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Interview: fashion designer Shenali Gunaratne from Gessica Collective

Gessica Collective

Fashion designer Shenali Gunaratne has spent more than 4 years on perfecting her fashion label Gessica Collective during her studies. To Gunaratne, design and social movement are inseparable. We spoke with this talented young designer about her inspiration, role models and the true meaning of fashion.

Cover photo: © Oxford Fashion Studio

Gessica Collective

Gessica Collective is led by fashion designer Shenali Gunaratne, who showed her designs at Paris Fashion Week. Gunaratne is a recent Bachelor of Design graduate from Whitehouse Institute of Design Australia. During her studies, she’s been working on perfecting her fashion label. Since then, the label perfectly blends streetwear with social movements that matter.

For her latest collection, “The Art of War”, the main source of inspiration was the Paris terror attacks in 2015 and the tragedies in the world around us. Something that stood out during the entire horrific event, was the mass of ordinary people who stood up and did extraordinary things, in the light of a serious tragedy. Gunaratne says: “Although the days of conscription are dead and gone, just being alive in this time, you need to be prepared for a war everyday. My menswear collection propels the idea of the Everyday Soldier, with the use of military inspired details and the implementation of them through modern streetwear. Throughout the collection I have used fabrics that you would find in uniforms, ranging from wool to cotton drill and tonal colors for each body.

While this sounds quite heavy, the underlying message is about hope. “The message I would like my collection to spread would be that, as people go on with their lives, through all the struggles that they face, there is hope. We may be ordinary people but we can achieve the extraordinary.

Gessica Collective
© Oxford Design Studio, Gessica Collective

Meaning of fashion

In line with this, Gessica Collective depicts a story without words – which captures the essence of fashion for Gunaratne: “Fashion is a story with no words. It’s a form of expression, nothing in fashion has no meaning.

Within this, does the designer have any role models? Of course she does. “My role model would be Kanye West, I believe he has created an empire by giving people what they didn’t know they needed. If I could have half the business mind he has I would be very successful. Kanye has a cult like following and before him, high fashion never met streetwear, he definitely paved the way for all streetwear designers.

At no doubt, Gessica Collective will come very far, even without Kanye’s business mind. Within five years Gunaratne hopes that Gessica Collective will take off as a brand and opens its first boutique store. We’re very exciting for what the future has in store.

Gessica Collective
© Oxford Fashion Studio, Gessica Collective

Oxford Fashion Studio

Gessica Collective is part of Oxford Fashion Studio (OFS), which puts independent fashion designers on the map. According to OFS, these independent designers have an important and integer story to tell, deserving international exposure. As a singular collective, Oxford Fashion Studio is the only organization showcasing independent design talent in every fashion capital in the world.

In this Oxford Fashion Studio series, we shed light on several independent designers to share their story. In this way we support them to flourish internationally.

Follow Gessica Collective on Instagram or check out its full profile on oxfordfashionstudio.com. Follow @oxforddesigncollective to stay up to date on all participating designers.

Like this interview with Gessica Collective’s fashion designer? Then also read our interview with Cathelijne Blok about her TittyMag and the true meaning of feminism.

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