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  • Writer's pictureAnnika Fernando

Labour of Love in Times of Covid

This year is challenging for everyone. In Sri Lanka, we experienced our first full lockdown from March to May which followed with an immediate almost surreal sense of freedom as we watched the rest of the world on the news and learned to pick up the pieces.

The country situation changed in October for the worst and uncertainty rose again with various regions isolated for extended periods and other areas in constant fear of closing and with challenges which follow.

What was certain was that we needed to come to peace with a very different end of the year than we may have hoped for and Sri Lankans have had to exercise their resilience once again.

Nilanka and Thilini were busy planning their end of year when the area they lived and worked in went into isolation for almost 2 months in October. This week, we have launched the new TSS collection at PR and are eagerly awaiting La Sari’s to follow. Why? Because they made their collections from start to finish themselves and had to complete one collection before they moved to the next!

Thilini Silva launched her label TSS as the first PR Rising Star in January 2019. The young designer has had a stellar 2 years and grown with each and every collection.

Few may know that she is in fact the daughter of another respected local designer, Nilanka Silva of the popular label, La Sari, which joined PR’s rails in September this year.

We knew it was essential to share to our community that every single piece has been produced by them alone from dyeing to batik to stitching.

This period has called for so much adapting, but we value the end of year collections by TSS and La Sari even more because of their relentless efforts to keep going and the resulting ‘labour of love’ which we have the honour of sharing with you.

We created this blog with the intention of sharing stories from our community and this is a perfect example.

We want our customers to know and appreciate what goes into buying from independent designers like the local labels we share with you at PR.

What was the inspiration for TSS’s end of year collection?

Thilini - My collection was inspired by the Black Leopard that was spotted near Adam's Peak and then the deaths that followed within first 6 months of this year (see news story). I express myself through my art and I found myself wanting to raise awareness and share.

What was the inspiration for La Sari’s end of year collection?

Nilanka – My inspiration was built from making the most of what we had at hand and in stock, to build from.

Do you find it difficult to express yourselves individually when you are living and working together?

Thilini - I would say it has its pros and cons. I have my own little workshop where I work on my designs but I always go to my mum for advice. Rarely do we disagree. When I want to push my boundaries, she is my sounding board.

Nilanka - We throw ideas at each other but ensure our individuality and creativity is never diluted by making sure we work in our own spaces / workshops.

We know you faced challenges in production as you and your workshop have been in lockdown, how did you adapt?

Thilini - We've been in lockdown for about 2 months and most workers live in isolated affected areas. Some of them are still afraid to travel because they live with high risk cases.

As a designer, my mum has always advised me to learn every step when it comes to production. I grew up watching her in the workshop so I’ve learnt how it all works. My greatest challenge was time management. The leopard prints are very time consuming to create in batik.

Nilanka - We've had zero staff for almost 2 months so we decided to do our collections all by ourselves!

Each of our collections have been a personal labour of love!

What are the greatest challenges you have faced and what inspired you to adapt?

Thilini - The greatest challenge was time management and working with a limited number of resources. I was inspired by my mother’s patience. She is graceful and punctual and I can tend to panic.

There's never a shortage of fabric in our workshop but we did have to adapt to what was available in terms of dyes in hand and techniques we could do individually.

Nilanka – Previously, we’ve always had help in dying and tailoring, we were comfortable just to design and create. All of a sudden, we had to do the entire process from designing to dying and stitching.

This experience has been both satisfying and fulfilling.

Shop TSS at PR here

Shop La Sari at PR here


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