Life Is Too Short to Wear Boring Clothes
By Sadira Sittampalam
Clothes are often considered as an extension of one’s personality, bringing out the beauty within you to show off to the rest of the world. Alùra by Asheni is a designer fashion brand that specialises in providing an extensive collection of clothes to suit you for every occasion from casual wear to office wear to evening wear; delivering clothes that have been made with immense attention to quality and finishings.
These are clothes that have been made for you to wear over and over again, giving you comfort and style all in one so, you can be the absolute best version of yourself! Conceptualised by Asheni Gamage, we at Ceylon Today got the opportunity to sit down with Asheni and talk about how she built up this brand to where they are now.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and how Alura came to be?
I am Asheni Gamage, I’m from Kandy and I’m 26 years old. I studied at Gateway College Kandy and I graduated from the mostly designs the University of Worcester with a major in business management and marketing. I come from a family where everyone is involved in business, so, I always wanted to start something of my own and I loved the idea of an “independent woman” - those were my main motives behind the start of my business.
Added to that I have always had a passion for fashion and this has always been a dream of mine since I was 10, so, I thought I would combine my love for fashion and my business knowledge and start something on my own.
What makes Alura stand out from the pretty saturated Sri Lankan clothing market?
What makes our company stand out is that everything done in my clothing line, from the material to the final product, is locally designed and manufactured. We also have a very close relationship with our customers. Being the owner, I personally respond to all my online orders regardless of how busy I can get.
I make sure I respond to their messages and I try to give them a really good service and thanks to that I have a lot of positive feedback regarding the unique and friendly service I provide to my customers. The goal is to make them feel comfortable and build their trust.
What were some of the biggest challenges you had to face in your journey as a small business owner?
When you run an online business, it can be very challenging. There is so much fraud happening in online shopping and that has definitely affected the online business. So, gaining customer trust was our number one goal, and we always try to make them feel comfortable in purchasing our products by giving them a very friendly service. I take customer complaints very seriously and I make sure that I look at them as constructive criticism and I do take them into account.
We also have had challenges in terms of size. Sometimes the clothes don’t fit them. It can either be too big or too small since they can’t really fit on the final product before purchasing. So, if it comes to that I make sure that I exchange the product to the right size.
Sustainability is such a huge issue in the fashion industry; does Alura have any sustainable practices that they follow?
We try to use renewable materials like linen and silk and we avoid using leather at all costs. Our new collection is mostly designs that are made using linen and organic cotton. We try to minimise the overall environmental damage caused by using natural materials.
Do you offer any specialised services?
The speciality of my brand is that everything from the material to the final product is locally designed and manufactured. I also provide a unique service where I customise any design the customer demands according to their measurements and design. This has given me an added advantage since girls like unique pieces of clothing. We take pride in the fact that we cater to all markets and body types.
How do you create your designs and are you inspired by anything/ anyone?
I select the prints and fabric I like on a pre-order basis which is locally designed and manufactured for my business. I am the one that designs for my brand and I get a lot of inspiration from style icons like Camila Cabello, Shay Mitchell, and many more. The page is handled and run by me as well. I also make sure I respond to each and every one of my customers and that has helped me get close to my customers and they feel comfortable talking to me directly about their designs.
How has the customer feedback been?
I have had good days and bad days. I take customer complaints very seriously as I mentioned before. If they aren’t happy with the final product I make sure I take their advice and I try to look at it as constructive criticism. Or if they have issues regarding sizes I make sure I exchange the items to the size that fits them. I have learned a lot through my customers and thanks to them my business is still surviving
How do you plan on evolving the business in the future?
My products are launched and available in Colombo (WH) and Kandy (Mangala Tex). My long-term plan is to open my own store, which I’m hoping to do soon. I also have a plan to export my items overseas, so, we are currently working on our website that can reach overseas markets too.