Niche market for designers:
Medic turns to fashion designing
Combining two professions that are not related and gaining success
in both is not an easy task. Dr. Lilamani Wijayaratna is a well-known
and reputed medical practitioner in UK where she is also a famous
fashion designer. She displayed her skills in five fashion shows she
conducted in Sri Lanka and plans a grand show in December this year.
She was interviewed by Daily News Business.
Q. What is your business and how do you set about it?
A. I am a medical doctor by profession. I love fashion and
started doing fashion business. I embarked in doing Eastern fashion at
the beginning and was fascinated by the designs I created. I design my
own clothes. I used to buy the material from India earlier. I will be
re-launching the fashion designs under my own label “Lilzing’ in
December. This will be a big event in my fashion career.
Wijayaratna with her mother
I am a creative person. I like to design clothes and make people look
elegant. When I turn out sarees it is one of a kind and women are happy
to buy it. So far I have conducted five fashion shows.
I started with a Western fashion show in 1990 and moved in to Eastern
fashion shows. I did the first fashion show when I opened my design
clothing shop in Sri Lanka. The fashion shows received a good response
from leading fashion designers. This encouraged me a lot. I also conduct
fashion shows in UK where I reside. I want to conduct shows in other
countries such as Los Angeles, Canada, Australia and UK.
There is a niche market for designers in Sri Lanka. This is why I
plan to re-launch my designs to cater to the needs of my customers
Q. How do you balance your family and business?
A. Most of my family live in Sri Lanka. I meet them when I
visit the country. We have a close relationship. As I do not have
children of my own I pay all my attention to children of my brothers and
sisters. They love me a great deal and so do I. During my leisure time I
watch fashion programs. I take pride in keeping my house neat and tidy.
I organize my work and fashion designing to take maximum use of the
Organizing is necessary in woman’s life. Women need to learn
multi-tasking. Then balancing family life and business will not be a
Q. What were the challenges you faced?
A. As I reside in UK, I am away from my business and
employees. I have to organize everything for a smooth flow of the
My mother plays a big role in this operation and she is the mediator.
The help she gives me is invaluable and it enables me to concentrate on
It was a challenge for me to try to get work done from overseas and I
have faced this challenge successfully. My three sisters and two
brothers help me. I have a very supportive family. Family support is a
tower of strength for me.
Q. What are your goals?
A. I like to see people dress well. It gives me immense
pleasure when others admire my designs and creations. I am not
interested in making money in a big way. The happiness is in the smiles
of well- dressed people. I also design clothes for some of my family
members. They appreciate my work and this gives me added strength. I
like to spread my designs and creations around the world.
Q. Being a woman is it an advantage to be in business?
A. In my type of business, yes. I know the needs of the others
and design clothes accordingly. I understand their needs and blend my
creativity to produce the best design possible to make them look good.
Women should try to dress to suit their stature and age.
Dr. Lilamani Wijayaratna. Picture by Sudath Nishantha
Q. What is your advise to women in business?
A. Find the niche and the need to create products. They should
tailor made to match the requirements to suit customers.
Be ambitious in life and exploit talents to maximum level. Do not be
afraid of criticism and move forward. Have faith in yourself. The family
support is a vital ingredient in success. If you do not try you never
know. I believe that many have talents and only a few use them for their
Q. What were your achievements in family and business?
A. I consider what I have gained so far as an achievement. Not
many would venture into another profession when you are a practising
doctor. I am a doctor of medicine and became a fashion designer. I want
to go further and improve. One day when I retire from my profession I
will come back to Sri Lanka and engage in fashion designing full time.
Q. What is your contribution to society?
A. I have not made money for myself. I am happy for the things
that I have done to make others happy. My interest is to serve Sri Lanka
in achieving sustainable socio-economic development.
You should be productive and faithful and enjoy life to the fullest.
I intend to launch feasible projects in difficult areas with funds
collected from fashion shows. I will use these funds in charitable
projects. It is time for me to contribute to society. Social work is a
silent part in my life.