AOD leads ‘Innovation Island’ for Sri Lanka

With leaders in apparel, automobile, hospitality and tourism industries collaborating with AOD, Lankan creative industries send out powerful global message at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and Sri Lanka Design Festival

Sri Lanka is presenting a fantastic business proposition to the world. This comes from a new economy built on creativity, where our culture and homegrown talent are exported to the content-hungry markets all over the world. It’s coming from a powerful business ecosystem where human creativity, ideas, intellectual property, commerce and technology are in constant interplay. And, at the heart of this proposition is AOD—Sri Lanka’s most influential creative force. Consolidating its fifteen years worth work in facilitating and advocating Sri Lanka’s unique role as the regional creative hub, AOD has finally achieved this status for the country. In 2018, AOD will be celebrating this with the ‘Innovation Island’ international campaign where Sri Lanka will now invite the world to make business here, in South Asia’s creative hub. AOD will be unveiling the campaign with the 2018 editions of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (25th – 28th October) and Sri Lanka Design Festival (9th -11th November), where nearly hundred delegates from around the world gather to engage with Sri Lanka—South Asia’s ‘Innovation Island’.

AOD—a fifteen-year journey in centering South Asia’s creative hub in Sri Lanka

AOD’s recent victories in taking homegrown design talent to new levels globally, and having the world recognise its uniqueness and relevance, cemented the first major milestone in establishing Sri Lanka’s regional creative hub status. Simultaneously, catalysing Sri Lanka’s major exports like apparel, to progress into knowledge-based creative industries was AOD’s next big move to centre South Asia’s creative hub in the island: This movement grew to have more and more industrial powers from automobile, tourism, hospitality, tea exports, banking etc. to bank on creativity. All this put the essential industrial infrastructures in place, establishing a vast and int lligent manufacturing network with a high capacity to innovate and collaborate with design. AOD’s last move to establish Sri Lanka as the regional creative hub was coining a signature ‘new Sri Lankan style’, ie-a contemporary island aesthetic that is unique to the nation: This value proposition was presented through its work with brands like Urban Island and that successfully retailed a new Sri Lankan style to the world. With all these power moves combined, come 2018, AOD and its prtner industries have moved the local creative sector to place where South Asia’s creative hub was established here, strategically poised and ready to make business with the world.

What is ‘Innovation Island’ in all this?

The way Linda Speldewinde—founder of AOD, puts it, ‘Innovation Island’ is a campaign that AOD conceptualised to depict how Sri Lanka’s creative industries proposition to the world derives from its very own ideas, technologies and practices on creativity, remaining connected to the island’s age-old ideologies of sustainability and wellbeing, as well as the aspirations of tomorrow’s world. “Sri Lanka really is an unusual creative hub where innovation takes its own unique shape inspired by a very rich heritage, charged by the young energy of homegrown talent and strong with our modern industrial strengths. It really is a fresh creative dynamic out of South Asia. And this is what ‘Innovation Island’ encapsulates.” She stated that with AOD’s global network of educators, designers, fashion business leaders, design business influencers, universities, innovators and governments, ‘Innovation Island’ story can be taken to the whole world, inviting them to make business with Lankan design. “We’re talking the likes of Jane Rapley OBE—former Central Saint Martins’ dean and Parson’s college dean representing the world’s biggest design educators from both sides of the Atlantic. We’re talking Future Laboratory—the world’s leading trend forecaster. World-famous Dutch designers like Studio Roosegaarde...this is the kind of international network that AOD has built and they are the people who will first connect with Sri Lanka, as Innovation Island. It will open up a world of opportunities for Lankan designers, young students and aspiring creatives” says Speldewinde.

What are the opportunities that ‘Innovation Island’ will unlock for Lankan talent?

“Innovation Island’ will unfold to bring in new business, international networks and open up fantastic new opportunities for the whole country,” beams Linda Speldewinde. “But, who it will really benefit are the young creative thinkers of this country,” she says. Speldewinde says that already AOD offers young designers unprecedented levels of international exposure, world-class education and employment opportunities beyond graduation: ‘Innovation Island’ at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and Sri Lanka Design Festival will only amplify this. “With the ‘Innovation Island’ global campaign, there will be a new recognition for local design, brands and businesses looking to purchase the ‘Sri Lankan style’ and this means our young designers will be able to access new experiences and job opportunities all over the world,” says Linda.

Why is AOD behind this?

Linking up the government, the business sector and the creative community in the island, AOD has been the central point for the discussion and formation of the ‘Innovation Island’ campaign. To AOD, it is fitting that an educator takes the lead to inspire the industries and the government. Afterall, education is the birthplace of a country’s economy—the breeding ground of its future professionals. Linda further explains that this stems from what AOD believes to be the true role of education. “We have always had the view that education is not just about instilling knowledge and skill in people. It is also responsible for bridging the gap between talent and business—taking the lead in pointing towards the future where a country’s economic potential is better harnessed. For AOD, this has always been the reasoning that leads it to collaborate so closely with governments and business to catalyse economic potential of creativity. And we’ve had incredible support from the government and the business world for this.”

Who are AOD’s partners in this major international campaign?

Although ‘Innovation Island’ campaign at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and Sri Lanka Design Festival is led by AOD, it is actually a concerted effort between several parties. Linda Speldewinde explains that several industries, commercial entities, government organisations, cultural institutes, designers, entrepreneurs and creative practitioners of all kinds are behind this campaign. “We’ve got the support of the most visionary partners from the apparel industry from MAS, Brandix to Hirdaramani, Coats, GT Nexus. Automobile giants like Dimo, plus the state sector represented by the EDB and international governments like the Netherlands’ Embassy & the British Council. Our Banking Partners HNB, advisors PWC, long-time supporter Mount Lavinia Hotel, Wijeya Newspapers who have always helped us share our ideas and gather momentum for the work. We have many other supporting partners who make our events work and their incredible engagement will be shared with our event media as this campaign unfolds. The team at AOD, our other teams at and many more who come together to make it all work is behind this.” she adds.

How will AOD drive ‘innovation Island’ campaign beyond Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and Sri Lanka Design Festival?

‘Innovation Island’ is only beginning its journey. Beyond MBFW SL and SLDF, it will begin the process to solidify as a national policy and help local creative industries to establish a deeper multistakeholder base at home, regionally and globally. Speldewinde also shared that the ‘Colombo Innovation Tower’ project will be launched in 2019 as a space that allows ‘Innovation Island’ philosophy to take root; “We are hoping to use the Colombo Innovation Tower’ as a base to drive this whole sector to the next level by providing a central meeting point for the world to come discover our creative industries. And, AOD will be at the heart of all this.