Redefining the fashion world with Tharshana Wijesinghe
By Mahika Panditha
Time and time again, I have mentioned the brand “Tharshana” in my fashion pieces. Well, lucky for us, we got the chance to talk to the man behind the brand earlier this week. Tharshana Wijesinghe is the creator of the brand – he is currently working on a few projects, one of which includes his latest collection, which we cannot wait to see! He hopes to take his brand to a global level whilst staying true to his Sri Lankan roots.
Tharshana studied at the Academy of Design (AOD) and has since been focusing on launching and growing his brand. “I would say my journey into the fashion world started just after leaving school, when I worked as a makeup artist and a body painter. I used the human body as the canvas to express different emotions. It was a completely unique experience to draw on a living breathing canvas,” he shared with us.
Check out our interview with him and read what he had to say!
What inspired you to pursue fashion design?
As a kid, I wanted to find a way to connect art with people. I wanted to see people wearing my artwork. I didn’t want my paintings limited to paper or canvases. I wanted to give them motion and bring them to life.
As to the motivation behind my own clothing line, a print-driven brand, it was hard for me to find printed shirts that I’d wear in Sri Lanka – prints that I felt a connection with and had a meaning and story behind it.
So with my brand, I try my best to create my own fabric that makes people live and experience art through what they wear.
Let’s talk about your brand. How would you describe it?
Tharshana (the brand) is a designer-wear brand specialised in printmaking and handmade fabric. To create one-of-a-kind printed fabric and hand-woven texture is what drives the design process.
It’s really about celebrating exotic elements in Sri Lanka. Drawing inspiration from my native Sri Lankan roots, paying homage to the vibrant cultures, traditions, diversity, flora, and fauna that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world. Hopefully, (my work) inspires all Sri Lankan designers to stay true to their roots, bringing recognition to our richly deserving island paradise now more than ever.
What is your favourite part of doing what you do?
Seeing my artwork come to life through the fabric and my clients who wear them. Also, it gives me a great sense of pride to see our Sri Lankan elements being celebrated through my designs. There have been times where clients have called me to say that they have one or two of the design elements growing in their own garden. That can be such a rewarding experience.
Also, collaborations. Supporting each other to constantly be inspired by one another’s ideas. I always learn from other creative individuals when we collaborate. So far I have got the opportunity to collaborate with extremely talented individuals and a global brand as well.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome it?
Recently we faced a big ordeal over a local brand copying our designs to sell shirts. I only became aware of this attempt through their own sponsored post, where they had photoshopped my design onto another notable international model. This was a first-time experience for me and was really an eye-opener.
This local brand ignored any attempts we made to contact them and continued to pretend to sell the fake products through their social media platforms. But with a lot of help from the community to report the posts, and finally a threat to report their actions to the Police, we were able to get the posts taken down.
Since then, we have taken steps to legally trademark all of our prints to ensure we don’t have to face such an issue again.
Talk to us about the hand-painted collection.
So, it started during the first lockdown last year. You could say as an indirect result of the Covid-19 outbreak. I, like everyone else, was stuck at home, not being able to resume our usual day-to-day operations and production.
I noticed I had a few plain shirts at home, which had probably been made as samples. On a whim, I decided to paint one of them, purely for fun and possibly for me to wear myself when I go out.
At the same time, I did post a few videos of the drawing process on my personal Instagram page, where it attracted a lot of attention. I guess when more and more people asked about buying the shirts and pre-ordering, we decided to make Tharshana hand-painted shirts official – exclusive, limited hand-painted pieces produced on a pre-order basis (one design will have only one piece from each size).
Since then we have looked at how we could extend and grow the hand-painted concept. Now we try to place emphasis on creating a more sustainable environment for our clothes. One hand-painted shirt takes 48 hours to create. We make sure to create a long-lasting, one-of-a-kind product to make sure of the exclusivity and product longevity in mind.
We are now looking at how we can expand this to uplift artisan communities and how we can create job opportunities through this as well.
What can we look forward to seeing in the future?
I am currently working on a few collections and collaborations. I can’t wait to surprise all of you with a wide range of new designs and products, while also looking at how we can work on uplifting our local artisans. The ultimate goal is to eventually share our exotic elements with the rest of the world.
Talk to us about the fashion scene in Sri Lanka. What are your thoughts?
The opportunities are endless. People are more forward-thinking and there is no stigma in being a designer. There is so much potential and opportunity in the digital era. The designers are always willing to take a risk, and I think Sri Lankan designers in particular walk the line between being creative and commercial pretty well.
Any advice for people aspiring to hop into the fashion industry?
Give your heart and soul to the work you do. Also believe strongly in your instinct and gut feeling to make decisions. The key is improving on what you are good at while sticking to your strengths. A great technique that works for me is to visualise where you want to end up.
PHOTO © GRAPHS BY UVIN