by Malinda Seneviratne
On the face of it the name of the small, cosy and friendly restaurant on Ernest De Silva Mawatha, Colombo 7, sounds pretentious. ‘The Commons’ after all refers to ‘land or resources belonging to or affecting the whole of a community.’ The restaurant is not common property. The onus, one would think, is on the owners to ensure ‘belonging.’
That’s about good service, mostly.
Now I’ve not bothered about the labels for I’ve dabbled enough in the advertising industry to know what’s what and what’s not. I’m old enough to focus on substance and leave it at that. For example, Sooriya Village, formerly a restaurant which was ‘surrounded’ by a practice studio, recording studio, bookshop, hangout place for anyone in any of the arts and a location for interviews, weddings, book launches etc., was not a ‘village.’ There was sun but not always, and anyway shade was what I preferred. There was warmth and like any village, there was a sense of belonging amidst multiple ways of differentiation.
The Commons. That’s what this is about. I’ve been here hundreds of times, literally. Sometimes I’ve ordered a coffee, sometimes food. Sometimes it’s been, much like Sooriya Village, an office of sorts. People meet me here. I ask them to come. Most days though, I just sit somewhere and write. Always received with a smile. No questions asked, except if I wanted some water. Indeed, sometimes, the water is served even without the question.
You could put it all down to familiarity and general Sri Lankan hospitality. After all, I’ve not surveyed others who sit here and hardly ever order anything.
This morning, Thursday January 14, in a Covid-19 encumbered world, I realized that it was not just about familiarity. Here’s my story.
I walked in. My way was partially blocked by what I thought was a television crew.
‘Are you shooting a film?’ That’s what I asked.
‘No, it’s a shoot,’ I was told.
So I went to the open space at the back of the restaurant, sat down as I often did, opened my laptop and started to type.
The ‘crew’ moved to where I was. A camera on a tripod and a photographer. A young man was seated at the table. A young woman appeared to be arranging things. Food was served to a nicely laid table. I realized they were photographing the food.
‘Are you going to shoot the entire menu?’ I asked.
They smiled and affirmed it was so.
‘He won’t be able to eat all the food — you might as well give me some!’ I said in jest.
They shot. I wrote. A few minutes later, the owner, the legendary Harpo, arrived. He saw me and greeted me with that inimitable smile of his, brought his hands together a la Covid-19-induced greeting protocols and said ‘hi.’
I responded and repeated my observation: ‘if they are going to photograph the entire menu, you could distribute the food among all of us.’
In jest. Didn’t think twice about it. Went back to my work.
Fifteen minutes later, Prasanna, one of the waiters, came up to me with a platter of wraps. Cheesy eggs and bacon tortilla wraps with some dip that I couldn’t identify. Prasanna didn’t know that I didn’t eat meat. There was a hint of dismay in his eyes so I said ‘I will remove the bacon and eat the rest.’ I avoid eggs too, but I indulged. Great stuff. Lunch, for me. On the house.
I didn’t need that to feel at home. I’ve always felt at home. I don’t own ‘The Commons’ but I was always convinced I belonged here or rather that it belongs to me. Everyone, from the security guards Kingsley and Sudakaran, to the waiters (the long-standing ones and the students doing internships or side-jobs), the managers and Harpo himself never once said or did anything to make me doubt this.
I don’t recall having seen Pravin Jayasundere, a student at Law College who has been doing photo-shoots on the side for a few months now, and Rajeev Coltan, the ‘model,’ at ‘The Commons.’ I don’t know what they feel or how they’ll ‘see’ this place if they became visitors as regular as I have become. I don’t know if they’ll secure common ownership, so to speak. I don’t know if they’ll feel as ‘belonged.’
I can’t speak for others. This is my place, and I don’t mind others owning it, Harpo included. It’s common property in the middle of a high-end residential area of Colombo. Pretty uncommon.
Her Majesty The Queen, A Style Legacy
The familiarity of the hats, the quietly diplomatic choice of brooch, the shocks of colour and the sensible worn-in shoes will remain bastions of the 20th and 21st century style With the close of the modern Elizabethan era, legacy is a word that is reverberating strongly following the news of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s death. She was 96-years-old.
