By Pujanee Galappaththi
This week, we spoke to a young designer, Clothing by Leena Founder Leena Tatyana Emily De Fontaine, on her journey in the Sri Lankan fashion industry, her products, and her inspirations.
Clothing by Leena is an online store – mainly functioning on Instagram – that designs and sells fresh, hip, and trendy summer wear including lace-worked, open-back and short sundresses, linen dresses, kimonos, rompers, and skirt and blouse outfits.
“I am keen on preparing comfortable clothes for the Sri Lankan climate,” said De Fontaine.
“We live in a beautiful tropical paradise, and my clothes are catered for us – tropical sun lovers. But don’t worry; I will be looking into the other seasons as well, once I take my brand on an international scale in the future.”
De Fontaine believes that it is important to represent her brand, thus she makes sure to model for her clothes. “I buy my fabric from many dealers in Pamunuwa.
As a starter in the field of fashion, it’s closer to where I live and the materials are sold at affordable rates for someone new in the trade,” she added.
When asked about the reason behind establishing Clothing by Leena, she said: “From a very young age, I’ve had an eternal love to protect and sustain nature and animals. When I realized I needed financial support and a steady background, I thought of how famous people like Leonardo DiCaprio and Otara Gunewardene first earned their way into being environmentalists. How does this have anything to do with my clothing? I needed a job I can strive in to achieve my final goal in life – I needed to find a line I liked and lived daily. I’ve always loved being fashionable and feeling good about the way I present myself to the world. I looked at all the young entrepreneurs and thought to myself ‘if they can, then I can too, and I will try as hard as I can’.”
De Fontaine uses linen, rayon, and cotton for her designs and purchases all her fabrics locally.
Her main corporate idol is Otara Gunewardene. “She started in the apparel field as a very young girl. She built Odel to be one of the greatest stores in the country and she uses her success to fight for those who can’t voice their thoughts,” she said.
The Clothing by Leena team is composed of De Fontaine and two wonderful ladies – Nilufer and Lalitha – who assist her with the blocks and designs. They make every piece of clothing on sale from scratch.
Speaking of the creative process, De Fontaine said that before she makes a design, she thinks of what people like to wear.
“I design to give everyone the chance to buy affordable yet luxury designs inspired by brands like Forever 21 and fashion icons like Kylie Jenner. I add a special touch of me into every design. After the research is done, I draw patterns that not only bring out fashion, but also show a little about my likes. Then I decide on what type of fabric is most suitable for the climate in Sri Lanka and purchase after carefully picking. Next, I get a sample done for my body measurements, and if the sample is perfect, we grade the sizes and it’s ready to be sold.”
When asked what her favourite item of clothing to make was, De Fontaine said that the latest skirt and blouse set was her favourite at the moment.
“It’s my favourite because it’s made to bring out a very modern, sassy yet comfortable outcome. I used recycled coconut shell buttons on a checked linen cloth which turned out to look super cool, and a lot of people were excited about it.”
De Fontaine told us that her kimonos are the bestselling items in her store due to their breathable materials (she added georgette and viscose). “Kimonos look good on everyone and can be worn anywhere – it is perfect for the weather,” she added.
Due to the popular discussion of kimonos, we asked De Fontaine for a few tips on some looks you can rock with the good old fashioned kimono, and here’s what she shared:
1. A casual look with shorts, a tube top, and pumps, accessorised by a pair of shades and a messy half-bun
2. Can be worn over swimwear to the beach or even near a pool
3. Can be worn with a strappy office top, tucked into a flood-level tight office pant tagged with a pair of pointy toe-block heels and a high, neat ponytail complemented by a neutral yet sharp makeup look