Following three successful seasons this year, Colombo Fashion Week now focuses on prepping Sri Lanka’s emerging fashion talent to reach great heights. At two recently held workshops ‘Making the Cut’ and ‘CFW Day’ at Raffles Design Institute, fashion students and aspiring fashion designers were able to engage with the CFW team as well as established designers who were able to launch and grow their fashion labels through their participation at CFW.
‘Making the Cut’, held on 9 November at the Hilton Colombo, was a free workshop exclusively for emerging designers who wish to apply to CFW’s Emerging Designer Showcase, BrightSpark Shows. Held twice a year, the Emerging Designer Showcase has become an important milestone in the careers of Sri Lanka’s most talented young designers, who see it as a valuable platform in which they are able to take their labels off the ground and be noticed by the media and discerning consumers. The workshop saw a packed room filled with eager, young designers who will apply this month to grab ten coveted spots at the CFW Spring/Summer 2016 Show.
Ajai V. Singh, Founder and President of CFW, in his presentation at the workshop, explained the careful process in which applicants are handpicked for the Emerging Designer Showcase, stressing on the importance of having passion to grow within the industry. Enlightening attendees on the benefits of showing at CFW, Singh also took attendees through the essential components that make a runway- and retail-ready collection and, most importantly, all that is required to stand out in their applications to showcase. The workshop was an opportunity for young designers to directly engage with the CFW team and gain first-hand knowledge of debuting at an international fashion week and preparing for the response that often follows, and other aspects of the industry that are not generally taught at fashion schools.
Throughout the year, CFW holds ‘CFW Day’ at leading fashion design schools in the country to introduce fashion students to CFW, educate them on the possibilities within the Sri Lankan fashion industry and help them identify the ways in which they can prepare to showcase at CFW and grow their labels. On 11 November, a ‘CFW Day’ was held at Raffles Design Institute, Colombo.
Highlighting the importance of having creativity that not only thrills but also sells, Singh pointed out that CFW has now directed its attention towards pushing designers to be retail-ready in order to gain commercial success. "CFW invests considerable time in building up and preparing the next generation of designers, once they are ready we will provide an ideal showcase with tremendous exposure to start their careers. This has been one of our goals since the beginning. We are very pleased with the two sessions, Making the Cut and CFW Day, which was aimed at empowering the new participating designers, and will host more,” said Ajai Vir Singh, Founder and President of CFW.
To speak on their personal journeys were Charini Suriyage, one of Sri Lanka’s most prolific designers who has shown at many CFW seasons, and Kasun Gunawardana, who debuted at CFW and won the prestigious CFW Fashion Design Fund, this year. Suriyage was an intern at the first-ever Colombo Fashion Week back in 2003 and went on to launch her label CHARINI at CFW in 2009. Since then, she has grown from strength to strength, with CFW serving as the key platform for her to learn, and develop and market her brand. “As a designer, it is very important to have your own identity, and CFW helped me find my identity. Today, my label has evolved and I have my own workshop and staff,” she said. “CFW brings exposure to designers amongst influential invitees, and this in turn inspires others to buy and wear your label too.” Drawing from the response he received following his showcases at Spring/Summer and Resort, Gunwardana said, “CFW gives its designers the opportunity to gain much coverage in mainstream media. There is also a lot of publicity given on social media, which has opened up ways in which those who do not attend the shows can engage in and experience what is shown on the runway.”
On the ‘CFW Day’ experience, Dinesh Chandrasena, Student Coordinator of Fashion Design, Raffles Design Institute said, “It is a wonderful opportunity presented to our student body and graduates, as they gain first-hand information on collection development and the market for fashion today.”
Since its first edition at the University of Moratuwa in December 2013, ‘CFW Day’ has been able to inspire a whole new generation of fashion designers to work towards showcasing at CFW, one of four main fashion weeks in Asia that are over 10 years old, as an immediate step forward, following graduation. The backbone of Sri Lanka’s fashion industry for 12 years and counting, CFW continues to drive growth amongst young and established designers, whilst constantly evolving its own initiatives to take Sri Lankan fashion into the global arena.