Cleaning up fashion, Sri Lankan designers defy crossfire and conspiracy to nurture national labels using traditional weaves and crafts
Cleanup fashion’ focuses only on low labor wages; not questioning why countries fueling international high streets don’t have local labels. Vested socio-economic agendas use Srilanka’s minimal infrastructure as sweatshops, killing traditional crafts and weaves, turning talent into nameless fodder fueling global retail. A small fraternity of pre-thinkers defiantly seeks to turn their war-crippled, recession-riddled economy around by using the key differentiator of design

Outsource is the 'chosen' profession in Srilanka, as its 2.5 US$ billion garment industry provides employment for over 50% of its workforce. Local universities churn out faceless fodder for the industry, as it’s poised to go from sweatshops into Design Production Units. Focusing on hiking labor wages and improving working conditions, they claim to create to producing ‘garments without garment’. It seems all good, so what is missing in this picture? No one dare asks ‘why a country fuelling global retail does not have a single local label’.

Steeped in outsource, riddled by weak government policies, the country’s minimal infrastructure provides cheap solutions for international high streets, whilst its own streets are filled with mass market rejects or ridiculously priced ‘international brands’ – that have been produced in Sri Lanka for 4US$ dollars, exported, and re-imported back with 100% tag and tax additions- a heavy price Sri Lankans pay. Caught in consistent crossfire of civil wars, the country buffets rapid globalization and sectarian violence is taking its toll.
A few pre-thinkers struggle to keep local traditions and talent alive. Barbara Samsoni, nurtures dying weaves, turning close-down convents into weaving centers for local women, dreaming in Technicolor creating Barefoot Ceylon the country’s first local retail experience. Inspired, Ajai Vir Singh launched 'Colombo Fashion Week', to raise awareness by marrying manufacturing to local talent. D-day arrives; the collections are on the ramp, the audiences jubilant but an air strike cripples the event; but the fashion fraternity insists ‘The Show Must Go On’!

Under the shutterbugs– Fahad ‘Middle Finger’, Darshi Buddhi Batiks and KT Brown surprise the nation with their signature style, filled with local weaves and cultural motifs. For them it’s not about what’s the next trend; it’s about daring bombs and barricades on their way to work. Challenging government policies that aid ‘exports’ they struggle to create collections in a country where national infrastructure is sold to sweatshops and taxation limits their access to fabric and accessories, so they are forced to go overseas for their own production.
Under these circumstances, Darshi battles to save her crumbling heritage of rare Batiks. KT Brown’s fights to keep her intellectual copyrights, as Fahad raises Middle Finger with the same rebelliousness, he raises his voice on unjust national policies. Without retail spaces, sans subsides, sans support, working ceaselessly for three years, they dream of given Sri Lanka its own local solutions. 2010, recession makes the garment industry uncompetitive; now they need the value addition of design to raise ‘tag-brag’. It’s now that the design fraternity who takes on the onus and what emerges is a heartwarming story of courage, certitude, as the human spirit shines–UNDER CROSSFIRE!

Status: Post Production Commenced / Production: Sri Lanka/ Russia/ USA/