The Sunday Times on the Web Mirror Magazine
5th April 1998

Front Page|
Editorial/Opinion| Business|
Plus |Sports

Front Page

Moods of inspiration

Simplicity is the secret of Dilani Wijeyesekera's success

Not many people know that Dilani Wijeyesekera is the creative spark behind Dilly's, the line of clothing characterised as much by its stark simplicity as by its quality. But for this vivaciously attractive young mother of two, this anonymity is something she enjoys.

This is because Dilani, a free spirit by her own admission, does not see designing as a prestigious passport to fame. She does it simply because she enjoys it and also she stresses because she has a 'fabulous' team of girls who contribute in her opinion quite considerably to the label's success.

Dilly's, launched some ten years ago in a small way with just five has achieved quite a considerable reputation. The team meanwhile has grown to thirty.

Not your average dress designer obviously. In fact one who has even repeatedly turned down export orders for fear that they would cramp her style.

There was no grand plan, no burning ambition that got her started. Married at twenty, Dilani living for a while in London was urged by her husband (who perhaps seeing her creative streak) to follow a couple of courses at the London Fashion School. Short they may have been but quite enough to get her hooked. "It would have been great to do more, but I also realised that after you learn the basics, what you make of it is up to you."

Back home, she started out, paying greater attention to simplicity, wearability, cut and finish than to the fashion dictates of the Parisian catwalks. To her surprise, there was no lack of demand. Such were the beginnings then of the Mood Collection which has given her ample rein for her imagination. Rather than produce random pieces with no purpose behind them, she prefers to create separate collections under a specific theme, so that there is thought and depth to the colour chosen, for each fabric carefully tracked, each individual piece, short cropped top or flowing skirt.

The Mood Collection has swung, like moods are apt to do, from the whimsical to the practical, from fantasy to romance. Some of it is travel inspired, for Dilani, quite naturally loves to travel.

So Africa and India have been major themes and then she not only visits the places to stir the senses but also carries back books and fabric to help her achieve the correct touch. Poring over the books, she says she also learns much and when able to translate that into design, feels that the collection has depth and meaning.

"I work on these collections with the girls and each project is an education, for me as well as them. So they understand what they're doing, why a particular fabric or print is suited."

Which bring us to the girls, Dilani's team who she reiterates are as much a part of Dilly's as she is. "What we have is quite special. They have a wonderful attitude. Nobody pushes them, but they are extraordinarily dedicated and each has her own speciality."

Her factory in Ratmalana, housed in a spacious well-lit building has none of the rigid, frenetic pace that one associates with garment factories. Grouped on a wall are posters, pictures from previous collections.

We are greeted by Dulshika, a pleasant young woman and expert pattern-maker whose quiet exterior masks many capabilities. "She is a tower of strength," says Dilani. Among the girls is one young man Rukmal whose lively chatter has them all breaking into smiles.

Dilani is particularly delighted by the peaceful atmosphere at work and the efforts to make the girls feel comfortable. "There is a library where they can browse in during breaks and music, depending on what kind of collection we're working on." The girls also get English classes, go on regular trips and learn other vocational skills like tie and dye."

Though work is carried out in an informal atmosphere, it is also highly professional in the methods of manufacture used.

Simplicity, she insists, is what she likes best. Uncluttered clothes that you can just put on without too much fuss and yet feel supremely comfortable and confident in. "It's what you feel inside that matters. I think the styling should be simple because the wearer must show more. When the garment suits you, everyone can see the confidence in you."

Sometimes she wonders whether her clientele have understood this concept. "It takes a lot to see what simplicity is all about. I personally believe that you can't dictate what someone should wear which is why a large part of each collection is made up of co-ordinates where one can decide how to team them or even mix them with something else as the mood may suggest."

Dilani will confess that she herself is not a clothes person. If this sounds somewhat strange coming from a designer, by this she means that she is not one who lingers for hours every morning before her mirror, pondering what to wear.

There are more important things in her life, like her family, her husband, who takes care of the financial side of the business and lends her huge amounts of moral support (he it was who christened it Dilly's after her) and her two boys, aged 13 and 10 who she says with pride are a real source of inspiration.

"We do a lot of things together and I try to include them in my work. They sometimes do me little sketches and offer ideas and comments." All extra time is spent with them, she says, for partying is not her strong point.

After Oranges and Lemons, True Blue, Pretty Pastels, India and Africa to name just a handful of her many collections comes the Frangipani Collection which is described as a touch of the exotic. In time for the Avurudu, it is already in the shops. Meanwhile at the factory, the girls have moved on. Another travel oriented collection is in the offing and there's a stack of books piled high by Dilani's desk. -Renuka Sadanandan

The Frangipani Collection modelled by Premila.

Pix By Kumara Dayawansa Nanneththi
Presented on the World Wide Web by Infomation Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.

More Mirror Magazine * Junior Times

Return to Mirror Magazine Contents

Mirror Magazine Archive

Front Page| News/Comment| Editorial/Opinion| Business| Plus |Sports

Hosted By LAcNet

Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to

The Sunday Times or to Information Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.