Fashion forward | Daily News

Fashion forward

She may have taken over the fashion arena to stay connected to a long lost loved one but Indeevari Yapa Abeywardena (Indi) soon found out that she had a natural flair for the subject. Today the name ‘Indi’ is synonymous with fashion. From INDI couture wear, IYA Bride, iBRIDE Bridal Lounge, WH, Indi Bindi and INDI DIVA, this lady has gained experience and accolades both in the local and international horizons.

A graduate of Middlesex University London in BA Fashion Design, Indi also has a Women’s wear special from the University of Hertfordshire. She honed her skills by finishing an internship as a part of the permanent cadre at the Design Department of Henry Bertrand London which is the largest supplier of chiffon, organza and pure silk fabrics in the UK. Launching her own label at the Colombo Fashion Week in 2011, Indi’s designs were showcased in many internationally renowned fashion shows including the L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival in Melbourne where she displayed a collection inspired by Mexican floral and geometric embroidery designs in 2013.

She was awarded a Gold Stevie Award in the Female Entrepreneur of the Year – SME Consumer Products Category in the 18th Stevie Awards for Women in Businessn recently. Only one other Sri Lankan woman - Otara Gunawardena for Odel Limited - was able to clinch this award in 2010. This award is presented in honour of women in business, fulfilling roles as executives, entrepreneurs, employees and the companies they run worldwide holding great significance globally

“Winning or being acknowledged locally or internationally is always a good motivational factor, especially during the last two years with the pandemic it shows that we have continued to grow. As an individual and team, my staff and I are thrilled by this accolade. It’s another small step towards establishing ourselves at the forefront of the Sri Lankan fashion industry and as a design house that can compete with international brands,” Indi commented on her latest achievement.

Speaking about how she comes up with her innovative designs Indi notes that she has a a very imaginative mind which drives her to create a story for each garment House of Indi manufactures. Pioneers in the industry like Michel Wijesuriya, Yolanda Aluwihare Holm, and KT Brown inspired her to pursue fashion as a career.

“Staying true to my roots in design, has worked for me and my clients. I specialise in custom-made to fit occasion wear with hundreds of hours of handwork, which is unique and what Indi is all about. Next was saying no to replicating outfits of local designers or international designers to clients, of course you start losing business but I wanted to stamp the idea, I will get inspired by your reference images, but let me create something more you and original,” she explained about the uniqueness of House of Indi designs.

According to Indi her favourite part of being a designer is witnessing the development of an idea in its final stage, as a finished garment and being appreciated.

“To me and my team, success is not a trophy, recognition or showcasing a collection at an international show, they are more about satisfaction and accomplishments or personal happiness,” she said.

Queried on how House of Indi keep up with the trends and demands, she notes that loyalty is something which has been instilled her my parents in her brothers and her.

“We bring that into our workplace. I adapt to modern trends, season, and customer requirements, rather than saying, I’m a fashion designer and you are going to wear what I say. I like to be open to our clients’ suggestions, and I expect nothing less from my staff. Work does not stop at the amount of money paid by the client, work carries on till I say, ‘Yes, I’m happy with this garment, we can send it out now’, even if it means we lose money or we do more work than what we quoted the client, till my envisioned design comes out, we are going to keep working on it,” she spelled out her success formula.

Speaking about WH Sri Lanka she notes that House of Indi has partnered with Lin Asia Holdings to open the concept store for designers to showcase their products at Dharmapala Mawatha Colombo 7.

“We offer a collection of unique and meticulously selected brands, home-grown by Sri Lankan designers. After almost two years of the pandemic, WH reconnected with like-minded brands that are passionate, gathering talented designers across the country and offering them a platform. WH is a dream project for Limini Weerasinghe and me, to empower and support female entrepreneurs, help young and new designers who want to come up in the industry. We are using this platform to showcase local talent and provide a link for local brands, artisans, and craftsmen to the global market; elevating them onto the international stage. Not only does this help to connect people with limited access to an international market, but it also helps promote ‘Made in Sri Lanka’ products, making our small island nation one that will have international prominence in the retail industry,” she said.

Trailblazing in the fashion arena, Indi and her brand has bagged many awards throughout the years. House of Indi clinched the Silver award under the Service Sector – SME category. Indi was awarded the Outstanding Women Entrepreneur – Small category at the Top 50 Professional and Career Women Awards – Sri Lanka and Maldives 2020 at the SLIM Restart Resilience Awards 2020 organized by Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM), and the Outstanding Women Entrepreneur – Small category winning the Gold award at the 10th edition of the Top 50 Professional and Career Women Awards Sri Lanka and Maldives 2020 organised by the Women in Management (WIM) in collaboration with International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Queried on whose wardrobe she admires and Indi is quick to name Victoria Beckham.

“She is a modern fashion icon. Not only is she a successful designer and business leader, but she has also set the bar for what it means to own your sense of style. Her outfits wary from sexy and glam to chic and minimalistic. She has one of the most incredible celebrity wardrobes!” she mused.

Her advice to young and aspiring designers who wish to make it big and gain global recognition is not to consider oneself as a fashion designer, just because one opens an Instagram store page and does one collection.

“Be humble; learn from the senior designers who match your style. Please do not apply for Fashion internships, to learn inside knowledge within weeks and leave to open your one collection on a Facebook page. Apply for a fashion internship with at least 12 months’ commitment, the pay will be bad, work will be hard, miss out on some weekend parties, run around the streets looking for buttons, zips and bra cups but you will be set for life as a designer since as a business we are investing on you, invest your time with us,” she enlightened.

Mistakes are part of the journey, find other like-minded women to network with, learn to accept criticism, designing is far more than what is taught at a school or a university. 

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