LOVI Sarongs: Changing the Status Quo of Local and International Fashion
Updated: Mar 26
How did your journey begin? What made a tech guy enter fashion?
That’s a great question. LOVI Sarongs started about 4 years ago now and the tech-to-fashion journey started because we wanted to create something about the identity of Sri Lankan clothing. Sri Lanka is entering a new phase where we are post-colonial and post-war. We are ambitious. We have a beautiful future ahead. We are global. We are interconnected. A fair number of us are pretty well educated. We have a growing middle-class. So, when you look at all these trends and look at the clothing that represents Sri Lanka, I felt that there was a lot more that we could do in terms of providing a new identity that encapsulates those values.
What does LOVI Sarongs stand for?
The mission of LOVI Sarongs is to create a new clothing identity for Sri Lanka and share it with the world. We are creating a clothing identity that is authentic to Sri Lanka, based on the sarong and the ‘Redde Hatte’. We are taking this national concept and transforming it into fashion so that people can wear it, enjoy it, feel loved in it, feel a luxury piece to own, to desire, to engage in and then we are sharing it with the rest of the world, like what any other company, any other brand is doing, in terms of national identity.
Has Lankan fashion lost its identity? Is it possible for a Lankan fashion brand to take the fight to brands like Armani or Gucci?
There have been pioneers since the 50s, 60s and 70s. Different eras are defined by different styles and LOVI Sarongs is essentially building a new clothing identity for the 21st century. In terms of taking on Armani or Gucci or any of those high-end labels, I don’t necessarily see them as trying to compete with each other, it’s just that they are in fact a frame of reference for us as to how to build a strong, unique brand and share the identity. Look at what Gucci is doing to share the Italian culture or Armani or Dolce & Gabbana. Look at what either Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren or Tory Burch are doing to share the American aesthetic or American culture. Same for Burberry from Britain. So essentially there’s a lot of these countries that are sharing their vision about their clothing identity and we are very happy to see the Sri Lankan clothing identity and share it with the world.
How is LOVI Sarongs a sustainable fashion brand? Who are you empowering?
In terms of sustainability, we have looked at environmental sustainability whereby we stick to clothing that is made out of natural fabrics. So, anything you buy from LOVI Sarogns is generally from cotton and silk, for the most part. This means it can eventually disappear and disintegrate into the earth in a few years. We have reduced our use of polyester or any synthetic fabrics quite a bit, as it is harmful and stays on the planet for a long time.
What makes you and LOVI Sarongs passionate about Lankan heritage?
Great question! Look at what we have done. We have all kinds of religions. All kinds of cultures. We are very kind people, and we have survived a lot of difficult times or tragedies. The land itself is a beautiful place. We are fortunate to have this weather. These beaches. All these things. And we have a long, long history spanning two, three thousand years. So, we have so much heritage, so many stories that we can share, learn, enjoy, respect and grow with.
What is your product mix and how has the response been from the market?
We started off with sarongs and our main product line is based on the sarong concept. So, we invented, so to speak, sarongs with pockets, belts and we invented the concept of sarong as fashion. Not the sarong to sleep in bed but the sarong to wear as fashion. Based on that concept, now we have developed that idea into complete looks. Now we have everything from shirts, jackets, shoes and perfume. Even jewellery that goes along this sarong look.
What about the response from expats?
It has been a very wonderful experience. Through our website, we have been able to sell to more than 40 countries. The expat community is getting to know about LOVI Saronga, and they are beginning to find how to wear LOVI Sarongs. The other part about LOVi Sarongs is that we are designing our products based on occasions. For a birthday party or a house-party, an official office party, a red-carpet event, a wedding or even to the beach, we have clothes and things that you can wear.
Where to from here? What are plans to grow the brand?
Well, our plans to grow the brand is to continue engaging and more clearly connecting with our clients. Understanding what they desire and their ambitions. That’s what drives the company not the other way around. Our clients tell us where they want us to take the company. So, in that way we are very lucky to have a fantastic group of clients. They are actually fans and friends. We are growing the company such that we can serve them better. We also have a new store coming up at Shangri-La, One Galle Face. We have plans to open at couple of other locations, perhaps at the end of the year and then as the Covid-19 situation organises itself, we will have more opportunities to look at expansion.