A bejewelled future for sustainability | Sunday Observer

A bejewelled future for sustainability

5 February, 2023
Lonali Rodrigo
Lonali Rodrigo

With inflation hitting us where it hurts and the lack of funds to facilitate sustainable economic patterns, upcycling is a concept in the back of everyone’s mind these days.

For those of you who may not know, upcycling is a series of mechanisms that convert “old” products into new ones by modifying them and giving them a second life. Upcycling uses a series of used materials, components, and items and produces a product with more value than the original. In other words, it re-adapts and/or re-purposes products in a creative way and expands their lifespan.

This week we reached out to a designer who has changed the game in the climate of Sri Lanka Fashion when it comes to upcycling, Lonali Rodrigo, the Founder of House of Lonali.

House of Lonali is a conscious lifestyle brand that creates uncompromising fashion and style keeping both people and the planet at heart. The folks at House of Lonali believe that there is a unique beauty in every flaw and choice made over time and that they change the future for the better.

As the pioneering up-cycling brand from Sri Lanka, they design and craft stunning and exclusive pieces from textile waste. Theyaim to minimize the impact of production and consumption while creating a positive impact on people and the planet.

Rodrigo believes that sustainability is a challenge and that it helps everyone be a part of a creative solution that addresses a larger issue. As soon as she graduated from the University of Northumbria she decided to start her own social enterprise House of Lonali, as the first up-cycling fashion brand in Sri Lanka producing designer products from textile waste.

In 2010, she emerged as the winner of the ‘Ethical Fashion Award’ at the Sri Lanka Design Festival and in 2013 she received the ‘Emerging Designer’ and ‘Sustainable Designer’ Awards at the Sri Lanka Apparel and Fashion Awards.

Rodrigo is a protective advocate for sustainability. She emerged as the winner of the ‘Ethical Fashion Award’ at the Sri Lanka Design Festival in 2010 and received the ‘Emerging Designer’ and ‘Sustainable Designer’ Awards at the Sri Lanka Apparel and Fashion Awards in 2013. She was also a speaker at TEDx Colombo in 2014. As a forerunner in Sri Lanka’s Sustainable Fashion, Rodrigo has been recognized by (Echelon) Cosmopolitan 35 under 35 Women Game Changers 2020.

In conversation with Lonali Rodrigo, here’s what we found out:

Q: Are you happy about your journey as a designer so far?

A: I am definitely happy; I think I have achieved my mission with my brand. I also believe that I have managed to build a personality and an identity as a designer. Every experience and every exposure was added into my journey as a designer.

Q:  Where do you think you fit into the Sri Lankan Fashion industry?

A: I fit in as a game changer. When I started upcycling in 2012 it was a new thing in Sri Lanka. It was a game-changing initiative at the time.

Now a lot of people are getting into sustainable fashion and I am so glad that it is the case. Further as a designer, I try my best to be transparent about who I am and what I am doing and I believe that helps in the progression of my cause.

Q:  How would you describe yourself?

A: A conscious designer

Q: When did you decide designing was your thing?

A: After leaving school I joined a garment organisation and followed the process of how clothes are made and it is during this time I realized that I love designing. Then I decided to study designing and during my three-year degree course I fell in love with sustainable design and I knew what I wanted to do and what type of designer I was going to be.

I did a lot of trial-and-error projects before I finally landed on what the House of Lonali represents now.

Q:  Tell us the best advice you have received from anybody regarding your career?

A: I have received a lot of advice over the years and I take them from all my heart and I am extremely grateful for them. When I started one of my mentors told me to follow my passion, which made me pick sustainable fashion.

Q:  What are your plans for this year?

A: We are very much open to collaborations with small brands that are into sustainability. It doesn’t have to be a fashion brand, we are trying to see how it works with non-fashion brands as well.

The idea is that we are trying to build a better tomorrow, and we can do that together. Further, after about four years we are going to explore the foreign market. Sri Lanka really needs that exposure right now and we are doing whatever we can to support that.

We also want to make sure that our products go through a circular process. This includes mending and repairs to our products. We will set up a certain day to conduct repairs.

Q:  What kind of advice would you give to your fellow designers?

A: We have a huge responsibility for the future, to use the right material, to employ the right process, to think of the consumer, and then to make sure there is a safe disposal of the said products.

Q:  What is the best fashion statement according to you?

A: I think individuality is the best fashion statement. It is about how you use fashion to convey your message.