Sammani Pathiranagama’s innovative take on the classic suit
Sammani Pathiranagama is the brainchild behind O:LIVE Couture, a made to measure menswear brand that has established a loyal client base since its inception.
Sammani’s innovative nature has brought a new definition and meaning to the classic suit. Bold colors, exciting textures and a cut that is beyond perfect are the embodiments of her design philosophy.
How did your journey in design begin?
My story in design started soon after my A Level examinations; I moved to Melbourne, Australia, to begin my degree in fashion design at RMIT University. After completing it, I was granted the opportunity to work there for two years as a bridal designer at a leading Australian bridal couture house (Bonita Bridal Couture), before coming back to Sri Lanka. Following my return home, I held a corporate position as a designer for a year at a leading garment manufacturer in Sri Lanka. Eventually I started my own business and it has been five years since then.
Tell us about your brand
Our specialty is menswear. Primarily, my business revolves around meticulously crafting the finest bespoke and made to measure suits and men’s formal wear. However, we do have a ready-made collection as well. Lately, we have also started to dabble in ladieswear as well. We will also be launching our O:LIVE couture bridal collection this year. In short, O:LIVE Couture caters to a niche market of discerning customers; we are a designer brand and we do not mass produce.
Why did you decide to start your own brand?
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to start my own fashion label. So, it was only natural for me to become an entrepreneur in the field. With my own brand, I always knew that I would have the liberty of introducing something totally new to the market. The industry needs novel and fresh ideas.
What challenges were involved with building your own brand?
Our inception was a challenge as it was difficult to convince clients to try out new things, specially because I am a female designer designing for men. Suits have always been designed around conventions that include standard cuts, colors and silhouettes. After experimenting on some of my friends, I tried out different colors and textures and sure enough, clients started to lean into my trendsetting concept of a suit. What followed was a series of positive reviews.
What characteristics make for a well-tailored suit?
Fit is the key. While most tailors turn to tightening the suit to give it the right appearance, this is not the right way to craft a suit. A well-crafted suit is made from specific measurements which are used to make the block for the client. From how the lapel sits on the client, to the way in which the pants pleasantly drape along the client’s form are all aesthetic factors that result in a perfect, well-tailored suit.
Can you tell us about the difference between made to measure and bespoke?
Made to measure and bespoke are almost the same. However, when it comes to bespoke tailoring, the suit pattern is made from scratch according to client’s specific measurements where as bespoke suits are made by altering existing standard sized basic blocks. When getting a bespoke suit, the client can personalize the smallest details that include the lining and the buttons. Some clients even get their initials embroided! A bespoke fit requires multiple fittings during the process of tailoring the suit. Ideally, every bespoke suit is unique, there will not be another suit like it and it is a whole different experience from the design stage to the finished product.
What are some current trends in the menswear space?
The trend these days is to flaunt pastel shades. Darker colors of the past have now become more neutral tones. We also see a lot of new textured materials that are quite trendy these days. Back in the day, a suit was a staple form, but now, you can mix and match things while maintaining the look of a classic suit.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Well, Giorgio Armani and D&G are two of my biggest inspirations. There were several Australian designers who also inspired me during my time there. Other than people, I try to stay current by reading magazines and watching runway shows.
What is the O:LIVE Couture difference?
The difference lies in our cut and in our simplicity, which results in a timeless product. I go the extra mile to offer personalized services that include styling advice as well; pocket squares, shoes and ties all complete the look. As a designer I try to do my best to ensure that the client carries the suit well. Lot of the celebrities choose to wear O:LIVE as we are a designer brand that identifies the client’s personality when creating a designated look for a particular client.
Innovation – What does this mean to you?
Innovation means a lot of things to me. It could be to totally reinvent an existing form to bring about new trends, but it could also be an initiative to bring back a past trend, so people see it in a new light. As we are all human and imperfect, I also innovate to disguise problem areas of clients as well. When you consider the industry as a whole, innovation is a critical factor to the advancement of designers like me.