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QUEEN OF BATIK

THE TREND-SETTER

Darshi Keerthisena


PROFILED BY Savithri Rodrigo

Darshi Keerthisena is great with tools and can fix whatever is broken. Perhaps that’s what she did with the ageing craft of batik, which had lost its lustre in modern fashion. She used her artistic tool kit and shaped a renaissance that made batik a must-have in every fashionista’s wardrobe. She is the Creative Director of Buddhi Batiks, a legacy enterprise handed down to her by her parents.

The Buddhi Batiks brand has featured on numerous catwalks including Buckingham Palace when the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange took place as a part of London Fashion Week 2018. It also featured at the Met Gala in 2019 when environmental and social justice advocate Livia Firth paired her tangerine kaftan with a beautifully crafted clutch, which was designed and created by Buddhi Batiks.

It was the batik sari that became the nucleus of Dharshi’s design transformation after she had armed herself with a BA (Hons.) in Fashion and Textile Design from Birmingham City University. From thereon, she added to her portfolio with Western attire, swimwear and accessories, etching Buddhi Batiks indelibly on the fashion consciousness of both men and women.

Currently, she’s following a postgraduate course in Teaching and Learning Art and Design at the London College of Fashion.

Darshi is a hardworking woman with an infectious laugh, dynamic personality and energetic curls that delightfully frame her face. Much of Darshi’s day is spent working at her Koswadiya workshop with craftswomen she’s known since childhood. That said, she’s a city girl with her heart in the country and a soul steeped in island ways.

Her husband Johan has taught Darshi the merits of weight training as an accompaniment to her vegan diet. And if you find her running excitedly to catch a glimpse of the vibrant colours of a sunset, don’t get in her way. That quirky habit is incurable!

The downtime has been wonderful – because I’ve spent a lot of time looking inward, inspiring myself to be patient

ABOUT

DARSHI

BIRTHDAY
31 March

FAMILY
Husband (Johan)
Daughter (Arya)
Father (Buddhi)
Mother (Ranasiri)
Brother (Boo Dee)

ALMA MATERS
Holy Family Convent (Wennappuwa)
St. Bridget’s Convent

HOBBIES
Music
Creating anything (art, cookery, gardening)
Movies

LOVES
Vegan food
Travel
Beach

PET PEEVE
Dishonesty

ADMIRES
Johan for being so calm

ROLE MODELS
Buddhi and Ranasiri Keerthisena – “For their positive approach to life.”

“I would like to travel back in time and hang out with my grandparents again, and listen to their stories”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Pen or pencil
Pen

Colour pencils or crayons
Colour pencils

Paint or sketch
Sketch

Long or short hair
Long hair

Curls or waves
Curls

Sandals or barefoot
Sandals

Silk or cotton
Cotton

Eyeliner or mascara
Mascara

Sari or dress
Sari

Gym or swim
Swim

Hike or walk
Hike

River or sea
Sea – any day

Train or aeroplane
Plane

Bicycle or motorcycle
Bicycle

Play or film
Film

Drama or action
Action

Book or Kindle
Book

Instagram or Facebook
Instagram

Mojito or margarita
Margarita

Coffee or tea
Coffee

Rice or bread
Rice

Chocolates or flowers
Both

Card or text
Text

“I’d like to be remembered as a textile designer who drew inspiration from Sri Lankan art and helped preserve local craft”

DARSHI’S

FAVOURITES

BRAND
Buddhi Batiks

DESIGNERS (LOCAL)
Buddhi Batiks
KT Brown

DESIGNERS (INTERNATIONAL)
Alexander McQueen
Lululemon Athletica

CLOTHES
Saris
T-shirts
Dresses

RETAIL CHAINS
Lululemon Athletica
Patagonia
Everlane

PAINTERS/ARTISTS
Claude Monet
Ai Weiwei
Roy Lichtenstein

ENTERTAINERS
David Bowie
Michael Jackson
Cha Eun-woo

RESTAURANTS
The Gallery Café
Sugar Beach
Loving Hut

CUISINE
Vegan
Chinese
Japanese fusion

LOCAL HOLIDAY DESTINATIONS
South coast
Dambulla
East coast

OVERSEAS TRAVEL HOTSPOTS
Reykjavík
London
Kyoto

WOMEN LEADER
Shanika Amarasekara – “She is a Non-Executive Board Member of the London Stadium and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and General Counsel at the British Business Bank.”

GLOBAL INFLUENCERS
@plasticfreemermaid
@conciousnchic
@jasminehemsley

ENTREPRENEURS
Elon Musk
Imran Amed (The Business of Fashion)

Q: What’s kept you busy in the past few months?
A: Besides the weight training, I’ve been worrying about the business and my team, sketching, dreaming and planning, watching Netflix, supervising Zoom School for my kid, spending time with Johan, chatting with friends on social media, gardening and discovering that I’m a decent cook.

Q: Have you been inspired in these quiet times of isolation?
A: The downtime has been wonderful – because I’ve spent a lot of time looking inward, inspiring myself to be patient, being creative in areas other than work and less wasteful, evolving, and appreciating time with my family and friends.

Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt in the recent past?
A: Not to procrastinate.

Q: Did anything push you to design?
A: Nothing pushed me into it – I was born into it.

Q: What gives you an adrenaline rush when you design?
A: Imagining the finished product.

Q: Do you wear only Buddhi Batiks when you go out?
A: Yes, most of the time… because it’s my favourite brand.

Q: Given the opportunity to work under any designer, who would you choose?
A: John Galliano or Alexander McQueen.

Q: If you didn’t venture into design, what would you have been?
A: A photographer.

Q: How do you manage your personal, wife and mummy time?
A: Time is divided according to the need. Having a supportive husband really helps in managing time between family, work and personal time.

Q: Tell us about your greatest lesson as a working mum…
A: It’s really important to be there for my daughter as children grow up so fast. So time management and planning are very important.

Q: What was your first date with Johan like?
A: We both talked so much that I kept thinking it was too good to be true!

Q: And the most romantic thing that he has done for you…
A: Having once strewn red roses all the way from the door to the bedroom to welcome me back from work.

Q: And how would he describe you?
A: Independent and a go-getter.

Q: What’s your ideal date night?
A: A movie, dinner and drinks but yet to try paragliding at sunset.

Q: If you could have one date with a celebrity, who would it be and what would you do?
A: Elon Musk… to check out Earth from space.

Q: How would you like to see the world 10 years from now?
A: Greener, vegan, more compassionate to animals and humans alike.

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
A: Develop patience since I react too quickly.

Q: Of all the people you know, who would you want to meet again?
A: I would like to travel back in time and hang out with my grandparents again, and listen to their stories.

Q: What would we find in your handbag?
A: A pen, credit cards, a phone and lip balm at the least.

Q: And what value do you want your daughter Arya to be most conscious of?
A: Compassion.

Q: How do you want to be remembered?
A: I’d like to be remembered as a textile designer who drew inspiration from Sri Lankan art and helped preserve local craft, as well as a wonderful mum, wife and daughter.

Q: What’s the biggest change you would like to see in Sri Lanka?
A: To see Sri Lanka becoming more self-sufficient.

Q: Any thoughts for the fashion industry in a post-pandemic period?
A: If you weren’t already creative in your strategy, this is the time to do it. Be flexible with the changing times.

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