Made from paradise: Waves brand profile

We were excited about writing the official brand profile for WAVES because it is our personal favourite local slipper brand. It’s 100% local rubber, and completely biodegradable. When we met the WAVES team at the Samson Group’s DSI headquarters in Colombo, we understood that they are really serious about this sustainability aspect of the brand and have a genuine love for the planet Earth.
From this positioning we decided on a tone of voice that is trustworthy, earnest and responsible. The brand would be addressing the consumer directly, in first person because WAVES wants to have meaningful conversation with its people.

Part of the brief was finding a way of connecting Sri Lanka’s beauty and nature to their brand philosophy as a sustainable product. ‘Made from paradise’ became the key phrase for the brand profile, because it drew focus to the process of ‘making’ the product and the fact that it comes from nature.
Waves comes from a place that still holds on to a magic that runs in the deep blue water, fresh green leaves and the magnificent animal life roaming free. It comes from a place much like paradise—Sri Lanka. A place where you discover murmuring waterfalls, golden beaches dipped in tropical sunlight, lush rainforests, misty blue hills, smiling people and a quiet sense of peace. This incredible place is what breathed inspiration to Waves. This is what blends in a special kind of magic to Waves flip-flops, making them more than just footwear. Shaped capturing the curve of ocean waves, coloured in the memory of indigenous birds and flowers, textured paying tribute to the silky rivers as well as sandy beaches, Waves is crafted by the island’s own people using its very best natural rubber. It is an homage to a small drop of earth that remains true to nature’s sacred beauty; a collection of memorabilia that immortalises a real, living paradise.

The romance between Waves and Sri Lanka’s incredible beauty doesn't end there. Devoted to leave no scars on the very nature that inspires us, the substances and the activities used in the making of Waves are selected with utmost care. Therefore, Waves is crafted entirely from genuine Sri Lankan rubber grown in the fertile slopes that run parallel to the rolling hills of the island. This rubber is harvested, treated and crafted into comfortable flip-flops using materials and processes that meet the highest compliances and leave no trace on the natural world around us. This has placed Waves among the rare few all-natural rubber flip-flops in the world. With the average flip-flops contributing to a massive component of the plastic waste that goes into landfills and our oceans, Waves takes a stand against contaminating nature's life fluid that nourishes us all.

We are moved to protect this magnificent place that inspires us. But, it is not enough. As a corporation we feel the calling and the immense responsibility to play our part in undoing the harm that humanity has caused on the environment. This is why Waves takes conservation seriously. Every year we partner with environmental protection organisations while also initiating new projects that help in minimising waste and pollutants that go into our oceans. Furthermore, a portion of all our profits go to environmental conservation and ocean fauna protection. Because it's up to us to make a difference. Because it's up to us to save the world.

Each season, our designers turn to Sri Lanka’s stunning natural beauty for new inspiration. The grace of blue whales swimming indolent among ocean waves, the delicate loveliness of yellow fading to crisp white in frangipani flowers, dazzling displays of myriad hues as the sun sets behind the deep blue, the richness of the coconut groves that sway lazily in the breeze... Everything, from the enormous magnificence of the Asian elephant, the idyllic life in rural hamlets, to the minuscule Ceylon blue sapphire that reflects immaculate beauty, moves us to create Waves.

In the making of Waves flip-flops Sri Lanka's essence is captured in even more ways. With our farmers, harvesters, makers, technicians and craftsmen, Waves  embraces one of the most beautiful facets of Sri Lanka—her people. Our rubber is sourced from plantations that employ people from local villages. From our smiling farmers who grow rubber with a careful combination of traditional methods and new technology, to harvesters that often come from families who engaged in the craft for a few generations, to our new-age technicians and designers who ensure quality, fantastic aesthetic and comfort, our team brings forward the best of Sri Lanka and her people. Waves in return, takes immense pride in employing them, creating incredible opportunities for many men, women and their families across the island.

These are our stories, the immortal moments that move us to create something exceptional, safeguard what is precious and lead the change that we yearn to see in this world. Because Waves is a brand that stands for much more than the purposes of commerce. Sprung from the exaltation of the land we love, Waves is a testament to what we hold sacred, a fulfilling of our sense of love and duty to the island that bred us. This makes Waves a testament to exquisite unfolding of beauty in nature, the humbling splendour of working men and women who are in the service of what they believe to be great and a response to a deeply ingrained call in our very souls that drive us to protect our beginnings.

