'Sri Lanka's back in business': Lankan fashion designer on new collection

PR and Clove will showcase works of eight Sri Lankan designers in Mumbai


Easter 2019 saw the island nation of Sri Lanka plummet into dark days after a series of gun attacks in churches killed more than 300 people. The country is still on recovery mode nearly two months after the attack. “As soon as the attacks happened, Samyukta [Nair] called me to ask if we were okay,” says Annika Fernando, founder of PR, a multi-designer boutique in Colombo. PR and Clove, an art-deco concept store co-founded by Samyukta, will showcase works of eight Sri Lankan fashion and jewellery designers in Mumbai, starting June 14. The edit is called 'Heart of Sri Lanka to Mumbai'.

“The idea is just to say that Sri Lanka is back in business. Because, one of the first things that happened within days of the shootings was that the tourists left the country almost immediately. So it is a way of telling the world that we are back in business,” says Annika. Samyukta and Annika met when the former was on a trip with her friends to the country. “The idea of the edit is to send out a positive vibe about the country and this was perfect timing because monsoon very often means refreshing change,” says Annika who has been to India a few times before.

“I have visited the country a few times as a child. I have visited Kashmir, done a train trip from Delhi to Jaisalmer, also my ex-husband is Indian— so my connection with the country is quite deep,” says Annika who likes Indian designers like Rajesh Pratap and Raw Mango. The edit which will be hosted at Clove, which is situated at Colaba in Mumbai, will feature Sri Lanka designers like KÛR founded by Kasuni Rathnasuriya, Annika's pet project Maus and Papillon du thé, a jewellery brand by Saskia Fernando.

Entrepreneur Samyukta Nair, also known for Jamvar, the Indian fine dining restaurant in London, says: “My connection with Sri Lanka goes way back. I used to go there with my family for holidays. My mom's father was the Indian High Commissioner there. I enjoyed learning more about the history and culture of the country. This urged me to revisit the country with my friends over two years ago. And that is when I met Annika. From the capsule, I especially like creations of designers like Sonali Dharmawardena and jewellery brand Cher by Chevonne. Sonali, because all her creations are so artistic yet discerning and Cher by Chevonne offers some totem pieces, which is perfect for a minimalist like me.”

Says Annika: “In this day and age we have been fighting diversity, it is something we see all over. With help of our experiences, we can maybe celebrate the importance and beauty of diversity.”