PROFILED BY Savithri Rodrigo
Calm and soft-spoken are the first impressions one gets of Annika Fernando. But strike up a conversation with her and you’ll witness a practical outlook, an unwavering focus and a busy bee persona.
Annika is always on the go and at any given time, she may be strategising what’s next for her retail store PR, twirling designs in her head for her label MAUS or sketching shapes and forms for her interior designs.
But that’s not all…
Annika plays video games with her 11-year-old son, a diversion she probably loves even more than he does, and pulls miracle bakes out of the oven whenever she has a minute to spare.
Though she’s been a pescatarian for 14 years and prone to eating healthily, those weak moments can lead her to indulge in Chinese rolls, iced coffee and chocolate. This usually ends with sneaking a visit to Sponge for her weekly fix of ‘short eats.’
Annika’s earliest exposure to art was when she was three years old as she clutched her father’s hand and toddled around art galleries.
Those formative years led her to RMIT University in Australia to hone her fundamentals. But the inherent passion for design was extant in her genes; and when she realised that design was definitely her career, Annika dove in head first.
MAUS has now made its way into boutiques such as Le Mill and the startup Friday Sari Project founded by Mehala Ford.
Her success with pop-ups in Mumbai had Annika reach out to Samyukta Nair whose grandfather established The Leela Palaces, Hotels & Resorts in India. She wanted to do something positive overseas for Sri Lankan design and designers whom she supports at PR. The result was an extremely successful event at Clove in Colaba.
Annika is currently working on the interiors of the flagship building of Paradise Road along with others. If you turn the pages of the March issue of Vogue India, you’ll see Annika’s masterpiece for the Sangakkara family. But what does she like designing best? Bathrooms and kitchens!
“The popular mindset of quality vs quantity was already being advocated by all those people I work with“
Colombo International School
The British School in Colombo
Myself in 10 years
“I would like to switch off more, be more focussed and less sensitive, and be better at more”
Cheese or chocolate
Pudding or ice cream
Salad or soup
Roses or orchids
Dogs or cats
Black or white
Stripes or checks
Formal or informal
Prints or neutral
Sandals or barefoot
Stoles or scarves
Long or short hair
Bath or shower
Great masters or contemporary art
Classical or smooth jazz
Opera or play
Fiction or nonfiction
Bike or hike
Swim or gym
Plane or train
Beach or ski
Jungle or desert
Juice or smoothie
Shirts and T-shirts
All those I represent at PR
All local designers who retail at PR
Colombo Fashion Week
Sri Lankan artists
Paradise Road Galleries
Saskia Fernando Gallery
Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid)
MoMA (New York City)
The Tate Modern (London)
The Gallery Café
Baillie Street Merchants
Sri Lanka’s hill country
SRI LANKAN HOLIDAY SPOTS
Q: What were the best and worst parts of the prolonged curfew during the COVID-19 outbreak?
A: Best was the quality time I spent with my son with the unexpected opportunity for more one-on-one time at this preteen age. Worst was the uncertainty and insecurity about the future.
Q: What shift in mindset have you observed among designers?
A: The popular mindset of ‘quality vs quantity’ was already being advocated by all those people I work with.
Q: Any shift in mindset among your clients?
A: There seems to be a greater sense of solidarity with and support for small independent labels.
Q: What was the most exciting part of designing the interior for Kumar and Yehali Sangakkara’s home?
A: It was my second project with them and I think the most exciting thing was the trust they had in me. It’s amazingly liberating for a designer to have that freedom. They allowed me time to design and evolve with the project.
Q: You work a lot in Mumbai – what’s the attraction to that city?
A: Surprisingly, it’s the last city I got to know while on my travels to India. I like its architecture, warmth, hospitality and the great friends I made there. Further, from a business angle, most of my Indian customers are from Mumbai.
Q: What’s hot and not about your work?
A: What’s hot is that I get to visualise and watch something materialise. What’s not is probably that my mind is always working and I don’t switch off.
Q: And what would ‘me time’ entail?
A: Exercise, self-care, and time for prayer and meditation.
Q: What’s your best mode of R&R?
A: Beach and massage – even better if it’s together.
Q: When are you happiest?
A: At home with my family.
Q: What moves you?
A: Kindness, support and love.
Q: What is it about your husband that makes you smile and what annoys you?
A: He’s so supportive and incredibly loving, hates schedules and can be a little moody at times.
Q: What’s your ideal date night?
A: Since the COVID-19 outbreak, it would be an evening when we have the time to sit and chat – without our fears and responsibilities looming over us.
Q: If you could change something about yourself, what would it be?
A: I would like to switch off more, be more focussed and less sensitive, and be better at more!
Q: If you could meet someone dead or alive, who would it be?
A: My three grandparents whom I never met.
Q: Do you have a workout regime or special diet?
A: Before the onset of the pandemic, it was a combination of running, TRX, yoga and reformer Pilates. After the curfew was lifted, it’s been running, TRX, basketball and yoga. However, I’ve been struggling to fit exercise into my routine since the lockdown ended.
Q: What sort of a world would you like to see your son grow up in?
A: I’d like to see my son grow up in a kinder world that’s less discriminatory, less polluted and with less physical distancing.
Q: Have you succeeded in stopping your father and husband smoking?
A: I have not been able to stop my father smoking even though I’ve tried since childhood. My husband is a stress smoker and even though this is not the easiest time for him, he’s trying.
Q: What would you say to your 20-year-old self?
A: Perhaps reconsider the job I was offered by Kerry Hill as a young graduate.
Q: What do you think the world’s biggest long-term problems are?
A: Selfish human beings.
Q: What’s on your bucket list?
A: There are new priorities now. But they definitely include places to visit in Sri Lanka such as Jaffna, a return to Polonnaruwa and many others.