Designer Indeevari Bags Gold and Silver at Stevie Award
By Shafiya Nawzer
Fashion design is the art of application of design and aesthetics to clothing and accessories. Culture, social latitudes, trends, technology, time and place influence clothing. Fashion designers design clothes to suit varied consumer tastes and preferences.
Indeevari Yapa Abeywardena, popularly known as Indi, is a renowned fashion designer and entrepreneur. Working with some of the biggest brands in the world, Indi has years of experience in the world of fashion – both locally and internationally. Her expertise helped her to unveil original designs through a number of clothing lines. The House of Indi is her innovation, one of Sri Lanka’s biggest names in
fashion-forward brands, known for artistic design made from materials that are ethically sourced. Local, traditional artisans handle her products which are of high quality, thus contributing to the livelihood of local artisans.
WH Sri Lanka, another Indi brainchild has put local products on the world map. Her vision and leadership has made WH a design concept-store for emerging and established designers to showcase their vision.
Indi 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 Business held in late September, an honour bestowed on just one other Sri Lankan Otara Gunewardena for Odel Limited in 2010.
This Award follows being awarded the Gold and Silver Stevie Awards in Company of the Year – Manufacturing and Retail, Small Category in the 18th Annual International Business Award.
From dressing celebrities for the ramp, designing bridal wear for fashion shows, Indi has a unique approach. From being whimsical to a touch of the romantic, her designs blend the ethereal with the reality.
Indi spoke to Ceylon Today in an exclusive interview.
Here are the excerpts:
Congratulations on being awarded the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Internationally in the 18th Stevie Awards for Women in Business; you are a celebrated entrepreneur and designer. Was this always a your dream?
Thank you, not sure about the celebrated part but definitely wanted to be an established designer in Sri Lanka. Entrepreneurship just happened as a part of career growth, business growth and as a person when you start to set goals for the future.
Winning or being acknowledged locally or internationally is a motivational factor for my staff and me especially during the last two years with the pandemic. It shows that we have continued to grow. As for the dream with me winning the Award just like Otara Gunawardena did a decade ago and since she is , someone whom I respect and admired, it’s truly a humbling experience and a bit surreal.
Being a female designer and entrepreneur of multiple ventures is no easy task, what were the hurdles you faced?
It sure isn’t an easy task but I’ve had some amazing people to guide me. At the same time, there were others who led me up the garden path. This gave me the impetus to be where I am now. As for hurdles, it was knowing my customer base. Many young designers end up not mastering one particular thing or their niche clientele because of tampering with everything all at once. I learnt fast that I should create my own unique style and be authentic.
Making my work unique to my clients. Saying ‘no’ to replicating outfits of local designers or international designers. You begin to lose customers at the beginning but you stamp your class! Falling prey to criticism and social media was another fallout. Success calls for criticism and encouragement. Take the good and flush out the bad. Stay in your lane! It took me some years to fathom this but now I’m on a path of my own.
How do you walk the line being unique and having commercial appeal?
Staying true to my roots in my design concept. Commercial appeal is not in my signature brand. It’s a fine line because the consumer will forget you and move on to the new trend. INDI DIVA was born to cater to ‘everyday wear’ clients; it can be sporty, fun, seductive, centric, etc. A custom-made outfit to fit an occasion is a different story altogether. It is unique and that is what Indi is all about.
Tell us something about your Swim Week Colombo Collection?
I wish I could give a whole spill here but the truth is we are caught up with postponed bridals at the moment, we are actually behind time for Colombo Fashion Week. The concept is however based on the desire to travel and resuming social connections, positivity for the environment, as all of us have been through tough times. You can expect Grecian Fabrics, Signature floral prints as always, Boho style, Mediterranean silhouettes, and if time permits an extravagant big fat Greek wedding bridal gown.
The fashion industry is a major contributor to pollution. Being eco-conscious and sustainable is all the rage right now. Has it been practical for you as an entrepreneur to incorporate green business practices?
Not at all, my paying customer comes to me for the unique red carpet, event, wedding gown and it’s had not been easy to balance sustainability and over the top design requirements. They want to look fabulous, the garment to look luxurious and rich. House of Indi has ethical practices. We have always been into Fair Trade but as a business, it has been a slow on the sustainability side of the business. House of Indi embraced a sustainable path with more awareness about two years ago we started those transitions in looking at different ways of manufacturing by Reuse, Sourcing by Recycle, and Production by Remake.
What are the qualities that you have brought to your career and workplace?
Loyalty, that is something instilled by my parents. My family and I bring that into our workplace. Adaptability to modern trends, season, and customer requirements, rather than dictating terms to the client. I like to be open to client suggestion and expect the same from my staff. Money is not the selling point, loyalty is! Hardwork is key to a successful business.
Sri Lankans don’t like to purchase locally designed luxury clothing but opt for expensive international designer wear; what’s your comment on this?
It’s partly the lack of support, but it’s also partly the lack of designers not catering to what customers want. Overseas shopping and international online shopping sites are the draw. There are plenty of commercial brand stores or social media stores that are pricey, mass-produce so due to this our brand will always be looked at as an everyday clothing brand. Some clients like to wear exclusive clothes and are afraid that someone else will wear a similar attire.
We need to price according to our worth, manufacture quality products, and market them like gold to create brand awareness. If the pandemic taught us anything, Sri Lankans will always support local designer brands, if they are true to their values.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give a young woman starting in her career?
I got more than one, mistakes are part of the journey, find other like-minded women to network with, learn to accept criticism, designing is much more than what is taught at a school or a university.
What’s next on the horizon for you and your businesses?
House of Indi has collaborated with Lin Asia Holdings to open WH, a concept store for designers to showcase our products at Dharmapala Mawatha Colombo 7. Marketing our physical store to local customers, the slowdown in tourists into the country and creating our online platform to sell our Made in
Sri Lanka products to the international market are our short-term goals. House of Indi is looking forward to Swim Week by Colombo Fashion Week to showcase our Resort Collection this year followed by our Spring-Summer Collection next year.