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Sri Lankan hand loom Industry to be popularised in London  

Sri Lanka’s 2,500-year-old hand loom industry is to popularised in the capital of fashion and heart of London to meet future designers wanting to create impact with design.

London College of Fashion, a constituent college of the globally recognised University of the Arts London (UAL), with Selyn, Sri Lanka’s leading and only fair trade handloom manufacturer, has launched a unique collaboration to achive this objective. . 

Selyn has been working with all three schools at London College of Fashion; Fashion Business School, School of Design and Technology and School of Media and Communication.

Exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sri Lankan handloom industry faces major obstacles to growth with rising costs of production, limited access to world markets and an ageing artisan workforce. This has sadly resulted in many having to put down the loom and shuttle, to retire or look elsewhere for opportunities. 

Selyn Head of Business Development and Director Selyna Peiris said: “An easy choice for us would have been to say, “Handloom is affected, there is no market for it anymore,” call it quits and focus on other income streams for the business.

But this would have left our handloom artisans at a serious disadvantage and would have been contrary to our commitment we have towards uplifting our community and the handloom sector at large, she said.  

Instead, we saw this as the perfect opportunity to pivot, re-position and pitch Sri Lankan handloom in a very different way to a luxury premium market while using blockchain technology to bring greater transparency to the industry. 

Thanks to an initial funding from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of a Small and Medium-sized Enterprises COVID recovery fund, we were able to launch a new business vertical, Selyn Textiles, to reposition and gain market entry to the UK, Europe and the world.” 

University of the Arts London is ranked 2nd in the world for Art and Design in 2021; much of this is attributed to its leading faculty, research, curriculum and forward-thinking approach to design whilst engaging students with global partnerships and opportunities. “

We see this collaboration with Selyn as a fantastic opportunity to give our students a first-hand experience of how the industry works and explore alternative models of designing, business development and teamwork by co-creating across the supply chain and breaking silo mindsets,” says Hannah Middleton Knowledge Exchange Lead at Fashion Business School at London College of Fashion.

Selyn Founder Chairman Sandra Wanduragala said: “This year is Selyn’s 30th anniversary and we are honoured to be collaborating with the schools at London College of Fashion, one of the world’s best creative schools to inspire the next generation of designers and to bring awareness to an ancient craft that is core to the Sri Lankan DNA. 

Our rich heritage and opportunity to connect creativity, artisanal craft and tech with the integration of block chain means we open the door for a new, inclusive and truly collaborative way forward.”

Selyn Textiles Consultant Prof. Robert Meeder said: “This partnership came about through a combined collective passion for providing opportunities to those that need it the most – Sri Lanka’s artisans – bringing them to the forefront of the design process. Between us all we shared many discussions on the right opportunity, it was in the making for a long time but key to the initiative was Sri Lankan born UAL academic Dr. Emmanuel Sirimal Silva.” 

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