A passion for creativity
Charmanie Nanayakkara carves a niche in designer
Designing a customer pleasing product is an art. Building the product
is a science. Moving the product from design to the customer is
management. World-class manufacturers excel in the speedy integration of
these processes. The creativity in Charmanie Nanayakkara has proved that
demand for her end-product is growing as she keeps pace with changing
trends and also meet fashion needs. Her passion for creativity has
enabled her to carve a name among others in the designer product market.
She was interviewed by Daily News Business. Excerpts of the
Q. What business are
you engaged in and how do you set about it?
A. I am in the
fashion industry. While my primary products are fashion bags and fashion
accessories such as hair accessories. I also manufacture items of
interior decor such as cushions and curtains. I like to manufacture
fashion products that are stylish and chic and that brings out the zest
for life or the joie de vivre in one, products that one would be proud
to wear on one’s person and brings out one’s personality.
I also try to design items of interior decor that are a display of
elegance and luxury.
I liked stitching from my childhood, and I used to dress up my dolls
in a fashionable manner from dresses stitched by me. Thereafter I used
to stitch for myself. The business started more than 10 years ago upon
the request of a friend. One of my friends from the US on holiday here
saw my skill in fabric and wanted a wallet made for herself and for some
of the friends there. That’s how it all started.
Presently I have a staff of 15 including part timers. I have a few
brands registered in my name including ‘Coco Moko’ and ‘Sacred Space’.
I have participated in several foreign exhibitions and used to export
before. Now I do a few exports to the Maldives. My products are
available at leading malls in Sri Lanka like Odel and Paradise Road.
Q. How do you balance
your business and family life?
A. Since I am
my own master; I do not have fixed times to go to the factory or to do a
new design. So I can balance the business with my family
responsibilities. However, the flip side is that I am always working. I
do not stop working even for lunch. I am constantly looking for new
ideas. It is less a matter of actively
Nanayakkara with her family
searching for new ideas that being always open to new designs which
just come to me. So whilst driving or cooking (Gourmet cooking is also
one of my fascinations) I am looking at design options.
Different things inspire me; for example at a restaurant a well
presented gourmet dish could inspire me to do a new design.
I get a lot of support from my husband, Anandalal Nanayakkara, who is
a professional and I have one daughter who is still very young. My
husband and I manage our time accordingly so that we can give quality
time to our child. My husband is the strongest critique of my work and
is also the first to see them after manufacture. My designs are most of
the time shown to him and I bounce ideas off him.
Q. What were the
challenges you faced?
A. My primary
challenge was that I am not from a business family. I had to learn the
business aspect from scratch. Everything was learned through experience.
Although I worked in an office set up before, quite early on I decided
to turn my passion into a living.
Learning new things and taking up new mental challenges keep the
brain versatile and non-complacent. So even though I knew the stitching
part and had a passion for it, the marketing aspect was learned through
I am also completing an MBA and had to put in a lot of time for my
studies also. However, studying for an MBA is such an enjoyable activity
that I consider it a worthwhile investment in time and effort. I can
also see how the MBA learning can help out in my business.
Q. What are your
A. My business
aspiration is to have my own shop where I can experiment with different
aspects of my designs. I also aspire to develop a recognized clothing
Q. Being a women was
it an advantage to be in business?
certainly. In my kind of business it is an advantage being a woman. As a
woman it is easy for me to relate not only to how a fashion bag should
look but also to the comfort factor when you are shopping for a
considerable time with a bag on your shoulder. How is the design? Can it
hold a woman’s accessories - purse, mobile and compact case in an easily
accessible and secure manner? How does the fabric feel?
As I said before, the stresses for me were more due to the fact that
I was new to the business environment and less due to the fact that I
was a woman.
Q. What is your advice
to women in business?
A. Follow your
passion. Find what inspires you and follow it. If you can make a living
doing what you like why not. It makes you happy for yourself and for
people around you.
Q. What were your
achievements in family life and business?
A: When you are
happy with what you do it reflects on your family too. Our daughter is
still small but still we encourage her to follow her interests.
I am happy with the way my business is progressing. With time it will
be a well-recognized venture catering to the fashion market needs.
Q. What is your
contribution to society?
A. I have been
able to provide employment without discrimination. I have taken young
recruits and trained them in the intricacies of the manufacturing
business. Some of my employees later go on their own to be independent.
I encourage it if they really want to do it.
Beyond that I am very excited to see someone carrying one of my bags
to a fashion event or even for shopping. To see someone carrying it is
to know that they appreciate the product that I have designed. I am
happy that I am able to do that for my customers.