Fashion and inclusion in Sri Lanka
Fashion is essential, it will always be a deeply personal expression of who we are and how we feel about ourselves. It progresses and changes over time, reflecting the people and times to which it belongs. It is distinct.
For eons, we have admired and coveted the bodies and styles of the carefully selected images, graceful, flawless figures that we see in the media. There is a natural penchant for things seen as ‘perfect’, and for a long time all we saw were the same looks perpetrated by brands around the world, with little regard for the diversity of their consumers and little concern. inclusion of people who understood and represented their consumers.
The Eurocentric standard of beauty, rich, lean, tall, long-legged, fair-skinned, and light-eyed has become an aspiration – seemingly untouchable, except by the lucky few winners of the genetic lottery. Yet in its rarity it has become somewhat of a norm – and so was born an era of judging labels, buying lightening creams, hair dyes, and colored contacts.
But as times have changed and the voices of minorities have become stronger, we have started to see representations of people of color, different ethnicities, different gender expressions, different heights, social backgrounds. -different economic and even people with different abilities. The industry had started to make strides in including and showcasing the diversity of the human form and its full spectrum of beauty. However, as Verna Myers said, “Diversity comes to the party; inclusion is invited to dance.
True inclusiveness would mean that the aforementioned people are included in the conversations that matter, built into the branding and genuinely part of the process, with equal exposure, representation and compensation.
Fashion and trends are a big part of the media we consume today – everyone is trying to sell us something, and we soak up just like the summer sun. The importance of inclusiveness is not limited to non-discrimination – the inclusiveness movement seeks to open up the world of fashion to everyone – from design to production to purchase. final.
However, even with all of our progress, we still see the devastating effects the media has on people’s body image and self-esteem. The distortion of reality and the loss of originality and freedom of expression, which have resulted from the effort to chase trends, indicate that despite the progress made, we still have a long way to go.
This article sets out to look at the positive steps we have taken in the right direction.
Inclusiveness needs to attract the consumer and make them feel like they’re part of the conversation, allowing them to feel that fashion, trends and art are theirs too. It must allow all consumers to feel represented. It must showcase beauty in all its forms, ensuring that the public is aware that perfection is not the norm – that beauty has NO STANDARD – and that all sizes, abilities, expressions of gender, socio-economic origins and colors are beautiful and welcome.
Sri Lanka’s fashion industry is booming; emerging and growing over the past 10 years, we have a bright future with a pool of extremely talented artists. Our rich culture and the wealth of our resources means that we often see traditionally inspired clothing on our catwalks. Using traditional material productions and designs deeply rooted in the history of ancient Sri Lanka, we incorporate inclusiveness of much more than representation, color and size. It also means that we are integrating social sustainability by supporting rural businesses and fabric manufacturers.
A predominantly brown-skinned society, Sri Lankan skin ranges from milky to deep and is rich, warm, and diverse. While it is true that we are still fighting postcolonial fever, the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter movement had sparked more fervent conversations about colorism, amplifying the conversations of many activists fighting against colorism, which tie into conversations about classism. . Over the past few years, we have started to see a greater variety of skin tones on the catwalks, in our advertising campaigns and on the covers of our magazines. Additionally, the modeling landscape has started to see new faces with designers hosting models through open casting calls.
Entrepreneur, activist and model Kalpanee Gunawardana is an open advocate against colorism and is at the forefront of using her platform to spread positivity. His hard work and honesty in the process sheds a welcoming light on the acceptance that real skin and real bodies will never resemble the images we seek to reproduce on screen. Kalpanee also talks about accessibility in the context of inclusion:
“An equitable, peaceful and sustainable society is a just society; clothing and appearance has been linked to social mobility and self-confidence while the media we see affect the ability to aspire… There is a lot to be said for moving away from judgmental. a book by a cover, and in a macro preview, many of our ills relate to systemic issues that we must actively work to understand and dismantle. While we do, however, the above should not be limited to a “privileged” section of society. “
In a conversation with Amesh Wijesekera, a Sri Lankan designer now based in London, we discussed the importance of inclusiveness and how its process goes way beyond the diversity of skin tones – Amesh’s designs feature traditional Sri Lankan prints, putting culture at the forefront of modern style. Her designs have vivid colors and clean lines, and her volumes all feature traditional images and a multitude of ethnicities – her fabrics are all handcrafted and locally sourced in her effort to support rural communities. Amesh takes pride in ensuring that her aesthetic remains gender neutral – Stating that “fashion is for everyone, and everyone should be able to wear whatever they want with confidence and pride”. More than using models to present his work, Amesh incorporates narratives into his volumes, believing that “when you include real people and their stories, you add value to the art.
Gender clothing was so yesterday, and in recent times the foray into gender-neutral clothing and the widespread acceptance of the de-gender aesthetic and daring has opened some incredibly forward-thinking doors for members. of the LGBTQIA + community and their allies. Expressing his inner self has never been easier – while receiving its backlash, the heartwarming step forward we are experiencing is showing promise.
One notable local brand that is making great strides in inclusiveness is MIMOSA. MIMOSA is a casual / commercial brand, and since its inception it has incorporated styles aimed at both tall and short women. Moving away from the idea that plus size women should be dressed in clothes that conceal their figure – comparable only to shapeless bags, they came up with modern and on-trend styles to fit and flatter ALL body types. With smaller and smaller collections often gracing their very carefully curated and aesthetically pleasing social media platforms, we’re often impressed and excited about their collections. Using real women and presenting different body types and aesthetics, MIMOSA shows us how versatile and complementary their collections are. This understanding of style, body and shape, which allows their brand to bring trends to customers who may feel certain styles just aren’t right for them, emphasizes an element of inclusiveness. .
So why is inclusiveness so important? The point of beauty is that it is intangible and ineffable – fashion only provides us with one element of visual representation. We need more real stories and real people, campaigns and trends that don’t create false and harmful realities, but instead foster safe spaces for self-expression and acceptance, and relevant content to which the consumer could feel connected.
While making this progress, we must also strive to make it accessible. The road ahead seems long, but not impossible.
There is such art in sincerity that we are starting to embrace… isn’t it exciting?