When a person visualizes ‘fashion’, the first thing that pops into their heads are the fashion capitals of the world; Paris, Milan and London. Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology combines the best aspects of all worlds, as it radiates inspiration taken from these famed fashion capitals, and gives the Sri Lankan community a chance to [...]


Reminiscing 20 years of Fashion Mastery with Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology


When a person visualizes ‘fashion’, the first thing that pops into their heads are the fashion capitals of the world; Paris, Milan and London. Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology combines the best aspects of all worlds, as it radiates inspiration taken from these famed fashion capitals, and gives the Sri Lankan community a chance to pursue education in the field of fashion design.

It has been 20 years since now Managing Director Niroshani Leanage urged her mother Chairperson Roshani Leanage to establish Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology to open up a pathway for Sri Lankan students to get a taste of the wonders of fashion. The Managing director enthusiastically shared her recollections of the journey during the past two decades.

What drove you to launch this fashion institute?

Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology started in 2000; a time where a formal education pathway for fashion designing was absent within the country. It started of as a BOI (Board of Investment) company since international expertise was mandatory for such an initiative. Ties were established with our close neighbor India (JD Institute of Fashion Technology) to bring in the required expertise into the field.

LIFT was registered under the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission since the day of its inception. This is purely a family venture where my mother Roshani Leanage invested in my passion for introducing a formal fashion design education pathway to Sri Lankan students.

What was your initial reaction when it dawned that it has been 20 years since LIFT’s journey began?

Time has indeed passed at a rapid pace. Looking back at our history, and comparing to where we are now, it has indeed been a complete satisfactory journey. It is an overwhelming and joyful feeling when it dawned that we have reached the 2nd decade milestone.

Even-though we are unable to have a grand celebration for the 20th year anniversary due to COVID-19 restrictions, LIFT shall regardless remain committed to uphold its Sri Lankan identity when it is teaching students internationally acclaimed concepts. Personally, I am very satisfied.

What has been the secret for this prolonged longevity of LIFT in the Sri Lankan context?

The corporate culture which has been established throughout the years supported by the steady committed management structure and employee base who have dedicated most of their lives for the growth of the institute has been a core ingredient for the success of Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology. The contribution of the trustworthy International partners should never be overlooked. Ultimately, the customers; our beloved students and their parents who showed faith in LIFT to educate their children have been the core pillars for our consistent growth.

What are the highlights of LIFT during the past two decades? What were the significant ‘ups’ and overwhelming ‘downs’ that you fondly recall?

Let us look at the timeline of LIFT, and recall the journey as it is, and identify the memorable moments.

In 2002, LIFT hosted its inaugural fashion show at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium under the theme, ‘Our Heritage’, in partnership with the Sri Lanka Tourist Board. The event performances were choregraphed by Rahul Dev Shetty who is a leading Choreographer from India. The event showcased many Sri Lankan and Indian Models who took the spotlight on the ramp. The inaugural event was witnessed by 5000 invitees.

That led to a series of fashion events and exhibitions in the years that followed. Two grand fashion shows were hosted in Cinnamon Grand and Oberoi Hotel in 2003. Later on, another exhibition was hosted in 2005 at Galle Face Hotel. The trend continued as another exhibition was held in 2006. Galle Face Hotel accommodated yet another exhibition in 2007.

In 2009, LIFT experimented with a new idea, and hosted a two day event called ‘Chic ‘This fashion event was held in the Hilton Hotel, and was organised in collaboration with the Cinnamon Round Tables.

LIFT started off the new decade in 2010 by hosting its ‘Decade of Celebration’ fashion show where three Miss Indian winners graced the event with their presence. Thereafter, LIFT hosted a Graduate Fashion Show in 2012.

2013 was a significant year. It was the year which LIFT carried out the ‘Camouflage’ initiative in aid of children of the fallen war heroes. Furthermore, a Fashion Award Ceremony was hosted for LIFT students along with the participation of graduates of the University of Northampton – UK. Thereafter 2014 and 2015 hosted yet another Fashion Awards and Graduate Fashion Show respectively.

2015 was yet another significant year. There-onwards LIFT partnered with the French Spring Festival annually. This was a great opportunity for the students, to mingle and to get to know many artists and celebrities by participating in various events. In 2016, LIFT hosted an open air fashion show and the Mod’Art ‘Beaujoulais nouveau’, organised by the French Embassy was held at The Waters Edge.

2017 saw to the launch of IGFS (International Graduates Fashion Spectacle). This was held in partnership with the French Embassy in Sri Lanka, welcoming fashion graduates from across the world, to showcase their talents and to represent their nation on a single platform. This grand spectacle was witnessed by graduates from France, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Hungary, Bangladesh, India, Germany and LIFT and Mod’Art students from Sri Lanka.

2018 witnessed two grand events. The first was a turning point for LIFT. Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology took the lead to host the ‘Fashion Nouveau’, which is the first ever online fashion exhibition in Sri Lanka. It showcased trends, couture designs and fashion collections. The other memorable event is the return of the IGFS for its second edition.

