Strong fundamentals in design education is key for a $ 5 billion apparel industry in SL

Wednesday, 27 November 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The following are excerpts of an interview with apparel industry veteran, MAS Intimates Managing Director Dian Gomes: Q: What do you think of the talent of AOD at the REVEAL exhibition, where you graced the occasion as chief guest? A: I was inspired to see such promising home-grown talent at the REVEAL exhibition; the trends, designs and fashion statements on display reassured me that the talent of the Sri Lankan fashion and apparel industry are certainly on par with their global counterparts. It was absolutely refreshing to notice that these talented youngsters were guided and directed through industry-specific teaching and training. Their natural creative talent was moulded into commercially savvy, industrially relevant skill. I noticed the international flair and market relevance of the creations by designers graduating with their Northumbria degrees at the AOD campus. As Sri Lanka positions itself as a design to delivery hub in fashion and apparel, we must place a strong emphasis on equipping our fresh talent with knowledge and education set to global standards, not only in fashion design, but other fields as well. Combining inherent creativity and education has uplifted the standards of design in fashion/apparel, advertising and also interior design in Sri Lanka as we clearly witnessed at the REVEAL exhibition, and I trust we are opening the right avenues for creative talent here in the country. Q: Have you recruited any AOD/NU graduates and what has been their contribution to your organisation? A: Yes of course. MAS Intimates and other facilities and divisions of the MAS Holdings Group such as Linea Aqua, MAS Active, Linea Intimo etc. have continuously recruited Northumbria/AOD graduates. We have maintained a great relationship with AOD from its inception over a decade ago and in retrospect we have seen how their graduates have raised the bar year after year, keeping up with the ever changing and demanding industry standards. As our relationship flourished with AOD, the contribution of their graduates to the growth of the company’s design and creative sector has been significant. They have brought in flair, originality and an unorthodox approach to fashion, which we have leveraged upon to offer our customers a competitive advantage. Among the talent we have proudly enlisted under the MAS banner are MAS Active Manager Design and Development Mario Sittampalam, Kithmini Liayanaarachchi and Charlene Thuring. I am also happy to say we have recruited two of AOD/Northumbria’s first class fashion graduates from the 2013 batch; Mudara de Zoysa, who topped the batch scoring the highest marks surpassing Northumbria’s UK fashion students and Rukshika Fernando, presently designing for MAS Intimates. They are a great strength and resource to MAS, and we are definitely on the lookout for more such talent to join our multi-faceted team. Q: What do you think AOD’s contribution is to the $ 5 billion apparel industry of SL? A: AOD’s very proactive and driven nature has contributed in setting the campus in a complementary standing alongside the Sri Lankan apparel industry, evolving parallel to the industry growth and vision. The faculty’s founder, Linda Speldewinde, has nurtured strong relationships with industry leaders over the years, such that it is equally beneficial for both AOD and the industry to collaborate and deliver innovative, challenging, creative and sustainable design solutions to a global market. Design is innovation driven, and innovation has become the biggest differentiator in terms of value addition and branding in the Sri Lankan apparel industry today. In this context, AOD plays another important role; that of catering to the growing need of inventive and original design talent in the country. Q: How has the SLDF impacted the apparel industry in the country? A: Five years ago, when Linda presented the idea of the ‘Sri Lanka Design Festival’ (SLDF) to the industry, the visionaries who were the driving force behind Sri Lanka’s apparel industry understood the massive potential of such an initiative. We were all on board. Today, this brainchild of the AOD has snowballed into a massive national scale project supported by both the industry and the government of Sri Lanka. Many groundbreaking forums such as the South Asian Apparel Leadership Forum, the Sustainable Fashion Forum held at the SLDF have been crucial in elevating industry standards, whilst positioning our island as an ethical apparel manufacturing hub. The event also presents the opportunity for young local designers and graduates to interact with global apparel/ sustainability experts, who are invited as guest speakers of the event. We also appreciate SLDF’s initiative to recognise, challenge, elevate and promote the apparel industry’s design and manufacturing talent through the Sri Lanka Fashion and Apparel Awards. The SLDF therefore, with its focus on sustainability, design education, industry recognition and innovation, has helped create a new footprint for the Sri Lankan apparel industry.