Meet Olivia Siriwardena, a young fashion designer working for MAS Linea Aqua who aspires to empower people through fashion and explore unseen possibilities in the design sphere.
As a child Olivia was surrounded with great examples of bold decision making and independence. Her parents and grandparents were innovative thinkers and confident role models, inspiring her ever since she was young to be fearless and go after her dreams. She had the freedom and encouragement to explore various paths and found pleasure in making the simplest experiences more exciting using her imagination. This is the beginning of her creativity and the foundation of why she decided to become a fashion designer. However, her decision wasn’t always admired. “Even though my fascination was clear, back then there were many question marks than I find right now which I thought would put a stop to my plans. I remember facing cheerless expressions on the faces of people around me when I spoke of my future, but I continued to be confident and believe in myself. The best thing to do when you are at that certain standpoint is to trust your intuition even though the opportunities may not seem clear. That is exactly what I did too.”
Olivia joined AOD to study fashion design soon after her A/L’s. Though previously wanting to join straight after O/L’s she was advised to sit for the A/L exam and believes it brought out a different layer of maturity in her. “At that time AOD also provided the supporting foundation programs for early school leavers if they do not want to force themselves into any conventional catechism which I think is one of a kind opportunity to seek their capacities in early stage of life.” Speaking on the value of formal education in a designer’s life, she states, “The growth within the academic level cannot be ever gained in otherwise and I could say that myself and many fellow designers, are living proof of learning ‘lock stock and barrel’ in fashion through lessons, number of practice sessions, study tours, summer internships and workshops which came in handy allowing us to lead in the industry or standout as an entrepreneur. I am always honored to have learnt from the international faculty at AOD which I think mentored me to the person I am.”
Another aspect that contributed to Olivia’s success in fashion is the early exposure she received while being a student at AOD. She was a part of many industry collaborative projects where students work with apparel industry giants like MAS, Brandix & Hirdaramani in brainstorming and developing certain collections and this gave her the outlook she needed to understand the industry and how it functioned within the country and on a global scale. This gave her the platform to access many opportunities in the industry even before she graduated. “Formerly to my Graduation and the graduate exhibition, I came across quite a number of openings from industry and private designer brands requesting me for a variety of design input.” After her Graduation she joined MAS Linea Aqua as a swimwear designer for the company’s own brand ‘Aqua Island’. She speaks of her experience so far as challenging, engaging and fun. “I encountered areas which would be challenging for a designer that honestly allowed me to manage with my professional experience at AOD. The garment industry in Sri Lanka is competitive to a higher degree which leaves the designers to do their research and development to be precise with changing trends. The acclaim and applause is equally higher from the customers’ end and it is vital to have such strengths, which is why the demand for fashion designers is increasing, locally and globally.”
Olivia was also a part of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Sri Lanka which is conceptualized by AOD, having previously experienced the runway when her Graduate Collection was showcased. As a designer to be involved in the first international fashion show in the country, Olivia was happy to have made some of her dreams a reality. “I am always proud to be a part of MBFW. They have always helped me focus on my dreams and helped me to get where I am now which is where I exactly wanted to be when I started out!” Fashion Design requires constant innovation and the ability to stay updated and be relevant on a global scale. With these challenges in mind, Olivia stays inspired in a variety of ways. “I get inspired by people and their behaviour, the places where you can find life, and most curiously the cultures which everyone has embraced growing up. Starting by exploring my own island to see its diversification, now I’m expanding my research globally where there’s no limit to discovering perceptions. I feel compelled to start whenever there’s a hint of hope in any outline I can draw or a set of interests I have framed. That’s how I come up with new designs after a great deal of refining.”
Sustainable fashion and uplifting Sri Lankan talent is also something Olivia is very passionate about. Five years from now, she would want to be in a position that creates impact through design. “As a designer and an individual who believes in artisanal potential in the role of creativity, I want to support talent coming from local communities and to be visible and accessible through my involvement. I want to uplift these communities and create a handcrafted, driven result. Nothing is as comfortable as wearing your own influence which was mended and molded with responsibility. ” On a more personal level she hopes to nurture her enthusiasm to explore unseen possibilities surrounding her.
The Fashion & Textile Design Degree at AOD takes students through a diverse range of fashion disciplines including womenswear, menswear, textiles and knitwear. The programme guides students through the fashion design process from conceptualization, research, and garment construction to design realization while important skills in fashion illustration, CAD and Photoshop, pattern cutting, print design and textile design will help fashion graduates access a number of career opportunities after graduation. Traditional Sri Lankan craft such as handloom, beeralu and batik as well as high-tech design and textile construction methods and internship opportunities with AOD’s top fashion industry collaborators will give students a clear understanding of the fashion industry before they graduate.