By Venessa Anthony
Saariya is an online store that retails handloom and batik sarees, all manufactured locally in beautiful blends of colours.
Speaking to The Morning Brunch, owner of the store Buddhima Banneheka explained to us why he decided to start this venture. “I’ve always wanted to have my own startup and do it within my strengths. At the time, I saw that there was a huge demand for handloom products that wasn’t being met. I previously worked at MAS Holdings, and I loved working with different fabrics and playing around with the colours; this inspired me to think outside the box and so I launched Saariya.”
A premium brand
He also told us that before Saariya was initiated, he ran a store in Kurunagala for sarees, which he had to give up on due to the Easter bombings that happened two years ago. He used the time that fell upon him after to think about how he could relaunch with a good vision and strategy. He didn’t have the funds to relaunch on a grand scale, nor the resources, so he patiently bided his time, and came up with a concept on how to reopen as a prominent clothing brand in Sri Lanka.
“I didn’t want to just sell sarees, I wanted it to be a premium brand in Sri Lanka. I saw that people buy a lot of sarees, but there wasn’t a proper brand that sells handloom products. I identified my strength in line with the opportunities in the market,” he explained. Their number one priority is the quality of their products followed by durability and ultimately giving their customers the best experience they could ask for. He noted that it’s becoming increasingly hard to find brands that provide good customer service, adding that there are thousands of people that sell sarees online, but the factor that sets them apart is their reliability. “We don’t focus on numbers and profits, we want to build a brand where customers can believe in us; we want their loyalty to us because we deliver on their every expectation.”
All their products are manufactured locally in order to empower our very talented local designers. They want to give these designers a platform to show off their skills and be recognised for their hard work and talent. Currently, they have two designers and a stylist on board who are entirely in charge of the design process. “We have so many talented people in Sri Lanka, and their skills are going to waste. I want to build a culture where they get to work in the industry and gain the experience they need to further themselves,” he expressed.
He added that it’s quite unfortunate that the designers are still sticking to the same framework that they were taught, and he aims to break that procedure by helping them come up with new and innovative ideas that will help them stand out in the field. During the design process, Banneheka sits down with the designers, adding in his own input to come up with some gorgeous creations that make customers think “I need this!”. Their designs are not commonly seen and are sure to make you strike out in a crowd.
They will be launching their first collection of designer handloom and batik sarees for those who want to opt for high-end products. Banneheka took into consideration the busy life schedules and different working conditions of their customers and came up with a novel saree that is basically a jumpsuit. It’s a two piece that you can just slip on in less than five minutes, and the best part is that none would be the wiser; it still looks exactly like any traditional saree. “We need to embrace our culture; sarees are beautiful and add a touch of class to everyone that dorns on one. But at the same, keeping to our roots, we can always change up the game and make it easier on everyone, which is why we came up with this design.” This piece has not yet been released, so keep a lookout for their page.
Saariya is surely on its way to becoming a premier saree brand in Sri Lanka, slowly making its name known across the country.