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Amilani Perera

9 March 2024 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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A distinguished figure in the fashion industry, she is celebrated for her ingenuity and originality. Her journey began with a profound love for clothing and design cultivated since childhood, leading her to graduate from the esteemed Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore. Infusing her designs with rich cultural heritage, she captivates audiences across borders with collections that seamlessly blend traditional craftsmanship with contemporary flair. Inspired by her Sri Lankan roots, she addresses pressing social issues such as gender inequality and violence against women through her creations, weaving narratives of resilience and empowerment. As a pioneer, she continues to inspire, leaving an enduring impact on the world of fashion and beyond; Amilani Perera.

Share with us in summary your personal journey?

My personal journey has been a rich tapestry of experiences, filled with both joyous moments and challenges that have shaped me into the person I am today. One of the most fulfilling aspects of this journey has been the privilege of nurturing and caring for my five-year-old son, who brings boundless laughter and love into my life every day. Over the past decade, I've also cherished the deep connection I share with my husband, as we’ve navigated life’s ups and downs together, growing stronger with each passing year. However, amidst these joys, there have been moments of sorrow, particularly with the loss of my parents. Coping with their absence has been one of the toughest challenges I've faced, leaving an indelible mark on my heart. Yet, through it all, I've found solace and strength in the unwavering support of my family and friends. They have served as the pillars of my resilience, offering comfort, encouragement, and a sense of belonging during times of sorrow and uncertainty. Both personally and professionally, my journey has been enriched by the bonds forged with those closest to me. Their love and encouragement have propelled me forward, helping me overcome obstacles and pursue my dreams with determination and passion. As I reflect on my journey thus far, I am filled with gratitude for the love, support, and blessings that have illuminated my path, guiding me through life's twists and turns with courage and grace.

Share with us in summary your professional journey?

My professional journey began after graduating from Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore, where I honed my skills and passion for fashion design. My career kicked off as a fashion designer at MAS Holdings, where I had the privilege of contributing to the esteemed Amanté lingerie brand. Following this, I ventured into the role of a design consultant for Arvind Lifestyle Brands in Bangalore, India, further expanding my expertise and experience in the industry. During my tenure at MAS Holdings, I took a bold step by applying for Colombo Fashion Week in 2013, marking the beginning of my journey as a showcased designer at this prestigious event. Since then, I've had the honor of consecutively presenting my collections at Colombo Fashion Week, showcasing my evolving creativity and unique aesthetic to a wider audience. My achievements extend beyond national borders, as I proudly represented Sri Lanka as the sole brand at the Asian Designer Week 2016 held in New Delhi, India.

 

This opportunity allowed me to showcase my designs on an international platform, garnering recognition and acclaim for my distinctive style and craftsmanship. In 2017, I had the privilege of showcasing my Spring Summer ‘17 Collection at the USA - SRI LANKA fashion week in New York, further solidifying my presence in the global fashion scene. Additionally, I had the honor of serving as the official designer for the Airport & Aviation of Sri Lanka, a testament to the trust and confidence placed in my creative vision and expertise. Throughout my professional journey, I've been driven by a relentless passion for innovation and excellence, continuously pushing the boundaries of design and craftsmanship. Each opportunity and milestone have not only shaped my career but also enriched my journey as a creative professional, inspiring me to strive for greater heights in the dynamic world of fashion.

What inspired you to explore a career in fashion designing?

The allure of fashion design has captivated me since I was just 14 years old. From a young age, I harboured a deep-seated desire to express my creativity through clothing and design. This passion was so strong that I willingly pursued drawing art as a subject, solely driven by my ambition to become a designer. The idea of shaping fabrics and colours into wearable art fascinated me, igniting a relentless pursuit of my dream career. With each stroke of the pencil and every sketch, I was fuelled by the excitement of bringing my visions to life on the runway. Fashion design became more than just a career path; it became a calling, an intrinsic part of who I am and what I aspire to achieve.

What inspired your collection showcased at Colombo Fashion Week 2024, and how does it reflect Sri Lankan culture and heritage?

The collection showcased at Colombo Fashion Week 2024 pays tribute to International Women’s Day, emphasizing gender inclusivity. Created in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund, it features handwoven macramé bands by differently abled survivors of violence. Inspired by the fleeting Kadupul flower, the collection symbolizes women's resilience with meticulously crafted elements. The colour palette mirrors the Kadupul's lifecycle, urging reflection on life's transient beauty. Through vibrant hues and intricate textures, the collection celebrates impermanence and advocates for inclusivity and empowerment, amplifying women's voices and stories.

Could you share some insights into the creative process behind your collaboration with UNFPA to raise awareness about gender-based violence in Sri Lanka through fashion?

Our collaboration with UNFPA aims to address gender-based violence in Sri Lanka through fashion, viewing it as a potent tool for social transformation. Grounded in a thorough understanding of the issue, our creative process involves research, dialogue, and engagement with survivors and advocates. We weave together elements of symbolism and storytelling to craft a narrative that resonates authentically. Collaboration with UNFPA and other stakeholders ensures our message is impactful, challenging stereotypes and fostering empathy. Through this collaboration, we strive to spark broader conversations about gender equality, empowering individuals to become agents of change and envisioning a future free from violence and discrimination.

 

How do you believe fashion can be utilized as a tool for social change and advocacy, particularly in addressing sensitive issues like gender-based violence?

