Hunger and compassion: The makings of the modern man
Ajai Vir Singh has been instrumental in crafting modern Sri Lankan style. Having founded Colombo Fashion Week in 2003, Singh has carefully nurtured Sri Lankan design, working with local and international designers to get Sri Lanka recognised on the global fashion stage and championing responsible fashion and circularity within the Sri Lankan fashion industry.
What was the best piece of career advice that you received?
I’ve received so many pieces of advice from a lot of people at different times in my life. Advice is like a stepping stone, one is never good enough to take you all the way. For me, years ago, in the beginning, someone told me “the harder you work, the luckier you get.” Another piece of advice I remember is from Richard Branson’s book which was along the lines of “If you love what you do, you will never have to work again”.
What drives me is a conviction of “Can you really change the world?”, and, for me, the answer is yes, I can. My whole thought process starts from where I am. Can I change my immediate environment? Can I change my industry? My country? My regional industry? My global industry? When you have the conviction to do something and challenge yourself, doors will always open.
What would you say to your 22-year old self?
I would say “The dreams that you dreamed were good. They were not far away and I’m very happy you dreamed those dreams.”
What steps do you personally take to make each day successful?
I look at moments, not time. Time is just how you get somewhere, once you get there the moment begins. With every moment I go in to, I want to be successful in that moment. Those moments make up your day, and if you win every moment, you win the day.
How do you stay grounded mentally during times of struggle?
I believe that your fortification is in your thought process, and I don’t allow my thought process to be breached. Once I decide on something, I’m very determined that nothing will come in the way and I will find a way to overcome anything that does. That’s part of the journey of being an entrepreneur. You have to know that there will be challenges and it is up to you to refine them and use those challenges to make yourself better, sharper and stronger.
What is the most important value you need to take to work with you?
Hunger and compassion. I always want to have a clean conscience.
What is your current passion project (the initiative they’re promoting right now)?
Broadly, my current passion project is responsible fashion and circularity, something I’ve been championing for some time with the Colombo Fashion Week platform. I’m about to move into phase three of our responsible fashion movement and phase two of our circularity movement with our new project Colombo Circular and season two of the Responsible Meter.
What does it feel like to represent Sri Lanka internationally?
It's a moment of such pride, it gives me goosebumps. It's almost like an added responsibility to do your best and what you do is so deeply connected with your country- if you falter, your country falters. There comes this beautiful seamless symbiotic relationship between your country and you. Your values and emotions come together. Everything I do, I do first with Sri Lanka in mind.
What’s the most important thing for Sri Lankan fashion now?
Sustainability and responsibility. That's where we will find our edge. This is why I’m pushing things like responsible fashion, the Responsible Meter, and consumer awareness and response so aggressively.
How can Sri Lanka compete globally while maintaining our identity?
Our identity is the only way to compete globally. Our Identity is unique and it is sad that we have not spent time defining our identity better and making it stronger. That is the only downside of globalisation, it defuses your identity and makes things universal. The trick is for your identity to rise in such a way that it finds its place and gets accepted globally.
What's your favourite thing about LOVI as a brand?
I have an Interesting relationship with LOVI. Asanka came for my brand development class, Project 7 when was LOVI was a young brand. As a brand, LOVI has picked up on that one unique niche and stayed to its core. It reminded me of my starting of Arugam Bay.
It's encouraging to see Asanka going on that journey, especially from the time he came to Project 7 which was three or four years ago. He has stuck to it and developed. I see what was imparted during Project 7 taking shape and form.