Driving design Talent to lead Sri Lanka to the forefront at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week – Sri Lanka

Interview with Ranmal Ekanayake, CEO of AOD, presenting AOD’s Graduate Fashion Showcase at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Sri Lanka

 AOD's Graduate Fashion Exhibition will be held as part of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week - Sri Lanka and here AOD CEO Ranmal, shares its making and how one could view the fashion collections that combine traditional artistry and modern innovation, displaying unparalleled young Sri Lankan creative talent. Sharing more about this event that will be open for public viewing she talks about how one could also be a part of and get a feel of the electrifying energy of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Sri Lanka and of AOD


Q: What is AOD’s role in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week?

AODs teams, the academic team led by British Designer Karen McLeod with fashion faculty from around the world to the Sri Lankan creative thinking teams to AODs multi cultural student body are all behind the big Design Movement that AOD has been building over the years and that is the creative energy behind it. From conceptualizing the event to curating the shows, nurturing and presenting the fashion talent that gets showcased at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and actually organising, designing and setting up the event is all AOD and I am motivated to be mobilizing all of the operations behind this to make it a success over the next few days.


Q: Who are AODs partners in all of this & how do you see their role in all of this?

We’ve had the incredible support of all our partners from various industries. Our hosts at Dimo are behind the custodianship of the Mercedes-Benz official brand here in Sri Lanka and they have done a tremendous lot to bring this event down to the country, along with the full spectrum of benefits and opportunities that come with it. They have been fantastic hosts. Then there is our visionary apparel industry that foresaw the benefits and global reach of this event and joined us from the very beginning. Our industry patrons at MAS, Brandix and Hirdaramani have been tremendous in rallying the rest of the industry behind this mega project and making them see what this will deliver in the long haul. We’ve also had the support of many other partners who understood the gravity of the vision behind this work: Our Endorsement partners – EDB & Joint Apparel Association Forum Thread & Zip Partner COATS who has supported us throughout , Fashion Retail Partner - Fashionmarket.lk, Hair & Makeup by Salon KESS, Official Host- Mount Lavinia Hotel, Official, Airline Partner – Etihad Airways, Technology Partner - GT Nexus, Cultural Partners – German Embassy of Sri Lanka & Brazillian Embassy – Sri Lanka are also behind driving this.  Also to add our print Media Partners - Wijeya , Online Media Partner - Life Online , Beverage Partner – Freelanka , Official Telecommunication Partner – Dialog,Print Partner – Softwave, Paper Partner – Papyrus, and Official Florist- Shirohana. Together, the outcome will be quite a remarkable thing. AOD has grown a talented set of design alumni in the past decade. They have found their way into setting up brands to hold higher positions in the apparel industry. Our renowned alumni is a big part of the show itself, showcasing their latest collections. Leading a school full of creative is not easy operationally as managing creative talent is very unique but over the years I have found my way and have really contributed in helping AOD deliver to the Sri Lankan industry, which is the vision we all support at AOD.


Q: How is this event going to benefit young talent in your opinion? 

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week will use the international network of the acclaimed Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks to elevate the local fashion and apparel industry to an international platform recognised worldwide, linking it to new businesses and buying circles that strengthens the country’s export economy. AOD has been championing the vision to use design for the development of Sri Lanka and its industries for over a decade now, and has developed a close relationship with the government of Sri Lanka and the country’s business sphere through projects like Sri Lanka Design Festival and Island Craft that used design for social and economic progress. Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is an extension of this vision, taking the fashion industry to a global stage that gives it enormous power in terms of reaching new audiences and markets for business.


Q: How is this event going to benefit your own AOD students?

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week has allowed AOD to extend an exclusive set of benefits and opportunities for its students and alumni graduates who are able to work with industry and the government as young design leaders. The students of AOD are exposed to this international platform. They also gain experience and see what goes in to a show of this scale beforehand. The graduating lot gets the exclusive opportunity to showcase their final collections at MBFWSL. This sets a benchmark to the junior students on the standard they need to produce, awaiting the opportunity when they graduate. This exposure is what they will take on to the industry.


Q: Tell us more about the Graduate Fashion Showcase & how the public can engage with it?

The AOD Graduate Fashion Showcase is held as part of MBFWSL. This is the biggest opportunity the fashion graduates get. They get to showcase their finely made collection to an international audience. Most of our graduates find employment after the show. Big names in the apparel sector approach them for jobs and they use this as a stepping stone to achieve their dreams. The Graduate exhibition will also be held as part of the fashion experience section from 10am – 4pm and will be open for viewing on the 28th and 29th.


Q: How has AOD shaped its education to prepare its designers for this kind of platform, what have you and your team had to look at?

AOD was founded with the vision of establishing an international design campus that works in partnership with Sri Lanka’s major industries, like apparel, to progress through design and innovation. Of course, this meant that the kind of education we delivered had to be relevant for industry and also internationally. This is why AOD partnered with UK’s prestigious Northumbria University to offer a series of design degrees that complement Sri Lanka’s major industries by educating young design professionals in the areas of fashion, interior design, fashion marketing, animation, graphic and visual communication design. Through this powerful partnership with UK’s Northumbria University, AOD now contributes a generation of design professionals trained in par with international standards, to Sri Lanka’s industries, such as the apparel industry.  

AOD offers program across a multitude of platforms and offers a true design experience. AOD’s unique combination of academic training, hands on studio time, exposure to design inspiration and global opportunities is what makes the AOD designer a one of a kind creative pro. Over the past decade, AOD has established itself as the most trusted partner for design-led industries in Sri Lanka and abroad. AOD believes that design can change the world and good design education is where it all starts. AOD presents complete UK design degrees with Northumbria University in Fashion, Graphic Design, Interior Design, Fashion Marketing and Design Studies as well as Motion Graphics and Animation Design now available at AOD in a 100% internal and complete manner. 


Q: You mentioned that AOD has also pioneered several more projects like this that connected design with business. Can you speak a little about those?

Yes, over the past decade AOD took several pioneering steps towards contributing to the Sri Lankan industries. Sri Lanka Design Festival (SLDF) founded in 2009, is annually organised by AOD to drive interior architecture, homeware and graphic design further. SLDF is a powerful platform with a global audience of buyers, sourcing specialists, design opinion leaders and media. AOD’s pioneering initiative Island Craft was a project that connected contemporary AOD designers and their expertise on curating products that are desirable to a global market, to traditional craft artisans which helped to create new livelihoods and incomes for these communities; the project was acclaimed as a great use of design to elevate traditional industries.


Q: And what kind of influence have these projects had on the kind of talent  that AOD produces?

All these initiatives allow AOD design students and graduates to interact and learn from various industries, collaborate with them and use design to power up industries. It has made the AOD designers evolve into true professionals who understand the role of design, and role of designers like themselves in business, across industries and in developing their own nation’s economy and changing the lives of fellow Sri Lankans. It has empowered and inspired them to become young creatives who want to do something for this country through their talent and education. Our recent partnership with the global style icon Mercedes-Benz to host Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Sri Lanka, directly links AOD’s fashion students and alumni to the country’s apparel industry and also, the global fashion industry and will show them how their talent is relevant on a massive platform seen across the world.


Q: You come from a background of developing young talent, How does this translate to students’ success after they graduate?

AOD sees these initiatives as a way to connect its young designers to bigger opportunities and also to work directly with industries which prepares them to become qualified professionals with real work experience by the time they graduate. This direct exposure to industry and early network building is what has built a continuing trust on the design talent that AOD creates. Through this long-standing industry trust and reputation for creating professionals for business, AOD has been able to continue a 100% post-graduation employment rate for its designers.