PIONEERING BATIK INNOVATION
Female empowerment has been the core characteristic of the batik industry in Sri Lanka. In 1952, Soma Udabage started working with the production of this craft, soon to be followed by eminent contemporaries such as Ena de Silva, Wickra Dharmawardene, and Yolande Aluwihare. ARTRA’s Iconic Woman Darshi Keerthisena is revolutionizing the craft of batik in contemporary times. While retaining the conventional art of batik in her designs, Darshi re-interprets the craft through modern perspectives and production lines of distinct and unique collections of her designer label, Buddhi Batiks. From experimenting with batik in sportswear to bridal wear, Darshi’s timely bound innovative approaches have broadened the scope for the craft, creating a significant demand for batik in the local fashion industry.
Darshi Keerthisena, Director and CEO of Buddhi Batiks took over from her parents, Buddhi and Ranasiri Keerthisena to innovate distinct batik design concepts and approaches to meet contemporary styles, demands and innovations. The designer received her Diploma in Fashion Design in Singapore, followed by a B. A. Hons in Fashion and Textile Design from the Birmingham City University in the UK. She worked at Brandix for five years designing for Marks & Spencer, and at MAS Linea Aqua, but found herself returning to the family business in 2005. Darshi has showcased her collections at Colombo Fashion Week since 2007, where she received much exposure and recognition and went on to become the first Sri Lankan fashion designer to have showcased at the ‘Commonwealth Fashion Exchange’.
“With my background in textiles, I wanted to experiment and move forward with the craft as innovation was ingrained in me since childhood” she said. Darshi’s key element in innovation has always been the notion of challenging conventional boundaries. While batik was essentially designed on cotton sarees and sarongs, Darshi experimented batik on bikinis and sportswear. ‘Athleisure’ and resortwear have now become two of the most sought after designer collections after ‘Batik Bridals’. Yet another ingenius approach, Batik Bridals as suggested by the name, expands the craft to include bridal wear simultaneously allowing space for the often single-used outfit to be functional and multi-faceted. “Each bridal wear piece is Sri Lankan in every sense - from artistry, fabric to production. The great thing about Batik Bridals is that you can wear it again. You can dress it up to be bridal or you can dress it down for evening wear. Batik Bridals is quite close to my heart. Something I enjoy designing thoroughly, as the bride trusts us with one of the most important days of her life. It’s an honor to do a Batik Bridal,” elaborated Darshi.
From sportswear and athleisure to multi-purpose wedding gowns, Darshi re-introduces batik innovatively and creates more avenues that can be explored through this distinctive design concept. “In 2008 when I won the Entrepreneur Award by the British Council, the one thing I said was that I wanted to bring batik back to mainstream fashion and to make it relevant again. And I’m happy to note that we have managed to do that”. Under the wings of Darshi, Buddhi Batiks has evolved into contemporary designer statement pieces. The craft of batik which was initially a unique venture that served a conventional audience now has grown into relevance and significance. Batik is a craft that combines the illustrative skills of an artist with a wax-resist dyeing technique applied to natural fabrics such as cotton, silk, and linen. The batik workshop, a vital component of the establishment, located in the village of Koswadiya on the north-western coast of Sri Lanka, plays an integral role in creating a sense of community. “The staff that is present now is about one sixth of the number of what my parents had when they were running the company due to technological advancements” added Darshi.
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