Designer 1-2-1: Kasun Gunawardana

Sep 07 2021. views 178


In 2015, Kasun Gunawardana burst onto the fashion scene when he showcased his collection at Bright Sparks, the launch pad for young designers at Colombo Fashion Week. His quest to create sustainable fashion at a time when the concept was new to Sri Lankan fashion aficionados was admirable. However for awhile after that, Kasun went off the fashion radar until he emerged recently with a new collection launched under a new label called Kasun X Content. The new pret a porter collection is completely created with a heavy slant on sustainability and his designs are gender fluid. As a designer Kasun is committed to his beliefs and is deeply dedicated to creating clothes which do not comprise on quality. As Founder and Designer at KASUN, I have created two labels, ’KASUN’ and ‘CONTENT’.

What sparked your interest in fashion design?
My mother. As far as I remember, since I learnt to communicate I was given creative freedom by her from choosing her clothes to gifts, homeware, and decor and I had the liberty of choosing my own wardrobe. I was always fearless. I was sheltered and protected so no one could have an opinion. I could live my imaginations the way I wanted to. And clothing was more my language. 

What made you take fashion more seriously and make a career out of it?
As I grew up, I was oppressed from expressing my creative self. I was pressured into the education system by society, and by adults who couldn’t see a future or gender appropriation in this industry. Furthermore, I was a victim of bullying by peers that left me with no voice. 
So I decided I am going to give them a show, studied mathematics for my A/L’s, prove to them that I am smart, and silently gained knowledge about fashion through the internet, and watching shows such as Ugly Betty that had a huge impact on me as a teenager,  as the character Justin in the show was going through exactly what I was, so my confidence developed with his character I would say. 
So I knew for sure, always forever, that I would speak the language of clothing, so I received permission from my father to send me to study Fashion, At Lasalle College Of The Arts, Singapore, where I brought back knowledge from and concluded my BA at The Academy of Design.

How has your work evolved since you began your own label?
I started KASUN as a completely sustainable luxury fashion brand in 2015. My clothing was all handwoven, some naturally dyed, and was contemporary ready to wear for all genders. 
But being so new and in the centre of attention I was distracted, I derailed for a while and there was a long hiatus. I relaunched as KASUN X CONTENT in 2018 which is Prêt-à-Porter brand. 
While both labels share similar aesthetics and design elements, CONTENT garments are carefully crafted using surplus fabric from major factories. As a result, CONTENT pieces are affordably priced and accessible to mid-market customers. 

Are there any types of clothing that you avoid designing?
Well many actually such as sportswear and winter clothes, definitely nothing that has to do with animal cruelty. I would love the chance to dress a bride and a groom, and even red carpet looks with my own element to it.

Where do you look for creative inspiration?
It’s everywhere, I keep my living space all white, so I can imagine more, and absorb less. So I am typically imagining and the feelings that come through it I translate into clothing. As I said, it is a language, so it’s an expression of my state of mind. 

Describe your latest collection?
The latest was designed for a special client and a dear friend who commissioned me to make him a custom wardrobe. I was starved of designing, and I wanted to dare to be multidisciplinary with no previous experience. I worked with both handloom and off-the-shelf fabrics. I made pieces with hand-painted batik art stories such as an ancient drawing replica of a musician playing the flute, using wall art references from ancient kingdoms. 
It was a custom make resort wear capsule collection. It included drawstring shorts, made using those said prints and I designed sleek shirts that had these stories patched on to as well. And the most special part of it is the buttons. The buttons on the cuff were handcrafted sliver with gemstones embedded.
Overall, it was a visual feast for a minimalist. And I think my idea of minimalism was limited to colour before, but as I’ve evolved I see minimalism as a lifestyle with many facets, a minimal yet glamorous is now how I see it, because, luxury-wear is slow-fashion, I get to be sustainable, socially responsible and cruelty-free. 

Who is your muse?
Long story short, I watched Stargate at the age of 4, where this gender-neutral Egyptian pharaoh played by Jaye Davidson, really opened my imagination. That a man can be everything at the same time and it was so glorious and it brought me contentment and fascination. His character really inspired my personal style always. 
And as I started design school I was following the great Yohji Yamamoto, and similar brands where I learnt to deconstruct, create flow and volume and ease, in garments. 

What are your sustainability credentials?
I have not received any formal recognition, but almost all the time, at least one or many of the following such as social responsibility, ethical production, local craftsmanship,  eco-fashion comes to play. And I really don’t seek credentials, I just want to learn to make clothes the most sustainable and creative way I am able to and share them with my audience. 

What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
Well, let’s just take a very relevant example, the pandemic has now swallowed 1.5 years of our potential growth, but it has also opened up a new way of lifestyle. People still celebrate and socialize, but more privately and intimately where resort-wear and redefined loungewear have become necessary.
So this opening in the market has aligned with my brand so perfectly that I can design for both KASUN and CONTENT with great faith.

What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your company?
Never compromise your self-worth, and don’t be a pushover. When you have passion, money is the side effect. So always keep in mind that passion first, and the more you’re passionate, money will manifest. 

What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?
EVERYTHING, word of mouth, and fashion being sectioned to only magazines and the elitist network was building walls too high. Now you get to express your creativity and be rewarded, and you learn from each other. Hence, I really appreciate brand transparency, so we are conscious and become more ethical and that’s why if social media is used with the correct intention, it could change consumerism for the better. 

How do you want women to feel when wearing your clothes?
I don’t want to decide for them, it’s all in the wearer. Sometimes it totally resonates with my identity, sometimes there are different takes and I appreciate it. And if you go on my Instagram @wearcontent, it is evident that the same clothes have been worn by different genders and body types so that freedom is essentially what I want everyone to feel. 

Pix courtesy Kasun


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is a journalist specialising in travel, fashion, lifestyle, cuisine and personalities. She is also the Features Editor for Hi!! Magazine. An intrepid traveller, she likes to show readers the world through her eyes and experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - tinajourno tinajourno@gmail.com


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