We live in a world where businesses prioritise profit and growth. As much as this is necessary for our worldly lives, it is not the core of our belief. Waves was built on a philosophy that yearns for a higher purpose; a calling that is much loftier than what drives everyday human experiences. It revolves around aligning our supreme sense of purpose with our livelihoods to create something exceptional, something that moves others to see the treasure that we see in nature and her work. At the very heart of Waves is this philosophy.

This is what makes wearing Waves a much bigger experience than slipping on a pair of average flip-flops. Because, when you wear a pair of Waves, you become part of paradise, its incredible landscapes, magnificent history, flora, fauna and people. When you wear a pair of Waves you transport yourself to the memories of a sunlit place by the ocean, in luscious tropical forests and among smiles that warm your heart. When you wear a pair of Waves you take a stand to protect nature’s pristine unfolding and safeguard it for tomorrow. When you wear a pair of Waves you touch the lives of many Sri Lankans from farmers, makers to harvesters and help them build their families. When you wear a pair of Waves you make a difference.

made from paradise.

SRI x FMLK: Digital content

SRI, the incredibly unique Sri Lankan transeasonal fashion brand commissioned us to create written content for launching its collection on the online fashion portal FMLK. Staying true to the brand’s allure of uber-cool tropical vibrancy, we worked on creating something that is commercially sound, hard-selling and Instagram friendly.

Get lost in paradise through a timeless story artisan-woven in rich textures of twills, ombre and herringbone in tropical colours made from memories of somewhere magical. Get into the mood with urban minimalist style meets futuristic Kenzo-esque silhouettes, perfect for the here-and-now transients, ever-curious culturists and neoteric wanderers whether in London, Tokyo, Paris, Colombo or New York. 

Presenting the master expressionist behind the looks that left some serious impressions this London Fashion Week; Amesh Wijesekera, alumnus of @AOD made heads turn with his award-winning international debut at GFW 2015. He returns to the catwalk as the designer, curator and stylist behind SRI’s trans-seasonal launch capsule that got everyone vibing in tropical modernism at London Fashion Week SS18. 

A mind flowing free in thread and colour: Joan Leth Pedersen biographic article

Joan is a fascinating multi artist with a Sri Lankan burgher heritage. She lives in Denmark now, but returns to Sri Lanka every year to her family estate in North-West of the island. When she commissioned us to write a piece about her life and work, we went and met her there at that beautiful old estate. We spoke about her exquisite embroidery work, and her love for painting. Joan’s life was a fascinating viewpoint into life lived in Colombo over fifty years ago. Her story made it to the Sunday Times in Sri Lanka, which you can still find online here.

A mind flowing free in thread and colour

Hidden amidst the foliage of the outskirts of Wennappuwa, there is a coconut estate that is a breathtaking composition of human and nature. Coming in, you will be pleasantly warmed in the sunlight pouring through the cane palms standing guard along its impressive driveway. It nestles a charming planters’ bungalow with arched windows opening into sun spangled verandahs and further in, a beautifully dimmed living space and cool sleeping chambers. Between the fun play of the vintage furniture, rare heirloom treasures and a twist of Scandi inspired postmodernism, there is an obvious air of creativity floating through the bungalow.
When you meet its hostess—you instantly know her as the source of that creativity. Joan Leth Pedersen is in the autumn of her years, and radiantly beautiful with a sense of style that could only speak for an intensely creative being. She’s the kind of hostess who excites you with her meticulous devotion to fine hospitality—you just know it’s going to be a good day.

Joan was born in Sri Lanka to Burgher parents who moved to the UK to educate their children. They also travelled between their island home and Malaysia for work in the
plantations business. She met her husband, Jens Leth Pedersen in Malaysia fifty eight years ago, at a New Year’s Eve dance, ten minutes to midnight—he has remained smitten since. An accomplished hand embroidery artist with truly remarkable artistry, Joan practices in Denmark where she lives with Jens. But, for eight sunlit weeks a year, the family estate in Sri Lanka remains her home in paradise.

