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I’m happy I made my first outfit here

Sri Lanka / BA (Hons) Fashion Design

Hiruni Senevirathne comes from Negombo in Sri Lanka. She did A-levels in Maths, Physics and Chemistry and through laughter says that “applying for Fashion Design was a U-turn.” Hiruni was worried she would not receive an offer of a place because she doesn’t have a fashion background, but during her academic interview she showed she is a multi-talented person. “I sing. I did drama. I dance. I draw.” After all, fashion design was not that unfamiliar to her. Her grandparents owned a weaving business back in the day, a business she hopes to revive. Clothes were always important to her as a means of expressing her creativity.

“My mother was sewing clothes for me all the time. I was wearing unique stuff. I wanted to try something new. And I saw a YouTube video of tie dye T-shirts. I wanted to try it. I have this crazy mindset; It needs to be original. It has to be only in my wardrobe.”

Hiruni started creating T-shirts for family member and friends, and soon her experiment turned into a small business. She completed around 300 T-shirts and the money coming in gave her a taste of being financially independent, as well as the confidence to develop her skills at the University of Gloucestershire.

The move

Moving from Sri Lanka to Gloucester was hard: “I was really close to my parents and my twin brother. I was protected. Living and studying in the UK has given me lots of new experiences. Travelling in a bus, getting late home. The climate is really new.”

When Hiruni feels overwhelmed, she does video calls to her parents or goes to one of the University’s Sanctuary Spaces, to meet the chaplain. “She was very supportive. I go to her and I speak with her. She’s like a mother. She’s like a friend.”

Course

Charity work is important to Hiruni – she used to visit a local orphanage and organise donations back home in Sri Lanka. For her 21st birthday, instead of a party, she organised a blood donation campaign. Hiruni wants to follow the same ethos in her fashion work. What she has enjoyed the most so far is learning about fashion from a new perspective. “The concept of sustainability is new to me. In Sri Lanka and India, most of us have different festivals, weddings and we have to wear new clothes, loads of clothes. But my course made me question these expectations Why do we pay that much attention to our clothes? We have to think of the future.”

While Hiruni enjoys all the creativity and practical work, she is also developing her academic skills.

“My first semester was really hectic. Everything was new for me, especially writing the essays. I know that I can write, but back in Sri Lanka we were not used to referencing, paraphrasing, citation etc. I went to the Student Centre and they sent me to the Student Achievement office and now I know how to do the referencing, I got support. As Asian students, we bring a new international perspective to the course. We don’t know all the fashion designers from the UK, and they don’t know the fashion designers from our countries.”

After the first semester, Hiruni was proud to share photos of her work with family back home. After all, it was her grandparents and her mother who inspired her to study fashion design. Following in

their footsteps, while being independent, gives Hiruni a great sense of joy. “I started to sew my first clothes here. I am the one who’s drawing the sketch. I’m the one who’s making the plan and cutting the fabric. I’m happy I made my first outfit here. It was for a formal assessment, the white outfit. My mother was so happy to see it.