As the role of the monarchy shifted during her 70-year reign, and the entire understanding of its existence was increasingly questioned, Her Majesty remained a popular, recognisable figure of quintessential Britishness. For those of us that have known no other British monarch, we are left with a legacy that will be marked by her inescapable sense of duty to the Crown and country, but also a decidedly strong sense of self and identity that feels singular in a world of chameleonic idols and a quickening trend cycle.
Few before, and likely few after, will have spent as long as a recognisable figure in the public eye, with such a reaching global impact. Like the tone of her reign, Her Majesty’s sartorial approach was informed by a quiet confidence and an assured concept of self that prized personal style over trends and fads. Sure, she might not have had the glamorous allure of a Hollywood star or the subversive ability to shift our notion of dress like others have done, but Her Majesty’s legacy will be a fashion journey that proves a lesson in unwavering integrity of identity.
The Queen’s fashion legacy will also be marked by a savvy, often understated, means of communicating with her people, which dates back to her coming of age in a post-war Britain. Married at Westminster Abbey in November 1947, her wedding dress was assembled using duchess satin bought with ration vouchers. Of course, unlike her peers, it was Norman Hartnell that designed the 13-foot gown, but the message of her purchasing her fabric through this ‘just like us’ nature was one of kinsmanship not lost on a recovering Britain.
Throughout her reign, other fashion choices have needed to be more diplomatic and significant in message. Arriving in Ireland in 2011, the first British monarch to do so in 100 years, the Queen wore a very specific shade of green. Not too emerald, not too bold, it was a careful choice that didn’t assume Her Majesty to be reclaiming Ireland, but instead proved a sensitive homage in the landmark moment.
Other sartorial decisions had a more sentimental attachment. Consider her brooch for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s 2011 nuptials. From amongst her wealth of heritage jewels she chose The True Lover’s Knot, the largest in her hefty collection. Its sweet bow-like design was an emblem of the day’s significance in her life as a proud grandmother and for the line of succession.
Brooches, like dress suits, brimmed hats, patent pumps and top-handle Launer handbags, are amongst the pieces that made up Her Majesty’s uniform-like approach to her on-duty wardrobe. A dedicated Monarch, who always placed service first and foremost, it made sense that she treated her approach to dress with such regimented formula. It must also be noted how traditionally feminine these pieces are. The message she sent to the commonwealth and the wider world was one of feminine strength, never intimidated by the meetings of senior dignitaries her diary scheduled or falling victim to needing to dress to ‘keep up with the boys.’
In a more contemporary time, the Queen’s style legacy has impacted nowhere more than in the wardrobes of her family members. As protocol dictates, her tiaras and jewellery have often been borrowed by the family members for wedding days or state affairs, with Princess Beatrice even opting for one of granny’s dresses for her 2020 nuptials, but Her Majesty’s influence extended to the day-to-day too.
Look to the wardrobes of Duchesses Cambridge and Sussex and you’ll notice the Queen’s approach to colour permeating. A long-time fashion tool employed by Her Majesty, it has proven particularly useful in ensuring that royals can be spotted by those even at the farthest end of the waiting crowds. It’s clear to see that Catherine and Meghan have taken note.
The overarching message that the Queen’s wardrobe told was one of a quieter, more subtle influence. It’s long been clear that Her Majesty, who was most happy in her headscarf, Barbour and kilt in the countryside, was never as fussed about the flashier side of royal privilege as perhaps her sister, the Dior-wearing Princess Margaret, was.
For the last 20 years, Angela Kelly has been at the helm of the Queen’s wardrobe, becoming a close confidante of Her Majesty’s in the process. Yet, you couldn’t ever have imagined the pair conspiring — to use a modern glam squad term — to create a ‘moment’ throughout their time working together. As she entered her latter years, the formula that worked didn’t flinch apart from moving through the rainbow. But that’s not to say Her Majesty didn’t have fun with her wardrobe.
