It came as no surprise to see contemporary designer Dimuthu Sahabandu once again on the catwalk at Colombo's Fashion Week. The talented Sri Lankan designer has helped pave the way for the growing interest in capsule wardrobes; a collection of essential clothing that is composed of interchangeable items to maximise the number of outfits that can be created. Dimuthu's unmistakable ready-to-wear designs are limited and aim to provide women with an outfit for every occasion.
HI! chats to Dimuthu about Colombo's Fashion Week, the Sri Lankan fashion industry, his sought-after collections and much more:
Dimuthu, let's first start with how it felt to be showcasing your new collection again at Colombo's Fashion Week. What's changed since you took to the runway here for the first time?
A lot has changed. I think I’ve evolved as a person and also as a designer with experience. The way I look at fashion in Colombo, my understanding of fashion buyers, retailers and high-end consumers have all changed over the years. My first show in 2010 was soon after my graduation from 'La Salle College of the Arts' and I was fresh out of design school. All I wanted was to create statement pieces. I wasn’t too interested in the wearability of fashion but I think over time I’ve now learnt to balance wearables and avant-garde, keeping my passion alive. I think I’ve learnt to be practical as well.
What about your own brand, Dimuthu Sahabandu? How was it established and how have you set it apart from your competitors?
The brand was launched in 2011 at CFW and things officially kick-started after my first show. I was then able to move into fashion retail with some of Sri Lanka’s leading designer boutiques. I've also branched out into custom designed evening and bridal wear which I oversee at my studio with my in-house production team. I've never been too concerned about competition. I always believe that if you stay true to yourself and your signature as a brand, you do not have to worry about competitors. I believe in learning to co-exist with other designers, brands in the same trade; there is enough success to go around.
So, how is working in fashion today in Sri Lanka different from when you started out?
My brand was launched in 2010, and even within the past 9 years, there is a massive improvement in the Sri Lankan fashion industry. People are more aware of designer brands designed and manufactured in Sri Lanka and moreover, people are conscious of the difference between mass manufactured products available in stores and designer products made in limited quantities. Sri Lankan fashion industry is much stronger than it used to be ten years ago.
The 'Capsule Wardrobe' was coined by Susie Faux, the owner of a London boutique in the 70s and then later popularised by American designer Donna Karan. What caught your attention about the idea of a collection of clothing that can be augmented with seasonal pieces?
I’ve always liked the idea of mix and match. I tend to do that quite often in my retail collection. I think it’s important that we get a chance to re-wear the clothes we buy, especially the most sophisticated products which the high-end consumer believes, cannot be re-used. Through a capsule collection of separates you get to mix and match with other pieces you have in your wardrobe and re-wear it even a few seasons later with new pieces you add to your wardrobe. I do not apply this theory when I design a collection for a show but I always make sure to apply it when it comes to planning the retail version of a runway collection going into boutiques.
Tell me about your custom-made bridal and evening wear. Are Sri Lankan women over-fastidious in what they want to wear on their wedding day?
I guess it’s safe to say that we have a healthy mix of all kinds when it comes to this. There are few perfectionists who find it difficult to break away from the ideas they have in mind of a perfect wedding and there are those who let the professionals they hire, do their job. I think I have been lucky up to now with brides I’ve worked with. They have all trusted me enough to let me take full control.
Can you tell me something about the designs that you presented at Colombo's Fashion Week? What was your inspiration for this collection?
The collection is inspired by Sri Lankan artist Mudaliyar A.C.G.S Amarasekara’s painting - 'Devil Dancers Daughter'. Giving the painting my own interpretation, the collection shows the journey of a young girl overcoming a demonic possession fighting against her own inner fears, hoping to see light at the end of her journey. The collection line-up tells the story of the devil dancers daughter and her journey to recovery.
Have influences from outside Sri Lanka found their way into your designs? I know in the past, you've mentioned the Greek designer, Mary Katrantzou as being an inspiration. Can you explain that too?
I always study designers who made it big in the international fashion platforms, designers who aren’t necessarily from fashion capitals of the world. I think there’s a lot you can learn from such designers who've built their businesses from ground zero to an international brand.
On a more personal note, how do you want women to feel when wearing your creations?
I’d like it if the pieces I create have the power to elevate somebody’s mood, make them feel more confident, beautiful and respected.
How would you describe your own personal style?
I believe I’m more traditional than modern and I believe that reflects in the work I do as well. I always prefer timeless over trendy.
To find out more about Dimuthu Sahabandu visit: /www.facebook.com/Dimuthu-Sahabandu-Collections-184233958269681/
Profile picture of Dimuthu Sahabandu: Credit: Photography - Anushka Fernando