We were seeing a few of these fabulous tulle skirts on stylish Colombo ladies, meanwhile a couple of birdies whispering about this magical Kukka from NYC, then we connected the dots and reached out. We asked Dileni if she was interesting in creating an edit of tulle skirts for PR to start with. What fun emerged!
After years of working in NYC as an investment banker, Dileni's dream since childhood held strong, to work in the field of fashion.
Dileni worked in New York for 26 years combined at both Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse. Her entrepreneurial skills were first tested when she built a restaurant called Thali Bistro in the city, from 2005-2008 which featured on the US Food Network for a show called 'Opening Soon'.
As a child growing up in the 70s in Sri Lanka with limited availability in clothing, she learned early to be self sufficient and labelled herself the 'house seamstress' and this is where the story starts.
"At the age of 13, I had mastered the art of making curtains, bell bottoms and maxi dresses. My beautiful sister was my muse. I would drape fabrics on her to shape a garment and used my mom's old Singer sewing machine to construct it", Dileni shares.
Dileni was then, like most well educated Sri Lankans at the time, encouraged towards a more secure career choice and completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Colombo, then to London for further studies in Computer Science before heading to NYC in the late 80's to pursue a career in Finance. Her dream was not forgotten.
In 2017, Dileni decided to take evening classes at the Parsons School of Fashion Design. Her early years of practice in garment construction aided her to ace the course in 3 years.
Then it was 2020.... and we all know what that meant.
"Then came Covid and remote work, family emergencies and a sudden re awakening to pursue my first love. ", Dileni shares with us.
Dileni relocated to Colombo in August 2021. Anyone who grows up in Sri Lanka knows that a school given nickname can stick for life and Dileni is known by her friends as 'Kukka' in Sri Lanka,
"I was the class clown in school, and the stray puppies AKA 'kukkas' used to follow me around in school. Unrelated to being a puppy influencer, I owned a pair of shorts with a puppy logo, which I wore religiously under my uniform during sports and the nick name 'Kukka' was born. Everyone knows me as 'Kukka' in Sri Lanka." Dileni, or Kukka shares with us!
v3 stands for Kukka's own third version of herself, her own life lived in a third phase and her logo, a triangle is the symbol of this with it's 3 sides and points.
"v3 is my first love, I always knew that I'd come back to it. Although it was not a career path your parents would allow you to chose back then, the art of making fashion never left me, and it has a different meaning now. Other than practicing creativity with inspiration, you also get the opportunity to create designs in various styles that help others feel confident about themselves and present their individuality. It also give me an opportunity to network with other creative individuals."
The hand feel and fall of Kukka v3 skirts is one of quality and that's because Dileni brings the tulle from New York. We are looking forward to new colours coming our way for the end of the year too. Style it up with a body suit or crisp white shirt and statement earrings for an evening look, but we equally love styling a tulle skirt with a white t-shirt and sneakers.
With all the constant reminders about people leaving Sri Lanka, why do some still stay? These are questions many of us are faced with regularly, especially those who may have residency in another country, an easy way out.
PR - What brought you back to Sri Lanka?
Kukka/Dileni - My aging mum; I wanted to spend time with her.
PR - What did you miss most about Sri Lanka when you were away?
Kukka/Dileni - Sharing food during Avurudu, Christmas, Ramadan and Thai Pongal.
PR - What makes you happiest in Sri Lanka?
Kukka/Dileni - Riding trains, going on trips with friends, having a G&T and goofing around!
Having your third version in the creative field, Kukka v3 launched, it must be also difficult being away from buzzing NYC.
PR - What do you miss about New York?
Kukka/Dileni - Everything.... from changing seasons to friends.
PR - Where’s home for you?
Dileni / Kukka - Well, I definitely want my ashes to be scattered in Manhattan :). As for Sri Lanka there are good days and bad days. Good days I love my mother country, bad days I want to run to New York....
What’s the first thing on Dileni's agenda when she lands in NYC ?
"a tuna melt with melted Swiss cheese on a crispy brick oven bagel!"
What's next? Dileni tells us that she's researching a project with our local handloom artisans to create a resortwear collection aimed at a US audience next year.
"I want to tell a Lankan story with my design choices, to raise awareness and inspire others too, to work with our local artisans." Kukka shares.
We'll make sure she gives our local audience a peep too!
Shop Kukka v3 here