DIRECTING DESIGNS OF DISCERNMENT
When one observes the context of a growing creative industry, especially that of the applied art, strong personalities hold fort and steer inventive approaches. The Sri Lankan design industry is spearheaded by eminent female personalities that commandeer these characteristics while carving their own novel path that not only contribute to the dynamism of the industry locally, but also cultivate value and appreciation internationally. Of those bold visionaries, ARTRA’s Iconic Woman, Annika Fernando steers her platform, PR, in presenting the applied art of fashion & design in inventive ways through strategic and significant collaborations across design houses locally and internationally. Through planned advances of promoting classic local design, Annika has collaborated with strong international retail partners to position Sri Lankan design through culture and innovation. In the contemporary setting, Annika plays a significant role in the local design and fashion sphere through her distinct style and influence, defining the unique ordinance of Sri Lankan design.
“Sri Lanka has always been incredibly design sensitive and it is visible in our craft, homes, architecture and sensibility in general. Visitors to the island are drawn to it,” states Annika, the Founder and Design Head of PR, Designer of Maus and Director of Paradise Road Group of Companies, and Principal Interior Designer of AF Design. She has over eighteen years of experience in the field of interior design, with projects, mostly private residential, in Sri Lanka, India and Australia. Annika finds herself continually being inspired, approaching each project uniquely, to ensure her spaces and work are designed with purpose. Annika Fernando graduated from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Interior Design. Annika has, in her resume of exemplary accomplishments, spent over two years at award-winning practice, Hare + Klein, based in Sydney, Australia. Her extensive experience and knowledge are those aspects that contributed in the perspective of discerning the scope of each sector of the design production, allowing her multi-faceted expertise to influence her creations in her varied creative spheres. In conversation with Annika, we derived her insights on her design ethos, approach and inventive strategic alliances.
Q | What is the core characteristic you look for in the designers you work with?
A | I work with designers who I believe are authentic. Our aesthetic evolves at PR and so no longer can one say we are ‘just’ about black and white, or anything stagnant really. Promoting craftsmanship at PR is natural and also not necessarily deliberate. We market our portfolio / selection of local designers. Many of them work with local craft such as Kûr, KT Brown and Sonali Dharmawardena with specially beeralu lace, batik and dumbara. With jewellery designers such as Papillon du thé and 1948, you see efforts to take Sri Lankan craft, design into something current and new.
Q | How do you feel PR contributes to the growth of the designers you work with?
A | I promote local designers through merchandising and marketing efforts. We are proud when we become a mere stepping stone to a designer’s wider acknowledgement whether it be through media exposure or international order opportunities. Designers we work with have been featured in international publications both in print and online and we are proud when we are able to facilitate that. I’ve been able to organize events which offer greater marketing to brands I work with – pop-ups in India, which is the easiest step, in terms of proximity. I’ve worked on so far in Mumbai. Through my journey, I have also met some great people, on such as Mehala Ford who is working in London with South Asian labels, including Maus and Anuk. So many labels contact me about doing an event in Colombo with PR. It is truly exciting when we actually become a marketing platform for overseas labels to reach a wider audience too. The attention all comes back home to Sri Lanka so it works both ways.
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