NEW YORK CITY |  Lace-weaving is a dying art.  A new signature clothing line for women is helping to revitalize it. That’s how Sri Lankan fashion designer Kasuni Rathnasuriya — she is founder of the contemporary womenswear line KUR — laced up NY Fashion Week with an ethically conscious signature.

Sri Lankan fashion designer Kasuni Rathnasuriya at the AMCONYC Fashion Week 2016
Sri Lankan fashion designer Kasuni Rathnasuriya at the AMCONYC Fashion Week 2016

At an AMCONYC Fashion Week showcase (it took place this week at Studio 450), Rathnasuriya unveiled her latest collection for spring/summer 2016.  So what sets Kasuni apart from the crowd? The new clothing line was a mix of past and future with the incorporation of traditional Beeralu lace and Broderie fabric.

“I wanted to bring conventional and non-conventional elements together to create a phenomenal look,” Rathnasuriya said after she took her bows before an appreciative crowd.

What was she referring to? She created fine open fabrics by looping and twisting Sri Lanka’s traditional handmade lace (i.e., Beeralu).  Being from the South, Rathnasuriya had watched her grandmother knitting, and she herself had tried to knit for her dolls, never imagining that one day, she would be using this self-same craft, incorporating it into contemporary fashion.

At first glance, I thought the lace resemble Broderie anglaise patterns composed of round or oval holes which were cut out of the fabric (called eyelets).

Broderie anglaise (French, “English embroidery”) is a whitework needlework technique incorporating features of embroidery, cutwork and needle lace that became associated with England, due to its popularity there in the 19th century.  The patterns, often depicting flowers, leaves, vines, or stems, are further delineated by simple embroidery stitches made on the surrounding material.

It turns out that the Dutch introduced the bobbin lace into Sri Lanka during the 15th and 16th centuries — when it became rooted in Sri Lankan tradition in the form of a fringed blouse (kaba kuruthawa).

Kasuni Rathnasuriya is the founder and the design director of KṸR, a contemporary clothing label. KṸR was formed in November 2009. As a brand, or rather label that incorporates Sri Lanka’s traditional handmade lace for its signature clothing line, KṸR lives up to its designer’s standard of expressing a sense of freedom and serenity through each and every outfit created.

“Every KṸR creation is a labour of love and caters to those who value and respect local traditions, heritage, craftsmanship, and are ethically conscious,” states the prepared materials which were handed out to guests.

As you can see from this slideshow above, handmade lace was a massive catwalk trend, with a focus on white lace.  There was the vintage maxi dress with lace stripes.  Two short-sleeve dresses had a mix of Boederie, Cotton fabric with lace mix.  One black lace dress has a rosette trim. A fully laced long dress had a beige color lining.

Rathnasuriya’s label KṸR is an ethically conscious brand that respects local traditions, heritage and craftsmanship. It helps to revitalize a dying craft in Sri Lanka while empowering the less-privileged Beeralu weavers, mainly women, in the south of Sri Lanka.

KUR Women's Clothing at AMCONY Fashion Week | Photo by Randy Gener
KUR Women’s Clothing at AMCONY Fashion Week | Photo by Randy Gener

KṸR initially started retailing at Odel, a department store in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Her debut collection was a major success, and she was able to sell out the full range within few months. Then she started retailing at Melache the designer boutique in Sri Lanka. She does about 2 main collections and 3 mini collections per year.

KṸR has gained good ground soon after it kept winning awards.  Rathnasuriya, for example, was the winner of the British Council’s Young Fashion Entrepreneur (YFE) 2011 award and made the shortlist for the first ever Ethical Fashion Award announced at the Sri Lanka Design Festival in November 2010.

In February 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 she was invited to showcase her collection at the prestigious HSBC Colombo Fashion Week alongside international designers. She was a guest Judge in Sri Lanka’s British council Fashion Ideators 2011 (a local equivalent of “The Apprentice” for young entrepreneurs), She was the first Sri Lankan to take part in London Alchemy Design festival 2011. —rg

 

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