STORIES

The elephant in the room: Is the sarong still relevant?

The elephant in the room: Is the sarong still relevant?

Is the sarong still relevant? LOVI has been successful so far, sure. But that question still plagues us pretty much daily, keeping us on our toes.


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.

 

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 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?

 

How LOVI Got Its Name

How LOVI Got Its Name

Lovi (Flacourtia inermis) is cultivated in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka for both its fruit and decorative foliage. The fruits are round, cherry-sized, and dark red when ripe. Some are sweet, but most are sour and astringent, and normally used for making jams and syrups.
© Hafiz Issadeen 2009 

What's in a name? A sarong by any other name would not smell as sweet. LOVI sounds like love, doesn’t it? We like that.


It’s true there was a romantic moment when two lovers sat in that iconic San Francisco garden looking at Sinhala fruit vocabulary and brainstorming names for the nascent sarong company. But there’s more to moniker than that. There’s also a story about a harmless little fruit that packs major punch, a little unsung hero that deserves more attention than it gets.


The lovi fruit is a berry-sized plum that grows in bunches like cherries do. The beautiful bright red lovi grows in Sri Lanka (and much of tropical Asia) and wields many healthful properties. Such a gem of a fruit is near perfect, aside from one thing. Its high acidity makes it too tart to eat fresh. And so it was just a little ingenuity we needed to turn the traditional fruit into delicious chutneys, jams, sauces, and even wine.


The LOVI sarong has much the same story. The sarong is a beautiful garment produced in mass quantities, a unisex silhouette for anyone tall or short, slim or portly. It is made in Sri Lanka (and much of tropical Asia), perfect to wear in hot, humid weather. Such a gem of a garment is near perfect, aside from one thing. It is too out of date to wear as is. So it was just a little ingenuity we needed to turn the traditional garment into evening wear sarongs for any occasion with pockets, lining, and even belts.


Sarongs with pockets. How do you like them LOVIs?

Sri Lanka & The Sarong

Sri Lanka & The Sarong
Change is afoot in Sri Lanka. There's a shift in our cultural identity here due to the growing participation in the global community. While internet technology makes our world smaller, more connected, and permeates through all realms of our lives, this new generation is seeking a way to define themselves... Click to read.

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