A sarong revolution with Asanka de Mel | Sunday Observer

A sarong revolution with Asanka de Mel

29 January, 2023
Asanka de Mel
Asanka de Mel

The sarong has been a South Asian fashion staple for centuries. It is a fabric wrapped around the hip and is a traditional garment and is both relaxing and stylish.

Recently, I spoke to someone who has turned the sarong into a fashion icon, Asanka de Mel, the founder, CEO of ‘Lovi’.

‘Lovi’ has increased in popularity over the years and the birth of a sarong revolution in the fashion industry.

Asanka said that he is dedicated to developing Sri Lanka, slowly but surely, and is under the impression that the clothes we wear give us the confidence we need to get there.

He is a graduate of Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Public Policy and a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin in Computer Science and lived in the US for over 20 years before he moved to Colombo and started his brand.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q : What is the inspiration behind Lovi?

A: I founded Lovi with the intention of creating a modern fashion identity rooted in Sri Lankan customs and traditions to pay homage to this beautiful island, its people, and share its culture with the world.

I also believe that my brand will create a Sri Lankan clothing identity that is accessible for generations to come in a manner in which it projects our values, traditions and multiculturalism.

Q : Are you happy about your journey as a designer thus far?

A: We have managed to get our brand out there, and platforms such as CFW have helped a great deal with that process as well, so that itself I believe is an achievement. Lovi is a staple fashion choice when it comes to sarongs and we have started a new project ‘Lovi grooms’, with special wedding sarong attire and it has become progressively popular. So yes, I believe I am happy with where I am with my designs and my brand and I am proud of how far we’ve come.

Q : What is the story behind the name ‘Lovi’?

A: It is simply Lovi, like the fruit, because it is part of our culture and a product of our beautiful island. I also like that it sounds like love. There is also a small inside joke that Lovi is bright and may look like a cherry but it is extremely sour, only those who have had Lovi would know.

Q : How would you describe yourself as a designer in one word?

A: Innovative

Q : How have Covid and inflation impacted you as a designer?

A: It has definitely been challenging to navigate these obstacles that we faced one after the other. But I think, we as a brand managed to adapt to this new norm. Of course, there is the issue of the negation of people’s disposable income with the rise of essential goods, however, we have changed with these changes too.

Q : Do you think your brand is causing a stir in the industry? And is that a positive thing?

A: Definitely, I believe designers are like architects, so our vision is what creates a wonderful and sustainable product, I believe my vision is causing a change and that is a very good thing. I am here to help Sri Lanka reach its potential and make a positive impact on the fashion industry and society as a whole.

Q : Tell us the best advice you have received from someone regarding your career?

A: I have had many mentors over the years and even right now and I think the best advice I have received so far; to be to create something authentic that people will resonate with and I try my best to incorporate that into my vision for Lovi.

Q : What are your plans for 2023?

A: We have a collection coming out in March and we have big plans for grooms with Lovi. I hope more people want to incorporate Lovi and a part of Sri Lankan culture into their special day.

Q : What is the best fashion statement according to you?

A: Being who you are. Be proud of your identity, your roots, and your origins, and let your attire show it with confidence.

Asanka is excited about the future of Sri Lanka and I am excited to see what they come up with this coming year.