A fashion icon that held Colombo in her thrall, Padma Maharaja was one of Sri Lanka’s leading fashionistas.
A former Hi!! covergirl, Padma’s sense of style and finesse set her apart from the rest of Colombo’s fashion pack. Her untimely demise has left the city’s fashion scene void of a colourful personality.
‘First appearances count’, seemed to be her mantra as whatever the occasion Padma was always dressed to perfection, her hair neatly coiffured and her makeup subtle yet perfect. Hailing from an influential political and social family Padma knew the importance of looking her best at all times. Standing tall amongst her contemporaries, Padma was always the epitome of elegance and made a statement where ever she went.
In the words of her daughter Sarala, Padma had a fighting spirit, “Even though my mother and I lived most of our lives in two different countries there was nothing we didn’t share with each other almost on a daily basis. I knew where she went, what she wore, what she ate and who else she met. She knew the same about my life. She was my best friend. We did not always see eye to eye but I valued her advice”.
“What many people would be unaware of was the hardships she endured. She lost her mother at a very young age, lost her beloved brother who was in his early 30s and her marriage ended in her late 20s. Armed with a sewing machine, a few classes from Mrs Wallace’s Sewing Academy and a fierce determination she started selling cheesecloth blouses from a spare room in her rented flat. This business grew into Vati Garments.
When I reflect on her life I am struck by the resilience and strength she possessed . She was not afraid to fail and that was her success. To her, not trying was a failure. She was truly an inspiration to me and to other women. She spoke her mind.
She had an opinion and she gladly shared it!
I miss her so much. Whilst everyone speaks of her outer beauty, I wish I had the words to describe how astonishingly beautiful she was on the inside”.
Through Vati Garments, Padma shared her fashion knowledge and expertise which she had garnered over the years. Handpicked, couture sarees occupied pride of place in her carefully curated store to which many ladies flocked to when they had to attend an important function and needed an outfit to make a statement. Despite the fleeting and changing nature of fashion Padma personified Yves Saint Laurent’s statement “Fashions fade, style is eternal”.
She was blessed with the intuition to know what women wanted to wear at a particular moment in their lives but also what women wanted to wear to make an impact. Through Padma’s expert eye for selecting eastern attire, she conjured up a world of sophistication and sensuality for many women. She made women feel attractive through her clothes and for that she acquired a legion of fans.
This article first appeared in the Hi!! Best Dressed List Magazine 2017