Fashion l by Tina Edward Gunawardhana l 16 Nov 2023     - 102


Words: Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Photographs: Courtesy of Linen Atelier

Working exclusively with linen given its suitability to tropical climes amongst a plethora of other reasons,  Punya Athukorala, the founder of Linen Atelier is a designer who keeps her head under the parapet but works diligently to create high quality garments.  Like countless others, Punya started designing at a young age but her career as a fashion designer took off nearly ten years ago when she first started her own clothing line.  Despite not having any formal training as a designer, Punya painstakingly learnt her craft through trial and error over the years and is now the proud owner of her own brand Linen Atelier. Punya is a great believer in promoting local craft and tries her best to incorporate crochet, bobbin lace and batik into her creations. Her reasons for doing this are twofold, of course to elevate her designs but also to sustain the local artisans and the heritage crafts that they are engaged in. Her most recent collection is titled Rainbows as she has mixed three elements of artisanal crafts into the pieces she has created. A designer with sustainability values at heart, Punya’s stylish clothes make a statement in more ways than one.


Have you had any formal training as a fashion designer?

I always say that my life is a sketch of various skills that I inherited and developed on my own at various stages in life. So the simple answer is I never got formal training but I have learnt enough through trial and  error to  know the whole bandwidth of the profession. That said, each day is a learning process, especially from the younger generation.


What does fashion mean to you?

It is simply the religion that I embraced. My salvation and the space I run to find my peace. Fashion is beyond materials, money and people who wear them, It holds a high degree of holistic value.
I guess designers get the one chance to bring their emotions and various colours of their life stories through their creations. The fashions you see around us are indeed the artistic life projections of the designers by extension.


How would you describe a typical Linen Atelier customer?

People with a beautiful mind and a taste for what is uncommon yet uniquely beautiful.


Why did you seek to work exclusively with linen?

I once read about the history of fabrics humans have used and discovered that humans came into contact with linen 36,000 years ago. It was such an intriguing revelation that I started to do research of my own to seek the relationship between humans and linen. Apparently, the rich and prosperous Nile civilization in Egypt were some of the first known users of linen in recorded history. It is said that they even used linen to cover the mummies which signifies how important the fabric is in their culture. It was used all over Europe and other parts of the world too. From royalty to the common person , in romance and in tragedy, linen was the choice of fabric for humans.  Of course there are other compelling  properties of the material from being one of the strongest to being absorbent to the ability of drying faster. This convinced me to use linen exclusively in my collections.


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Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is the Deputy Editor of Hi!! Magazine. She writes on a variety of topics which include travel, fashion, lifestyle, cuisine and personalities. She is also a journalist for the Daily Mirror Life. An intrepid traveller, Tina likes to show readers the world through her eyes and experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - tinajourno or email her at

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