AOD joins hands with ORIT Apparels Lanka to launch aspiring young designer Nishaka Hettiarachchi into global spotlight

The fashion industry is a dynamic one, but even more so one of the most competitive in the design sphere. Sri Lanka’s textile sector in particular - as a key manufacturing destination on the global stage- has even more reason to want to keep up with evolving international trends. For this, apparel industry heads are increasingly turning towards the immense potential of young, local design talent. 

As the country’s pioneer design educator, and a driving force catalysing design innovation across South Asia, the Academy of Design (AOD) has over the years built for itself an ever-widening portfolio of long-standing partnerships with some of Sri Lanka’s most influential design brands and apparel a strong network of industry partners that has often -together with the university- launched a number of talented young graduates into the international fashion circuit.

One such symbiotic industry-graduate relationship is that of AOD alumna, Nishaka Hettiarachchi, and Orit Apparels Lanka (Pvt) Ltd. Having graduated in 2021 with a (Hons) Fashion Textile & Design degree, Nishaka was chosen to exhibit her final year collection to a global audience at Graduate Fashion Week International (GFW UK) – the world’s largest showcase of undergraduate fashion talent- for which she worked closely with Orit Apparels Lanka (Pvt) Ltd to bring her designs to life. This collection will be modelled on October the 16th as part of Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai, India - one of the most awaited events on the global fashion calendar. 

Graduate Fashion Week UK, as a springboard for new talent, was founded with the aim to serve as the bridge between education and employment. Through the showcase, selected undergraduate designers from across the world are guaranteed opportunities for international exposure, connectivity, and even recognition by high-profile potential employers from within the global fashion community. 

Nishaka’s collection –called Men’s Love for Manual Labor- falls under her own brand Grudge, and is inspired by menswear from the 1960’s; more specifically by clothing worn by road and construction workers at the time. The entirely denim collection features primarily rusty-red and brown, earthy tones as a reflection of the workers’ innate toughness, but with splashes of colour representing too their humanness. Men’s Love for Manual Labor is a ready-to-wear collection designed with functionality and durability in mind, but also comprises of delicate elements of Sri Lankan heritage craft – namely beeralu lace, handloom, and crochet- paying tribute to the country’s rich heritage and culture.

“I had the experience of a lifetime working with ORIT,” said Nishaka of the experience. “I was not just exposed to, but also had access to technology that I had never even heard of before, and was able to learn so much about different washing, coating, dying, and digital pattern making techniques, to name a few.”

“I am extremely grateful to ORIT for sponsoring my entire collection, and also teaching me so much along the way,” she added. “I am particularly thankful to Mr. Priyantha and Mr. Moditha for giving me access on such an industrial level.”

Mr. Priyantha Jayamaha, Head of Design at Orit Apparels Lanka (Pvt) Ltd was impressed by Nishaka’s energy from the start. “When she first entered the factory I could see the commitment and talent in her,” he said. “She would work day and night, and call me if ever she needed any technical assistance. I was more than happy to support her.”

As a sponsor of Nishaka’s collection, Orit Apparels Lanka (Pvt) Ltd is supporting the young designer’s journey to the international catwalk by giving her access to their apparel technology, processing techniques, and of course valuable industry know how.

“When Nishaka was first introduced to us, we could see that she had a lot of talent,” said Mr.  Moditha Silva, CMO at Orit Apparels Lanka (Pvt) Ltd. “However, with our guidance and industry experience/connections, she has been inspired on how to use her abilities to create new concepts. She will certainly get more exposure at Graduate Fashion Week UK, and hopefully it’s only upwards for her from there.”

While students stand to gain immensely from industry resources and tools, collaborating companies too are enhanced by the creative input of forward-thinking and passionate minds from a globally-accredited university, while simultaneously supporting the future of the local apparel sector.

“As a company we have changed our strategies to be more in tune with market demands,” said Mr.  Moditha Silva, CMO of Orit Apparels Lanka (Pvt) Ltd. “For instance, rather than going into bulk production of our denim, we have chosen to focus more on creating for unique brands so that there is no price challenge.”

“Sri Lanka has a lot of creative talent, and Nishaka matched our company vision of what we want to take going into the future. We like to play a role in her success so that we can help, and also so that we can incorporate her talent into our production and create something great from Sri Lanka that we can take to the world.”

In creating mutually beneficial collaborations such as these, AOD ensures that its students are not just given the recognition they deserve, but also the opportunity to get intimately acquainted with the workings of the industry; in turn increasing graduates’ chances of employability – be it across international waters, or closer to home.

AOD invites Sri Lanka’s young fashion design aspirants to learn more about the university’s Fashion Design programmes, and how, like Nishaka, they too can stake a claim at a promising future of international career success. For more information, contact AOD on 0775727772, email info@aod.lk or walk in between 9am and 4pm Monday to Friday – Colombo Innovation Tower, No 477, R. A De Mel Mawatha, Colombo www.aod.lk