Four new designers who will be on the ramp for the first time at the HSBC Colombo Fashion Week, share their excitement with Tharooshie Mahahewage The buzz has begun. Designers preparing for the HSBC Colombo Fashion Week are currently in high gear withless than two weeks to go before the tenth anniversary edition of the [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Making their mark


Four new designers who will be on the ramp for the first time at the HSBC Colombo Fashion Week, share
their excitement with Tharooshie Mahahewage

The buzz has begun. Designers preparing for the HSBC Colombo Fashion Week are currently in high gear withless than two weeks to go before the tenth anniversary edition of the show on April 3,4 and 5 at the Colombo Hilton. The excitement is tangible among the young designers who will be stepping onto the big stage, showcasing their work alongside the established names of the fashion world.
“These days I’m a bit difficult to live with,” says Amilani Perera, 26, with a smile. After graduating from the LaSalle College of the Arts, Singapore with a BA in Fashion Design, she began working in MAS Holdings as a designer for the company’s own brand, Amanté. Her designs have also been displayed at the Sri Lanka Design Festival fashion show in 2010, 2011, and 2012 under the MAS Intimates segment. Amilani has also been a finalist in the British Council’s Young Creative Entrepreneur Design and Fashion Award in 2012.
“I love and try my best to use all natural fibres,” she says adding that her collection for CFW is mainly based on silks and cottons. “I had to use a bit of synthetics here and there to get the structure. I have a few avant garde pieces but overall the collection is very tailored and clean cut. I worked a lot with embroidery because it’s very ‘in’ as well.”

One of Amanda Weerasinghe’s creations on the catwalk

Amilani has found her inspiration mainly from the Sri Lankan ‘Makara Thorana’. “At the moment I want to show the feminine power woman aspect using this. Not the 80’s woman who tried so hard to go beyond male dominance but a woman who deserves an equal place. She is strong and yet feminine.”
She explains that the Sri Lankan Makara Thorana is quite different from the Chinese one. “It has 17 different animal forms like a face of an elephant, human eyes and fish like body.” She draws parallels to the modern woman she is designing for. “Very strong yet they want to look feminine. A few pieces are literal some even having the drawing of a dragon and embroidery. The tail part of it is called ‘Waka Deka’. This is the first thing taught for drawing art in Sri Lanka. I’m inspired by that curve and its emotions.”
Amilani’s had some international exposure – her collection ‘Marked Memoirs’ was featured on the Swankglossy Magazine Indonesia in 2009 and she was one of the top ten finalists of the ‘Denim Deconstruction’ project, organised by GAS Jeans and Catalogue Fashion Magazine in Singapore in 2006 where she had to deconstruct and reconstruct a pair of jeans into another item of clothes wear. Her product, which was inspired by the Sinhalese letter, ‘’, was featured in the Catalogue Fashion Magazine that season and displayed at The Paragon on Orchard Road, Singapore.
She hopes CFW will be the platform to launch her own brand ‘Amilani Perera’. She also has a sub brand called “Once more” made of waste garments to produce accessories and shoes.

The label is ‘Arra’. Behind it are Sharmila Ruberu and Punya Athukorala – two women who have an explosively creative zest for life. Both housewives, this is their hobby and though they haven’t studied designing, they have a strong instinct for fashion.
‘Arra’ was a result of our friends,” says Sharmila. “We were only designing clothes for our close group of friends. It was they who pressed us to go forward and start our own brand. It’s been three years since we started Arra.
They feel they got lucky with CFW. “It was just one evening we thought why not try our luck with the Colombo Fashion Week. I mailed Ajai Vir Singh with only two days left for the deadline for entries. About a month later we got a mail saying we have been chosen for the show,” says Punya, still elated.

An Amilani Perera creation from the collection ‘Marked Memoirs’ featured in the Swankglossy Magazine, Indonesia

They design casual wear, office wear and party wear but their collection being presented on April 5 will mostly be semi formal, casual and evening wear. Elaborate sleeves, big bold buttons, strong, elegant yet serene shapes and cuts.
Cottons, raw silks, handlooms and linen are their fabrics of choice. “We prefer working with white. Even for the collection most of the designs are done in white, a black and white range mixed with a colour and the evening wear in black,” says Sharmila.
Also making her debut at CFW will be Amanda Weerasinghe. The young Visakhian, the only girl in a family of four who confesses that shopping for clothes has been her favourite pastime has a BA in fashion design from the Academy of Design and has been a designer at MAS Holdings for two years. She is currently in Research and Development for brands such as Victoria’s Secret, H&M, Gap and Athleta.
She found inspiration for her collection for CFW through ancient temple paintings. “I went on a random road trip to Kandy, and seeing the temples and the breathtaking beauty of the Kandyan culture I wanted to add it to my collection. I visited the museum at the Dalada Maligawa and seeing the colour used in the paintings, the Nilame jackets and the embroidery, it motivated me to do something different.”
The 24-year-old already has her signature style. “To emphasise the rich Sri Lankan culture,

Amilani Perera

Amanda Weerasinghe. Pix by Susantha Liyanawatte

Punya Athukorala

Sharmila Ruberu

I’m using vivid colours incorporated with printing techniques and dip dyeing. That’s my main technique. I’m using a bit of embroidery as well.

My signature style revolves around exaggerated sleeves, chiffon and feminine silhouette effects. I mainly use bright blues, peacock blue, orange and yellow ochre.”
At the Sri Lankan Design Festival 2012, Amanda won the best designer of the night award which gave her two internships including one at Marks and Spencer. Visa problems got in the way but she found work at MAS Holdings. With her role models being Valentino, Christian Dior vintage and D&G, it comes as no surprise to hear she admires the vintage look and feel during the golden era of fashion in the 50’s and 60’s.

“It’s a great honour for me to participate this year,” she says, adding that Colombo Fashion Week is the only high end platform for new designers to go further and to meet new people and make contacts. Amanda will be showcasing her designs on April 3.

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