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Influencers + Tastemakers

A Local’s Guide to Colombo, Sri Lanka, with Fashion Designer Annika Fernando

When designer Annika Fernando opened PR Sri Lanka in 2013 — the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo’s premier fashion boutique with curated items from the best designers in Sri Lanka and India — she had no idea the store would eventually inspire her own line, Maus. Fernando’s work as a mentor to young designers provided a natural way to feature their work in her boutique, where you’ll find luxurious hand-printed batik kaftans, textured tunics, silk strapless gowns, and sandalwood and gemstone jewelry. Between designing her label and running her store, Fernando still finds time to explore her beloved Colombo. Jetsetter found out her favorite places to eat, stay, and play.

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Tell us how PR Sri Lanka got started and more about your fashion line?

My father, Shanth Fernando, founded our family business, Paradise Road, in 1987 when he established a small store featuring antiques and his own line of contemporary local handicrafts. Today, we have art galleries, a restaurant, two hotels, and five retail stores in Sri Lanka. In 2013, I opened PR Sri Lanka as an extension of Paradise Road, a concept store where I focus on fashion and accessories to curate a special boutique of unique items. The store began with Maus, my own label, which sets the aesthetic with linens and cotton in a variety of bright colors. Since launching, Maus has grown to three collections per year, featuring the original women’s line to now include MausMAN, Maus Swim, and Maus Organic. We produce everything in Sri Lanka, including our leather footwear.

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What do you love about living and working in Colombo?

I foremost love Sri Lanka because my family is here. Sri Lanka is paradise because it has beaches, rainforests, wildlife, and no real extremes in weather. I love living in Colombo, the capital, where everything is only a 5- to 10-minute drive away – but only if you are sensible with the time you leave to avoid traffic! Within a three-hour drive, I’m in the hills where it’s cooler.

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And in under an hour, I’m at the beach. There are many beaches to pick from, too. Some are better for surfing, sunbathing, snorkeling, or just relaxing. What’s not to love? Because everything is so close, I live a fairly spontaneous life, and I love being part of the design world that celebrates life in Sri Lanka. It’s a great privilege to do what I do.

Locals know their cities best. What places do you recommend to visitors?

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Courtesy of August by Mama Aida's

I recommend staying at Tintagel Colombo, a 10-room, 1930’s mansion in the heart of the city. During your stay, be sure to try Colombo’s best spas. Indulge in a deep tissue massage at Angsana Spa or the ultimate Ayurvedic foot ritual at Spa Ceylon. Some of my favorite restaurants are nearby: Tintagel Colombo, The Gallery Café, August by Mama Aida’s for Arabic food and Nihonbashi for upscale Japanese cuisine made with local Sri Lankan ingredients. For cocktails, be sure to go to The Gallery Café for the tamarind chili martini and 41 Sugar for live music on the rooftop. And you can’t miss Colombo’s first speakeasy, Baillie Street Merchants. I designed the bar and restaurant in the Fort District of Colombo.

Where do you shop in Colombo?

I shop at Paradise Road for homeware, giftware, and furniture, and I go to Rithihi for beautiful sarees and ethnic wear. I also love PR Sri Lanka, of course, for the best fashion by local designers and my favorite Indian labels. Above my shop is Saskia Fernando Gallery, where I love the pieces of Sri Lankan art curated by my sister, Saskia.

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Courtesy of Barefoot and MILK

Barefoot on Galle Road has the best handloom furnishing fabrics and books, and Milk – which is just across the road from PR – has a great selection of kid’s books and toys.

How would you spend an ideal Saturday in Colombo?

I would spend a perfect Saturday in Colombo by waking up early to drive to Mount Lavinia. It’s about 20 minutes from the city center, and I love spending the day at Sugar Beach, where I have fresh green juices, brunch, and cocktails.

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Follow Annika’s company @pr_srilanka, her fashion line @maus_srilanka, and the new bar and restaurant @bailliestreet_merchants.This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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