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Designer Kasuni Rathnasuriya fuses Sri Lankan lace into clothing label

It’s not easy to take a dying craft and incorporate it into contemporary fashion.

Designer and founder of KṸR Collection, Kasuni Rathnasuriya, which she launched in 2009, draws much of her inspiration for the clothing line from the handmade lace from Sri Lanka, where she was born.

Currently based in Manhattan, New York, Rathnasuriya was born and raised in Sri Lanka and attended the Academy of Design and Charted Institute of Marketing, UK. After working as market analyst for Brandix, which is the largest apparel exporter in Sri Lanka, she decided she wanted to do something more independent.

“I kind of wanted to do something on my own so I started KṸR,” Rathnasuriya said. “The basic inspiration I gained for this collection was when I was in design school and I had to do a project on Sri Lankan craft where I picked the hand made lace.”

The hand made lace,  Rathnasuriya said, was introduced to Sri Lanka during the time it was controlled by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British rule centuries ago.

“Right now, the lace industry is dying,” Rathnasuriya said. “It is a very slow, very small industry in the fact that no one really wants to engage in this process because of the technology and since the machine made lace is in bigger demand.”

However, Rathnasuriya said in some parts of Sri Lanka this process of making lace by hand is still practiced.

“In the southern coastal region of Sri Lanka, they still do this weaving,” Rathnasuriya said. “I fell in love with it since I am from the southern coastal part of the country, but I never thought I could do this in contemporary fashion.”

Rathnasuriya said that she wanted to fuse this process into modern fashion was to have a clothing label that stood out, and to create something that is authentic.

“I wanted to differentiate my product, which is why I came up with this idea to incorporate such a great craft,” Rathnasuriya said. “In the market, it’s different since I’m incorporating something handcrafted and it has good value since this industry is fully engaged by women and supposed to be income generated for women. Right now, it’s very small because of less demand, but I feel like if I can create some sort of demand, everyone will become interested in this industry.”

When Rathnasuriya first launched the KUR Collection, she unveiled its inaugural Holiday collection at Odel, which is the largest departmental store in Colombo.

In 2011, she went on to win the award of British Council Young fashion Entrepreneur and was a semi-finalist of the Ethical Fashion Award at the Sri Lanka Design Festival represented by HSBC Colombo Fashion Week. Then in 2012, she was appointed as a consultant for Victoria Secret’s PINK.

Throughout the years, she showcased at different fashion week shows in Portland, London, and Australia. Most recently, Rathnasuriya showcased at the AMCONYC: The Future of Fashion show for her first New York Fashion Week show in February to display her Dark Romance collection, which launched this summer.

Her collection consisted of a wide-ranging mix of dark and light fabrics with the signature Sri Lankan lace delicately and carefully embroidered on each of the elegant pieces.

Rathnasuriya said she wants to continue to create handmade pieces designed for the modern woman and to inspire them.

“KUR Collection is a contemporary clothing line and I believe it is something catered toward women who love fashion and contemporary art, and those who really value the product and value the craft,” Rathnasuriya said.