Emerging Designers at CFW

Feb 27 2024.

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One of the biggest draws of Colombo Fashion Week is the day when emerging designers showcase their collections. This is my particularly favourite segment as designers with potential are given a platform to showcase their collections and patrons get to see what the future holds for Sri Lankan design.

CFW’s Designer Development Programme which began since the inception of CFW over two decades ago is a multi-pronged system where CFW selects a tranche of young designers who they mentor in design and retail. They also help train them and showcase their designs in addition to providing opportunities for funding with the CFW Accelerate and the Italy Design Award. Today over 90% of the designers in Sri Lanka are products of this platform initiated by CFW.

Fazeena Rajabdeen, Director and Chief Executive Officer of CFW has personally overseen the development programme for the young designers. “This year we received 62 applications of which 22 were short-listed and there will be over 11 designers who will showcase on the 6th” she said. “These young designers not only get an opportunity to showcase their collections at CFW but we help them with retail opportunities during the event and after that with well-known retailers in the city” she added.

Explaining the process, Fazeena said “The criteria we employ to select the designer is primarily based on the designer’s passion to be in the industry and they need to have a keen focus in design. They come to us and we develop and nurture them. They need to have a passion to be in the industry and a background knowledge and a degree in design are a value in addition. We also need them to have a commitment and a desire to grow the brand. The designers we select have to commit to three years to see the brand through as building brands is not only creating a line of clothing  but the need to have the business acumen to see the brand through.”

“Every season they bring in senior designers to be a part of the mentorship panel. This time Sharmila Ruberu from the brand Meraki has been involved in the nurturing process of the designers. She has been on board with the current crop of designers and helped them throughout imparting valuable information and guiding them through the process” she added. Designer Sharmila Ruberu explained that she was honoured to be called upon to mentor the students.

“It has been such a brilliant time working with this crop of young designers. They are brimming with ideas and enthusiasm. They have a real thirst to learn and also to improve what they came to us with. I believe that with young designers like this, the future of design in Sri Lanka augurs well. They are also keen to highlight heritage crafts such as batik, handloom, embroidery and weaving which they have incorporated into their collections”

“The Emerging Designer platform has been gaining momentum year on year. However, right after the economic crisis, we saw a decline in applications which was sad as it shows the creative industry did not see the potential for fashion on the island. However, this time we have received a large number of applications which goes to show that the creative industry is picking up and the trend is reversing.  This is very promising for the industry as it shows that the young designers have regained their faith in the progression of the fashion industry in Sri Lanka” she further explained.

“We encourage the junior designers to be part of the responsible meter and sustainable platform which is one of the core pillars of CFW. Having designers who will be a part of this from the inception creates brands that are responsible in nature and are aligned to the value system described by the responsible meter. This places emphasis on sustainable fabrics increases the use and exposure of Sri  Lankan crafts and creates a social impact. At the forthcoming show guests can look forward to young vibrant and novel designers whose inspiration and design are fresh and imaginative,” she said. 


Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is a journalist specialising in travel, fashion, lifestyle, cuisine and personalities. She is also the Deputy 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 [email protected]


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