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Softwear engineer turns bridal designer



by Zanita Careem

AMORINE is Hasanthi Hapugoda’s brand label established in 2017 and I specialized in couture, custom made bridals and designer wear. The Term “Amorine derives from Latin word Love. Love is beautiful and this term has a strong feeling

.I have my own designer studio where customers can and discuss details of their preferences/likes and dislikes regarding the bridal or designer wear because every girl has a dream/ idea of what they want. So I always listen to them in order to understand what my clients really want from me before customizing their designer outfit in a way it suits them. . One of the unique factors that sets AMORINE apart from others is that each designer saree is truly one of a kind.


Little bit about myself and experience

My name is Hasanthi Hapugoda. I studied at Musaeus College Colombo 7 until O/Ls and did advanced level in Gateway International School-Colombo. For my higher studies I graduated from Staffordshire University, UK majoring in BSc (Hons) Business Information Technology in 2012.

After graduating from College, I was recruited as a software QA engineer by one of the leading software company in sri lanka. After few years I joined and worked as senior software QA Engineer and a QA project lead in a Singapore based IT Company.

After completing over four years in the IT industry, I thought of stepping down from my IT career and pursuing my childhood dream of becoming an entrepreneur in the fashion Industry. It was indeed a big decision and every day is a learning experience for me. For me everyday was a another day I learnt new ideas, inspiration related to the fashion industry. With four years of experience I became a self taught designer


Describe the Hasanthi bride?

The Hasanthi bride is original with a sophisticated, tasteful style. She looks for the perfect combination of quality and originality and is not swayed by momentary trends. 

Tell us about your design process. What are your first steps when designing a new collection? How long does it take for your ideas to come to fruition?

Several months before starting the design process, I create a mood board for inspiration. I then sketch out the silhouettes I want to include in the collection. My head pattern maker and I work together to bring these silhouettes to life with muslin fittings. In my opinion, this is the most important part of the process because this is where we will make adjustments to perfect the initial shape and fit of the gown. Once finalized, the muslins become the blueprint of what will come next.I then sketch out embroidery layouts directly on to the pattern, and these layouts are meticulously detailed and are often sketched several times to align perfectly with the curves of the body.

On average, the entire process takes about three to four months.

What do you think are the most important aspects for a bride to consider when choosing her wedding gown?

I think every bride has some type of vision for how she wants to look on her wedding day. When you do dress shopping, I think it is important for her to be open-minded and to try on various styles. Sometimes the bride ends up with a completely different silhouette or style then what she originally had in mind. So when shopping for a garment as special as your wedding dress, trusting your consultant is key! 

There are several aspects of your designs that set you apart from other designers, such as offering custom options and producing all your beadwork by hand. What made these decisions so important when you began creating your own designs?

A wedding is a very personalized event for a bride and groom. With a sea of options to choose from, a bride may fall in love with different aspects of several different dresses, or she may want to customize a gown to make it uniquely hers. I believe a wedding gown is one of the most important garments a woman will ever wear, and it should be nothing short of exactly how she wants it. 

Where do you look for inspiration?

Inspiration comes in many ways for me. I get inspired when I watch fashion shows and read magazines to keep up with the trends

Are there any current or upcoming trends you are excited to include in your designs?

Yes! I want to add different elements, like draping, pleating, and beading to the dresses and bring them together seamlessly. 

Can you give us any details for what you have in store for your next collection?

We plan on incorporating wow factors that may not be noticeable at first glance! 

Tell us about your beginnings and what made you to enter the world bridal fashion?

I’m very fond and passionate about fashion. I believe fashion is an integral part of a woman’s life and they deserve to easily understand what’s best for them and what colours enhance their beauty. I also believe that every girl should try different trends rather than ignoring it, it really improves the quality of life naturally. As fashion designing and dressmaking has been my hobby since childhood. As a little girl I collected small pieces of fabric and stitched beautiful clothes for my dolls. I still remember how my parents would praise my creations and tell how creative I was. And back then when I was small my mom used to design sarees as well, that was her hobby. So I got the exposure in this area and I loved it when I was small.

I designed my first saree in the year 2014 just for fun. At that time, I was working in one of the leading software company as a software engineer. It came out really nice and I was able to sell it just within a day. Later on I began designing customized designer sarees for my family, friends and office colleagues. However, at that time, it was difficult for me to meet the demand as I was also working fulltime. My aim was to start my own designer collection one day as an entrepreneur. And today I’m happy that I have been able to achieve my dream.

My designs speak volumes for the bride. Less is more is my design philosophy

Most of my designs unique but I love to mix different color combinations and create new designs. I have not restricted myself in how or what inspires me. I don’t get inspired by only one thing but by all the beautiful things around me. It is more like creating magic with different fabrics, colors, shapes, all the hand embellishments are created with so much emphasis and with much effort

Being a wedding dress designer. What part do you enjoy most?

