Fashion l by Tina Edward Gunawardhana l 16 Nov 2023     - 66

Tulle Takeover

Words: Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Photographs: Arantha Sirimanne and Gayanga Wijesena

Fashionista, Banker, restaurant owner and former model, Dileni more popularly known in Colombo as Kukka has branched out into fashion design. Based in New York for many decades where she worked in the financial sector, Dileni always had a love for fashion and with the famous Parsons School of Design in her city of New York, it was a no brainer that Dileni should hone her skills in fashion design at this illustrious school. Attending a variety of evening classes all relating to fashion design which she passed with flying colours, the calling to return to her home in Sri Lanka was one that she could not ignore. Returning to the island, Dileni soon set to work and launched her label Kukka v3 that contained her iconic tulle skirt. Inspired by Sarah Jessica Parker from Sex and the City who wore the voluminous tulle skirt with such panache, Dileni wanted to introduce her own version which is gaining popularity among her growing clientele.

What made you transition from finance to fashion?

Fashion was my first love.  As a child growing up in the  70s in
Sri Lanka, one had to be self sufficient. I was the seamstress for my family at home.   At the age of 13, I mastered the art of transforming curtains to bell bottoms and Maxis. My beautiful sister was my muse, I would drape fabrics on her to shape the garment and used my mom’s old Singer machine to construct the garments.  The art of making clothes continued through my teenage years until I went to university and subsequently to London for further studies in Computing, then on to NYC in late 80s to follow a career in Finance.   I always had a passion for fashion, but couldn’t find time to pursue it until 2017 when I decided to take evening classes at Parsons School of Fashion Design.  

It was love at first sight.  My early years in constructing garments helped me to ace the courses in three years.   Then came Covid and remote work,  family emergencies and a sudden re-awakening to pursue my first love. So  I left my career in finance, and relocated back to Colombo in August 2021 to spend time with my aging mom, and my label KUKKA v3 was launched in 2022.

What was the experience of studying fashion at Parsons like?

My experience at Parsons was exceptional!  The best thing about Parsons School of Design is its resources and opportunities.  Being the best Art university in the United States, it offers the most creative courses related to Fashion Design. Although I had the basic knowledge of constructing a garment, Parsons School of Design invests interest in innovative and original thought, and will push you to do your best.

The lessons go beyond the classroom and it is common to have to go to an exhibition or a museum for homework and during class time.  During my years there I’ve learned more about art than I could ever imagine. It helps you reimagine design thanks to the successful and knowledgeable professors. 

I still seek their advice whenever I need.  This school has many labs like 3D printing, laser-cut, and handloom and textile workshops which allow endless designs and possibilities.  


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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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