“He’s the first winner and he is also exactly what we have been looking for; he represents every single aspect of the program when we first set together with Hans Ulrich Obrist three years ago,” said Reference Studios founder Mumi Haiati. “What we had in mind was to really support and enable underrepresented talent from around the world with a sustainable approach as a foundation. I think he represents just that.”
Because of the pandemic, many of Sri Lanka’s artisans and factories were also suffering. Wijesekera notes that the country, a massive manufacturing hub for fashion, has also become a repository for its waste, with companies sending tons of textile waste to the island. His solution was to work with artisans on creating one-of-a-kind knits. “Sometimes I feel like the artisans are treated like machines,” he says. “They have years and years of knowledge, craftsmanship, and skill, and they never get to show their creativity or skill. I would give them a rough idea, but I said there is no right or wrong way to make it.” The collection was then modeled by local Sri Lankans who Wijesekera scouted on Instagram.
Thu, October 7, 2021, 10:00 PM