Gessica Collective is led by fashion designer Shenali Gunaratne, 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”, as well showcased during Paris Fashion Week, 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.”
An Interview with fashion designer Shenali Gunaratne about Gessica Collective
TPM: When did you first realize you wanted to become a fashion designer?
When I was younger I was really interested in illustrating and I would spend a lot of time on the details of clothing and accessories. Having a grandma who was a seamstress and a mother who was interested in sewing, as I was growing up it really encouraged my interests as well.
TPM: When did you land your first internship and what was the most valuable thing you learned from this experience?
My first internship was with Australian designer, Lisa Barron in my second year of study. During the year I spent in this position the most valuable thing I took away was, understanding that as a designer your job does not start and end in a sketch book. It is a vital role through the entire production process and being involved in key aspects with your team means better team engagement.
TPM: Define sustainable concept nowadays in fashion industry in five words .
Renewing. Transforming. Durable. Timeless. Limitless.
TPM: If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be? What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out?
If I could go back, I would tell myself to focus less on what’s on trend, and more on the message I want to put out into the world, through my designs. That would be the biggest mistake I made, not understanding where my inspiration should come from.
TPM: What is one thing you look at the models for your campaigns?
In terms of models, it really depends on their personal style. If they are a part of my target market, they are more comfortable in my designs and it means they know how to work the designs so they can be showcased.
TPM: What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?
Social media plays a huge role in fashion today, consumers use media platforms to be aware of what’s on trend and now with ecommerce being readily available on apps, like the Instagram feature, you can see what your fashion icons are wearing and know where to purchase them from, all in the one spot. It really has redefined how people style themselves, rather than trying to copy the style and searching for similar items, the search is done for you.
TPM: What is your favourite and NON-favourite part about being part of the fashion industry?
My favourite thing about the fashion industry is the stories you hear through design, learning the inspiration behind pieces can blow your mind, designers are really writers and engineers and that always amazes me. My non-favourite part would have to be the treatment of creatives by other creatives, people say it is a dog eat dog world but in this industry you need your network to make it, it doesn’t hurt to be kinder to one another.
TPM: How do you want people to feel when wearing your clothes?
Empowered. They are strong designs that empower strength in the people who wear them.
TPM: Can you tell us how your brand makes a difference in fashion industry?
Gessica Collective is inspired to create change, be provocative and impactful. My brand successfully integrates functional streetwear with social movements, establishing purposed built designs performing beyond apparel. We create designs that are more than just clothes.
TPM: There is one important person, in your life, who pushes and motivates you to believe in yourself?
If I had to choose just one person, I would have to say my dad, he always lived life to the fullest and believed in my creativity, even when I was only just starting out. My family as a whole are so supportive and no matter where I am and what I’m doing, they remind me to push through and always let me know how proud they are of me.
TPM: How do you think a big brand should motivate their collaborators and team members?
As a big brand I think it’s important to always let your team know that’s exactly what they are, your team. Making sure collaborators and team members know that you are with them and part of the team is so important. It’s always nice to be appreciated, especially in a big brand where people and their skills can get lost, knowing that you’re all a team definitely boosts motivation and team morale.
TPM: How do you think sustainable can play an important role in fashion industry?
Sustainability is huge, people are so much more conscious of their environmental footprint now more than ever, fashion being such a huge contributor to pollution, it’s about time the industry made some changes. The industry will be able to become more productive and I feel like the association with
TPM: Describe us you as a designer and how your feelings influence the creativity process?
I work very logically and love to see clothes as puzzle pieces, I’m very methodical with the way I execute my work in every step of the process. When I’m designing and in the process of creativity I usually rely on my feelings quite heavily, I believe they are vital in the process of storytelling and my pieces always tell a story.
TPM: What designers inspire you and why?
I am inspired by designers like Kanye West and Alexander Wang. Kanye is a real genius in my opinion, he gives people what they didn’t know they wanted and in a way that has created a cult following that hasn’t been seen before but now a lot of brands are adopting. Alexander Wang designs a lifestyle within his collections and I aspire to be just as successful as he in selling the Gessica Collective lifestyle.
TPM: There is anyone special who would like to meet in person?
Definitely Kanye West, I would love to pick his brains and watch him in the process of design and styling, he really has a creative mind far beyond many in the industry and I would love to learn from him.