When we launched, we pushed hard to gauge interest in the modernized sarong with market research and pop-ups around the city. Was it possible to ease the sarong into mainstream fashion? Feedback was off-the-charts positive. Even initial naysayers nodded their heads in approval when they tried on sarongs with pockets for the first time. The sarong lovers of Sri Lanka finally were feeling comfortable to don them in public. Feedback was full of pride. You could see it in their eyes.
A little context. The sarong is worn over much of tropical Asia. However, in Sri Lanka, the sarong has become stigmatized, associated to the working class or village folk. That’s no surprise when the country has lived under European colonial rule since the 17th century: the pants nazis of the West had taken over what it meant to be cool for four hundred years. And just after that, a 30-year civil war made most peoples’ fashion interests disappear behind a more basic concern for survival. So you could say that Sri Lanka is still catching its breath—maybe even still regaining a sense of itself. Clothing is a huge revelator of identity. One of the few aspects people can actually change or control about themselves each morning.
Our happy little discovery is that a large majority of men haven’t stopped wearing sarongs at all. In fact, we found that 70% of people polled regularly wear sarongs at home and to functions. How could that be?
Because sarongs are wonderful. Sarongs are perfect for the tropical climate. Sarongs are comfortable, airy, and protect you from sun and mosquitos. Because they are 20 meters of beautiful, soft fabric. Forget the stigma, and you have a beautiful piece of clothing.
We believe that most Sri Lankans secretly want to wear a sarong outside, and that it won’t be long before the negative association is gone forever.
As we’re deep in the throws of designing the newest collection, of course we still ask ourselves the scary questions. Are sarongs with pockets just a novelty or are people really falling in love with sarongs again? Can we make enough of a splash that the sarong could maybe, even just a little bit, help Sri Lankans re-appropriate their identity? Could a piece of clothing make you feel that sense of local pride? That’s what we’re aiming for.
Isn’t it about time?