Fashion possesses a remarkable ability to transcend boundaries and cultures, serving as a powerful tool for social change, especially in addressing sensitive issues like gender-based violence. Beyond mere clothing, fashion embodies self-expression and societal values, offering a platform for impactful storytelling. Through innovative designs and messaging, fashion can raise awareness, challenge norms, and amplify the voices of survivors and advocates. By promoting diversity and inclusivity, fashion has the potential to reshape perceptions of gender and identity. Strategic partnerships with organizations like UNFPA enable fashion brands to drive meaningful impact through initiatives and advocacy efforts. Ultimately, fashion has the capacity to catalyse broader social change by engaging audiences, challenging injustices, and inspiring collective action towards a world free from violence and discrimination.

Can you elaborate on the significance of incorporating traditional Sri Lankan elements into your designs, and how you balance tradition with modernity in your collections?

I incorporate traditional Sri Lankan elements, such as embroidery and prints, onto modern silhouettes to strike a balance between tradition and modernity in my designs. This fusion pays homage to my heritage while appealing to contemporary sensibilities. Through meticulous craftsmanship and careful selection of materials, I create pieces that honour tradition while resonating with diverse audiences. Ultimately, blending traditional and modern elements enriches my collections and celebrates Sri Lankan culture in a contemporary context.

What challenges did you face while designing pieces that aim to raise awareness about such a critical issue as gender-based violence, and how did you overcome them?

Designing pieces aimed at raising awareness about gender-based violence posed several challenges, particularly in incorporating political statements. However, we navigated this challenge through a rigorous mind mapping process. By prioritizing classic silhouettes, we found a way to convey our message effectively while ensuring a timeless appeal.

In what ways do you hope your collaboration with UNFPA will impact the conversation surrounding gender equality and violence against women in Sri Lanka?

Our collaboration with UNFPA holds the potential to profoundly impact the conversation surrounding gender equality and violence against women in Sri Lanka. By harnessing the universal appeal of fashion, we aim to raise awareness and empower communities to challenge norms perpetuating violence. Through this partnership, we actively involve survivors of violence in product development and provide mentoring programs to enhance their fashion and design skills. Fashion serves as a powerful outlet for survivors and their loved ones to break the silence surrounding violence, facilitating open dialogue, and fostering a culture of empowerment. By openly addressing this taboo topic, we take a meaningful step towards creating a violence-free Sri Lanka.

 

 

 

What were some of the standout moments for you during Colombo Fashion Week 2023, and how do you feel the event contributes to the growth and recognition of Sri Lankan fashion on the global stage?

During Colombo Fashion Week 2023, one standout moment for me was continuing our partnership with the United Nations Population Fund for the fourth consecutive year. We chose to shed light on the pressing issue of digital violence against women and girls in our collection. This theme was further amplified by the launch of the 'Bodyright' campaign at the UNFPA headquarters in New York, marking a significant milestone for our brand at Colombo Fashion Week. These initiatives underscore the event's contribution to the growth and recognition of Sri Lankan fashion on the global stage, showcasing our commitment to addressing critical social issues through fashion.

As a seasoned participant in Colombo Fashion Week, how do you perceive the evolution of Sri Lanka's fashion industry over the years, and what trends do you foresee shaping its future?

Over the years, I've witnessed a remarkable evolution in Sri Lanka's fashion industry. The proliferation of fashion design educational programs is a testament to this growth, highlighting the expanding volume of the industry and the opportunities it has created. Looking ahead, I foresee even more international opportunities for Sri Lankan designers on the horizon, signalling a promising future for the industry.

How do you believe events like Colombo Fashion Week play a role in fostering collaboration and camaraderie among Sri Lankan designers, and what impact does this sense of community have on the industry as a whole?

By bringing together diverse talents and providing opportunities for showcasing their work, Colombo Fashion Week nurtures a sense of community within the industry. This collaborative spirit encourages designers to support and inspire one another, ultimately driving innovation and growth. As emerging talents gain exposure and recognition on an international stage, the Sri Lankan fashion industry benefits from increased visibility and opportunities for expansion.

How do you navigate the intersection of fashion, activism, and art in your work, especially when tackling complex social issues like gender-based violence?

Fashion and art serve as powerful mediums for communicating thoughts and emotions about our surroundings and society. Advocating for causes like gender-based violence through fashion has seamlessly become my passion. By infusing my designs with messages that raise awareness and spark conversations, I strive to use fashion as a tool for social change and activism.

As a prominent figure in the Sri Lankan fashion industry, what do you believe are the responsibilities of designers in addressing societal issues like gender inequality and violence against women?

It's imperative for us to use our platforms to speak out against injustice and advocate for positive change. By incorporating themes of empowerment and respect into our designs, we can contribute to fostering a society free from violence and discrimination. Ultimately, it's our collective duty to stand up against injustice and strive for a better nation.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

In a decade, I envision myself thriving alongside my family, deeply immersed in the pursuit of my lifelong dream: nurturing and expanding my own fashion brand. With passion and dedication, I aim to continue creating designs that inspire, empower, and resonate with people from all walks of life.

Have you ever faced any form of discrimination in Sri Lanka?

Thankfully, no.

Any regrets?

“Never a failure, always a lesson.” 

Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?

My mother.

How do you differentiate yourself?

Differentiating oneself by authenticity is indeed powerful. By staying true to yourself, you inherently set yourself apart from others. Your unique perspective, values, and experiences shine through in your work and interactions, making you stand out in a genuine and meaningful way. It's about embracing your individuality and allowing it to shape your journey and contributions to the world.

How do you want to be remembered one day?

I aspire to be remembered as an inspiration, someone who ignited passion, sparked creativity, and empowered others to pursue their dreams with courage and determination.

 
 

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