This year, Joan has brought down a large portion of her exquisite archive of handmade embroidery based wearable art. This is for a rare media exposure of her works. “It’s mpossible for me to put a price on my work”, Joan declares, “because they are my babies,” she laughs. “But, seriously, it’s because my art has never equated to money. It’s not about that for me, it’s never been,” she explains. Joan believes that artistry does not always have
to have a commercial element to it—in a sense, an artist does not have to cater to the incessant needs of a society. Art can simply exist—much like beauty or nature, without
having to fulfill the human desire to own, to consume. Her work has an ethereal charm about it and draws inspiration from flora and fauna, abstract shapes and colour-play. Stylistically, she finds kinship with Chinese, Danish and Venetian embroidery techniques. But, the most impressive is her own style—an embroidery technique that Joan invented fusing patchwork
and threadwork to bring about an unusual effect. Here, cut out fabric pieces are ironed on to ‘glue paper’ and pieced together with embroidered thread work to finally reveal one mosaic-like image held together with perfect thread work. “I don’t know how long it takes to do one
piece—it takes hours and hours and hours. But, I love it, and I can immerse in it completely.”

Something striking about Joan’s work is its unapologetic femininity. Her work bears unrestrained female charm with soft colour palettes, dainty motifs and intricate filigrees. But, it’s anything but ordinary. The embroidery itself is unusual in its exotic mix of styles and technique while Joan’s decisive direction in their placement on the garment and how they work with the female body also add to the unicity. “I always think of where this embroidery will go on a body, and I tend to embellish the unusual corners or the unnoticed curves…it does not always have to be on your upper chest tucked away to a side.”

Her process is fluid and natural, much like her work. “When I get an idea, I just have to do it,” she says echoing all impassioned artists. Her inspirations flood in through nature. In Denmark, the contained cool of Scandinavian landscapes influence her abstract oil painting and designed knitwear. While in Sri Lanka, the island’s paradisiacal abundance seems to translate to Joan’s vivid watercolours, often florals, and finally—to her intricate embroidery.

“Embroidery was always in our family,” she recalls the beginnings into her most accomplished form of artistry. Joan remembers being captivated by her mother’s hand
drawn book documenting the baby clothes that she embroidered. As a child, Joan leafed through its painstakingly detailed drawings. She also remembers how she first fell in love with that incredible feeling of being enveloped in an exquisitely made outfit, through the finely embroidered dresses handmade by her mother. Later, she went to complete an embroidery and knitting course at the Denmark College of Handicrafts where she scored full marks, before plunging into the arts in full vigour. She went on to exhibit in unusual locations
around Europe, such as the abandoned church in Aalborg commune and the court house turned museum Tinghuset in Nibe. Beyond embroidery and knitting, Joan also began to see her art within the context of fashion. It came naturally to her, because style was simply in

“I always think that clothing should be a complete expression. Personally, I like to make underwear to match my work in order to avoid store-bought pieces that peek outside an otherwise perfect outfit!” she exclaims echoing a practice that still forces her to custom make intimatewear for every wearable item that displays her embroidery or knitting. In her heyday in Colombo, Joan was featured in the fashion and lifestyle pages of the local dailies for her bold sense of style and fashion. Her wedding gown with a spectacular floor-gracing train with
hundreds of hand made flowers pressed out in silk in three layers, made fashion headlines and was borrowed by news pages. Style was definitely her thing.

With Joan seated on the verandah of her family bungalow, it is almost visibly evident in the background, how her mind has flown free through the space, touching it with her devotion to beauty; the fiery heliconias set off against the earthly terracotta of the vase, the perfect geometry in the arrangement of hand-painted porcelain…they all vouch for her. As her life approaches a tranquil sunset, Joan has developed a yearning to share her arts as
a teacher and a mentor. “I have taught several times in my life, and it has always been rewarding. I still keep in touch with some of my students.” She hopes to share her expertise and extraordinary techniques with young fashion designers, textile artists, embroiderers and
entities in textile related arts, crafts and design—those who would appreciate it and hopefully, reinvent it in their own way. But, there’s more to it than that too. Joan sees that mastering your creativity as a way to live a wonderful life. “Creativity has helped me to live life on an even keel…being immersed in creativity means that troubles can’t trouble you. So, I’d like to share that.” And with that, Joan offers the greatest gift a creator could leave behind in this world.
To contact Joan for private lessons and workshops for groups or institutes during January-
February 2019 in Sri Lanka, reach her on

