AOD Walks the Talk of “The New Global” at Mercedes Benz Fashion Runway ’23 with a showcase of an unique Sri Lankan identity of international standards

The 7th edition of the Mercedes Benz Fashion Runway (MBFW) came to successful close last weekend, following an exhilarating day of fashion, innovation, and phenomenal design talent.

Founded by the Academy of Design (Aod) -Sri Lanka’s pioneering design university- in partnership with DIMO, the annual international showcase and most highly anticipated event on Sri Lanka’s fashion calendar, serves first as an illustrious platform for the university’s talented graduating cohort to present their final design collection to a packed audience of influential designers, industry professionals, and diplomats. Over the years the showcase has also grown to serve as prominent stage for the fashion and apparel industry of Sri Lanka and South Asia.

This visually striking celebration of the next generation of Sri Lankan fashion designers -which falls as part of the Sri Lanka Design Festival- pushed the boundaries of fashion by staying true to Aod’s enrolment campaign for 2023: We The New Global; showcasing the final work of the university’s BA (Hons) Fashion & Textile Design and BA (Hons) in Fashion Design & Marketing students while also elevating local craftsmanship and design for the global stage.

This year -alongside already well-established local and international fashion labels- the catwalk exhibited the debut creations of Sanalee Rathnayake, Natasha Leanage, Tihara Silva, Anthony Wijewickrama, Januki Karunanayake, Senuri Dissanayake, Shanaya De Silva, Vishmi Narthana, Thiyangi Warnakulasuriya, Natasha Welihena, Navidu Fernando, Shamra Shiam, Sanjula Perera, Manuki Gunawardane, Ushara Dharmawardane, Sandali Fernando, Mystica Rameshkumar, Vindi Samaraweera, Emisha Kurukulasuriya, Thasini Dewapriya, Sonali Ferdinands, Sasandi De Silva, and Sara Izzadeen. An eclectic display of techniques, materials, and style, derived from diverse inspirations thriving off representation – testament that the future of Sri Lankan designers is indeed bright.

Aod’s fashion design programmes extends to its students tutelage on fashion design practices within various contexts, and in tune to a fast-evolving global industry. Also harnessing the innate creativity and passion of young talents towards freely developing their signature identities through a process of study and experimentation, from the onset, students are immersed in a creatively challenging and engaging study environment, mentored by a globally experienced faculty of educators.

“It is fantastic to see the Aod fashion graduates emerging from the constraints and creative challenges of Covid with both a renewed vitality and dedication to what the great Sri Lankan architect Minnette de Silva would have described as Modern Regionalism,” commented Patrick Gottelier, Master of Apparel and Product Design at Shanghai DeTao Masters Academy, on the representative designs on display at MBFR 23’. “I am personally delighted to see a further diminution of  Western fashion cliche along with the evidence of a growing senses of  pride in Sri Lanka’s wonderfully diverse cultural heritage.”

Participating in MBFR is an opportunity for graduating students to create their first real collection, witness their designs in a runway setting, and gain unparalleled “hands-on” experience on the workings of the fashion ecosystem and industry. This year’s edition in particular was themed after the seven core pillars that have made the event thrive over the years: Creativity, Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, Sustainability, Grassroot Connection, Global Alignment, and Global Recognition.

“Seeing the diverse array of student works, I’m inspired by the palpable sense of global citizenship infused into their creations,” commented Shalin Balasuriya -Director of Spa Ceylon- of the showcase. “The remarkable standouts, however, are those designs that seamlessly weave elements of Sri Lankan origin, creating extraordinary works that not only embrace global perspectives but also celebrate and preserve the richness of their own cultural heritage.”

“In a world in search of new discoveries, Sri Lanka is relatively undiscovered and leveraging that with authenticity will give them an edge,” he added.

“I loved the MBFR show on Friday,” echoed Annika Fernando, Owner and Curator of PR Concept Store. “Aod has been an integral formalising part of the design journey of many designers we’ve seen grace our own rails, and in fact, 90% of our PR Rising Stars are AOD graduates.”

“What is the common thread with the designers I know and what I saw on the ramp?” she adds. “It’s a sensitivity, respect, translation and inclusion of local craft with an international perspective. It’s refreshing, forward thinking and inspiring. Congratulations!”

Aod and MBFR have a history of positioning fashion as a catalyst for positive change, with alumni such as Nawoda Bandara, Ruwanthi Gajadeera, Amesh Wijesekera having found in the graduate showcase a launchpad for their now successful and impactful fashion design careers – proudly taking Sri Lankan designs to the international stage.

Aod invites Sri Lanka’s aspiring fashion designers and their parents to learn more about the university’s broad portfolio of programmes, and how showcases such as MBFR as well as the university’s long-standing relationship with industry partners play key roles in providing students with a truly global design education and even brighter fashion design futures.

For more information, contact AOD on 0775727772, email or walk in between 9am and 4pm Monday to Friday – Colombo Innovation Tower, No 477, R. A De Mel Mawatha, Colombo

The Sunday Times Article