2019 hosted ‘Exposition de Mode’, which is the Fashion Exhibition for the French Spring Festival and the ‘Chocolate meets Fashion’ project; which was an external project conducted with the collaboration of Hilton. This event showcased spectacular garments designed out of chocolate.

In 2020, on the year of the celebration, Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology, with the ample support of the Sunday Times, organised an all-island art competition. The event was open for all children from across the country who fell under the set 3 age categories. The winners of this competition was awarded with cash awards and scholarships, which are what the children require to progress towards a better future.

While on the topic of the ‘downs’ not much has been able to deter the growth of Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology. The most predominant ‘down’ witnessed in recent times is the common denominator for the down of all the industries across the globe. That is the inconvenience of the global pandemic.

However, Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology was up for the task, even before the country went into lockdown. The proper protocols were followed, and decisions were made to ensure that the students do not lose time that can otherwise be spent on their education. Lecture sessions were restarted with only a hiatus of a week. LIFT has a sophisticated and engaging online platform where students were able to follow their relevant course modules and conduct their relevant projects and examinations in the comforts of their own homes.

How has Lanka Institute of Fashion given something back for the Sri Lankan society?

Lanka Institute of Fashion has duly played its part for the betterment of the society on regular basis. The CSR projects conducted by the institute encompasses a multitude of different fields.

As mentioned earlier, LIFT played an important role in the “Camouflage” project. This was organised by Viru Daru of the Sri Lanka Army in association with LIFT. The purpose of this endeavor is to raise funds for the betterment of the children, of the fallen war heroes of the country.

Other than that, the students of Lanka Institute of Fashion conducted a special Craft Workshop for students of the Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind. The students of LIFT further participated in Eric Sooriyasena’s Batik Competition. This was organized by Erik Sooriyasena as an effort to raise funds for the Chilaw Hospital Cancer Unit and for the victims of the Easter attack.

What are the opportunities created, and the influence given to the students of Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology?

Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology connects students to the fashion capitals of the world whilst firmly inculcating the Sri Lankan identity. This gives them the required exposure to the French culture while operating in the local culture, thus giving them a holistic view into the global industry.

Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology, and Mod’Art International Sri Lanka in particular gives students the opportunity to take part in annual study visits to Paris. This allows the students to get a first hand experience on what is taught within the premises, and gain inspiration for their future coursework.  Additionally, the students of Mod’Art International have the choice of pursuing their higher studies in Paris whilst gaining the recognition as a student of the European Union. This grants the student all the student benefits that come along with the title.

LIFT is the only campus which facilitates visits to the International Trade Shows, such as Premiere Vision (The Global Event for Fashion Professionals) and other similar exhibitions. The students have the opportunity to follow their study courses online due to the sophisticated digital platform from anywhere in the world. The quality of the product delivered to the students are assured through specialized training to the staff, and by maintaining the staff student ratio of 1:16. This ratio aspect is followed by most of the leading specialized European Training Centers.

The students of Lanka Institute of Fashion was graced with the influence of many great inspirational figurines during the past two decades.

Leigh Cook, a notable designer for Hermes, shared his wisdom to the students through a talk show. Hemant Trevedi, a leading designer in India, choreographed many Fashion Shows hosted by Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology. The dignified French Street Artist Daco once did a demonstration of wall art for the students. The Belgian Artist Fabienne Francot had conducted many workshops throughout the years. Furthermore, former Miss India winners Symran Kayur and Lakshmi Pandith showcased student designs on the ramp at LIFT’s 10th year anniversary celebration fashion show.

What are the notable international
partnerships established by Lanka
Institute of Fashion Technology?

In 2004, Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology started associating with the University of Northampton, UK to offer advanced entries to fashion design degrees. This enabled the students to transfer to the University of Northampton to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in fashion design. That permits them to take part in the London Graduate Fashion Week through the university.

Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology launched the Mod’Art International Paris Franchise in Sri Lanka in 2014. This collaboration enabled LIFT to offer the Bachelor in Fashion Design to the Sri Lankan students. It is a highly demanded 3 year course. This collaboration withstood the challenges of time, strengthening as the years progressed given to the fact that both the corporate cultures of Mod’Art International Paris and Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology were in sync and is quite similar in nature.

All green solutions of Midland (Michigan) is an organisation which provides sustainable consumer centric ideas to the apparel industry. A seminar was conducted in 2019 to launch the partnership between both parties and to discuss the ideas for implementation. This was highly beneficial for the students as well as to the apparel industry professionals. Additionally, Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology partnered with Taf.tc Singapore (Textile and Fashion Industry Training Centre). This was similar to an internship program conducted in order to facilitate a student transfer programme, offering international students to study in Sri Lanka at Mod’Art International Paris.

Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology signed up in the ModaPelle Academy Milan for the professional training of leather design, shoe ware and accessories.

What is the message that you wish to
deliver to the Sri Lankan society?

Education is a necessity. Receiving the ideal education at the ideal time, having a clear focus and selecting what you personally want to pursue is highly advised. LIFT shows significant concern whilst enrolling students. It aspires to evaluate students based on whether they posses a vision for their future. In the end, Lanka Institute of Fashion Technology will guide its students to achieve the vision for their future which they have envisioned.

- by Randheer Mallawaarachchi


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