- Designer Navoda Bennett on lending a sense of comfort through clothing
By Venessa Anthony
Navoda Bennett, a self-taught fashion designer, began her own fashion label Podi Bennett at a very young age. Right after her Advanced Level examinations, she worked under fashion designer Ramona Oshini for two and a half years to gain some experience and insight into the fashion industry. Later, she was mentored by Yashodara Patanjalai on how to run a brand and more tips on fashion designing.
Growing up, Bennett loved fashion, and everything to do with it. Her mother was quite apt with a needle and thread, so watching her at work made her realise she wanted to follow in her mom’s footsteps, but on a commercial level. Her mother also had quite the eye for what clothes could be upcycled. Bennett told us that whether it was a piece of clothing that was torn, patched or whatever it may be, her mother was able to give it new life.
“I drew inspiration from her talent, and was motivated to turn my label into an upcycled one as well,” she added. Even when she was in school, she would take charge of costumes for concerts and drama, and instead of spending tons of money on new costumes for every function, she would turn to upcycling.
“You never have to waste fabric, there is no need to throw it away; there are multiple other ways you can reuse it,” she added. Once she began her own label, she soon realised, just like her mother, she had a natural knack for upcycling as well.
Her label, Podi Bennett, features mostly tie-dyed designs. She informed us that tie-dye uses bleach and dip dyes to obtain that balayage effect.
“I essentially use a combination of tie-dye, dip dye, spray painting, and hand painting in my designs to obtain the final product,” she explained.
Sustainability is an important aspect to her when it comes to Podi Bennett. She ensures that everything, from the packaging to where her fabric is sourced, is ethical, and she also strays away from plastic.
“Even the leftover bleach water, after I have washed my pieces, is disposed of into the earth in a safe manner – similar to how batik shops do it, to make sure it does not harm anything or anyone,” she said. She also informed us that most of the fabric she uses comes from leftover garments from clothing factories, in order to minimise as much wastage as possible.
Bennett labels her brand as upcycled, free-size, and gender-fluid.
“My clothes don’t have a gender identity – clothes should not have a gender identity in general; it is simply supposed to cover our bodies,” she said. Bennett didn’t want anyone to look at her designs and face a dilemma of whether they would fit or flatter their body, and which one to pick – all of her clothes will fit anyone regardless of body type or gender identification.
“As a non-binary person growing up in Sri Lanka, it was so confusing for me to decide on what to wear and what not to, so I want my brand to be something people can find comfort in, and have a gender-validating experience with,” she stated. She added that she also grew up in a plus-sized family, and it was a real struggle to find clothes as kids that fit, and she is fighting these issues with her brand.
Bennett also added that she offers customisation, so customers can request for the clothes to be tailored however they like to fit their body. This offers customers a sense of control and comfort when purchasing from Podi Bennett. Right now, there are hardly any brands that tick all these boxes in Sri Lanka and Podi Bennett offers everyone a chance to feel comfortable in their own skin.