For Ajai Vir Singh, fashion remains the meeting point between creativity and a knack for spotting untapped opportunities-two things he has honed over the space of 13 years as founder and president of Colombo Fashion Week (CFW). In 2012 he launched CFW Resort; this year he will launch Asia’s first ever fashion week dedicated to [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Ajai plunges into tested waters with Swim Week

Asia’s first ever fashion week dedicated to swimwear from June 24-26

On the ramp: A special swimwear edition that took to the Hilton Colombo pool last year

For Ajai Vir Singh, fashion remains the meeting point between creativity and a knack for spotting untapped opportunities-two things he has honed over the space of 13 years as founder and president of Colombo Fashion Week (CFW). In 2012 he launched CFW Resort; this year he will launch Asia’s first ever fashion week dedicated to swimwear-Swim Week Colombo, which will be on from June 24 to June 26.

If you keep an eye on Colombo’s fashion scene, you’re likely to be a bit confused-in August last year a special swimwear edition took to the Hilton Colombo pool (literally the pool–a ramp was suspended over the water). So why is this edition labelled the first? “Last year was a trial run of sorts,” says Ajai. “I knew swimwear had potential here, but only realized to what extent when we received great feedback on international media.”

Thus in partnership with MAS’ Linea Aqua, and the support of its head Sarinda Unamboowe, Ajai is launching the first fashion week dedicated exclusively to swimwear in the continent. He hopes to meet the standards of swimwear fashion week giants in Miami and Sao Paulo. While there is much to be achieved before that-for example, establishing a coterie of talented Lankan and international swimwear designers that will show regularly –he is confident that Sri Lanka can achieve expert status in this area. “Just think about it-we’ve got location and talent. The world’s top swimwear brands manufacture their garments here, so we have the technology as well.”

Moreover, the market potential is immense, he notes. “It’s very relevant to the tourism industry that thrives in this part of Asia. There are currently a few places you can buy swimwear in Sri Lanka and even in countries like India. We have this huge untapped market that’s right on our doorstep. Why not take it?”

Ajai is no stranger to the fashion industry in Sri Lanka. In 2003, he launched CFW despite naysayers who didn’t believe a fashion week could thrive in Colombo’s admittedly small fashion industry at the time. He proved them wrong fairly quickly. By March 2016, when CFW returned for its Spring/Summer season for the 13th time, it had several properties in its portfolio. Chief amongst these was Resort, which has enjoyed resounding success since its launch in 2012. Other properties include regular retail walks, CFW Frame, an emerging designer enclave for budding young designers, Project 7 to develop designer potential, knowledge workshops, a designer pod, and a fashion design fund awarded every year to a promising young designer.

All in all, it has been a good run for the Indian- born designer who moved to Sri Lanka in pursuit of an advertising career, changing his path midway. Now, he has a full time job managing CFW from Colombo together with CEO Fazeena Rajabdeen; Rajabdeen works with a working document they compiled four years ago and handles 22 functions, overseeing an expanding team that encompasses creatives from different media.  

Swim Week Colombo will look outward unlike its counterpart CFW, which focuses on developing Sri Lankan talent. CFW which has always been sensitive to Sri Lanka’s design fraternity, notes Ajai-Swim, will also uplift the portfolio of Lankan designers but the focus here is on building expert status, and potentially making Sri Lanka the top destination for the latest trends in swimwear.

The ten local designers who will showcase their collections are familiar names; “I wanted to be safe,” says Ajai. “These designers are not only talented but also technically proficient in designing swimwear.” You’ll recognize designers such as Darshi Keerthisena, Charini Suriyage, Upeksha Hager and Charlene Thuring (and Ajai’s label Arugam Bay) immediately from previous CFW runways-they’ll be joined by more recently launched brands such as MAUS, Meraki and Rachel Raj.

Swim will also feature a trend seminar featuring trend experts and a “Swim Wall”-a one wall pop up store featuring designers and their collections. Immediately after the shows this wall will move to a retail store, and then online-so you can buy your swimwear from anywhere. The struggle Sri Lankan women in particular face when it comes to finding decent swimwear is not lost on Ajai. “I know people who order their swimwear from catalogues online; and more often than not what gets delivered was actually manufactured in Sri Lanka in the first place. We have all the ingredients for building an expert image and a thriving business for swimwear right here-Swim Week Colombo is bringing all these things together.”

Ajai Singh: Making waves in the local fashion industry. Pix by Amila Gamage

Making Sri Lanka the global destination for swimwear

Models showcase some of the swimwear designer names at the news conference

At a news conference at the Hilton Colombo on June 7, Ajai Vir Singh was joined by his event partners in officially announcing Swim Week Colombo, which will be on June 24-26 at the ECT Terminal of the Colombo Port.

Swim Week Colombo is a technical collaboration between Colombo Fashion Week and swimwear manufacturer Linea Aqua, featuring 14 local and international designers. Apart from the 10 local designers (see main article), international designers include Heidi Klein, Aviva, Hot as Hell and We Are Handsome.

Speaking at the event, Ajai reiterated his vision alongside that of Linea Aqua CEO and Managing Director Sarinda Unaboowe’s to make Sri Lanka the global destination for swimwear and swimwear trend expertise. Sri Lanka Ports Authority Chairman Dhammika Ranatunga noted that Swim Week’s vision was aligned with the SLPA’s plans to attract more international cruise ships to the island’s main ports.

The title partner for Swim Week Colombo is OLU Tropical Water; other partners include Nations Trust Bank American Express, Hilton Colombo, Land Rover, Ramani Fernando Salons, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, and the Leo Burnett and MSL Group.



Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.