SRI look book; fashion editorial

SRI is definitely the most unique fashion brand we’ve seen in Sri Lanka; that’s a big statement to make, but the brand does truly live up to it. It is a brand that revolves around Sri Lanka’s mystique as the island of serendipity, where an allure of innocence and mystery mix with natural beauty. SRI captures it so well with modern style statements that could really work anywhere in the world. To create the introduction for SRI, we followed the brand identity that was created by The Future Laboratory—world’s leading trend forecasting agency.

Innovation Island: Sri Lanka’s creative industries’ strategy

This is probably one of the most interesting projects that we’ve consulted on. When AOD commissioned Public Works for a monumental project that involved playing a part in strategising and branding Sri Lanka’s creative industries policy proposal, it was very exciting. While the local creative industries strategy was something that a large number of stakeholders—from British Council Sri Lanka, the Export Development Board and the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade, to creative businesses like the Colombo Design Studio and Selyn—this particular proposal for branding the creative industries came from AOD. We were involved in coining the name ‘Innovation Island’ and crafting the first strategic communications that went out to the public on this story.

A national game-plan for Sri Lanka’s creative industries? About time.

Everyone is talking about Sri Lanka—new opportunities, interesting collaborations, untapped markets, fresh talent, paradisiacal beauty and a wealth of culture and heritage for inspiration. In this promising landscape, a major new focus is the island’s creative economy, and the enormous potential that it holds to transform the country. Efficiently harnessing this potential means having a national policy that encourages practitioners, supports emerging talent, provides infrastructure, facilitates innovation, research and education at the very least. But, why are Sri Lanka’s creative industries important enough for a national policy? Because ‘creative capital’ is central to today’s economies, and will undoubtedly become even more important as we progress into the fourth industrial revolution. Creativity, basically, is the new power currency. Keep reading.

Experts compare fuel energy—the power currency of the twentieth century economy, to creativity which is predicted to dominate the twenty-first century. In the same way that access to energy and the policies around oil determined the geopolitics of the past century, creativity will be among what drives tomorrow. This is why governments around the world have made some of their best efforts in policy-making to form their national strategy for creative industry development.

Britain, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Canada, Singapore and South Korea are some of the leading global success stories of nations that have progressed towards enormous economic growth by harnessing the ingenuity of their people through effective national policies. The eleventh Five-Year Plan of the People’s Republic of China made it evident that the East Asian superpower aims “to move from made in China, to designed in China”—a powerful example of the worldwide understanding that generating original creative content is more valuable in the current economy than manufacturing larger product volumes. In 2015, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the creative industries in the US bring in $698 billion (Dh2.56 trillion) to the national economy via 4.7 million jobs. Similarly, the British government declared its creative industries  to be worth $116.7 billion per year in the $2.56 trillion national economy. The growth of creative industries in the Middle East and the North African region has demonstrated impressive results, with the design sector valued at $100 billion in 2014 (Mena Design Outlook report, Dubai Fashion & Design Council). Zooming out on the wider global picture, United Nations’ survey of the worldwide creative economy concluded with the following, “The interface between creativity, culture, economics and technology, as expressed in the ability to create and circulate intellectual capital, has the potential to generate income, jobs and exports while at the same time promoting social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development. This is what the creative economies have begun to do.”

Tapping into Sri Lanka’s creative talent pool with the right focus and strategic approach requires a national policy that converges ideas, efforts and transactions effectively. In 2018, the first discussions on proposing a national policy for the creative industries was initiated in collaboration with AOD and the British Council Sri Lanka. This is where it all begins.

Who is behind Sri Lanka’s national policy for the creative industries’ development?

The first discussions on Sri Lanka’s national policy for the creative industries included representatives from the Ministry of Development Strategies & International Trade, the Board of Investments Sri Lanka, Export Development Board, the National Design Centre, University of Moratuwa and AOD. Keep reading.

