From her beginnings with a fashion school, Linda Speldewinde has diversified into several ventures and causes, many of which, at their core, have a design ethos. Speldewinde founded Academy of Design almost two decades ago. It was then a pathbreaking venture that trained young people for careers in design.
She has since started several ventures and movements, including those promoting sustainable fashion, preserving traditional crafts and also a building, the Colombo Innovation Tower, that she expects to position as an innovation hub for South Asia. Her approach to entrepreneurship is also divergent. On the one hand, her work supports local crafts and nurtures the Sri Lankan design scene, and on the other hand, she has a global vision.
“I never consider that I’m in Sri Lanka. Instead, I focus on the impact I want to have.” That impact is to build a pan-South Asian platform that will link producers from all over the region with brands. Speldewinde says the e-commerce platform will be tech-led and addresses the growing need for a sustainable supply chain.
“I never consider that I’m in Sri Lanka. Instead, I focus on the impact I want to have.”
During the last few decades, consumer demand increased for apparel manufactured with minimal adverse impact on the environment and people. Linda Speldewinde points out that when she organised the first Sri Lanka Design Festival in 2010, the ‘Garments without Guilt’ campaign by Sri Lanka’s readymade clothing exporters was already on to the evolving demands of customers.
In the decades since, there has been plenty of emphasis on creating the factory of the future; one which uses less water, less energy, generates less waste to landfills and supports human health. “In the future, the supply chain also has to be sustainable. That’s the big draw of the platform we are building,” explains Speldewinde. The project will aim to link producers of apparel and other products from all over the world with retailers and brands. “Its a business to business to business platform,” she explains.
“This isn’t an information platform. This is going to be an e-commerce platform that has the potential to complete the transaction online. It’s going to include artisans from India and Sri Lanka and many other places and connect them with brands and retailers. This is what the future consumer would want.” The e-commerce platform expects to connect all businesses relevant to a sustainable supply chain.
She says that South Asian manufacturers have an advantage as they produce apparel products that millennial consumers will be willing to buy. Almost two decades after starting out as an entrepreneur, Speldewinde is now combining her experience leading ventures in design and initiatives like the Sri Lanka Design Festival and Fashion for Good movement to scale. “In the next phase of my journey, I just want to scale the impact,” she says.