Mathilde Dratwa reporting from HSBC CFW 2012. Day Two of HSBC Colombo Fashion Week (Feb 25) was "Ethical Fashion Day", with a wide range of designers whose work either promotes villagers and communities, uses recycled or environmentally friendly materials, or both. The show was opened by Bibi Russell from Bangladesh. The former model was participating in CFW for the sixth successive year. For her collection, the models moved gracefully in circular patterns, clapping and dancing in Bibi's colourful designs.
While Bibi's work helps to preserve heritage wheels, embroidery, and techniques, it also supports isolated communities whose craftsmanship has been handed down through generations. To complement the brightness of her clothes, lead makeup artist Nina Jafferji created a look that was calming and natural. Applying bronze colour to the torso of a male model, she commented: "The first day was about creating youthful, passionate looks. In contrast, today we are looking for warm, earthy tones." So what about tomorrow? "Well, tomorrow's makeup will be bolder. The looks will be glamorous, elegant, and dramatic."
The three designers to compete for the prestigious Gen Next award showed very different lines this evening. Deneth, Gihan Ediriweera and the two-sister team Koca each impressed the audience with innovative, vibrant designs. For the first time this year, the Gen Next award will be presented by Pantene, world leader in haircare. "We are excited to help CFW identify, develop and promote the most promising young designer," explains Vijay Jacob of Grey, representing Pantene. He goes on to illustrate how the concept fits the Pantene brand: "We have a 14-day challenge, which is all about transforming your hair from good to great. So we are looking forward to helping high-potential designers take that extra step towards greatness."
Koca designers Najila and Rusla dedicated their collection to the majestic Galle Fort, incorporating architectural design in their high-fashion concept. Gihan's pieces combined Japanese tradition with nature and mystery. Deneth's line was inspired by Paris. "I was in Paris recently for Ethical Fashion Week, and was struck by the dual nature of Parisian women. They are both elegant and childish, riding along their bicycles in blue dresses." So blue was prominently featured in her collection, which included jewellery made from scrap material left over from her main pieces.
Deneth wasn't the only designer inspired by bicycles. The Conscience line showcased classical beauty in its menswear line as the models rode out onto the catwalk on bikes! The decision to use a green mode of transport in a collection made in "Garnments Without Guilt" factories was inspired and effective.
The day was a huge success, partly because the ethical clothes did not sacrifice quality in the name of social progress. "The overseas buyers have been very impressed with how beautifully finished all the clothes are," comments Barbara Young, the retail coordinator for Colombo Fashion Week. Barbara's job consists of introducing designers to retailers, and vice versa. Elegantly dressed in a green dress of cotton and silk by Gihan, Barbara declared that this year's designers had surpassed all expectations.
The lead makeup artist Nina Jafferji preparing in the hotel lobby
Nithya (on the left) and Lonali (on the right), two young designers from the Academy of Design. Their work was showcased in a fringe show at 4pm: Nithya's take on the traditional "osariya" and Lonali's recycled materials blending the boundaries between fashion and art. Nithya spoke for both of them when she said they "felt incredibly lucky to be here tonight."
"The overseas buyers have been very impressed with how beautifully finished all the clothes are," comments Barbara Young, the retail coordinator for Colombo Fashion Week. Elegantly dressed in a green dress of cotton and silk by Gihan, Barbara declared that this year's designers had surpassed all expectations.
Reporter Mathilde Dratwa standing next to Deneth, whose creations she is wearing. You will notice a faint outline of the Eiffel Tower on Deneth's dress, which exemplifies her desire to bring the patterns and textures of rural Sri Lanka to the urban fashion scene.
Here are the designers and their creations that were displayed tonight.
Bibi Russell is a fashion designer and former international model from Bangladesh. After working with Yves Saint Laurent, Kenzo, Karl Lagerfeld and Giorgio Armani, she started Bibi Productions to work with Bangladeshi weavers and artisans. Her goal: to help them utilize their considerable skills to sustain themselves and build a prosperous future. She has since used this model around the world, in places like India, Denmark and Colombia, harmoniously linking tradition and modernity, and helping them access local and global markets.
Her work has earned her the title ‘Designer for Development’ from UNESCO in 1999, ‘Artist for Peace’ from UNESCO in 2001 and the Peace Prize in 2004 from the United Nations Associations of Spain. Asiaweek magazine highlighted her as "one of the 20 people to watch in the millennium", however, more telling are these quotes from Columbian weavers she worked with: “She is unassuming and committed,” and, “She has a great capacity to teach with love.”
