Columnists,Tina Edward Gunawardhana,Fashion & Beauty l by Tina Edward Gunawardhana l 28 Jun 2019     - 595

Designer Thilini Silva reveals her love for batik

When did you first realize your passion for fashion design?

I’ve always liked fashion and everything relating to it. From watching my mother match her clothes and accessories when dressing up, to making little clothes for my Barbie dolls. I have always loved being involved in fashion. Ever since I remember I have always tagged along with my mother when she used to go fabric shopping. Upon seeing the various fabric, all these ideas popped into my head and I used to be like the proverbial kid in a candy store. I also spent a lot of time in my mother’s workshop watching the process of her creating an outfit from a sketch to the finished product. When I spent time helping her out I realized this is what I enjoy doing, experimenting, getting my hands dirty, taking a risk and making mistakes all in pursuit of creating a fashionable garment. I also considered other careers like architecture and I visited sites and went through my father’s work. However, it is always fashion design that I wanted to do and that is where my heart is.

How old were you when you first started designing?

I’ve been designing ever since I can remember. First with designing clothes for my Barbies and then after graduating from The Academy of Design (Northumbria University) in 2018, I started retailing my designs.

What is it about the fashion industry that captivated you?

Everything about it. I love how you can build, rebuild and transform fabric into something special. I also love how you can take a risk with your design and then you realise that you have created something very innovative and extremely wearable. The chance to experiment and create beauty is endless. I like that!

Who in your life has played a pivotal role in supporting your ambition?

I have been very blessed to have both my parents support my career choice in every possible way. They both have invested their time and money into my ambition. From chipping in with money to buy fabric, spending time over a cup of coffee to critiquing my designs they have helped me immeasurably. Above all they have given me the freedom to follow my dreams, even pushing me towards my goals when I take things a bit too easy!

What is the name of this latest collection?

I have named it ‘The Floral Tropics’. It is a resort wear collection for my label T.S.S.

What or who were you inspired by?

I was inspired by the tropical environment of Sri Lanka.

What are your goals as a fashion designer?

My goals are many. However if I had to pick, I would say my main goal is to create clothes that would make my clients feel confident and beautiful and there by make my mark in the fashion world as a designer of repute.

How did the opportunity to retail at PR come about?

For my graduation I had to present a final collection for which I created a jacket which made it to the runway at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week graduate show. After spotting the jacket, make-up artist, Nadiya Fernando wore the jacket for a society event. It was a proud moment to have Nadiya wear a design of mine. On the day Nadiya wore the jacket, I received a message from PR saying they would be interested in retailing my creations. I showed them my collection and the rest as they say, is history. It had always been a little dream of mine to retail at PR. This has also given me an opportunity to dip my toes in the world of entrepreneurship.

Why have you chosen batik as your means of expression?

Although I’ve been around batik I was never a fan of it. However, whenever I had free time I would help my mother out in her workshop and I enjoyed the whole process of creating batik. When I started working on my final collection for my graduation I had my floral hand paintings ready to create a set of prints but upon seeing the floral hand paintings the main lecturer suggested that I paint the fabric instead of printing it. At the time I didn’t want to use silk paint nor fabric paint because it changes the texture of the fabric, so after consulting my mother she suggested painting with cold dyes. I started off my sampling and had the most enjoyable time painting them and using the batik method to get my background colour. I also received positive feedback on the samples which convinced me to work more with batik. Since then I have used batik as my mode of expression.

What designers inspire you?

Alexander McQueen, Vera Wang, Christian Dior, Giorgio Armani and Yohji Yamamoto.

Who is your muse?

I don’t really have a muse but I look up to a few fashion idols.

Does your label have a sustainable element to it?

Yes it does. Most of the fabrics that I use are factory surplus which are sold via fabric traders. When I am designing I try to create clothes that have minimum fabric waste. Whatever fabric is left over I give to a small business that collects fabric wastage. When it comes to dyeing the fabric I use the leftover dyes from painting to make a new colour by mixing it up.

How do you feel young designers are viewed in comparison to industry stalwarts?

I have been exceptionally lucky to be a designer in an era where the industry has extended a lot of support to newcomers. From the top to the bottom of the fashion industry everyone has been very supportive and this has had a very positive impact on almost all of our young designers.

How do you balance your creativity with commerce?

This is where I struggle the most as a young designer. In the real world I have to deal with costing a garment. The time spent on sourcing, designing and manufacturing has to be factored into the cost. Having a mother that’s a designer I take her advice and look up to her when it comes to the commercial aspect of my business. I am also fortunate that I get some help from the PR team when it comes to this.

Do you have a specific research process when you start a collection?

I do. I follow the same process we were taught at university, that is to collect whatever trends, interesting pictures or anything that inspires us and mix it up. I keep sketching and trying out samples until it looks good.

Is there any colour palette that you are partial to? Why?

Not really, I am a huge fan of colour. Having said that, my most recent collections that I have done are in shades of pink, black and white. I’ve always been a fan of these colours; pink is a colour that’s feminine, soft, innocent and black seems strong , overpowering and it’s always a safe colour for anyone and white - my favourite of all. I would say anything looks good in white! Going forward I will be adding a lot of colour to my future collections.

Fashion design is an exceedingly competitive industry in Sri Lanka. How do you think you will stand out from the rest?

I believe every designer is different from another. I think it is very important to have your own identity and give your 100% to your creations. That would help you not only to stand out from the rest but also to succeed in a competitive industry such as this.

What are your plans for the next five years?

I am working on having a stable brand and looking for opportunities to retail internationally. That is the plan... watch this space!

Photographs: You’re My Favorite, Make-up: Makeup by Thanu, Hair: Omesh Wijeratne


Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is the Features 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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