Bringing in Britain’s expertise in forming and implementing strategies for developing a creative economy, the British Council Sri Lanka and Jane Rapley—professor emerita of the celebrated design university Central Saint Martins’ UK and AOD’s academic advisory chair, also joined in. As practitioners of creativity in cultural and commercial realms, artist and designer Anoma Wijewardene, and representatives of 99X Technology, Colombo Design Studio and the Colombo Design Market were also part of the discussions.

The panel concluded on the necessity of a nurturing a complete ecosystem of practitioners, commercial entities, education institutes, events, cultural units, infrastructures and research as well as the establishment of standards, ethics and codes of conduct, for a three-sixty approach to developing the creative industries.

Encouraging diversity in people, ideas and cultures, creating value for them and celebrating the creative industries were also highlighted.

Establishing Sri Lanka’s identity as a creative nation and bridging the communication gap between artists, designers and technologists, scientists was also part of these initial discussions. Developing the next generation of creative talent right by incorporating design thinking into the school system, and whether the state design universities were being made accessible to the students that are truly passionate about creativity through the existing z-score system, were also discussed by the educators and government representatives at the meeting. 

The group also brainstormed ways to navigate around challenges like the lack of design and innovation centres, art galleries, creative spaces, public resources like creative cafés and museums, design publications and dedicated culture pages. The role of entrepreneurship, mentorship, technological support and managing the attitude towards risk-taking were also part of the conversation.

These ideas will be taken forward to form the national policy on Sri Lanka’s creative industries as a partnership between the state and the private sector, under the leadership of AOD and the British Council Sri Lanka.

The future we want from Sri Lanka’s creative economy 

Creativity has been proven to open up new avenues, unlock big ideas and bring in fresh connections between people, products, services, brands and businesses. It can help businesses achieve superior market edge, leapfrog competition and leave a lasting impression in the minds of consumers. So, with all this hype about creativity being the next big thing, how exactly would formalising a national creative industries policy play out for Sri Lanka? Keep reading.

In many ways, a focused national strategy to develop the creative industries will bring in high returns very fast in both export and domestic markets, as this potent industry can produce a remarkable growth in revenue and become a solid pillar for the Sri Lankan economy. 

But, it’s not just business. The development of the creative industries also carry non-monetary values such as inclusive social development to facilitating new understanding between diverse groups and ethnicities. The creative industries are also significant job creators, and have the potential to create thousands of new employment opportunities for Sri Lankans. A sound creative economy can also contribute to the overall well-being of communities, individual self esteem and the quality of life, leading towards sustainable development. 

Here are some of the key takeaways from the initial discussions that will be taken forward to form Sri Lanka’s national policy on creative industries.

Creating understanding and facilitating focus studies on how the creative industries will be a driver and enabler of economic, social and environmental development processes in Sri Lanka. Such studies will allow the government and partners to project tangible outcomes and attach financial deliverables to the policies. Creating awareness on the creative industries development and its benefits will change the public perception on the sector and garner national support.

Discovering the available opportunities by investing on mapping Sri Lankan creative industries’ assets. This data will be instrumental in accurately projecting the necessary resources for creative industries’ development. 

Allocating state and private sector investments for creativity, innovation and sustainable creative enterprise development in Sri Lanka. 

Investing in developing the local creative talent pool through education, scholarships, opportunities for exposure and professional capacity-building to empower artists, designers and creative entrepreneurs. 

Recognising that the creative industries carry significant non-monetary value that contributes to achieving human-centred, inclusive and sustainable development for Sri Lanka.

Recognising that the development of the local creative industries will have a positive impact on other sectors, particularly exports, like tea, apparel and tourism to bridge local product and service propositions with international consumer tastes and needs.

Got more to add, discuss or propose? It’s important to us—let us know.

At a time when the world is transforming itself rapidly, we must recognise the importance and the power of the creative industries as enablers and drivers of a new and sustainable kind of development for Sri Lanka. It’s the future we want, and this is a big step in the right direction towards it.

This pull quote is from the Daily FT feature on the campaign. Here’s a link to the full article, which we created for DFT.