There is a saying from ‘Marc Anthony’ if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. This is a passion for me than a job. I love what I do. And always my motivation has been the feedback of my clients. When I do a design and made it to a perfection with love and care, and when the client is happy, it’s more like a self-satisfaction that you can’t buy for money. It motivates me to do more and more.

What is your collection called and why?

I always believe that customers are kings Everybody dream s of a beautiful bride when you are young So we should give them a chance to decide what she wants.. Be their style modern, traditional, western, classic romantic or contemporary we will always work with them closely from start to finish through custom sketches, attention to details to bring out the best suited designer bridal and also our designer outfits ,which are made with quality materials but it should have a memorable impression.

What is the best advice you give a bride?

I always tell my brides to follow their instinct, dream or ideas throughout the selection of their wedding outfit. Always listen to your heart in what you like rather than sticking to a trend or what someone else wants. A bride should feel that she’s wearing the perfect dress which makes her feel confidant and beautiful.


I love to do Batik bridals depicting our culture ,the fauna and flora.

The biggest challenges I faced?

The biggest challenge I faced was to establish a customer base apart from my family, cousins and friends when I first started my label in 2017. Designing bridal sarees was a big challenge when we had established designers . Stiff competition and many challenges and obstacles I had to build a certain level of trust and confidence among my clients. That was challenging but I overcame all impedimentsthat within a short period of time.

I would like to specially mention my supportive family who helped me to make my dreams come true and encouraged me to make my cSareer transition.

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Life style

The poem Neruda never wrote



In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Island, film maker Asoka Handagama shares the story behind his latest film- Alborada (The Dawning of the Day) inspired by the celebrated poet Pablo Neruda’s stay here as the Chilean Consul. The film is to be internationally premiered at the 34th edition of the Tokyo International Film Festival opening on October 30.

by Randima Attygalle

It is the year 1929. Young Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda whose fame preceded him arrives in the British-occupied Ceylon as the Chilean Consul. By then Neruda, had already become an international literary celebrity. His work, Twenty Love Poems and Song of Despair was among the bestselling books of poetry in the 20th century. He was called ‘the poet of the people, the oppressed and the forgotten.’

The activist-Consul arrives in Ceylon, barely 25 and empty-handed except for his memory of the disengaged relationship with his former Burmese lover, Josie Bliss. She was obsessively devoted to Neruda and possessed by an overwhelming jealousy. Neruda who called Josie ‘a love terrorist’ and ‘a species of Burmese Panther’ would document in his memoir: (completed shortly before his death in 1973) ‘Sometimes a light would wake me, a ghost moving on the other side of the mosquito net. It was Josie, flimsily dressed in white, brandishing her long, sharp knife. It was she, walking round and round my bed, for hours at a time, without quite making up her mind to kill me. When you die, she used to say to me, my fears will end.’

While his ‘Bliss’ was turning into a taunting jealousy, Neruda receives a cable from Santiago informing him of his immediate transfer to Ceylon. Welcoming his emancipation from his lover, Neruda settles in a beach-front cottage in Wellawatte and is taken care of by a man servant.

He attempts to bury his memories in the vast tropical shores and takes refuge in an atmosphere of solitude he creates for himself. In his memoir is a chapter dedicated to his stay in Ceylon titled Luminous Solitude where he writes: ‘each morning I was overpowered by the miracle of newly cleansed nature.’

Neruda was soon found in the artistic inner circles of Colombo. He was acquainted with Lionel Wendt and George Keyt. The young Chilean poet had a bevy of female admirers whom he called ‘dusky and golden girls of Boer, English and Dravidian blood.’ They bedded him ‘sportingly, asking for nothing in return,’ as he documents.

The young diplomat was infatuated with a Tamil woman of a low caste who came every day at dawn to clean his outdoor latrine. He found her to be the most beautiful woman he had seen in Ceylon. To win her attention, Neruda left her gifts of fruit or silk on the path leading to the latrine, but she took no notice of them. One day he gripped her by the wrist and stared into her eyes. ‘Unsmiling, she let herself be led away and soon was naked in my bed. Her waist, so very slim, her full hips, the brimming cups of her breasts made her like one of the thousand-year-old sculptures from the south of India. … She kept her eyes wide open all the while, completely unresponsive. She was right to despise me. The experience was never repeated.’

The act became a subject of international scrutiny in later years, even prompting a reassessment of the Nobel Laureate’s merit. Neruda who was celebrated as ‘the greatest poet in the 20th century in any language’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez was even labeled a ‘rapist’. Activists challenged his documentation of ‘she let herself be led away’ as a blatant lie. The decision to rename Chile’s busiest Santiago International Airport after Neruda was met with outrage from human rights activists who argued that the honour was inappropriate for a man who admitted to rape in his own memoirs.

