AOD Alumni Kasuni Rathnasuriya takes traditional Sri Lankan craft to the global sphere in New York
Currently based in Manhattan, New York, Kasuni Rathnasuriya launched her brand, KÛR, in 2009 with the aim to provide an authentic women’s ready-to-wear brand. With its iconic handmade crafts including lace, KÛR caters to the contemporary woman on the go.
Even from a younger age, while studying at Southlands College in Galle, Kasuni displayed a passion for a variety of areas such as being in the school Western band, Shakespeare drama team (which is a major drama competition in Sri Lanka), music choirs, and even playing badminton. Coming from a traditional family background, Kasuni was focused on pursuing a career in science, and was amidst studying bio-science when she realised it was not the right path for her. Even when she moved on to Architecture, the uneasy feeling was with her throughout. She enrolled at AOD on a whim, and decided to enrol in the class of 2004. She even studied CIMA during this time, and completed CIM (Charted institute of Marketing, UK) at the same time as her Fashion Design education. She went on to complete her MBA at Postgraduate Institute of Management University of Jayewardenepura, and considers the diversity of her education has been a real asset in her life.
After graduation, Kasuni joined Brandix as a Marketing Analyst. Even though, she went with the aim of working as a designer, her other qualifications took a major role. In two years, she realised she was not made for numbers and figures, and wanted to pursue what made her happy, a career in the creative field. She used whatever downtown she had – after work or weekends – to dedicate space for fashion design which resulted in KÛR - ‘I wanted to create a unique and a phenomenal product. Hence I took the hard way, and I started working with Southern lace weavers to create a beeralu lace incorporated clothing line. It has lot of limitations and long lead times, but I didn’t want to take a short cut’.
In 2011, she was recognised as the British Council Young Creative Entrepreneur (YCE), and that offered her the platform to present herself as a serious designer in the industry. She was also the Semi-finalist of Ethical Fashion Award (Sponsored by Marks and Spencer, UK) at Sri Lanka Design Festival (SLDF) and
represented HSBC Colombo Fashion Week in 2010. In 2011, she showcased SS 2011 collection at Alchemy, South Bank London, UK, and also started working as a designer for Brandix, and continues to do so in New York.
Tell us about KÛR.
As a personality with blend of aesthetic and entrepreneurial appeal I founded KÛR (initials of my full name) in 2009 as a womenswear line which incorporates intricate handmade lace on contemporary clothing. The clothing line is ready to wear with fine craftsmanship which is a “feel of serenity”. I took on ramp at many international fashion events since the launch of KÛR which attracted much needed critical acclaim. KÛR had been displayed in London, Colombo, Sunshine Coast (Australia), Portland, and New York at IMG NYFW. Also had been a feature of wide range of international press which covers USA, Australia, UK, France, India and Sri Lanka.
What is your design process?
I do 2 main collections per year for KÛR. Every season, every collection is a project for me. Every collection carries signature beeralu lace pieces which creates contemporary looks. We do not over-produce or re-produce more. As a designer, I maintain a certain stamina and exclusivity in my brand KÛR. I do create contemporary clothing for a modern woman while been true to the DNA of the Brand. In the industry I am working for, a high street retail sector. I am grateful that I can work in multiple different platforms at the same time. Which is a modern designer role of been multiple and parallel. The travels, street wear, street cultures and music inspire me a lot!
What was your experience at AOD?
I was worried from the beginning to study with bunch of youngsters at Design school, and parallel to Design school I was studying elsewhere as well. Fortunately there were 2 students who were like me, one was studying CIMA and other one was a dropout from the Architecture school. And I was a drop out from bio-science. It was the Italian Fashion Director - Tiziano who opened my eyes. He was very tough and I learned a lot. I realised that creativity is something very personal to every individual. It’s your taste; the taste is something that you cannot teach another person.
Which skills you learnt at AOD helped you in the industry?
Any designer needs a good foundation to work in the industry. Industry is very challenging. At AOD, I went through a process for couple of years which gave me the platform to understand, get inspired and create a relevant collection.
How was your experience at the New York Fashion Week?
It was a great experience for taking part in IMG NYFW last year for the SS18 season. We did a presentation which is not a runway. As a new designer to NYFW, we had to give more flexibility to industry guests to review our collection. Planning the show, getting to a time slot in NYFW calendar and involving in production was interesting. Most importantly meeting creative people from around the world gave me an exposure to the world of fashion. e.g. – Hairdressers, Makeup artists, stylists, editors and models!
The Fashion& Textile Design Degree at AOD takes students through 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 mportant skills in fashion illustration, CAD and photoshop, pattern cutting, print design and textile design will help fashion graduates reach 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 as well as internship opportunities with the AOD’s top fashion industry collaborators will give students a clear understanding of the fashion industry before they graduate.