Design starts here: AOD academic prospectus

We’ve been working with the pioneering design academy AOD for over ten years now, giving them consultation in strategy, branding and creating written content for all their work from proposals, pitches to promotions. As for any educator, one of the key promotional pieces for AOD is its academic prospectus. Every few years they invest considerable thought, energy and funds to rewrite and redesign a prospectus that resonates their most current offering, thinking and opportunities. Being an intensely active entity with large amounts of industry collaborations, events and projects, condensing all this into an academic prospectus along with information like curricula, course structures, faculty and alumni stories, is always a challenge for the writer and designer alike. Our writing was combined with the Indian designer Pushpi Bagchi for this edition of the AOD academic prospectus.

Speaking to the school’s recruiters, we understood that only a few people actually take the time to read the content through, and that most people prefer a quick browse. Therefore, we mixed in bold statements with supporting copy to cement in important content that needed to be processed by readers browsing through the pages fast, and those taking their time to go through all content.

Akuru: manifesto for type design collective

Akuru Collective is Sri Lanka’s first and largest typographic collection. This amazing group uses their love for letters to pull off some groundbreaking work for type and language. AkuruCon and local editions of international type forums like AtypI (Association Typographique Internationale) and Typoday are all their initiatives to bring in global typographic knowledge to Sri Lanka, and create valuable discourse out of the island.
We were excited to write and design their manifesto from Public Works. The final outcome was a pretty great example of what you can do with great design, even when the budgets are tight. The manifesto was printed using Riso technique and was written to highlight what brings this unique group together and where their sights are set.

South Asian Apparel Leadership Forum; promotional and editorial content

The South Asian Apparel Leadership Forum is probably the most interesting knowledge-sharing platform the the regional fashion business. We personally love being part of this forum each year to listen to incredible speakers from around the world, like The Future Laboratory—the world’s leading trend forecasting agency, and Bandana Tewari—the former editor of Vogue India. When Public Works was commissioned to create the annual theme, look-and-feel and the promotional content for the forum, we were excited because this was a chance to capture the depth of knowledge and fashion business intel shared at one of our favourite platforms.

The challenge for the writer was maintaining a tone that was formal—so that the local business audience would take it seriously, and a voice that was fresh—so that the local creative sector would also respond as a secondary audience.

Some of the content we developed was very detailed—like this post-event piece which summed up the event with its best moments and the most important business intel discussed at the conference. Here, it was important to highlight all the key speakers, and the ideas that they presented.

Serendip Strings: digital and print content for music educational charity

Serendip Strings is an interesting children and music based charity set up in Sri Lanka by an Australian musician who wanted to share learning opportunities with rural children. When they approached us to create online content for them, we understood that the challenge was in creating flexible content that worked for web, and print. The idea was to give them a piece that could be used for information, or as a proposal to present to stakeholders, partners and possible investors.

When speaking to our client, we discovered a beautiful sentiment behind Serendip Strings that touched on bringing people together through music; we wanted to give this a focal point through the writing so that the reader will understand how much impact this project can really have.

Colombo Innovation Tower: digital content for catalyst work space

The Colombo Innovation Tower is one of the biggest ventures related to creativity to take place in Sri Lanka. So, it was quite interesting to get an insider’s view into the project by being commissioned to write for their website. The project would bring forward the largest space dedicated to design, creativity and innovation in Sri Lanka, and offered our industries a creative catalyst space to be part of. It was crucial that website text helped the viewer understand the big picture of the project; this means the philosophy behind CIT and why it is necessary for Sri Lanka. At the same time, the commercial paradigm of the venture was paramount; the website had to sell the spaces at the end of the day. The challenge for the writer was in creating this balance in the text.

The design of the website was already set. The writer’s task was to incorporate CIT’s best attributes, strengths and unique elements into the text. One of the biggest challenges was making ideas connected to ‘innovation’, ‘Coworking spaces’ and ‘collaboration’ sound interesting, with these words already being buzzwords that are being thrown around everywhere by everyone. How do you make it sound unique and interesting?
It was also essential to bring in words that would activate SEO. Usually clients would work with their digital administrators to obtain a list of search engine optimisation keywords and pass it on to us; but, it could also be a collaborative process between the writer and the client.