By Paramie Jayakody
Photos by Kevin Michael
Last Thursday we at Chokolaate had the pleasure of speaking to two of the aspiring designers at Raffles Design Institute, Shalina Fernando and Panchali Liyanawaduge. Sitting down with them in a classroom filled with lines, colours and fabrics, we talked to each of them about their journey as fashion designers.
Shalina Fernando, currently studying in the third year, specializes in designing evening wear. But it wasn’t always what she was interested in, she explained. Growing up, she was interested in architecture, but the mathematical aspect was not something she enjoyed.
Exploring her career options, she came to Raffles Institute, where she first stepped into the world of fashion design. At Raffles she learned drawing figures, how to visualize a concept, how to make her designs come to life, and essentially, how to be a fashion designer.
She added that she was blessed with a very supportive family who motivate her and are proud of her achievements. At first her brother didn’t like it, she said, but that was becausehe didn’t understand all the aspects of being a fashion designer. Now he’s as supportive as her parents. Her parents always wanted her to do what she likes, what she’s good at.
Hopping off the stool, she proceeded to show us some photos of her mini collection that she had designed last year. Showcasing some impressive evening wear, Shalina told us her dream was to one day start her own brand, and release a unique collection of evening wear.
Shalina says the evening wear segment of Sri Lankan fashion has a lot to be desired, and she dreams of someday bridging that gap with her own collections.
Shalina’s advice to anyone looking to be a fashion designer is “be ready to commit, and be motivated. Find inspiration. You will have to sacrifice your time and effort, but it’s worth it”
Shalina told us she was a professional athlete during her school life. While she had to stop competing professionally due to the commitments of her studies, she channeled that driven personality into fashion design. She concluded by saying that life as a fashion designer was very challenging, but interesting.
Panchali Liyanawaduge smiled shyly at us from across the table, her designs spread out across the table she was working at. Panchali, a second year, said that she was totally new to the world of fashion design, and at first, was very hesitant to join Raffles Institute.
Two years down the line, she has come to regard the Institute as her home and she says her lecturers always help her, not just with fashion design, but with life in general.
While schooling, Panchali was always a passionate artist. In grade 12, she realized she had a sketching skill, and a knack for colour balancing. After evaluating her talents, she decided that she could channel that talent into drawing designs. Before that life changing decision, she had wanted a career in hotel management. Her family supported her dream, and they enrolled her at Raffles right away. Panchali learned a lot at raffles. Among these were how to refine her drawing techniques and concepts.
Despite still being in her second year, Panchali has already debuted a men’s wear collection, inspired by the Japanese Culture. She explained that Japanese designs are a source of constant inspiration to her, and she follows the work of designers like Yohji Yamamoto.
She also plans to release another mini collection in June. An evening wear collection, this will be heavy on floral designs in summer colours.
In the future, she plans to start her own brand, with her own ideas. Her dream is to infuse Sri Lankan traditional clothing with a mix of other cultures. While she wants to go abroad for additional experiences, Panchali has no plans to work anywhere but here.
Talking about her juniors, she says that most are afraid to start.
“Don’t be afraid. It’s hard, but with passion and determination you can do it. Inspiration can come from anywhere, even nature.” – Panchali