“Although there are many accounts of Neruda’s life portrayed in fiction and film, this part of the story is often carefully left out. Though his poems about love outwardly sound romantic, they hide within them the eroticization and objectification of women and particularly, women of colour,” reflects the film-maker Asoka Handagama whose latest film Alborada (The Dawning of the Day) is an elaboration of Neruda’s controversial sexual assault.

The film which is to hold its world premiere in Tokyo (Oct. 30 – Nov. 8) is a fictionalized account of Neruda’s stay in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) from 1929 to 1931 as the Chilean Consul. The film explores the psychological and the emotional factors behind Neruda’s attraction to a woman bound by her caste: a woman considered to be ‘untouchable’, unknown to her playing a part in a bizarre fantasy that ended in a sexual assault.

A fan of Neruda’s poetry, Handagama found the poet’s mixed element of art and controversy a tempting subject for a film script. The script which was inspired by Neruda’s Memoirs is a fruit of 10 years of research on the poet. Handagama left his position as a Deputy Governor of the Central Bank three years before his formal retirement age to complete what he calls his ‘dream film.’

A rebel himself with his cinematic expression, Handagama intrepidly unearths the famed poet’s often interred infamous chapter in what he calls an ‘ironic act.’ “It is ironic that an Asian film-maker, coming from a so called restrained cultural landscape is throwing light on Neruda’s sexual antics when all the while Western cinema makers and fiction writers chose to leave them out in the exposition of him,” smiles Handagama.

Reference to Neruda’s Burmese lover Josie Bliss in his poetry is plenty although she is widely regarded as a figment of the poet’s imagination, notes the film maker. “The depiction of her as a perceived threat, a desire and barbarity in his poem Widower’s Tango, combined with his confession show Neruda’s complicated relationship with women and race.” However, no poem of Neruda’s alludes to the ‘untouchable woman’ by whom he was smitten, despite being described as the ‘most beautiful Ceylonese woman’ or one resembling a ‘thousand-year-old sculpture’ from South India. Handagama’s tagline for his film, The poem Neruda never wrote validates this exclusion. It is also an allegorical reminder of the poet’s element which many tended to discount.

Alborada reinvents the rustic west coast of the island Neruda saw in the 1930s. This was no easy task says its creator. “We had to recreate Wellawatta of his time and this was not possible within Colombo due to the changing skyline. We set it up in Nonagama and in Ranminithenna Tele-Cinema Village.”

Lending a cinematic interpretation to an isolated incident at home which is unfamiliar to the authentic Sri Lankan film print, Alborada is to be a refreshing new experience for the local audience. The film also hopes to spur a public discourse, says its director. Starring Spanish actor Luis J Romero as Neruda and French actress Anne Solene Hatte as Josie, the dialogues are in English with Sinhala and Tamil subtitles. The film also debuts several artistes. The main cast comprises Rithika Kodithuwakku (Tamil woman), Malcolm Machado (Neruda’s man servant), Dominic Keller (Lionel Wendt), Nimaya Harris (Patsy), Thusitha Laknath, Kaushalya Mendis, Samantha Balasuriya, Kasun Perera and Kanchana Nandani. Edited by Ravindra Guruge, the film is produced by H.D. Premasiri.

The Tokyo International Film Festival (TokyoIFF) which will feature Alborada is among the invited films for its ‘international competition’ which is the highlight of the festival. Multi-award winning French screen and stage actress Isabelle Huppert will chair the competition jury. This year’s theme of TokyoIFF is ‘Crossing Borders’. “There are plenty of international film festivals today. But only 14 of them are regarded as ‘A-Grade film festivals. TokyoIFF is one of them and the only Asian festival to get this recognition so far,” remarks Handagama. This year’s festival will be opened with the world premiere of Clint Eastwood’s latest film Cry Macho.

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Life style

Fashion’s new order



From fashion weeks without shows to brands abandoning the traditional schedules, Covid-19 has thrown the industry into a state of flux.

by Zanita Careem

As the pandemic spread and its impacts grew, business world-wide shifted their priorities. The virus has crept almost into every industry including the fashion industry.

It was a hard toll on the industry; fashion weeks got cancelled and major retail departmental stores closed for weeks and months.

The fashion industry is likely to see a shift from consumer spending in large department stores and choosing independent shops. The reason is because social distancing is a necessity. The pandemic slowdown affected the industry, the new normal made consumers to show down their purchases. The designers saw a huge shift in consumer behaviour, affecting the fashion designers and retailers alike.

To evaluate the impact of Covid-19 on the industry we caught up with some of the reputed designers whose names are synonymous with fashion. Senake de Silva said the future is bleak and until things go back to normal, (but how long) it will it take months or perhaps years. Even if we recover it will never be the same again. “We might get back to 70 per cent of what the industry was by next may be,” Senake said.

