If time was a long golden beach: Villa Océane, print

When Villa Océane first approached us through the fantastic design studio Mooniak to create the written narrative for a print brochure, their initial brief was to write a light-hearted piece with surf lingo. But, we saw something different. Looking at Villa Océane’s interior, moods and offer, it was obvious that their brand was more sophisticated and aimed to create blissful experiences that were not just about chasing waves. So, we proposed a much more poetic, blissed-out tone for writing; and it worked.


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.

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 gogotojojo@gmail.com

Sri Lanka Design Festival: Editorial, promotional and environmental

Sri Lanka Design Festival is one of our biggest annually recurring commissions. Having written for the event since its inception ten years ago, our relationship with the SLDF brand is quite strong. Everything, from writing the content that promotes the event, news and press material to crafting written pieces that provide on-site information and inspiration during the event are all within our scope.

SLDF annually hosted many fringe events with their own identities. Often one of our biggest challenges was in maintaining a consistent brand voice while not losing the individuality of each fringe event.
Writing and editing press and media pieces for Sri Lanka Design Festival often involved interviews and connecting the many components of the festival.
Often, we would be involved in coining the linguistic theme of the festival. The Local/Global theme we developed for 2012 festival edition is still one of our favourites. The thematic identity here was developed by Thilini Perera.
In some festival editions, depending on the set designer’s vision for the year, there will be informative content displayed at the event. In this case, our scope always stretches to include environmental writing components like these pieces at the 2014 festival.

Suba Gaman: digital and print content

Suba Gaman is the pioneer in tuk tuk tours in Sri Lanka before the market got flooded with similar brands that somehow, could never do it as well. In Sinhala, ‘Suba Gaman’ wishes well for a journey ahead. The identity developed by Sri Lankan visual designer Thilini Perera was that of a fun, easygoing, approachable brand that had a touch of tropical vibrancy to it. Keeping with this identity, our challenge was to create written content that was flexible for both print and web.

A city, culture and chaos on three-wheels

Colombo is a place where fantastic remnants of culture and exquisite glimpses into history exist side by side with absolute chaos. This tiny island nation’s commercial capital– Colombo is slowly growing into a full-fledged metropolitan. This is why its last remaining strongholds of a bygone quaint city teeming with heritage becomes increasingly interesting and also sadly, more tiresome to reach amidst the daily pandemonium of traffic and business. This is where ‘Suba-gaman’ saves the day. This small-scale local tour operator conducted solely on three-wheeled vehicles is run by husband-wife duo. They host a fantastic sightsee of hidden city gems which are a fun mix of beautiful, quirky, awe-inspiring and just plain bizarre. Trained drivers who double as English-speaking, informative tour guides are all yours minus the fancy charges making it easily among the most delightful and economical ways to experience Colombo.

The little three-wheeled taxis fondly known by locals as ‘tuk-tuks’ after the sound of their sputtering little engines, are infamous for their surprising speed, ability to manoeuver through tiny streets and traffic with ease and open sides that allow the city to sweep right through you with all its sounds, sights and scents in high definition. The lovely people at Suba Gaman allow tourists to get this adrenaline-charged experience of riding a tuk-tuk, within a safe setting, assisted by trained, English-speaking tuk-tuk drivers. Yes, they are real tuk-tuk drivers who conduct tours with Suba-gaman on a reserved basis. This is awesome, because these men who are patron dwellers of Colombo have their own takes, stories and memories of the city which they will share with you throughout the journey.

What is truly cool about Suba-gaman is their standard tour itinerary, which is no standard tour itinerary by any means. Keeping an admirable distance from ‘touristy’ main retail streets of the city, Suba-gaman takes you on a rather unusual and eccentric string of places that will give you the most raw tour experience of Colombo. The approximately 2.5 hour excursion steers you through a series of fun places like the creepy old Town Hall Museum, the beautifully post-gothic Wolvendaal Church, colourful Sri Kailasanthar Hindu temple and even obscure delights like the jail cell of the last king of Sri Lanka, a queer coin museum and the Galle Face Lighthouse that looks like it was specially made for sunset selfies. With a few more added perks like a mineral water bottle and king coconut drinks (not forgetting your own obliging tour-guide), Suba-gaman is a sure deal for 25 PP USD.

‘Suba gaman’, in the native Sinhala tongue, is an affirmative bid of farewell to a traveller for a joyful journey. And that’s certainly what this mini city-escapade is.

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.

Colombo Design Studio: Digital content

Colombo Design Studio is Sri Lanka’s first product design studio, and for the longest time, the only one. Its founder Lee Bazalgette is one of the most pragmatic designers we’ve met. Like him, CDS is also a function-first, minimal, fuss free brand. Writing their website content, our task was to make it interesting and in line with this brand identity of the studio. CDS is also an approachable brand, which we interpreted as an easy-going, semi-formal conversational tone.