Young and bold strides in fashion

Dhananjani Silva meets some of the young designers who made their mark among big local and international names at the recently concluded Colombo Fashion Week. Pix by Berty Mendis and Sanka Vidanagama

Colombo Fashion Week held in early February saw a feast of fashion with international names taking the spotlight. But among the well-known designers were the young hopefuls- the emerging talent in our country.

Fusion- blending the trendy with the traditional - is the hallmark of Charini Suriyage, a young designer who possesses work and study experience both here and abroad. Having graduated from the University of Moratuwa in 2004, Charini joined MAS Holdings and then worked as an intern in Los Angeles with a top designer attached to Victoria’s Secret. She was also a trainee in New York with Limited Brands and spent another year in London in the design field.

Currently a visiting lecturer at Moratuwa University and employed at MAS Intimates, this was her second showing at the CFW which she terms a “great opportunity” for all upcoming designers like her.

“You get a lot of media attention, so it is a good start for a new designer. Also the feeling that you are in a show where Rohit Bal and Tarun Tahiliani are taking part is very nice,” she said.

Charini was inspired by our tradition and heritage for her collection. “There is so much that you can grasp by looking at our things.” But the challenge, she says is to look at the past but not do something outdated but rather something trendy instead. Her theme for this year’s CFW was based on Kandyan dress and different drapings. “Most of our attire in the past was all to do with draping; so it is nice to look at different ways of draping a fabric to get a garment,” she said. Tropical, vibrant and contrasting colours are what she fancies because such shades have the ability to make the quality of the fabric look better, she says.

Charini plans to launch her label in the next few months and start a design house too which has a ‘little bit of everything’ from shoes, handbags and accessories to interior designing as well.

Presenting a handloom collection, mainly sarees in earthy hues was Asanga Godamuna. He entered the field after he completed his Degree in Fashion and Textile Design from the University of Moratuwa in 2004 presenting a collection on handloom men’s garments for his graduation.

Later he joined a private company in Katunayake and Emerald International in Maharagama where he worked as a textile designer for two years. Asanga presented his men’s wear collection under the ‘Sling’ brand name in 2008.

Having participated in the CFW three times before, this year was the first time that Asanga presented a ladies’ wear collection.

Asked what made him use handlooms Asanga says that it is because what he wants is mostly not in the market and when he has to manufacture his own fabrics, handlooms are what suits best.

Explaining that he draws inspiration from everything that he sees, Asanga’s preference is for vibrant, bright colours. “Depending on the collection my choice of colour theme could vary,” he said.

The ready- to- wear women’s collection she presented at the CFW displayed Kasuni U. Rathnasuriya’s innovative skills when she took the bold step of giving a new twist to the traditional grey and white beeralu lace by adding different shades of colour to it.

Kasuni who works as a Market Analyst for Brandix graduated from the Academy of Design in 2007 and is currently doing her MBA at the Postgraduate Institute of Management in Jayawardenepura University. “I work a lot with the beeralu workers. My home town is in Galle and after the tsunami I saw how this industry suffered. So I wanted to do something for them as well.

But beeralu lace has a complicated structure and you can’t get lot of shapes out of it. So applying that to the collection is a little tough,” she said.

In 2008 Kasuni launched the KUR label – a contemporary clothes line that sells at ODEL. “I love simplicity and this is a need I saw in the local market. So I based my collections on simple, ready to wear clothes that stand out prominently in a crowd.

Finding funding initially can be a little tough, Kasuni says. “That is a barrier but if you are talented you can overcome this,” she added.

They’re making waves and the fashion industry will be looking forward to more from them in the future, no doubt.

Sensational stripes: Asanga and his handloom range It’s all in the drape: Charini takes a bow-- her creations are seen at right and in the large picture Beeralu inspiration: Kasuni-- and her beeralu creations right
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