Kasuni Rathnasuriya was the recipient of the British Council Young Fashion Entrepreneur of the Year for 2011. Currently employed at Brandix Intimate Apparel as a Designer for Victoria’s Secret PINK, a leading apparel group in Sri Lanka which is highly focused on eco-friendly best practices, she uses the same ethical practices in her own environmentally sound product line that features Beeralu and handmade crocheted lace. Collaborating with the Carbon Consulting Company (CCC) to calculate the product footprint for her swimsuit line, she treats each and every KUR creation as a labour of love made for those who are ethically conscious and know the value of arts, local tradition, heritage, and craftsmanship. This is her third showing at Colombo Fashion Week.
Conscience believes in making an impact on the entire supply chain in a positive way--calling it ‘the supply chain of happiness.’ They want happy farmers, happy weavers, and happy manufacturers so that ethically conscious consumers can wear their garments with pride and joy. This means buying fabric from mills that practice ethical sourcing from cotton farmers, who are included in their process of sourcing fairly, and using mills that are conscious of the environment they and their stakeholders operate in. One of the mills they work with also protects a forest and a wildlife reserve, acting on the belief that nature and this planet belong as much to others as it belongs to us. Conscience is manufactured at 'Garments Without Guilt' factories in Sri Lanka and is a label designed, created and manufactured in Sri Lanka. It currently retails in Sri Lanka, India and Australia.
With a name that means ‘Eyes’, it is no surprise that Deneth seeks to fill everyone’s vision with a riot of colours. Her own 21st-century “flower power” style is inspired from her Sri Lankan home, as well as from many years living and traveling in Nepal, India, Bhutan and France. Using ‘cheetha’-- a colourful cotton textile used as village wear in Sri Lanka--she creates modern clothes for men and women, handmade by three small families from Kurunegala with care, love and extra attention. Her line is uniquely suited for the modern-day global nomad, at home in all cultures, comfortable with all people without prejudice--meditative, philosophical and spiritual, but also laid back and easy-going.
Gihan Ediriweera (G)
Gihan was named ‘Best Designer of the Year’ twice in 2009—once by the Sunday Observer, where he also garnered first place in the eveningwear category, and the other from Lanka Woman Magazine, where he also took first place in ladies resort wear, ladies office wear, ladies ethnic wear, and ladies evening wear. With collections currently available at Melache design studio, and a collection that ties together traditional Japanese styles with nature and mystery, he would like to take the Sri Lankan design identity to the international market.
Influences from cultural dance embodied with striking architectural design by the Dutch, Portuguese and British from the UNESCO world heritage site of Galle fort brings to life creations by KOCA. Designers Najila and Rusla dedicate their Spring Summer Resort wear collection to the majestic Galle Fort – hints of ancient building architecture, military uniform and Sri Lankan cultural dance costumes embellish the appliqué design. The stunning jewellery used for the dresses are by the Sri Lankan Jewellery Design House, Pedlars Inn Gallery.
At his 2004 graduating show from NIFT, he had his first award-winning show at the Singapore Fashion Week '05. It was followed by career milestones in 2007, when he participated in the London Fashion Week and in 2008, presenting his SS’09 collection as a solo show at Carousel Du Louvre, Paris. Passionately working for the cause of his native Bhagalpur master-weavers, Samant received the ‘Young Entrepreneur Award’ from the British Council in 2009. He's participated in Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week since 2005 and in WLIFW's SS12; breaking into the Indian wear market in grand way with the launch of his 'Rajputana' collection, which captures the British Victorian influence on the Royal Rajasthanis, using hand-woven silk and cottons, hand-embroidery and block-printing.
James Ferreira is an Indian designer with a career spanning three decades, one of which was spent outside of India. Whether in London or Bollywood, he always gets attention. James’s style encompasses the neoclassic, fresh and contemporary. These days, using Eastern techniques of drawstring and origami, he can be found creating innovative, interesting silhouettes, where ease of movement is key. He works primarily with natural fabrics, and gives special attention to details such as hand embroidery and hand finishing. His designs capture the movement of the drape, and epitomize simplicity, femininity, and sensuality.
Joining her family business Buddhi Batiks in January 2005, Darshi aspired to push the batik industry into the contemporary fashion market. Her showing at Colombo Fashion Week 2007 earned her a place at the Bangalore Fashion Week alongside reputed Indian designers such as Tarun Tahiliani, Rohit Bal and JJ Valaya. Orders received from that show have led to her retailing in top design stores in Bangalore and Chennai. She has represented Sri Lanka as the national winner of the British Council’s International Young Fashion Entrepreneur for 2008, and in New Delhi at the Fashion Development Council of India’s SAARC show.
Pics by Manoj Ratnayake