As children we are often told to “dream big” or to “follow our dreams”. Taking this advice to heart, Kevin Ranasinghe did exactly just that. Having stumbled upon his passion project ‘Saints Blanc’ during his Advanced Level years in 2017 at Hills Road sixth form (Cambridge), Kevin was determined to make something out of his A/Level project. And two years and 8,500 Instagram followers later, Kevin is still in pursuit of his passion as he strikes to grow his brand globally.
Saints Blanc, began as a project during the time Kevin was writing for his A/Levels. While his class was given the freedom and the opportunity to create and work on any subject they found interested, Kevin straight up knew that it was a business he wanted to pursue. His entry into fashion too was no coincidence as he as always been very passionate about designing.
“I wanted to prove that it doesn’t take a lot to start a business, so I gave myself a budget of £50. I don’t think finance should be a reason for anyone to not pursue his or her own business. It’s not about how much you have available but it’s about how you manage what you have available,” said Kevin.
Despite coming from a family that was already in the business industry, Kevin was determined to finance his own project and was not afraid to employ multiple side hustles. His first part time job at McDonald’s had him working long hours at minimum wage. Upon soon realising that time was running out and he was not able to meet his finance goals, he gathered up all his earnings and bought a pair of limited edition shoes, which he was able to sell for three times the price. Shoes had always been a special accessory in Kevin’s wardrobe so to say that he knew a thing or more about shoes, was an understatement in itself. Through creative side hustles, Kevin was able to not only his fund his initial investment but also create a website and produce a few basic t-shirts.
Ironically though, the passion project was to only last duration of his A/Level project. However, the brand gathered more attention than expected and Kevin was motivated to keep the business going. Through accelerated growth on social media, Kevin began to grow his business and Saints Blanc began offering more active wear for both men and women.
What makes Saints Blanc different from any other active wear brand offered online?
Kevin’s range of active wear can be best described as ‘contemporary’ fashion. To start with the brand, “Saints Blanc” pays tribute to Kevin’s upbringing in France and “Saints” refers to the Northern England rugby team “Northampton Saints” that he played for amongst other teams including Cambridge eastern county and Ely Tigers.
Hence, it was imperative that Kevin brought in elements of his French fashion influences by ensuring that the clothes were luxurious, timeless and chic yet at the same time keeping it relatable and affordable to the demographic he was keen on catering to.
Another recent addition to his business is the outlook on sustainability and incorporating more conscious fashion decisions. He recalls that when he first got into the business, it was not focused particularly on sustainable fashion but on establishing the brand itself. However, as the business and the brand have grown, Kevin believes that the aim of his business should not be directed at solely profit and moneymaking but to ensure that high quality garments are produced with little to minimum impact to the environment and supply chain. To also ensure the success of creating a sustainable fashion brand, Kevin is currently in the process of re-strategizing his business by shifting all production to Sri Lanka and by also hoping to start a production process closer to England, in Europe.
Helping out one another
Currently, Kevin is a one-man show. As a second year university student in business management at the University of Portsmouth, Kevin studies during the day and comes back to his business during the evening hours of the day. He refers to the time he spends working on his business as his “fun time” and goes on to say, “Others go out or play games or chill after classes, but this is my way of relaxing and unwinding when I come back home. I get to put in to design an idea I’ve had in mind and it’s also really gratifying to put in to practice what I’m learning in class.”
Besides using social media, Kevin also markets his brand in local gyms and at a friend’s department store and remarks that there is “nothing greater than seeing a customer where something I’ve designed while working out in the gym.” With a stream of direct consumers in his own age group, Kevin remarks that it has been easier to expand his reach among others.
Despite being 19, Kevin is positive about many things. He admits that growing up in England has definitely been relatively easier in the context of getting things done as a young entrepreneur. He says, “At the beginning there was the scepticism in which they would look at me but when we started talking numbers and I knew what I wanted, things became easier.”
By Senashia Ekanayake
Photography By: Nuwan Ranaweera