Meet girl boss Chanika Jayathilake : From street style and ethnic wear to bespoke stationery

By Mahika Panditha 


Driving down Thimbirigasyaya Road, you would have most definitely seen the beautiful boutique Raaya Clothing & Accessories. Every time I pass this by, I always take a minute to see what is on display in the window and it is always stunning. Well, we were lucky enough to have a chat with Chanika Jayathilake, the Founder of Raaya Clothing.

Chanika also has her own label, Lëila, and stationery brand, Studio XO. She is a huge fashion enthusiast and we absolutely love her style. Chanika hopes to grow both professionally and spiritually, as it is very important to her that there is a balance of both. You should definitely check her personal blog out on Instagram, under the handle @chanika.j. Without further ado, let’s get right into it. 

So happy to have you on our cover this week! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?  

Thank you for having me on your cover. It’s an absolute honour! Coming from a marketing background and combining my love for fashion, I am the Founder of clothing store Raaya and my own label Lëila. During the pandemic over a year ago, I also further explored my love for creativity and launched a stationery line – Studio XO. 

What made you want to start these three brands? How did you come up with the names and direction for each? 

As I grew older, fashion became a strong interest in my life. The glamour of Indian fashion coupled with my strong liking of Bollywood cinema made me want to give it a go. I realised that ethnic ensembles had a large and devoted following and were very much worn for any occasion in Sri Lanka.

There was a gap in the market at the time for tasteful ethnic wear, which created the perfect opportunity for me to build a brand and subsequently open a store. Raaya translates to ‘’well-dressed princess” – precisely how I’d love for my clients to feel.

After a few years of developing and growing Raaya, which was largely involved curating items from India and Pakistan, my next step was to have my own label, thus the journey of Lëila began. The first-ever collection was inspired by the myriad of colours in a dusky sky. Lëila offers a range of Indo-Western contemporary wear that focuses on traditional and unconventional silhouettes that are big on style. Whilst approaching tradition with a renewed and modern perspective, the aim of the range was to create maximum impact with minimum effort.

During the time of the pandemic, when emotions were high and low, I embarked on my third venture, Studio XO, which merely started as a fun, part-time activity and a mode of distraction during a difficult time. Studio XO is a fresh stationery line that consists of digitally illustrated greeting cards and notecards by me. The brand also offers personalised cards, which has become a great hit over the last few months. Studio XO is currently available across 10 retail stores in the island. The stores range from high-end retailers to mass market, which shows the versatility of the brand. There’s something for everyone.

What would you say has been your biggest challenge thus far in being an entrepreneur and how have you overcome it? 

One of the main challenges I faced revolved around the prevailing negative sociocultural attitudes and the inefficiencies of other stakeholders in the business; negative work ethics such as laziness, not working on time, and lack of respect towards deadlines have caused adverse results in the day-to-day operations across all brands. 

Alongside this, you also have your personal account which takes your followers through your life, showcasing your style and work. What is the message you want to give to your followers?  

My personal page is a space where I can have a little more fun with my style that’s not limited to ethnic wear. It’s also a place where I share some of my hobbies – whether it’s my drawings, fashion, trying new makeup looks, or anything I’m currently working on or inspired by. It’s also where I like to document my experiences – travelling, eating, fun with friends, and sometimes even my mum’s lectures. Instagram is also a great place to find hilarious memes that are super relatable and I often share those too.

Fashion is one of my great loves, as you can really express your own creative ideas so dramatically and often affordably, and better yet, you can change it up every day. I’d like my followers who are also fellow fashion enthusiasts to be able to express themselves freely, and get any ideas they can from me. It is exciting to see girls being inspired by something they’ve seen me post, and the kind responses I receive are always delightful! 

How would you describe your style?  

A mix of highstreet and classic.  

What do you think is a must-have item in everyone’s closet?

A crisp, clean white shirt – white shirts are so versatile! 

What is your most valued accessory and why? 

Currently, it’s my travel hat from Zara which I take to the beach or the hills or anywhere really. Goes with anything, and versatility is always a good idea. 

In your opinion, what is the best part about incorporating social media into your business?

I strongly believe that social media offers a large range of benefits to businesses. These platforms allow businesses to reach out to their customers, to build brand awareness, and to further attract more potential clients. It also enables businesses to get exposure, foot traffic into retail spaces, and track market insights. And it allows the businesses to develop a relationship with the customers; one that hopefully has them coming back for more.

Any tips for up-and-coming entrepreneurs? 

Life is a challenge, filled with one hurdle after another, so do not procrastinate. You are guaranteed to fail if you never try. So embrace calculated risks and work hard. There’s no substitute for hard work. Face the challenges that come your way, be motivated throughout and thrive on your passion, paving the way towards doing more. As I always say, do what you love and love what you do! Remember – no guts, no glory. 

Hair and makeup Ramani Fernando Salons  

Styling Thisakya Senanayake

Jewellery Renelle High Jewellery 

Photos © Jehan Adahan