The Sri Lankan apparel industry was one of the most significant contributors to the country’s economy. “We even had the first ever Sri Lankan apparel fashion show at the then Hotel Oberoi. It was possibly the very first time that a top French Couturier was in Colombo,” recollected Senake.

Sri Lankan apparel categories include sportswear, lingerie bridal wear and swimwear. These were of high quality and were exported to many countries. Recently the industry was affected by regular disturbances of the Covid-19. Fashion shows were cancelled, designers had no work. Fashion industry is one of the primary employers too. With supply chain broken and sales down and unsold stock in retail outlets we had to face major crises. This was all against a backdrop of consumer habits changing and attitudes shifting to consumptions said Lou Ching Wong. We cant compare ourselves to the west said Lou Ching .

Despite the lock-down, major cities in Europe had their fashion shows. The luxury brands like Gucci, Prada, YSL, Armani and Chanel to name a few. But here at home with complete closure, there were no shows or glamour events.

Sri Lankans have now started to reassess and re-prioritize what they spend money on. This resulted in fashion trends slowing down with designers left with nothing. Major fashion brands and retailers have been cancelling orders, including products made and waiting to be sent to stores. The reality is that we are forced to stay at our homes and many of us are financially burdened by lay-offs and the desire to buy new clothes is a distant dream. How long can you think the domestic fashion industry can sustain without sales? “We work in a very high circle and the fact is there are no demands so, I am not sure this will be sustainable. And unfortunately we are not like a Western economy that can afford to payout salaries.”

The industry is going to take a long recovery time. The only positive, if at all is hopefully to be able to use it to recalibrate the lifestyles that suit our people said Lou Ching Wong.

“The virus has left me vulnerable confronting an obliteration of sales, wage loss and employee lay-offs,” Ramani Fernando, a fashion icon and beautician said. “However, we are slowly but steadily working towards providing services to our customers under strict health guidelines. Now things are changing and I find many brides advancing their dates and calendars are filling up. However, I feel this crisis could present an opportunity to rethink of the industry.”

For Dinesh Chandrasena, an internationally recognized designer and a leading creative educator, the future seems bright!

“The fashion design and apparel manufacturing industries like all other businesses have been continuously evolving despite the Covid-19 pandemic. We, like the other industries, have been finding methods and systems to not just survive but actually maintain a positive business movement. I have worked in the fashion industry in Los Angeles since the mid-1990s and I have many colleagues who speak about their plans and strategies. I notice that the long term systematic outcomes that they work towards, are based on utilizing these uncertain times to re-evaluate and re-structure their immediate sphere in order to maximize efficiency while still underlining creative excellence”.

“As a creative practitioner and educator, I look at everything with a ‘glass half full’ mentality and believe it is up to us to find, create, and enhance methodologies that would bring a successful turn to these times” Dinesh said.

The designers expect fashion to come back in a big way, after the pandemic. They believe that people will return to the world in glamorous, trendy outfits once more. ‘Fashion is a pendulum’ goes an adage. It goes from one extreme to another and that will happen again here too.

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Life style

Yohani has attracted many Bollywood singers



Yohani de Silva popularly known as Yohani is as Sri Lankan singer, songwriter and rapper. Her song “Menike Mage Hithe” has completely exploded on the internet and had gone crazy visual. From social media to celebrities, everyone is obsessed with the peppy number. For the universal ‘Menike Mage Hithe’ is a 20-20 Sinhala by Satheeshan Ratnayake. The tract went viral after Sri Lankan singer’s version released in May. This song has created such a buzz, that it can be heard everywhere now.

Popularly known as Yohani,she was born on July 30, 1993 in Colombo.

She is extremely popular on Tick Tok and is also the first Sri Lankan female singer to have 2.46 million subscribers on You Tube Even celebs like Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Tiger Shroff and Maduri Dixit among others, couldn’t stop themselves from grooving to the addictive to the beat of the song. Many reels are also been made on this song of Yohani, and Amitabh Bachchan also shared one of his reels on his song on Instagram.

She did her schooling at Visakha Vidyalaya and graduated from Sir John Kotelawela Defence University. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Logistics Management.

Following the first Drive-in-Concert was produced by Show Town Entertainment and this concert created history as it was the first of its kind in Asia and the tenth worldwide. She shared the stage with great artists such as Bathiya and Santosh, Umariya and some others.

Yohani was now accepted as a Cultural Ambassador to India. Several TV channels in India interviewed her and said she is one of the latest Cultural Ambassador to appear in India’s National TV channel. Her song ‘Menike Mage Hithe” won the hearts of millions of people in India from celebrities to the public.

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