Columnists,Lihini Welagedara,Main Slider l by Lihini Welagedara l 5 Oct 2020     - 60

Tharshana; Making of a Whimsical World


Tharshana Wijesinghe, speaks of his brand with passion. ‘Tharshana’ is more than designer wear. It is art in motion; not just worn but given life to. This is the story of the creator and the creation of the brand.

Tharshana in the making

I was always passionate about colours. I was 6 or 7 years old when I started combining colours. I started learning art in school but I soon realized it’s not the style I wanted to pursue. It was my continuous love for colour that lead me down this path. 

I left school after O/L’s and I studied body art and I was fascinated by the human body and used it as a medium. I loved the way colours moved with the human body. It was an exceptional experience to draw on a living, breathing medium. I met a lot of people through many volunteer work.

Later, I joined AOD to further pursue fashion and design. After graduating I worked for a leading clothing manufacturing company where I gathered knowledge of the technical aspects of design. Then I was a freelance designer and an artist for a few years, where I explored my style of design. Afterwards, I set out to start my brand.

Defining Tharshana, the brand and its creator

For me, fashion is an expression of art. I like to call myself an artist rather than a designer. I want art to be expressed beyond a canvas and that’s when I started pursuing fashion. I wanted my clothes to have motion and movement; to give them life. I create my own fabric that made people live and experience art through what they wear. 

The mythical world

The prints are about creating my own mythical world. I want to focus on Sri Lankan flowers like Niyagala, Kadupul and Kandyan dancer orchid rather than foreign floral prints. Through my designs, I gave a whimsical touch to the native flora and fauna. I completed my world by creating mythical fusion animals. My prints could relate to my audience because they could be easily found in their gardens! They have the essence of Sri Lanka which made a personal connection with my audience.

Each of my collections has its own variation of the mythical world and the fabric I have used is unique. Some collections such as the Fallen Paradise shirt has an ombre effect where the print has more elements in the bottom while the top has very few. I love experimenting with prints!

Art beyond fabric

I love collaborations! I always learn more from other creative individuals when we collaborate. So far I have gotten the opportunity to collaborate with extremely talented individuals and a global brand.

The first collaboration was with Navya. They created a range of clutches of unique shapes and I designed prints that complemented each shape. The shapes, prints and fabric brought out the best of each other. It was the perfect culmination of elements. I believe it was a very successful collaboration.

Then, I collaborated with Aadna Jewellery.  Although my designs were complicated, Aadna skillfully gave them life through her jewellery. It was interesting to see my sketches on paper come to alive through a medium such as jewellery. 

The third collaboration was with Tresemme and I like to think of it as the highlight of my designing career. I curated a collection of scarves that were given as a gift with a bundle of Tresseme shampoo and conditioner. I designed ten scarf prints including two exclusives for the colours of Tresemme. The campaign was a success and seeing my name beside a global brand was very interesting and exciting.

People, Performance and Nature

What inspires me to create art is people and their movements, performance arts and nature. I notice people and their ways and I try to incorporate it in my art. I want my designs to speak for themselves. I also love performance from dance to stage drama. I used to be a dancer at school and I loved how the human body created art through movements. I used to design my own costumes for stage dramas. It is all about performing to an audience and for me, that is what fashion is all about. I want to give a show to the audience through my prints and fabrics. Plants and other elements of nature inspire me to create as well. I see a lot of movement, shapes and colours in plants and I am truly obsessed with them. There is so much to learn from nature.

What’s going on

I started with women’s wear but unisex shirts are very popular among both men and women because even women love wearing oversized shirts. But now, I am focusing on creating a line for women in December!

Challenges along the way

One of the biggest challenges I face is supervising and controlling the manufacturing process. The fabric I use is very delicate and has to be handled extremely carefully to maintain the quality of the products. We strictly focus on quality over quantity.

Another challenge is catering to the demand. Of course, I want to keep the brand exclusive so currently working on creating new prints. Nevertheless, my love for art keeps me pushing through. 

The local fashion scene

The opportunity is endless. People are more forward-thinking and there is no stigma in being a designer. There is so much potential and opportunity in the digital era. The designers are always willing to take a risk and I think Sri Lankan designers especially walk the line between being creative and commercial. It is very interesting.

The future of fashion

Fashion evolves. Right now, I see potential in exploring Sri Lankan craft. I want to focus on creating prints and take them to the next level by spilling my art into different mediums. Be it my own accessory line or other products. 

People of Tharshana

I will never stop getting excited when I see someone wearing Tharshana. My face just lights up! Sometimes, I talk to people wearing my designs to hear that they love it and love the entire story of my brand without knowing I created them. The risk I take by running a business (which is a lot) is completely worth it at the end of the day! I am truly honoured and humbled to see my brand loved by many. I will never get over that feeling even when I am 70! I am beyond happy. 

I am forever grateful for my parents for understanding me and letting me follow my passion. Randula and Chandeesha are my business partners and they have always had my back by helping me manage the brand. 

We at Hi!! thank Tharshana for sharing his story with us. It truly was a pleasure!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lihini Welagedara

A 21-year-old copywriter in the making; specializing in cause marketing, striving to make a difference through my work in advertising. I am a mental health advocate, an animal lover and an art enthusiast currently fattening my piggy bank to travel the world.

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