Yamini Bala is an IT professional who found her calling in life a little later than most. An undying passion for interior design was realised following a ten-year stint in Australia when she decided life was too short to hold back on your dreams. She enrolled at the Academy of Design and now, four years [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Out of the melting potá

At the upcoming Sri Lanka Design Festival young graduates are keen to establish themselves in front of a ‘globally local’ audience
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Yamini Bala is an IT professional who found her calling in life a little later than most. An undying passion for interior design was realised following a ten-year stint in Australia when she decided life was too short to hold back on your dreams. She enrolled at the Academy of Design and now, four years later, she is a graduate about to present at the institute’s annual Sri Lanka Design Festival.

Insiyah Kutub: A passion for brass

Like Yamini, eight other graduates and former students will launch their businesses or seek to establish themselves on an international level at the Young Design Entrepreneurs segment of the festival, to be held on November 16 at the Mount Lavinia Hotel. They’re part of what Karen Macleod, Principal of the Academy of Design (AOD) calls a ‘design incubator’. The designers will be nurtured at AOD, the premises of which will be open to them for one year to research, brainstorm and create beautiful things in.

Billed as the island’s biggest and most successful celebration of uniquely Sri Lankan design and creativity, the Sri Lanka Design Festival is not just limited to the entrepreneurial ventures of these young designers. The three-day festival from November 15- 17 at the Mount Lavinia Hotel will encompass fashion shows and exhibitions of island craft, South Asian craft, education and leadership forums, a sustainable fashion symposium, a ‘Best of Industry’ fashion show and finally the Sri Lanka Fashion & Apparel Awards.

To be presenting at the Sri Lanka Design Festival (SLDF) itself is a prestigious opportunity few are afforded. Designed to promote Sri Lanka’s creative and design industries with a focus on the Sri Lankan apparel industry, SLDF highlights the industry’s capabilities and commitment to sustainability and ethical practices on a global platform. Key industry players from local and international apparel, craft, advertising and architecture will be present at the event, making it one of the biggest platforms for aspiring designers to establish themselves on a firm footing.

The organisers are quick to point out that what truly sets SLDF apart from other such festivals is its diversity. Design here is a broad concept-from fashion to graphic to interior design, it’s a veritable melting pot of some of the island’s best creative minds. The festival’s special focus on traditional Sri Lankan arts and crafts has ensured that local industries are placed under a flattering spotlight.

Designers like Yamini will present their work to a ‘globally local’ audience, a prospect which they’re very excited about. Yamini is now a practising interior designer and runs her own architectural practice with partner Roshun Meeza. She will be presenting some of their most innovative designs at the festival. “I was indirectly part of the previous festival,” she remembers. “It was an amazing experience. The exposure that the designers got was very good, and it’s very exciting to have that chance this year.”

The daughter of architectural enthusiast Dr. Upul Abeysundara who was also a partner of legendary architect Geoffrey Bawa, Yamini naturally grew up to be fascinated with the geometrical beauty of interior design. The decade spent in Australia was good, but as she puts it “there is something about the atmosphere in Sri Lanka that is very creative.”

AOD Principal Karen Macleod

Yamini Bala

Prabath Samarasooriya

It must definitely be something in the air. Featured on our magazine cover are design duo Hash Bandara and Umanga Samarasinghe whose enthusiasm and energy for what they do is infectious. In a marked first for Sri Lanka, they will be launching a line of skateboards and complementary clothes and accessories. “It’s something very new to Sri Lanka,” enthuses Hash. “Both of us are very passionate about it, and there’s a huge market gap for it here. It’s a culture that we’ll be embracing with this product-or rather products- so I suppose you could say that it’s a lifestyle brand we’re launching.”

Hash, a graduate of graphic design and Umanga, a fashion design graduate have been friends for as long as they can remember. So it was a natural next step to form a partnership that the two clearly delight in!
Insiyah Kutub is following in her father’s footsteps into the lighting business. Insiyah, a graduate of interior design will present a collection of brass shades; something she says is hardly found on the market. “And it’s a pity because I know a lot of people who want to buy brass shades but can’t because very few variations are available in the country.”

“I’m really happy that AOD has given me this opportunity,” she smiles, adding “Once you graduate you realise that it’s incredibly difficult to get a foothold in the industry. SLDF is paving our entrance into the industry and for one year after that we’ll have AOD backing us. It’s very comforting to know that.”
Prabath Samarasooriya, an experienced fashion designer and lecturer at AOD, having established himself in the local and Indian markets, hopes to venture into Europe with this showing. Launching a collection known as ‘Serenity’, Prabath is also amongst those who use local artisans to produce their work.




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