Fashion as a soft power for Sri Lanka
In its fashion journey of 20 years, CFW has grown to be not only a South Asian event, but also an event that influences fashion globally while creating opportunities for Sri Lankan designers to grow in the industry. Speaking to Daily FT, Ajai Vir Singh explained that CFW aimed to contribute to the tourism industry of Sri Lanka by making the country a global fashion destination while also utilising the growing numbers in the tourism sector to bring further attention to the uniquely creative work of Sri Lankan fashion designers. “What we have done over the last 20 years is build an ecosystem where a young individual, just out of school or university, can now dream of going into design and design entrepreneurship. We are heading now towards creating a soft power for Sri Lanka, especially as the season begins and as more tourists come in. The creative industry plays a really important role and when tourists come, it influences them and it makes the destination far more attractive.” Singh explained that any creative field had the potential to be a soft power as they subtly influenced people. Although most countries have been in pursuit of hard power, there has been a change within recent years where the world has placed emphasis on soft power. Soft power through fashion is a possible achievement for Sri Lanka and the country could be a global fashion leader, he stated. “We can create soft power in Sri Lanka through the influence that CFW has. CFW is not just a Sri Lankan brand anymore. It is a South Asian brand and we work with top designers in countries like India and Pakistan who have huge followings there. When their customers see those designers here, our influence further increases.” He explained that it would be further advantageous to build international influence for Sri Lanka by bringing all the creative industries of the country together. Industries like fashion, music, food, and architecture, together with sustainability initiatives, working together to shape the brand of Sri Lanka could be highly influential and important. As part of the 20th year milestone, CFW has further expanded its efootprint to create editions in Bangalore, Pune and Lucknow to provide a platform for Sri Lankan designers in high-potential South Asian cities. This project will also include Singapore early next year, followed by London in the first half of 2024. Sri Lankan designers with relevance to those markets will be selected to showcase on the CFW system. “Building this kind of soft power has been my main focus for 2023,” Singh explained. CFW’s South Asian editions also showcased Sri Lanka through the eyes of its creative industries by increasing awareness about the fashion design identity of the country. In its 20 years, CFW has had a significant impact on the fashion design industry of Sri Lanka. CFW organisers stated that 85% of the prominent Sri Lankan fashion designers today are part of the design development system of CFW, which also drives its Accelerator program to create new opportunities for Sri Lankan designers. CFW aims to drive progressive change in every aspect of the fashion industry in Sri Lanka while nurturing the next generation of Sri Lankan fashion designers.