At the Lakme Fashion Week there was an extensive collection themed ‘elephant’. The designer, Amilani Perera voiced her inspiration and purpose for the theme. Being an animal lover since her tender years she has nurtured a soft spot for elephants.
“The things I hear these days in the media about how elephants are treated was what moved me to use this theme. I feel as humans we are very selfish. There is this gigantic, innocent animal just captured and kept inside a tent. It’s so unfair,” Amilani rued.
Her object was to create a collection and donate 10 per cent of funds from each garment to release the elephants and also for their rehabilitation process.
“This is nothing political. I have nothing against political parties. Also, if someone wants to keep an elephant as a pet they should own a jungle. The elephant is such a huge animal you can’t just capture and torture them like that,” she insists.
Creation of the elephant design for the collection included selecting an image of an elephant, drawing on it and then making a screen print out of it.
“As a Buddhist I feel very passionate about how a king tusker carries the tooth relic. Because of that we worship the elephant too. My whole line is based on Gajaga Wannama, what it says and how we worship the animal,” Amilani contends.
“I want to protect elephants. It’s so sad that when people don’t have places to live they cut down jungles when there is so much land elsewhere. It’s not the elephants’ fault. I have to start somewhere and this is just my first move towards the cause”.
Amilani wanted to be a fashion designer since the age of 14 and took part in international art exhibitions such as Nippon and won a couple of medals. Even for her Ordinary Level Examination she did Art and wanted to take it as a subject for her Advanced Level as well.
“This made perfect sense since I wanted to be a designer. That’s where the whole controversial part happened where I was the only student to take Art from the entire school. I come from a very academic family where my mother was a doctor and father an engineer. My parents finally faced the fact that I will end up doing something like fashion designing,” she recalled.
As a student at Lasalle Collage of the Arts, Singapore, Amilani became one of the top 10 finalists at a project that involved deconstructing a jean into a wearable garment. Her design was displayed at Paragon, Singapore.
“That’s where I realized people do appreciate what I do. Everything that could go wrong was going wrong for me before that. I hadn’t stitched two seams before I left the country and thinking whether fashion designing was the right choice,” she said in reminiscent.
As soon as she graduated from Lasalle, Amilani started working at MAS Holdings as a lingerie designer for Amante before starting her own business.
Her entire collection for Colombo Fashion Week in 2013 was stitched at MAS Holdings without a cost. She also worked as a design consultant for Arvind Lifestyle Brands Limited in Bangalore and is currently working on a collection for a television commercial on bridals.
For Amilani the most important thing about her design is the quality. “I am really focused on how the garment looks on the inside as well as the outside. The wearer should feel that luxury. It’s a must,” she insists after making what was to be the most important choice to go it alone in fashion designing.
“It was a big move to leave the job (at MAS Holdings) and start something on my own. I was thinking whether I would survive. But I made the right choice in the end, which I am happy about,” she confides.
To add to her passion for elephants Amalani has an accessory line made out of scrap material such as old fabric and cut-out garments besides a handbag collection made out of the same substance. The line is called Once More by Amilani Perera.
“Fashion doesn’t have a size, it doesn’t have a price. Clothing is something that is essential. Fashion creates something more to make you want it,” she says and hopes that through fashion people will come to realise the fascinations found in elephants.