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Colombo Fashion Week kicks off with Asia’s first ‘Responsible Fashion Summit’

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Wednesday, 21 March 2018 08:53



By Shannon Jayawardena

The Colombo Fashion Week kicked off with Asia’s first ‘Responsible Fashion Summit’ unveiling the responsible fashion movement founded based on bringing forth ethical fashion while strongly focusing on sustainable development of the fashion industry on 19 March at the Hilton.

The event invited a panel of both local and international experts to address the subject while sharing insights and their viewpoints. It is the first thought leadership summit in Asia and was initiated as a fuel to the fashion movement with knowledge being converted into action.

Responsible Fashion Movement Founder Ajai Vir Singh said, “This summit is the only one of this kind in Asia and South Asia and the vision behind it is to create a platform where leaders can share knowledge through best practices and case studies which are available for anyone to replicate. It’s about walking the talk.” 

The summit being a part of the Responsible Fashion Movement which kicked off in 2017 shared key facts and figures while emphasising on the importance of sustainability in the fashion market. The movement on the other hand empowered locals to organise Sri Lanka’s first fashion hackathon themed: ‘Making of the Green Tee’ where four student design teams were given the task to create t-shirts using two kinds of material choices.

Speaking on community development as part of Responsible Fashion, UNESCO Fashion for Development Global Ambassador Bibi Russell stressed on the fact that, “It is so important to learn things from your home. I grew up in a very cultural family and I saw them wearing beautiful sarees and lungis with excellent colour combinations and this was my dream; to show to the world that very beauty through my work.”

She added that ethical fashion is a part of the industry and that one must know one’s culture and learn how to diversify them in order to succeed in creativity. Fashion is a culture and necessity. You can see the culture of a person through fashion. Thereby you have to influence people with the local beauty. That is unique and that is creativity.

MAS Holdings Human Resources Director Dinali Peiris said, “A lot of what MAS does is centred on how we instil the principles of empowerment and equal opportunity at the workplace so that all our employees can succeed personally and professionally. Organisations don’t act, people within organisations do.”

Peiris noted that in Sri Lanka the apparel and textile industry employees over 485,000 individuals and indirectly impacts over a million people. 80% of the directly employed in the industry are women. Therefore MAS’s core principle is to manage human beings not human resources.

The summit also invited MAS Kreeda Managing Director Sarinda Unamboowe, Brandix Group Head of CSR Anusha Alles and Hirdaramani Group Director Nikhil Hirdaramani to a panel discussion on the role of manufacturing in responsible fashion moderated by Mihirini De Soyza.

Unamboowe stated that, “We want to create partnership with everyone to create economies that better the natural resources. It’s not about competition but about saving the environment, saving Sri Lanka and saving the world.”

MAS is hoping to collaborate on the waste space by trying to create a movement across the country. If there isn’t an economy created out of waste, it’s never going to be taken seriously he added. Economies don’t have to be massive industries but little operations that create viable products. Awareness has to be created and that is very important.

Speaking about Brandix’s project ‘Bindu’ Alles said, “80% of our associates’ biggest challenge was access to clean drinking water. Our sustainability arm has been broken into two which are environmental engineering and the community. We look at the community and at our people. There’s no point going out to other areas when your own people are faced with huge issues. We have done so much but yet there’s a long way to go. We can’t do it alone, it’s all about collaboration.”

She also emphasised on the fact that is it is not about the top but about every individual having the passion to do something different. It’s all about collaboration and all it takes is you, to create that culture and to be bold enough to do something different and to be responsible.

Hirdaramani said, “Our pillars of sustainability are linked with people, products, the planet and the community. The element of collaboration is very important. Employees have always been a big part of our culture and wellbeing is embedded in what we do. We launched a project called ‘wow’ which is the wonders of well-being, a project to develop a program that is much structured and planned when it comes to well-being.”

Branding is also very important. You have to have a brand and a common purpose in order to succeed in manufacturing in responsible fashion. Likewise taking different approaches are also crucial when it comes to making the right moves in the industry, he noted. Beira Parawood Products Ltd. (BPPL) Managing Director Dr. Anush Amarasinghe sharing his case stated that, “The plastic menace is everywhere. Most of the used plastic goes into landfills or the oceans. Sri Lanka imports 1200 tons of PET each month to produce water or soft drink bottles and at Beira we recycle 200-250 tons of it each month which is approximately 20% of what the country imports each month. By re-using such large quantities of waste we reduce the need for new virgin plastic and our target is to double collections to 400 tons per month by next year.”

The company has also commissioned its own renewable energy based power generation plants such as bio-mass and solar which generate a third of its power needs. BPPL today is one of the largest eco-friendly operations in South Asia and is now also listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange.

Addressing the challenges of the increasing consumer and retail traction towards responsible fashion London Fashion Week Founder Lynne Franks said: “Fashion of course will never die but it has to be something disposable and changeable. I’m a great believer in branding as do I believe that there is a much larger need now for sustainability.”

She stressed on the fact that there are many areas that we have to look into in terms of influencing. Likewise there really is the need for a general partnership that carries out great collaborations. We need to create a world that is safe and stronger and we must work together to create this future. 

International Fashion Designer Katherine Hamnett said, “If we are talking about responsible fashion, it actually starts on the design page. We really have to inform ourselves of the impact of all the material processing before you put them into your design. It’s about improving everything that we are doing.”

Pix by Lasantha Kumara

The 15th edition will showcase the following designers and trend show events as per this year’s Colombo Fashion Week.

Day 01

Event : Opening Night. Main designer showcase

Location : Grand Ballroom, Hilton, Colombo 01

Date : Thursday, 22nd of March 2018

Time : 7:30 pm 

Day 02

Event : Main designer showcase

Location : Grand Ballroom, Hilton, Colombo 01

Date : Friday, 23rd of March 2018

Time : 7:30 pm 

 Day 03

Event : Finale of Main designer 


Location : Grand Ballroom, Hilton, Colombo 01

Date : Saturday, 24th of March 2018

Time : 7:30 pm 

Day 04 – Segment 1

Event : Emerging designer 


Location : Grand Ballroom, Hilton, Colombo 01

Date : Sunday, 25th of March 2018

Time : 5:30 pm 

Day 04 – Segment 2

Event : Master of drape

Location : Grand Ballroom, Hilton, Colombo 01

Date : Sunday, 25th of March 2018

Time : 8:15 pm

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