Concept store for local fashion designers | Sunday Observer
Indi Yapa Abeywardena helps set up

Concept store for local fashion designers

15 August, 2021

Recently, Wear House, a brand new concept store showcasing a collection of Sri Lankan brands was launched as a collaboration between the House of Indi and Lin Asia Holdings. Wear House was the latest of Indi Abeywardena’s contributions to the Sri Lanka Fashion Industry. As Founder and Creative Director of House of Indi, Indi has forged her brand into one of Sri Lanka’s leading fashion destinations over the course of her decade-long career.

We managed to catch up with Indi, who, in a brief interview with us, highlighted her journey in the world of fashion as well as her thoughts on fashion design itself.

Q: What sparked your interest in fashion? Do you have any specific inspirations in mind?

A: Fashion was something I took over to stay connected with my mother, it keeps me grounded and her memory lives on with fashion within me. Inspirations are all over the place to me, you see it in daily things that can inspire an outfit, a collection but the important part is to make sure it is wearable for the everyday woman. I am totally inspired by the concept Reuse, Recycle and Reduce. Colombo Fashion Week is on the ball with the initiative to drive it to all the top fashion designers in Sri Lanka, which is where the future lies for the fashion industry.

Q: What led you to pursue fashion design as a serious career?

A: My mother, My family, My out of the box thinking, I see smaller details in things that I can elaborate to a finer art, I have a very imaginative mind which drives to create a story for each garment House of Indi manufactures. All that plus seeing some of the pioneers in the industry like Michel Wijesuriya, Yolanda Aluwihare Holm, KT Brown really inspired me to pursue fashion as a career.

Q: Who is your favourite designer?

A: Locally, I Love Anika for Maus, Darshi for Buddhi Batiks, Charini for Charini, recently I have become a fan of Karma Collection from Tivon Prasad and internationally Victoria Beckham, ethnic brand Sabyasachi.

Q: You’ve been in the business of fashion design for over a decade now. How different is it now from when you started out?

A: Fashion is always evolving as we know it, trends come and go, designers come and go but what remains the same is the demand for high quality fashion. The biggest change is, customers are more aware of trends, designs, social media plays a huge part in it, it has helped setup platforms for brands to elevate designers and connect the customer, the fashion lover. The Fashion industry has become or is trying to become more Ethical, Sustainable and Fair Trade, which was not heard a decade ago. We are starting to realise fast fashion is not the way, we need to move towards slow fashion due to the fashion industry being one of the most polluting industries in the world. The fashion buyer today is well knowledgeable and in sync with the world fashion, we as designers need to be quick to satisfy their needs.

Q: Is it difficult to stay innovative in the fashion industry?

A: “If you don’t innovate you are going to be left behind” it’s not difficult to find avenues to satisfy client demands, if you don’t you will lose your clients to competition, your brand will fail to deliver. Technology has become such a huge part in Fashion forward, while it may be hard for certain designers to adapt, we need to embrace at least some to keep up, such as Circular Fashion, Social Media platform and analytics, Concept marketplaces such as WH Sri Lanka, Bio packaging, Digital Runways.

Q: From what I’ve heard, you studied fashion design in London. Do you believe a formal education is essential for fashion design?

A: Yes and No, my education at a formal level helped me broaden my fashion scope, it gave me the exposure to international markets, designers, how they apply systems, designs, pattern, create mood boards, colour palette selections, story board creation for a collection -which you wouldn’t experience unless you get a formal education but that’s not to say otherwise. There are Designers around the globe and in Sri Lanka with no prior education in the Fashion industry running successful brands.

Q: How would you describe Wear House (WH)? What drove you to starting it up?

A: It’s the newest concept store in Sri Lanka, a designer hub for emerging brands and established brands to come together and showcase their products. We are heavily invested into exposing Made in Sri Lanka products to the international market. As to what drove us, the business partners involved are two friends with similar passion to helping youths, social services and women empowerment, with that in mind we set out to create this space, hoping to expand slowly but surely once the tourism sector opens up.

Q: What kind of work went into creating ‘House of Indi? Were there any challenges in starting up your own label in Sri Lanka?

A: There are many challenges, it’s not like we had Instagram and Facebook to open a page and do paid advertising to promote our business as a fashion brand or designer. ‘House of Indi’ didn’t come into play till about two years ago, initially it was Indi about 10 years ago, then we started iBride by Indi, our bridal line about five years ago, then our diffusion line INDI diva about three years ago, it is then we discussed ok, now we got a few things happening, let’s bring them all under one banner. I’ve been fortunate that I was able to connect to Colombo Fashion Week guest lisst, then I had a few friends and designers who recommended me plus the support I had from my father and my brothers was tremendous in setting that base foundation and not giving up, because there were days, weeks and months nobody would order anything from me.

Q: As both the owner of your business and its creative director, how do you manage your responsibilities between those two roles?

A: Learn to delegate work, learn to organize yourself well, learn from your mistakes and have a few people you trust with your baby (fashion brand). You cannot do both, because sales will drop, lose creativity, merchandising can be chaotic. My day starts with a morning meeting with my head cutter, general manager, studio manager and social media team. The rest of the day is divided into areas, morning for the pattern team, then afternoon for sewing team and fittings, evening for the social media team, merchandising and so forth. And night is dedicated fully to the design team and make sure one day of the week is all for client meetings.

Q: How have your designs evolved in the decade since starting ‘House of Indi’?

A: Each designer has their own unique style, a statement design hidden in their garments or a pattern cut, that defines it as a creation of their brand, usually their regular clients will be able to pick and say, that’s an INDI or some designers can too, I can say by looking at some designs, that’s design from that particular designer. So in saying that my design esthetic has not evolved but my mind has evolved to cater for what the client wants, I have moved away from the notion, this is my style, you wear it if you like, if you don’t, then don’t wear it. To sustain in this industry, I have created and evolved my designs ideas in the mindset of the clients requirements to satisfy them.

Q: Do you have any advice for young fashion designers just starting out?

A: You are not a fashion designer, just because you open an Instagram store page and do one collection. Be humble, learn from the senior designers who match your style. Please do not apply for Fashion internships, to learn inside knowledge within weeks and leave to open your one collection Facebook page. Apply for fashion internship with at least 12 months’ commitment, the pay will be bad, work will be hard, miss out on some weekend parties, run around the streets looking for buttons, zips and bra cups but you will be set for life as a designer since as a business we are investing on you, invest your time with us.

Q: What are your future plans in the fashion industry?

A: Survive the pandemic and come out the other end with still a business, with all the staff and family stronger than ever before.