A bottom-up and upcycle company | Print edition


By Ruqyyaha Deane


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If you want to know more about a young woman who never gave up pursuing a hobby she struggled to master and instead turned it into a self-sustaining small business; we have a story for you. Meet Suhara Malwattege whose slow fashion brand Scerendip (meaning Serendip and Scenic) focuses on recycling and reducing the carbon footprint that comes with creating new clothes.

It was a tough trip, says Suhara.

Having been skinny and never having found clothes that fit her, it was on a whim that a 16-year-old Suhara told her parents that she wanted to sew her own clothes. Her enthusiastic father gave her a serger and a household sewing machine just two months later.

It soon became apparent to Suhara that this was a tougher challenge than she had anticipated. After several failed attempts to use the machine, with her mother trying her hand at teaching Suhara, her father going ahead and making her a skirt for a party, and her aunt stepping in to teach her how to make and cut bosses, Suhara just couldn’t get the hang of it no matter how hard she tried. And she tried several times afterward while continuing to juggle her duties as a student at Visakha Vidyalaya.

Fast forward a few years later. The pandemic has hit the world and 20-year-old Suhara is stuck at home during the lockdown. “I had completely given up on the idea, hadn’t I? And then I felt guilty because my father had bought me these two machines. I thought, “Maybe I should, you know, make something out of it since I had nothing else to do,” she said.

Suhara Malwattege

Having a thing for skirts, Suhara sketched out her design and watched numerous YouTube tutorials to nail everything from pattern to sewing. She admits that there were a lot of test skirts.

It was after the excitement of sewing her skirt died down that Suhara realized that she had plenty of extra fabric left. “Seeing all the fabric that would be wasted with my skirts, I thought of ways to recycle and use those fabrics in a different way. I thought I could do something to reduce waste, and maybe something different from normal sewing?”

“My lifelong passion has always been to be able to give back to my country and I thought I could do that by being an astronaut or a scientist, but my grades said otherwise. Instead, I found it important to focus my time and skills on things that would add value to me,” says Suhara, explaining how she finally found her bearings.

It was then that Suhara started experimenting and creating new clothes using the scraps. Her friends pushed her to start her own small business because they loved the clothes she made. So began Scerendip, a brand name she surprisingly carried around with her as a child, wanting to one day start her own small business.

Suhara also uses scraps to create other items such as scrunchies, bucket hats and cardigans. Suhara says that this way she reduces a lot of the waste she produces and earns even more profit by using a piece of cloth to its full potential. Even the discarded pieces created after using scraps are kept to create a cloth mannequin (dress form) in Suhara’s workshop.

“For example, we use linen, cotton, viscose, and scraps from our sewing projects to create our zero-waste bucket hats by further reusing all the leftover scraps,” says Suhara.

Last year, Suhara also found one of her main fabric suppliers during an errand in Pamunuwa with her mother.

“This lady is someone who made me want to continue sewing because she still has a nice collection of fabrics. For Scerendip, I hand-pick biodegradable fabrics from our suppliers who sell unused materials and she was my first real supplier,” says Suhara, adding that she is also proud to support other small businesswomen. .

With a degree in business and psychology from the University of Northampton and preparing for the final stage of CIM, Suhara has a lot to juggle. Her family, relatives and friends have always been willing to help her in any way possible and she now employs a team of four which includes a lady from Anuradhapura as well as her two aunts who help her part time in meet the influx of orders.

“I started this business with just my savings and the two machines my father bought me. There have been a lot of ups and downs, especially with the power cuts and order quantities, but I’m here,” she says.

You can find Scerendip on Instagram at @scerendip

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