prospective designers more encouragement and support to embark on a lucrative career in fashion.”