Redefining the contours of Sri Lankan fashion

HSBC Colombo Fashion Week 2019

By Chenelle Fernando and Dimithri Wijesinghe

HSBC Colombo Fashion Week took off last week and the runway shows took place over a span of four days at some of the most exquisite locations in Colombo, namely the Galle Face Hotel, Shangri-La, and the Hilton Colombo.

The first day was utilised to feature emergent talent, while 28 February, 1 and 2 March featured CFW veterans and also foreign designers.

These are some of the highlights from the Designer Showcase.

Day 2

Amilani Perera

At the risk of sounding archaic and ironically unfashionable, something always evident with a female designer is the absence of the male gaze. Amilani’s collection is a ready-to-wear brand incorporating unique, chic styles together with gorgeous Sri Lankan cultural motifs. Amilani’s passion for protecting Lanka’s wild habitat shines through in all her individual items and is further solidified in her incorporation of 100% cruelty-free premium vegan materials.

Dimuthu Sahabandu

Best known for his fantastical approach to fashion, Dimuthu’s creations are deeply rooted in the element of fantasy. For CFW 2019, he featured a collection inspired by the painting titled “The devil’s dancing daughter” by a Sri Lankan artist. We see Dimuthu’s interpretation of the painting as he portrays a shift in moods from dark and struggling through the conflict to the emergence unto the light. Featuring intricately hand-embellished pieces, the collection was telling of a story from the heart that resonated effectively with the audience.

La Pard by Dinushi Pamunuwa

With Lankans being no strangers to any and all forms of batik designs, a luxury batik-wear brand that revolves around batik lingerie and nightwear still proved to be quite refreshing. An extremely soft and feminine collection, the silhouettes were simple and created an atmosphere of a dream-like quality and were brought to life by fabrics adorned with silver and gold batik prints paired with gorgeous beadwork that emphasised the overall appeal.

Cigdem Akin

Since her days at VAKKO, one of Turkey’s leading fashion houses, Cigdem has established her name brand “Cigdem Akin” as a globally recognised design trademark.
Her line was as exciting as it was fun. With a penchant for clashing materials she utilises an awe-inspiring ability to think visually and outside the box. Her designs certainly stood out in that they wore outstanding colour combinations, making them feel unique and fresh.

Day 3

Aslam Hussein

Not only does his collection signify simplicity and elegance, but further glorifies comfort and style. This season’s collection signified his signature style which ranged from minimal to ornate and dramatic. The silhouettes were structured with high waists, dramatic collars and sleeves, sheath dresses, and flared silhouettes. The collection was a fan favourite that evening and quite righteously represented Aslam’s love for haute couture.

Limak by Kamil Hewavitharana

Inspired by his travels in Europe, Kamil had set out to create a collection that embodies elegance, sophistication, and class. Each piece carried exquisite detailing that was unique and interesting, Kamil created his own fabric design print to highlight his inspiration – particularly the South Eastern coast of Spain – bringing to life to art emphasising signature curves and majestic arches from the area.

Suketh Dhir

Starring rich natural fabrics and classic silhouettes, this contemporary men’s fashionwear brand is quirky, yet timeless. With great attention to the subtle nuances of creating a garment, the brand emphasises the importance of personality and voice in one’s fashion. The designs scream of comfort and leisure, staying true to the ethos of Sukethdhir since its inception. Despite being one of the international entries in the lineup, the featured designs felt rather adaptable to Sri Lankan weather which is always an added bonus.

Day 4

Sonali Dharmawardena

A brand that’s renowned to be responsible, fresh, and eternal, Sonali’s collection that evening was an assimilation of immaculately designed pieces of batik sarees and maxi dresses. The prints ingrained in her fine silhouettes comprised rather delicately detailed monochrome lines together with an occasional pop of colour to resonate fruit of the spirit, the theme of Sonali’s collection this season.

Fouzul Hameed

A CFW staple and literal fashion veteran in the industry, Fouzul delivered without fail once again. Men’s fashion is tricky, and yet he steers the murky waters in practiced ease with a collection that promises to “change your personality”. With the colour black being the main feature, Fouzul incorporated the black fabric to define class and power in his designs. With a flair for the dramatics, he definitely put on a show, which was well received by his audience.

LOVI Ceylon by Asanka De Mel

This unisex brand has definitely journeyed a long way since its inception, for now it caters to buyers from around 25 countries. Asanka’s new collection for this season was “Hope”, essentially a depiction of the reinvention of our clothing. Not only did the collection showcase his signature sarongs but also fashionable suits for gentleman and chic tops for ladies. The incorporation of varied hues of greens, blues, and pinks to his pieces, we thought, lifted his collection to great heights.

Indi Yapa Abeywardena

The Halo Collection, part of demi couture by Indi Yapa Abeywardena, an attestation to her ethos, displayed vintage silhouettes on the modern-day woman to represent a signature style for any occasion. A collection which comprised mostly of whites did most certainly entail pieces to match just any occasion, ranging from contemporarily designed sarees to maxis, kaftans, and jumpsuits. The mandela prints seen on certain pieces not only added a sense of sophistication, but also charm that was engrossed within her entire collection.

Rajesh Pratap Singh

His collection, we would quite righteously state, stood that evening. Propelled to epitomise simplicity, his artisanal-like collection showcased his signature style derived from his Indian roots. If we were to describe this collection in a few words, it would be clean, chic, and bound together with careful detailing. Interestingly, his pieces were experimental products using ikat weaves, handloom indigos, and chanderi.

Colombo Fashion Week has been a litmus test for the continued relevance of the Sri Lankan fashion industry in Asia Pacific and the wider regions. While CFW 2019 at times felt as though it was “a lot of the same”, one cannot deny the fact that its role for the past 16 years has undoubtedly redesigned the contours of the Sri Lankan way of looking at fashion.
Creating communities via designs and also staying in tune with the rapidly changing world outside, CFW has enabled the broader conversation that young designers crave within the island.


Photos: Lalith Perera, Pradeep Dambarage, and Saman Abesiriwardana