Columnists,Lorraine Cattell,Top Story l by Lorraine Cattell l 28 Feb 2021     - 144

All about the fabulous Raffealla Fernando

Raffealla Fernando is one of the most highly acclaimed voices in Sri Lanka's fashion industry, having established herself as a fashion designer, stylist, celebrity photographer, fashion journalist, film art director, senior fashion lecturer, jewellery designer and artist, both locally and internationally.

This month, I'm delighted to feature an interview with Raffealla in which she chats about different aspects of her extraordinary career. 

Raffealla, you've certainly broken boundaries with your fearless approach to the fashion world! You use your own designs, styling, pose direction, concept direction, edit, retouch and at times, do makeup and hair too for photoshoots. You've been recognised as a world-class photographer more than once. On top of all that, you are first and foremost an award-winning fashion designer who has worked all over the world. Which came first – photography or fashion design?

First of all, thank you so much for inviting me for an interview. It was fashion designing that came first. I started designing or working as a designer professionally at a very young age and it was 3 years later when I started photography. So, this year marks my 14th year as a designer and 11th year as a photographer. 

Amazing! So did your career then take you in a different direction from what you had originally expected with film direction and journalism?

Well, I'm very new to film direction. At the moment, I'm planning on my very first film direction and that is something I'm really looking forward to. I started to work as a fashion journalist at the age of 18 and continued for 5 years. Sadly, I gradually had to stop because I couldn't find the time to carry on with it.

How would you describe the fashion scene in Sri Lanka today? 

I feel very positive about the fashion scene in Sri Lanka. We are progressing slowly but steadily, and I see a lot of talented designers working on projects together.  I appreciate the unity and the strength which is certainly very encouraging. We are still growing and there is a lot to improve and develop but from what we had before, we have hope and I feel we can be more effective and confident about moving forward.

Can you tell us a little about your brands and where you find your inspiration?

Yes, of course. There's 'RAFFEALLA' which is my own brand name and I feel my name does the best branding for me. It's a luxury line and exclusive wear where I only provide customised designs. Then there's 'THE BRIDAL COMPANY' - that's my bridal brand which is a bridal designing, styling and a consulting business that offers unique elegant bridal accessories, jewellery, flowers and shoes as well. 'DANDELION' - a sustainable handmade jewellery brand made out of recycled and upcycled fabrics, and 'MERMAIDish' - my very own ready-to-wear line, yet to be launched.

As for inspiration, I usually get it when I travel. I love to meet new people, to talk to them and learn about their culture, and that inspires me a great deal. Apart from that, I believe we can get inspiration from anywhere, anyone and anything. 

How do you want women to feel when they’re wearing your designs?

I want them to feel comfortable, beautiful and confident. Something I believe when I create a design is that what you wear is the reflection of your own self, so I want them to be and feel themselves in my clothes.

You style a lot of people in the public eye. Do you consider yourself to be a trendsetter?

To be honest, I'm not sure if I'd call myself a trendsetter but when you do something creative and many others follow what you do, you are definitely setting a trend. I've been told several times that I'm someone who leads the way so I’d like to believe that, and it has happened in both my designing and photography.

How would you describe your personal style? Do you have a signature look?

Well, I have a dark twist to my style, not particularly a signature look but I love black so I try to incorporate it in most of my outfits. I experiment with lots of different looks, makeup, and hairstyles. I'd say, I'm a fashionista, a devoted follower of fashion who loves to try out the latest trends. 

Who are your style icons?

I don't have style icons, but I have a lot of people that I admire for their fashion and style.

What cosmetic products do you use regularly and that you would recommend?

I personally love makeup. I regularly use 'Mac Cosmetics' liquid foundation and powder, under-eye concealer and primer. Currently, I'm using an eye shadow palette from 'Sephora', a liquid eyeliner from 'Esssence Rock and Doll' and my mascara is from 'NYX Professional Makeup'. I love 'Brow Me' for my eyebrow powder and 'Fenty Beauty By Rihanna' and 'Dior' for their contour pallets. Also, I love lipsticks!! I have a great collection from Mac, Dior, Chanel, NYX, Elizabeth Arden and a few other brands too.

However, I have to say that I'm not very good with my makeup, I can do very basic makeup for myself but that's really it.

Do you have any styling tips for our readers? Any items you feel are worth splurging on?

Style is such a personal thing and it does not change with the seasons, for example, both Michael Jackson and Queen had their own unique styles. I think my tip for readers would be to just create their own personalised styles by experimenting with different clothes. Your style can reflect what you stand for and indicate who you are. I mean, your outfit is your self-expression and, more importantly, it offers the ability to reinforce your individuality through trial and error, something we rarely see in Sri Lanka.

What fashion trends are you excited about this year?

I'm quite excited about the oversized jackets and white footwear trend, yellow bags, blue and yellow highlights as I have always found a pop of colour incredible. Fringing is back too so I'm looking forward to trying out more fringing on my new collection.

You've also worked with an impressive number of celebrities. Is there anyone that you'd like to style & photograph that you haven't yet?

I've styled and photographed about 150 celebrities up until now and I've enjoyed styling and photographing them because I get to experiment with their looks. Once you change their appearance, it's very visible and at the same time, it's easier to develop a concept and story as they would act out according to the concept. I would love to work with Jacqueline Fernandez and I'd definitely like to work with more international stars and celebrities.

How about shopping? Do you also shop for accessories and shoes for a client, so as to make their whole outfit come together?

Yes, sometimes I do, of course, when we style a client we give them a look from top to toe including consultation for their hair, makeup and nails.

So how do you choose what styles work for each individual client?

I think it comes naturally to me. However, as a stylist and a designer, I scrutinise a client during our consultation sessions and I always ask tons of questions so that I can get to know my client and who she/he is before designing or styling them. Like I mentioned before, what you wear is the reflection of your own self.

Where, if at all, do you draw the line between what you might call ‘art photography’ and ‘fashion photography’?

I would like to call them both "art", but there is a world of difference between conceptualised photography and fashion photography: because of the differences inherent in each, the line itself is created. In fashion photography, we always want to keep it trendy, fashionable, stylish and what we always highlight is the fashion, but in conceptualized photography, we highlight the concept, the story, and the expressions. It's the soul of the concept we try to highlight.

The Raffealla Fernando Celebrity Calendar (RFCC) is published annually, featuring multiple celebrities across Sri Lanka. How do you choose who is featured and what is it like working with such household names?

This year (2021) was our 9th year and we always develop the concepts first. I take a great deal of time on my creative thought process and for next year (2022), we have already started working on the ideas. The castings take place way after we develop the concepts.

I feel truly blessed to work with some legendary artists and I also feel blessed as this is the only celebrity calendar in Sri Lanka at the moment. Also, I think I'm the only female photographer who has been able to capture so many well-known faces.

Finally, what do you think are the keys to professional and business success for women in Sri Lanka?

Consistency is certainly the key to success. As women, we sometimes have to work twice as hard as men and I'm not complaining about it because it's a good thing. It helps us to grow. So I always feel remaining steadfast, adhering to the same principles and keeping the same standards even when you fall and fail is the key to accomplishment.

Rafealla, thank you for joining us today. We wish you every success in whatever you set out to achieve.  



Lorraine Cattell

Lorraine Cattell (Eyre) is a renowned international British Fashion Journalist. Her articles & interviews appear regularly in magazines & online across the globe.

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