With what was arguably the world’s greatest dressing-up box at her disposal, there were flashes of experimentation and brilliance that hinted at a bolder experimentation. Think harlequin sequins, floral turbans or diaphanous candy pink gowns and fur stoles paired with dazzling diadems and parures. But the greatest smiles and moments of clear sartorial satisfaction were when Her Majesty was buttoned up in her cardigans, her signature neat perm wrapped in an Hermes scarf and heading out into the Highlands.
Though fashion is quick to praise reincarnation, Her Majesty will be celebrated for her opposite approach. The familiarity of the hats, the quietly diplomatic choice of brooch, the shocks of colour and the sensible worn-in shoes will remain bastions of the 20th and 21st century in style, no matter what else moved quicker or louder around it. The phrase style icon is too often touted or wasted on those that have spent little more than 18 months in the public eye, but, when it comes to Her Majesty The Queen, here is a chance to use it for all its worth. – Elle Mag
Mexico’s DJs make waves in Colombo
Leading DJs from Mexico who have entertained crowds across Europe, North and South America, Marisol and Ivonne Grajales were touring Sri Lanka recently, storming some of Colombo’s most happening venues. The sisters, who have spun their vibrant sounds to full houses and performed at epic DJ sets across the world including the USA, Brazil, Honduras, Ecuador, Germany and Spain; kept the Sri Lankan party set grooving at some of the most exciting night spots in town over the last two weeks.
Marisol is ranked seventh as a DJane in Mexico and 38th in North America, has a degree in music production and released 12 singles which are featured on Beatport and Traxsource.
They performed at venues around Colombo including at The Love Bar, Industri, Botanik, Kava, The Travelling Bruncher and the Flamingo Breeze Pool Party, the latter which has fast become a trendy, sought after monthly event. In addition, Marisol and Ivonne spun discs at the chilled-out Sunday Smooth Drunch. Both these events were at the poolside of Cinnamon Grand.
The DJ sisters performed at C VIBES with renowned Sri Lankan artistes – ACE, Clifford, TrevD, Binu, Madaid and Shan. C VIBES is an entertainment entity which curates and hosts events at popular venues in Colombo which includes a roster of international DJs and artistes performing at select venues and a number of exciting party additions which promise great revelry and celebrations.
The future of shopping in Kandy
Softlogic Holdings PLC launched its newest retail development – ‘ODEL Mall Kandy’, recently The 91,414 sq ft retail development is poised to be Kandy’s most sought-after state-of-the-art, premium lifestyle shopping destination situated at the heart of Sri Lanka’s hill capital.
Located at , Sirimavo Bandaranaike Mawatha, Peradeniya Road, Kandy, the retail development will house a premium collection of Softlogic’s most celebrated brands such as ODEL (the largest fashion retailer in Sri Lanka, that hosts an array of world renowned international fashion, jewellery, skincare and lifestyle brands); Baskin Robbins (the world’s largest chain of specialty ice cream operating over 5,000 parlours in 50+ countries); GLOMARK (Sri Lanka’s first inspirational global market which aims at revolutionising the country’s modern retail trade landscape; and POPEYES (one of the world’s leading fast-food chains)
The retail mall will in-turn launch two fast-popular brands, for the first time in Kandy – GLOMARK – which houses the widest selection of items sourced across the globe and uses the best of modern storage facilities, design and upgraded technology for a superlative consumer experience; and POPEYE’s – known for its signature slow cook method where fresh, locally sourced, chicken is marinated for 12 hours with a rich blend of proprietary seasoning and spices, and thereafter hand battered and breaded to produce chicken that is juicy on the inside while retaining a crispier crust on the outside, transporting customer taste buds to the wholesome goodness of Louisiana.
Commenting on the announcement, Chairman, Softlogic Holdings PLC – Ashok Pathirage stated: “We are pleased to announce the launch of ODEL Mall Kandy, which has been met with much excitement and support by the local community within Kandy and Kurunegala. Through the introduction of the mall, we look to enhance the retail and entertainment experiences available to both residents and tourists of this sacred and famous city.”
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