Stowed on the waters of the Indian Ocean, near the very tip of Southern India, the diminutive island that is our country persists as a structure of nature that has, despite its scale, captivated a world. Sri Lanka teems with tradition and venerably sustained culture, and to the eyes of the world, that is what sets it apart from every other demographic. Speech with relevance to the culture of Sri Lanka lacks entirety upon the neglection of the country’s thousands-of-centuries-old rag trade. Documents that proclaim the country’s poignant history had attested to this when they had mentioned the moment a tribal woman encountered the Aryan prince that would build the foundations of Sri Lankan civilization—Kuveni was spinning yarn, professing the first traces of the existence of an already-developed industry on this primitive island. Fast forward to today, the Sri Lankan rag trade, still strongly composed of archaic traditions and culture, had evolved to the point where it is unconditionally admired on a local as well as global scale.
When it comes to contemporary fashion, the local industry is not shy of it. Rather, it flourishes around the term, endorsed by a few attributes of traditional and Western combination that determine its course.
Borrowed from the folkways of Indonesia, Batik remains a technique that throws a new light upon a substance as insignificant as wax, proving that, when mingled with dyes and maneuvered by nimble hands, wax is capable of giving life to enthralling works of art, to be transferred onto all sorts of garments. This technique, with its aesthetically pleasing nature, has presently gained the appeal of contemporary local fashion designers—FMLK and Nithya, to name a pair—who in turn craft spectacular garments showcasing the designs.
Apart from adorning the surfaces of clothing, Batik is featured on tablecloths and bedcovers, has acquired positions in galleries and wall pictures and ultimately, the hearts of tourists sojourning the country, to whom it may remain a loving reminder of the ornamental island that is Sri Lanka.
Beginning with thin assortments of thread and ending in the form of an enthralling, woven textile, handloom certainly compels its beholders to commemorate the work of its artisan. Born within the beams of a traditional manmade device, handloom adds panache and spark to the humdrum life of anybody, from the average Sri Lankan schoolteacher to the occasional tourist cocooned in wanderlust.
Photography By: Sophia Sansoni
As for contemporary designers, they dote on the material, judging from the exquisite works of art put forth by Barbara Sansoni’s Barefoot and Selyn Fair Trade. Not only does the textile of handloom become moulded into splendid contemporary garment styles under these designers, but it also blesses the interior of a house, living in the placemats, the napkins, the tablecloths and the duvets.
Discerning all the atrocities being applied on nature, so much for just being generous and helpful to mankind, one cannot stand idly by. Fashion brands all over the world have long since begun incorporating sustainability in their products, and the rag trade in Sri Lanka had joined the good fight. Several contemporary designers—notably Red Cocoon and the House of Lonali—scour the local textile factories for scraps of left-over clothing that may have been nonchalantly piled on lands otherwise, in an attempt to create products that would instill a sense of esteem rooting from the awareness that a contribution was made to the welfare of nature, in both the designer and the customer.
Denim, combined with contemporary fashion in Sri Lanka, remains to question the morals associated with general clothing styles. Denim is far from the family that is Sri Lankan culture, having been retrieved from that of the Westerners. Yet, when put together with traditional Lankan clothing, such as the way Nithya proceeds producing sarees and sarongs in which the fabric utilized is predominantly denim, a quintessential masterpiece comes into being. Proof that denim does not exist solely for jeans and jackets can further be discovered in the exceptional works introduced from H-D by Hafsa, a contemporary Sri Lankan fashion brand dedicated to concentrating on creating garments out of denim alone.
At long last, contemporary Sri Lankan fashion remains a prelude to modernism while it simultaneously exalts age-old local tradition and culture, contributing enormously to the economy of the country, mother nature, and in turn, the elation of any style-conscious member of every generation.
By Rebecca Mischelle