By Naveed Rozais
Fashion is the one thing that will never go out of style. With the pandemic bringing the whole world to a halt, many found the time to reflect, gather their strength, and pursue things they’d only thought of but never got around to actually doing.
Kirihodi is one of those initiatives that found room to take root in the midst of the pandemic. A small streetwear brand launched by a boyfriend-girlfriend duo, Kirihodi, is a quirky brand that celebrates those little everyday things of being Sri Lankan; those little things that you see so often you don’t notice them, and those interesting sayings that only make sense to Sri Lankans but no one else.
The Morning Brunch sat down with Kirihodi Co-Founders Rashoon Hafeel and Kat Scott to see what goes on behind Kirihodi and what makes it tick.
Coming up with the name Kirihodi and building the brand
Scott, who is Scottish, shared that the Kirihodi name came about because of her liking for the golden elixir that is kirihodi. “It’s the staple of a Sri Lankan diet, and it comes with my all-time favourite food, string hoppers,” Scott shared, adding: “I also thought it sounded nice and it just stuck when we were thinking of names.”
Kirihodi deals with the nostalgia of Sri Lanka, the things that are overlooked, and the general parts of Sri Lankan life that people don’t stop to think about. “We wanted to do an ironic take on Sri Lankan colloquialisms and the unique bits of Sri Lankan culture that don’t make sense to anyone unless they’ve lived here.”
Hafeel, a Sri Lankan with seven years of experience in the local apparel industry, shared that Kirhodi was an opportunity to create something unique for young Sri Lankans, “We see lots of Sri Lankans buying fast fashion from global companies like ASOS that feature ironic statements and imagery that is very western focused, and sometimes just not relevant to a Sri Lankan perspective. Kirihodi is a local equivalent for that aesthetic; something to resonate with young people in Sri Lanka and even South Asia.”
A collaboration between Scott and Hafeel (Scott is a textile and print designer who has worked closely with brands like Marks and Spencer and Hafeel has over seven years of experience in the apparel manufacture industry), Kirhodi blends Scott’s design talent and Hafeel’s expertise in print, sourcing, and manufacture to create unique streetwear for the playful Sri Lankan.
On building the brand, Scott and Hafeel shared that the brand feels like a labour of love for the couple. “The lockdown and the change in pace has really helped us bring our skills together. We’ve had lots of ideas to do something like this but have never been able to put anything into action until the lockdown.”
Keeping true to the ethos of a mid-pandemic brand, Kirhodi sells exclusively online through their Instagram page @kirhodi.
Setting Kirhodi apart
“All of Kirihodi’s prints are hand-drawn and originate from me,” Scott explained, adding: “Nothing is copied. What I wanted to do was create something that embodied my love of Sri Lanka. I take inspiration from everyday products and sayings. One of our ranges called ‘Kade Heroes’ is a take on the typical Sri Lankan brands that every Sri Lankan cupboard must have. This was something I came up with during the lockdown, seeing how everybody was after the same iconic Sri Lankan brands. The other designs have been a few years in the making, really. They’re designs that pay homage to the quintessentially Sri Lankan things like the simple malu paan or our ‘Mango Friends’ t-shirt inspired by the book and television show Amba Yahaluwo.”
Kirihodi is a joyful happy brand that celebrates everything about living in Sri Lanka. “I wanted to pay homage to Sri Lanka in a way,” Scott shared, adding: “As an expat living here for the last seven years and building a life here, I just want to celebrate the little unnoticed things about Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans, for example, the saying ‘shape’ which I have adapted into one of Kirihodi’s t-shirts.”
Keeping the brand real
Keeping things light and natural is very important to Kirhodi and this came through even in their photoshoots and imagery, with Kirhodi stepping away from staged shoots. “We didn’t want our shoots to be like staged high-fashion shoots. We wanted them to be real people just eating, drinking, and living while wearing Kirihodi,” Scott explained.
Further, Scott shared: “Our first shoot was entirely off the cuff and took place in Arugam Bay where we literally just asked our friends to wear our t-shirts and then just photographed them living their lives.
“We also partnered with a few cool young designers and influencers and gave them creative freedom to take their own photos and illustrate the versatility and individuality of Kirihodi and how it can be worn by just about anyone. It also ensures that each shoot is individual and doesn’t feel staged, and allows the joy, excitement, and happiness of Kirihodi to shine.”
Kirihodi’s next step
Hafeel shared that Kirihodi’s plan of action for the future is both ambitious and low-key. “We want to really expand our product range and do more streetwear, creating cool, colourful, and easy-to-wear Jersey-based clothing and products and start stocking in some retail stores soon.
“We want to be Sri Lanka’s answer to the ASOS aesthetic of ironic streetwear. Why would you buy something from ASOS when you can buy something from Kirihodi that is designed and made in Sri Lanka that celebrates your own identity?”