HSBC Colombo Fashion Week (CFW) kicked off this year with its Summer ’22 season, with 23 designers taking the ramp over three days, including Charini Suriyage, Dimuthu Sahabandu, Sonali Dharmawardena, Amilani Perera, Fouzul Hameed, Indi Yapa Abeywardena, Asanka De Mel, Dinushi Pamunuwa, Kamil Hewavitharana, Achala Leekoh, Himashi Wijeweera, Divya Jayawickrama, Ayesh Wickramaratne, and Nilusha Maddumage, as well as prominent South Asian designers; famous Pakistani designer Rizwan Beyg, Woolmark Ward winner Suket Dhir, and RimZim Dadu from India.
Held at the Shangri-La Colombo from 24-26 February, as always, CFW focused on sustainably – with this season’s theme ‘Green Conscious, Earth Sensitive,’ as well as CFW’s sustainability initiatives like the Responsible Meter and frameworks like the Emerging Designer Fund and the Italy Award to promote emerging designers taking centre stage.
Speaking at the official press conference announcing CFW 2022, CFW Founder Ajai Vir Singh shared that after two years of a slightly more restricted environment adjusting to the new normal, this year’s CFW would see a more expanded network of collaborations and initiatives. “Post-pandemic, fashion has become more sensitive to both environmental and societal impact,” Singh explained, adding: “The Sri Lankan design industry needs a design identity that has sustainability at its core.”
This season, to drive home the need for all forms of sustainability in fashion, CFW continued to drive its Responsible Meter, a tool launched last year that requires all CFW designers to rate every garment they produce in terms of environmental and social sustainability and push mindful conversation between creators and customers.
This is in addition to building newer, bigger links in social and environmental sustainability through partnerships with the Wildlife and Nature Preservation Society Sri Lanka (WNPS), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which collaborated with designer Amilani Perera for the third consecutive year to drive awareness on violence against women, the Embassy of Italy in Colombo that introduced the Italy Award for CFW’s most talented emerging designer (the winner receives a financial reward and scholarship to study fashion in Italy), and Balmond Studio’s newest sustainable beachfront development South Beach Weligama.
Here are our top picks from this season:
As an individual with an avid history within the clothing industry, Mikhail’s brand ALTY (A Letter To You) looks at clothing as more than an object and promotes the idea of passing the garment on to the next person, which aids the cause of sustainability and longevity. This particular collection was inspired by the synergy of nature and how colours and designs in nature flow without disruption. Wide A-line silhouettes, sleek lines, muted tones, and considered plays on proportion created a timeless range of men’s fashion.
Illustrator Hashintha Halwala’s brand DEV HALWALA took inspiration from palm leaf manuscripts – decorated inner and outer surfaces decorated with paintings and fastened with braid cords. Draped casual and activewear silhouettes with pleats and hand-stitched embroidery details brought this vision to life in a palette of natural colours like sandalwood maroon, turmeric yellow, indigo blue, and off white.
HARID by Harinda Gunawardena continues to play with gender-fluid identity, self-love, and self-confidence. Harinda’s 2022 collection takes cues from 1970s and 1980s power-dressing – a fashion movement that enabled women to establish their authority in professional and political environments that had, until then, been almost exclusively dominated by men, mixing masculine and feminine tailoring details and structured and fluid silhouttes with batik textiles to create a vision of modern-day non-binary power-dressing.
Showing his first collection at CFW after a hiatus, Dimuthu Sahabandu opened Day 2 with a collection inspired by the ‘singing sirens’ – the mythological half-woman, half-bird creatures of Greek mythology. Dimuthu’s newest collection introduced a range of one-off mainly evening-wear designs with Dimuthu Sahabandu’s signature surface detailing enhanced with up-cycled material. Driven by expanding the lifespan of these garments, the collection can be deconstructed and worn as separates.
Leading Indian sustainable brand Urvashi Kaur showcased ‘Tesselate’ – a collection featuring artisanal textiles and naturally dyed weaves from across India, from hand-spun cotton and silk jamdani, to fine mulmul, mulberry silk, and diaphanous chanderi. Paying homage to the 1950s architectural marvel, ‘Tower of Shadows,’ the collection saw fashion and architecture blend with stark minimalism and intricate handcraft playing across sharp angular lines, layered shapes, and dramatic colour blocking.
Amilani Perera’s Summer 2022 collection saw her collaborate with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka for the third consecutive year to build awareness on violence against women through a unique collection that uplifts and empowers survivors of violence. This new collection, ‘Heal,’ focuses on the mental health of both perpetrators and victims to emphasise that violence against women is a sign of mental illness in perpetrators and that both perpetrators and victims need to be supported and healed. This is portrayed through prints and embellishment of human anatomy illustrated with handprints of survivors of violence and textiles created by survivors of violence in their shelters, as they heal.
The finale of CFW opened with Sonali Dharmawardena, with her inimitable batik capturing visions of the wilds of Sri Lanka, from birds in flight to animals on land hunting in the bush. Sonali’s emotional connection to the collection is the feeling she had when she used to explore these terrains as a child with her father, and this comes through in silhouettes embracing that same sense of freedom while keeping that striking identity Sonali is known for. Her colour palette captures earthy, deep jungle tones with bursts of colour representing sunsets.
Award-winning Pakistani designer Zaheer Abbas showed a collection inspired by coming back to a semblance of normality after a tumultuous two years of the pandemic. Made in cotton with screen-prints of floral vines and motifs of fauna, the collection uses a palette of ecru, gold, silver, and black and plays with fabric manipulation, volume, and proportions to convey a sense of romanticism and that romanticism shouldn’t belong just to the past but to the present and future too.
Closing out this season of CFW was INDI with a collection inspired by a recent trip to Jaffna that captured the innocence, purity, and true spirit of Jaffna and tried to reflect the positivity and sensitivity Indi felt on her travels and her experiences exploring the warm culture, amazing food, traditions, and heritage.
The collection showcases a varied colour palette moving from soft to bold and clothes that cover both structured tailoring and fluid femininity, with soft drapes, luxurious textures, and structured silhouettes, tied together with fashion and culture through mixing and matching of traditional and contemporary jewellery. It aspires to capture the true essence of Jaffna – fierce yet gentle.