Dimuthu Discusses Designs
By Shafiya Nawzer
Customised fashion is on the rise as individuals continue to seek a more personal experience with brands. In other words, instead of blatantly reflecting the style of the label or wearing mass-produced outfits that contribute towards textile waste, consumers want to see their personalities integrated into the design.
The possibilities that are offered by brands that value the customised fashion experience tend to differ across the spectrum. In the search for uniqueness, we all strive to find the right pieces for us; some prefer to buy vintage, others want to alter their clothes or mix pieces that were never intended to work together. Limited edition clothes are a great way to tell a story or to express yourself.
Dimuthu Sahabandu is one of Sri Lanka’s most celebrated fashion designers well known for his couture clothing and custom bridal wear. I have personally always admired Dimuthu’s work, observing his delicate craftsmanship on the CFW runway and immensely creative handwork adorning many brides.
Dimuthu sits down with Glamour to discuss his journey, latest collection, and views on the wider industry.
Growing up, he was not aware that fashion designing was something that you could be a profitable career. “This is due to our education system back in the ’90s, where children were streamed into the mainstream subjects and whoever was into other things were never really recognised or guided along a career path. I was studying art, however, back in the day art was just art and was never really celebrated or portrayed as a successful career.”
Dimuthu is always grateful to his art teacher Shyamala Pinto Jayawardena and AOD for guiding him on his journey towards becoming a designer. He was selected to go to LASALLE College of the Arts, in Singapore where he went on to complete his design education.
Dimuthu’s first job in fashion was with designer Kanchana Thalpawila on her label KT Brown for a year. He always wanted to launch his own brand but had no idea how to do it. “There are a lot of things that you don’t learn in design school. It’s a lot of trial and error, and after ten year, I am still figuring out what works and doesn’t. It’s always a learning curve and you take away something. At the time, Melanie Wijesinghe had just started her company Melache and wanted to house Sri Lankan designers. I was there for a couple of years, and then it was time for me to figure out what the next step for my personal brand was and I eventually got into bridals and custom orders,” Dimuthu explained.
After working his way through, he started his very own line. Fast forward to today, Dimuthu is an eminent and humble designer in our country. His eponymous brand has designed and created some of the most iconic pieces. “It made more sense to me to operate from a studio and work independently. Then the Design Collective happened which I think was one of the best things because it gives they give you the freedom to work freely and focus on your individual collection,” he stated.
Dimuthu’s line is built on his signature aesthetic of bold colours and playful proportions creating feminine, sexy, and unique designs. His form-fitting dresses and gowns have become his staple and have been worn by many celebrities as well.
From theatrical and intricate full-length gowns to short and sweet prom-style frocks, he truly offers something for every woman and bride, as his ever-expanding collection continues to showcase his innovative approach to design.
The Amira Collection is specially curated as Ramadan and wedding wear. The evening wear collection is now available at The Design Collective Store. ‘Amira’ meaning ‘Princess’ in Arabic and reflects the idea of being conservative and fashionable at the same time. The range introduces a capsule collection of separates that can be worn together or styled with other basics in your wardrobe.
The collection features stunning evening dresses in striking colours with embellishments, and consists of a range of hand-embellished skirts, tops which include a few one-piece and three-piece silhouettes designed to be deconstructed and worn as separates, upgrading and prolonging the lifespan of these handmade garments.
Commenting on the general view of people regarding modest fashion Dimuthu stated, “People always picture fashionable to be daring or a certain way, this is an attempt to put those together and come up with something for those who want to be fashionable and conservative at the same time.”
The collection features a burgundy and antique gold hand-embellished evening gown, mint green raw cotton embellished peplum top paired with a dusky green viscose jersey draped trouser, grey metallic silver embellished peplum top paired with a dusky blue and grey layered ruffle maxi skirt with a trailing back; along with many other outfits that will surely make a statement.
What makes Dimuthu stand out from many others is his humble character, delicacy, and honesty that he brings to his vision of fashion, an approach that has captivated fans across Asia. When asked how culture influences his creative process, he responded, “culture is what you make out of all the information you are given. You’re given a lot of information by people when growing up, sometimes force-fed; it’s a lot to do with who you are and what is important to you. All of that becomes a part of what you do. When it comes to culture don’t take definitions that are given to you but make your own.”
With such uncertainty due to COVID-19, I discussed the doubts as an industry as everyone is affected. He added that it is up to us to make the best out of everything. “It’s a scenario where you wonder ‘if the glass is half empty or half full?’”
We have all encountered hurdles in our careers. Dimuthu addressed his, “I think what I saw initially 10 years ago was that a lot of people didn’t want to believe that Sri Lankan designers could come up with products that are good enough and are worth the investment. I have had conversations with people who have mentioned, ‘Why are Sri Lankan designers so expensive, I might as well go abroad and buy a real designer’; I have had this happen to me.”
He emphasised that we have come a long way and people are more supportive of local brands today. “Fashion is at the place where it is being remolded into something new. A lot of brands are talking about sustainability and circularity in fashion. I think the best thing that came out of it is people realised that fast fashion is not the way forward, and awareness of the waste it created trying to create it at that cost,” Dimuthu concluded.