Columnists,Lorraine Cattell,Fashion & Beauty,Main Slider l by Lorraine Cattell l 5 Sep 2019     - 479

’Ethical Fashion’ with KANTALA’s Sustainable Vegan Handbags

As part of our new series on fashion labels with an eco-heart we take a look at the Kantala brand, named after the Sanskrit word for the Hana plant and founded by Nadishan Shanthikumar & Vikum Rajapakse in 2013.

Kantala offers a selection of Eco-friendly handbags with a touch of contemporary flair that are good for your wardrobe and your conscience. Most importantly, Nadishan & Vikum are very aware of the impact that the fashion industry has on nature and they have been striving to counter those ill-effects by supporting local highly-skilled artisans and preserving their traditional craftsmanship. All their merchandise carries PETA's vegan & cruelty-free certification, meaning no animals are exploited during the manufacturing process.

From handcrafted clutch bags, passport holders and wallets to crossbody bags, totes and travel accessories, all Kantala's products are made from natural materials:

  • The Hana plant yields the core material used to weave the handwoven mats from which all Kantala products are made. The plant requires no watering, pesticides or insecticides, making it one of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly material sources available.
  • PiñatexTM, is used as a secondary material in some of Kantala's products; it is made from pineapple leaf fibre and is an alternative to animal hides.
  • Coconut shells are recycled and polished to create all Kantala's logos and other parts.
  • Handloom fabrics for linings and handles are Fair Trade guaranteed by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO).
  • Environmentally responsible OEKO Tex 100 certified reactive dyes and vegetable dyes are used, and colours such as beige and black are extracted from belleric pods, a natural material.

Who are the initiators behind the Kantala brand?

Both in their thirties, Nadishan from Colombo and Vikum from Kiribathgoda, the two men came up with the idea of an eco-friendly brand whilst working together at one of Sri Lanka's largest apparel manufacturers. They noticed a growing demand for ethically made products and felt that Sri Lanka should become more than just a manufacturing destination for global fashion brands. With this goal in mind, they launched their venture in the little village of Henavala in the Dumbara valley of Kandy district.

Both men agree that their mission at Kantala is to “deliver artisan fashion accessories that bring empowerment and cheer to the world of fashion, where consumers have the opportunity to invest in responsible high-quality handbags, and traditional artisans can build a sustainable and respectable livelihood”.

They also say that their biggest challenge in getting consumers to seek out more ethical and sustainable alternatives to high street fashion has been “convincing them to pay a slight premium for a high quality product that has been ethically made with our planet and people in mind”. They add, “Consumers have gotten used to a fast fashion lifestyle where prices are low”.

At Kantala, they are proud to claim:

  • We work with responsibility and compassion towards our communities and the environment.
  • We remain committed at all times to trade fairly with respect and in good faith with our customers, partners, suppliers, manufacturers, public institutions and society as a whole.
  • We pledge to ensure the social and economic development of marginalised groups associated with Kantala are protected and advanced to the best of our abilities.
  • Kantala is a 'Good Market, Sri Lanka' approved vendor. That means we are certified as a "good for people - good for the planet" organisation. Kantala currently scores 4 out of 5 “thumbs up” on the Good Market’s global platform for our contribution to people and the planet. Visit our profile at
  • Recipient of Common Objective’s leadership award 'CO Leaders 2019'. The CO Leadership Awards champion fashion businesses that are pushing the boundaries of creativity, combining great products and services with business practices that change lives and solve environmental challenges.

Henavala village and the families who still practice the age-old weaving craft.

For over 300 years, the inhabitants of Henavala village, near Kandy, have perfected and passed down the art of handwoven Hana mats to the next generation.

When Nadishan and Vikum first met the artisans of Henavala in 2013, the craft was hanging by a thread. Kantala is a success thanks to the hard work, training and support of chief artisan, Mr Dharmadasa, and those craftspeople residing in the village who carry on the tradition with pride, passion and precision, using the same techniques and tools as their ancestors.

Kantala's handbags and accessories are available in different styles, sizes and colours so there is certainly something for everyone. I ordered myself a stylish pink 'Aayuh' clutch bag from their online site. However, you can also buy your own from retailers: 'Barefoot','The Design Collective', 'Fashion Market. LK' and 'Rithihi', all located in Colombo.

Nadishan and Vikum 

For more information on Kantala:


Lorraine Cattell

Lorraine Cattell (Eyre) is a renowned international British Fashion Journalist. Her articles & interviews appear regularly in magazines & online across the globe.


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