Interview with AOD alumni Fashion Designer Sajee Seneviratne
Fashion is a mirror of its culture and world view, a form of artistic expression; an international language. Simply stated, fashion has no national boundaries. It is a potent declaration of how one sees and represents oneself. The fashion industry is a complex, multi-billion dollar business encompassing design, production, distribution and retailing. AOD has been at the forefront of developing a new fashion movement in Sri Lanka, rooted in a unique ‘Design and Made in Sri Lanka’ Vision that’s globally marketable. Sajee is one such designer who hails from Lindsay Girls’ School and is today marketing her own collections to an international customer base.
Q: Where did your interest in fashion and design begin?
I went to Lindsay Girls' School - Colombo and even then, I had a passion for the fashion industry and it stemmed from seeing my father who worked in the apparel industry. I had a keen interest in finding my own place in this industry, so I knew I had to choose a path that involved constantly challenging myself with new and creative thinking and that would inspire me everyday instead of a typical 9-5 job. So, after I was done with my ALs, I searched for a path that inspired me and challenged me- this was when I found AOD through a feature on a newspaper- I knew right away that it was the gateway to the future I was looking for.
Q: How did AOD prepare you to secure a great career such as yours?
From day one AOD directed us with a clear vision so that each of us knew exactly where we should aim to be. For me, the fact that we could study here in Colombo to get an international UK degree, meant that I was prepped with a good understanding of what works for a global audience. The exposure we got while being educated by a global faculty of lecturers also trained me to research worldwide trends and be globally aware while being based in Sri Lanka. Our undergrad experiments with low-tech heritage crafts with traditional artisans and high-tech industrial textile manipulation with AOD’s apparel industry partners inspired me about a new future for handloom. Finally, the experience of showcasing our talent at international level fashion shows with Sri Lanka Design festival and Mercedes - Benz Fashion Runways presented by AOD, has been amazing and pushed me to challenge my work to reach real global standards.
Q: There is a popular idea that education is not necessary to be a designer. What is your take on it?
Education for a designer is a must. I learned every bit of becoming a professional designer from my education at AOD. Being creative is one thing and becoming a professional designer with a career is a different thing altogether. We all came to AOD with a mindset that anyone can do it. There is lot of technical information, professional ethics and industry practices which we never knew before we started AOD. Once you master these three years you’re ready to become a professional designer with access to a stable career and great opportunities.
Q: What sort of exposure and support did AOD and Northumbria UK program add to your future dream?
The guidance provided by the International faculty at AOD really helped me in achieving my dream. I gained great support from AOD which exposed me to the correct path in design which helped me become a professional designer.
Q: Most parents and youngsters don't see design as a serious career path. What is your advice to them?
I’ve seen my father working in the apparel industry and knew this business and I grew up seeing how secure and serious this industry is and when I joined AOD they made sure we understood how great this could be as a career. My advice for parents is to understand that there are new career opportunities today and that they present far more exciting experiences that really help young people grow. For students I’d like to say to search for a career that is more than a job- something that inspires you every day. I believe that we all should choose what we love to do as our career.
Q: You career as a fashion and textile designer for a highly successful fashion platform with an international customer base, is a challenging one. What does your role entail?
My role is focused on exploring new ideas in handloom textile and building new aesthetics parallel to international colour and pattern trends. It’s a career that requires me to constantly research on the latest industry movements from fashion capitals like London, Paris, New York and Milan, while also staying in touch with the local handloom artisans at grassroot level- it is quite an inspiring job.
Q: What inspires you to keep doing what you are doing?
Satisfying customers and keeping them happy is a challenging job. This inspires me to keep creating new designs and keep up with this fast moving industry. Fashion changes every day and being in touch with global trends keeps me inspired to come up with innovative designs.
Q : What message do you have the younger generation?
Seek the path that could get you to your dreams, always dream big and don't let anyone let you choose what your future career should be for you. Keep your mind open and go for it. Live out of the box and always keep challenging yourself!