2021 Dec 31
‘Fast Fashion’ cycles, overuse of resources, high carbon footprint and unethical labour conditions have plagued the fashion industry. For most, being ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ have become mere marketing gimmicks.
Truly local businesses like Selyn aim to change this narrative – both for the apparel and handloom industries and our country. Selyn is Sri Lanka’s only fair-trade certified Handloom Company and one of Sri Lanka’s largest social enterprises.
To mark the celebration of 30 years of Selyn, a ‘New 30’ for them, Pulse spoke to Selyna Peiris, the Director of Business and Next-Generation Lead at Selyn.
Founded in 1991 by Sandra Wanduragala, with only 15 women in the village of Wanduragala in Kurunegala, they now work with a network of over 1,000 empowered artisans in Sri Lanka. Selyn has provided a stable income source and livelihood to many women in Kurungela, some of whom are now their own handloom sector entrepreneurs.
“We do a lot of work to promote fair trade and be more transparent in our operations. We want to inspire others to see the value in our crafts. Handloom is a tale as old as time. We carry our culture and heritage in this material, and there is so much more Sri Lankan handloom can offer to the world’s runway,” noted Selyna.
“As a fair trade guaranteed company, we are committed to transparency, sustainability and ethical manufacturing, as our product pillars, a practice that continues to keep our products shining in the limelight,” she added.
Sri Lanka’s handloom industry
We have the talent. We have the skills. We lack exposure.
Sri Lanka’s handloom industry in particular, is seasoned with experienced weavers. We have not adequately kept up with the fast-changing needs of the global fashion runways. In our conversation, Selyna emphasized the role local apparel manufacturers and retail brands can play in exposing these artisans by integrating their work into production cycles.
Speaking to Pulse about the handloom industry, Selyna highlighted that “the industry currently lacks the vision to sustain – right now there is a lot of government dependency. There is little motivation for the market to explore commercial viability. This has created a lack of interest amongst the youth in the sector as well. At Selyn, we are completely repositioning Sri Lanka’s handloom – globally so that there is a premium luxury perception of our crafts”.
A future of ground-breaking tech and ‘slow fashion’
Selyn is set to make impactful strides towards a handloom future inclusive of blockchain solutions, enabling the opportunity to communicate a story with each garment they sell. With blockchain integrated from the point of sourcing to the point of purchase – from fiber to fashion – with the swipe of a QR code, a consumer can now be fully aware of what goes into their product and how it is made.
Selyn hopes to leverage ground-breaking technology interwoven into its delicate fabrics to present a truly sustainable product in terms of impact on the environment and society. Globally and locally, increasing consumer awareness regarding fashion products’ social and environmental impact has created a new marketplace for sustainable and ethical products.
“What we need is for our craft to be better integrated in the world’s fashion runways and retail windows”, Selyna highlighted. Sri Lanka’s crats are a unique treasure because they reflect Sri Lankan tradition and culture. Also, a big congratulations to Selyn on making waves in Sri Lanka’s craft industry! We strongly wish for more upcoming talent to take inspiration from Selyn. We wish you all the best and look forward to an exciting future in Sri Lankan Handloom.