By Cheranka Mendis
Going ‘locally global’ in the design and apparel industry, the fourth edition of Sri Lanka Design Festival kicked off on Thursday with the ‘Island Craft’ Fashion Show and Exhibition, setting the tone for the four-day event which aims to create a knowledge-based creative fashion industry in the country and the region.
SLDF, a brainchild of the Academy of Design (AOD), aims to take Sri Lanka to the world via the apparel industry that has already created waves in the global market. With the next few days promising to deliver global insights, community empowerment workshops, and high profile fashion shows, SLDF is not just a fashion show but one that showcases the very essence of the country, SLDF Founder Linda Speldewinde told the Daily FT prior to the launch.
“Sri Lanka has invited a global audience to showcase the country’s progression and the energy of new Sri Lanka in a post-war era. This is a festival organised in a changed context in the country where the north and east has opened up and what we are showcasing is the talent of our rural Sri Lanka, not only in the former war affected area but of the entire island.”
The exhibition was ceremonially opened by Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa while the Chief Guest of the Fashion Show was his wife, Pushpa Rajapaksa.
Launched in London in June this year, the festival has attracted key personalities in the design and apparel industry from around the world, predominately from the UK and North America. Delegations have also come from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh for the events.
AOD has worked closely with artisans throughout the year in preparation for the event. With the exhibition showcasing products for interior and home wear, the fashion show featured some exceptional shawls, wraps, garments, and fashion accessories, etc., made from local crafts. The show also highlighted Sri Lanka’s inspirational brands such as Yolanda and Buddhi Batiks, among others.
With the key target markets being the hospitality industry, Speldewinde stated that the aim was to promote a total ‘made in Sri Lanka’ look, with its own flair, differentiating it from the neighbouring Indian market and the influential Western market. The crafts showcased on the first day were a result of the crafts project, which touches lives of 500 artisans in the country, including 150 from the northern peninsula.
Yesterday, the second day of SLDF was dedicated to sustainability in the design industry with a Sustainable Fashion Symposium. This was followed by a Young Design Entrepreneur launch event and a Fashion Designer Fashion Show presented by AOD students.
The South Asian Apparel Leadership Forum will be held at the Mount Lavinia Hotel this morning (17), followed by a ‘Best of Industry’ Fashion Show and the first-ever Sri Lanka Fashion and Apparel Awards in the evening. Sunday will be dedicated for workshops and power talks.