Business Times

Design for economic growth

By Duruthu Edirimuni Chandrasekera

The Sri Lankan fashion industry can lead by placing the ‘design’ profession in the forefront and thereby attract economic wealth into the country through positioning itself as an ethical and a sustainable apparel manufacturer, according to experts.

Linda Speldewinde

“The potential in the local fashion industry is immense which is why we need to focus on making fashion as the pioneering industry which initiates the rise of the creative industries in Sri Lanka, how we can make fashion an economic contributor, etc,” Linda Speldewinde, Founder organiser of the Sri Lanka Design Festival 2010 (SLDF), taking place for the second consecutive year, told the Business Times.

She said the festival dates (11-17 November 2010) were fixed with the industry input with the view that most key buyers, retailers, opinion leaders and the international media would be able to participate in the festival which will also ensure that the festival will be able to reap a maximum amount of benefits by addressing to the right audience.

“While we’re keen to promote the apparel industry, its righteous outlook and superior quality as we did last year, we are also determined to uphold and feature various other local industries from a creative background like interior design/Architecture, Graphic design/Advertising, Jeweler design/manufacture and product design,” she said, adding that these industries will be promoted by SLDF 2010 with a special emphasis on the related small and medium sector.

She added that this year, SLDF plans to build on the links established in 2009 and convert them into commercial collaborations, invite more buyers and arrange a string series of business meetings. Adding to the prominent number of participants from the UK, SLDF 2010 also expects US and Danish participants.

Ms. Speldewinde, wearing another hat as the Managing Director Academy of Design, organizing SLDF with the Export Development Board, noted that SLDF is also focusing on involving the Sri Lankan foreign trade offices to lead more delegates from other key markets all over the world.

She pointed out that SLDF 2010 also emphasises to underline ‘market led design’; hence it will be more focused to suit the visiting buyers. Products showcased this year will be collaborations between the local manufacturing industry and international retailers, with the input of UK designers. Designer wear collections will be highly focused to generate retailer interest to strengthen existing market linkages while building on new links.

Ms. Speldewinde said that this year, SLDF is targeting ambassadors who have the standing in the international fashion world to enable the Festival to access high profile speakers, designers and retailers who will be willing to collaborate with Sri Lanka.

“The SLDF is focused strongly towards uplifting and involving the SME sector. Amongst the international delegation a large number or reputed and promising smaller retailers will be present,” she said adding that these small and medium retailers will prove to be investors and buyers for Sri Lanka.

“SLDF hopes to promote traditional Sri Lankan crafts in a new light by combining the crafts and the apparel industry in certain segments. We hope to portray the collaboration of the local design industry with the manufacturing industry through collections involving both sectors (Ex; industry manufactured swimwear paired with custom designed, hand-made wraps),” she added.

She said that a traditional Sri Lankan Craft Village in a large park is planned adjacent to Mount Lavinia Hotel (Mount Park), where the SLDF will be held, with sales outlets, demonstrations and workshops of local crafts. The craft village will feature crafts from all parts of the island such as mask making, Dumbara mats, pottery, Beeralu lace from Galle, traditional embroidery work from Matale, Indi-kola products, Palm leaf products (from Jaffna), Rush and Reed, Cane work, Jewellery, Handloom weavers from Eastern Marthamunai and other such crafts from the rest of the island will be featured, which will enable the artisans to showcase their products to the foreign delegates.

“It will also be an opportunity for the delegates to watch them in action and acquire a good knowledge on Sri Lanka’s heritage. This venture is in collaboration with the National Crafts Council, who will be involving the country’s most renowned crafts persons and their products for the village. The many attractions of the crafts village include demonstrations of various craft methods and also interactive workshops to educate design enthusiasts,” Ms. Speldewinde explained.

She noted that areas of architecture and interior design in Sri Lanka have a meaningful involvement with sustainability and green methods in practice. “SLDF believes that this will create export and investment prospects in related areas such as construction and building, landscaping and domestic merchandize. The areas of advertising, graphics and packaging design in Sri Lanka hold a great potential in creating revenue for the country,” she said, pointing out that SLDF is confident that traditional, eco-themed methods of packaging have amazing potential in proving to be effective export merchandize.

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