Buzz with Danu - Shehan Ariyarathne

Aug 16 2023.

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On the Buzz I speak to a young entrepreneur was made a name for himself in creating island-friendly clothing. The fashion space is forever growing and the trends keep changing always, Culture by Ari which was founded by Shehan Ariyarathne sure caught the eye of someone who is summer loving. Today, I speak to him about his journey in the past 4 years and how it has been a successful journey.  

1. What made you start work on Culture by Ari? 

The journey of Culture By Ari exemplifies the power of a vision, determination, and passion for creativity I had when I started in my bedroom in 2019. I wanted to Showcase a great variety of Designs and very Unique designs that Sri Lankans would love to wear with a big smile 

2. When you named it “culture” did you ever think of creating a culture around it? 

Yes! That’s exactly what we are all about. Creating a Culture within our community. I wanted to include a lot of culture around this brand, including our beautiful colours across this island, and the vibrant happy people you meet I wanted people to remember the brand and have a smile on their faces or bring back a good memory and as I visioned it happened I see all our customers travelling with our products or use it for their special days like wedding Pre shoots, birthday, events and all other special events. whenever I go out or travel I see at least a few customers wearing Culture By Ari on their holidays or at an event and I always go and ask them if it’s Culture By Ari and the response is always with a big smile so it makes me very happy to see others enjoy and bring them happiness. 

3. It’s been 4 long years, what’s been the biggest challenge? 

During these 4 long years, the biggest challenge I faced was Covid nothing but a logistics nightmare, since our amazing customer base ordered our products at home as birthday gifts or any other function purposes even though we got orders the restrictions made it difficult to deliver our products on time and to even get the smallest essential item delivered was either double the price or takes few days to get delivered in that period of time because it was spreading at a rate and staffs not being able to travel to work to pack orders so I remember I went by myself since my little office space when I started was close to my home so I got permission from the police station and went and packed orders and full filed them and I even remember delivering some orders by myself around the Colombo area. It was a good experience and I got to see happy customers and we actually got more and more orders since I was delivering them by myself on time of course.

4. You started this brand in the midst of many challenges in SL, the bomb, Covid and etc, how did you stay focused? 

 I stayed focused during all these tough times because of only one thing, I had a greater purpose to help my staff and they depended on it, through out the time I started Culture By Ari during all these unfortunate times we never downsized or let go of anyone we always kept everyone around and it motivated me since they depend on it. I was always motivated to help them and keep this going and it brings me the utmost joy when I help someone or change someone’s livelihood, I wish everyone could experience what I experienced. So I guess everyone who stuck by me motivated me as well.

5. Tell me about the process of making your brand? 

The process of making my brand was just very simple at the start, I like the word culture because this little island of ours has so much culture and since culture is a very common name I wanted to add the personal touch of putting ‘By Ari’ since my Surname is Ariyarathne and most of my friends call me Ari and I wanted to make a name for myself in this industry and slowly I have achieved my goals day by day. What made me start this was the lack of Colorful shirts in this country because I love Colorful anything so that triggered me to get into shirts first and now we are known for our variety of beautifully designed Colorful shirts. 

6. We have so many cool brands coming up now in LK, what would you tell them to keep in mind?

I love all these amazing brands that are coming up specially from young entrepreneurs it shows the potential we have as a country and the future of this business looks amazing, what I would say for anyone who is starting or already had a great start - Is be humble when things go well because everyone will be there to boost your ego so always stay grounded and focused, there is plenty to learn it’s a never-ending journey so gain as much knowledge as you can.

Everything starts with a vision and a dream so I would tell everyone to think positively and Manifest greater things in life even when things go bad or not your way stay positive and find your purpose in life. Don’t focus on how many likes or how many followers you have, I would say focus on branding the rest will come in time. Talk to your customers and learn to listen to negative things more than positive things maybe you could fix a lot of things about your brand rather than everyone saying good things about your brand I always love gold critical feedback makes me improve my brand more and more and it got me where I am today. I hope all these young entrepreneurs take this island to another level and put us on a global platform in fashion.

7. Do you believe there is more space for new brands to come out? 

Yes of course there is never not enough space or any brand to come out, I always think more competition is always better because every brand brings in new ideas and new trends and there is so much to learn from. Competition always forces us to do our best and I think it’s the best form of motivation. I would tell anyone who is starting don’t get demotivated or jealous if someone does something better than you always look for how they did it and try to do it better. And it’s not an overnight thing it always takes time and effort so be patient and things will fall in place. There is no Shortcut to success if you notice most of the well-renowned fashion houses worldwide have taken more than 20-30 years time for it be where it is now. We as young entrepreneurs should always watch and learn and get together as a community and take this island we call Sri Lanka to the Global Market. 

 8. What would you say is next for the brand? 

 The next chapter of Culture By Ari I want to actually showcase what Sri Lanka is to the world - the Talent, culture, colours, history and peace and harmony that unites us all I want to showcase that from my pieces so currently I’m working on that and I’m very excited to showcase that collection which will be launching before this year ends. It will be different and what motivated me to do this is the foreign customers who always buy our products from Our shop Thambili Culture Boutique Located at No 48A, Ward Place, Colombo 7 and I don’t want them just to buy our pieces and leave with nothing I want them to see the culture and remember what we stand for and what this beautiful island has to offer. Culture By Ari will be representing Sri Lanka on another level by 2024 that I could promise. 

9. Are you someone who thought that fashion was something you wanted to work on? 

Yes from day 1 fashion has been a calling for me and I loved every single day I have been doing this, every day I get to see beautiful colourful fabrics and amazing designs and even meet the most amazing people on a daily basis. Since I started Culture By Ari I have met so many individuals and I learnt so much from them, and one person who showed me the path into fashion a lot would be you Danu, you have been helping me from day 1 and it has been an amazing ride so far and as I always say thank you a million times to you and my Beautiful wife Dishnira Ariyarathne also one of our Creative Directors at Culture By Ari for keeping me motivated throughout this journey and helping us grow this brand to where it is now. 

10. What would you tell those who are hoping to leave Sri Lanka, is there a message to them as a young entrepreneur? 

I would say go explore the world and wherever you go just enjoy the moment and try to see the positive of life and always don’t forget where you come from so keep in mind to add value to the motherland Sri Lanka and bring back the value and Knowledge you gain and help this economy of ours.


Danu Innasithamby

Danu is a Jaffna Boy with a Marketing qualification (only because he needed to study, and not because he wanted it). He has been a part of the team for seven years and is the face behind Buzz with Danu, and WTF.


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