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Photograph of a woman standing in front of a pink rose bush. She is wearing a blue sari draped across her left shoulder, and is standing with her hands on her hips, smiling and looking off to the left.

Photographed by Mathushaa Sagthidas at the Queen's House

Find CommonGround& on Instagram 

What does your work involve? 

I am a creative entrepreneur, founder and curator. I am the founder of the Friday Sari Project concept store and CommonGround& – the arts platform through which I have curated the Pioneers display for Royal Museums Greenwich, along with two Diwali takeover programmes.

My career has been in the fashion industry, working with young designers around the late 90s. This was an exciting period in fashion and culture, at the height of the British high street, Cool Britannia and the Young British Artists era.  

Around 2010 I felt a strong pull to connect with my culture and Sri Lankan heritage, but on my own terms. I embarked on a period of research and discovery to find out what inspired me about my culture. I used the sari as my muse and taught myself how to drape and style it to express my style.

I wrote a blog called ‘Friday Sari Project’. Through exploring architecture, textiles, fashion, design, art and music, I developed my own relationship and connection to my South Asian culture. I loved what I discovered and, through wanting to support this emerging talent and creativity, I opened the Friday Sari Project store in 2018 as a way to showcase South Asian designers and to provide a space to explore South Asian art and culture through a programme of curated events.   

In 2020, I created CommonGround& as a summer exhibition for South Asian artists. This has led to exciting projects and curating opportunities, drawing on everything I have absorbed and assimilated over the past 12 years. I create through my experience and use my intuition to absorb what is going on around me. My work tells the story of my life and that is constantly evolving.

What inspires you? 

It has always been my passion to discover and support creative talent, and I have worked with many young British designers and artists to showcase their work. I am drawn to things that have a raw quality and see beauty in the unfinished and visceral.

I love the rebel spirit. People who have moved and inspired me during my life, like Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and other designers I’ve worked with, have had rebellious natures and created extraordinary beauty through a ‘punk’ attitude and using whatever resources they have. My initiation into fashion came from my mum and aunty, who love clothes and can make anything look stylish, so I would thank them. 

I am now awe-inspired by nature, the beauty of the world and the power we have to heal ourselves. I hope that humanity can have a better sense of what our existence on this Earth is meant to be. I wish that we could get away from measuring success by money and status so that the arts can be truly appreciated and supported.

What message would you give to the next generation? 

We are now in a New Age where we have all we need to do whatever we want, so use it, do it, be it. All my ideas come from my personal journey, which I manifest into reality. This is the way I choose to work and experience my life on Earth.

I haven’t taken the easiest paths and I have picked myself off the floor so many times, reinvented myself and started fresh. Live through your heart.

A photo of 13 South Asian creatives some of whom are sitting and some are standing in the colonnades next to the Queen's House. A central lamp hangs above the group and they are framed by the white stone columns.

See the full series

This profile is part of Pioneers: A Renaissance in South Asian Creativity, on display at the National Maritime Museum