Receiving first class honours at the  AOD Convocation 2017
Receiving first class honours at the AOD Convocation 2017





It’s difficult to tag Akila Madhushani’s designs. It certainly doesn’t seem traditional. It’s not state-of- the-art modern or sci-fi stuff either. Like every girl growing up in an environment inspired by colours and textiles 24-year-old Akila loved drawing, dressing up and dressing others as well!






Driven by her fascination with fashion she soon pursued a career as a fashion designer.

Designing her dream

“I loved drawing from my tender years. Therefore I chose art as a subject during my school days. I would stitch new dresses for my dolls and dress them up in clothes which go with the latest designs. I always vied to dress them in different and unique styles. As time passed I began to look for different and unique styles of clothing for myself. This got me to design my own attire rather than depend on buying stuff from the stores. This stimulated me into getting into the designing sector,” Akila reminisced the past of her designer dream.

She had given wings to her dreams by joining the Academy of Design (AOD) and followed her degree from 2014 to 2017.

“I followed the maths stream for my G C E Advanced Levels. Then I got into engineering to please my parents. Since I was so passionate about designing, I followed a fashion designing degree too along with my engineering degree. Since I managed to get a first class honours in fashion and textile design from Northumbria University, United Kingdom, I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a fashion designer,” she said.

She notes that she draws her inspiration from vintage garments because those forms of designs are not used much today.

“I actually blend the past with the present to create unique designs which suit the contemporary fashion market. Casual wear is my forte,” she quipped.

Elaborating on her design techniques the young designer says that she gives priority to textile designs as well as the details of the patterns in a garment.

“My focus is on traditional Sri Lankan textiles and using their textures, patterns, and techniques to uplift local craftsmanship. I use mainly Dumbara handlooms on my designs. Dumbara is a traditional form of handloom textile weaving which is a living heritage in the Dumbara valley of Kandy. I study the common designs among them and come up with ideas to use techniques which can produce modernized and exclusive versions of Dumbara weaving patterns. I believe that I have invented quite a number of different designs for this purpose,” she said also adding that she has experimented with batik and denim bleaching and incorporate that knowledge into her designs.

“I believe that the essence of Sri Lankan culture and traditions need to be integrated into your designs for them to capture the global market,” Akila opined adding that she had manipulated the shapes and forms from African tribal decor and the artistic style of Keith Haring for her DON.A.09 collection. She had been inspired by hidden geometric shapes on the bodies of insects to design the Polygons collection.

Noting the pros and cons linked with the industry she says that the fashion scene is quite a ‘happening’ place.

“It is very exciting since you get to work on a variety of different projects that can be poles apart. You don’t have to worry about getting stuck in one place for hours or following a monotonous schedule. It is not a nine to five occupation. It demands a lot of travelling and exploring while perceiving things from a designer’s eye. A designer’s life is always linked with studying new materials and exploring their creativity rather than simply designing. There is always something new to be taken up so you are never bored on the job. Designing is like meditating because you need to have a have a clear mind to come up with a new design,” Akila explained.

She says that she admires the work of a number of renowned international designers like Alexander Wang, Public School, Vetements and Lacoste because each designer has his or her own design approaches and skills. She notes that if she was given a chance to pick a celebrity to design an outfit for, she would choose British actress Cara Delevigne because she has a great personality and a naturally gifted carefree look. Her looks also go well with mixing casual and sportswear with dressier outfits.

Recalling the moment she saw her designs on the catwalk for the first time Akila says that it was a very enthusiastic as well relieving moment which is a result of three years of hard work and sleepless nights.

“I still have a long way to go. The fashion scene is booming and Sri Lankan designs have shown a great promise in the global market. People are more open to new venues today and we can capture the international fashion scene by using products and designs linked to our heritage,” she added.

Since the profession is also demanding a designer needs to work for long hours to meet a deadline to finalize a project.

“At times you might feel restless because there is not enough time to finish your project. Designing something creative and unique takes time. Your customers have to be satisfied with your output,” she said.

Speaking about the challenges of the industry Akila says that it is difficult for up and coming designers to find a platform to showcase their creations.

Akila Madhushani

“It is a matter of having connections because who you know can get you to the forefront. Getting your work out there might not happen if you have not established the right connections,” she stressed.

Akila’s father, L D Karunathilake, is a businessman while her mother, D A Samantha, is a housewife. She is the only child in her family. A past pupil of Vishaka College, Colombo, Akila is currently employed fashion designer at

She says that it is important to be passionate about what you design, be goal oriented, think out of the box and try out new things to excel in the field.

“I think it is important to have faith in your talents and dreams. It’s not easy but if you follow your dreams without giving up on them, you will be able to achieve them. Everyone thinks that designing is easy but nobody thinks about it deeply. Only a designer understands how hard it is to design something with a concept and come up with new ideas,” she noted with a smile.



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