For almost as long as Swanee has been in business, they have been a family-run enterprise. Today, many consider Swanee Jayawardene, the grand dame of Sri Lankan tie-dye; at the helm of her own company, and with her three children to support her, the store she founded seemed only to go from strength to strength, with not just the tie and dye that was her staple but also intricate appliqué work, apparel for both sexes and stylish accessories.
It helped that her children could be counted on to pitch in. Even before they opened their first shop in 1968, Menik Neydorff remembers helping her mother create the garments that they would sell out of their own apartment every Saturday. Mrs. Jayawardene’s elder daughter Manel Jagoda, now a fashion designer, first started working with her mother when she was 16. And through it all son Rohan Jayawardene helped run her increasingly successful business.
The new Swanee boutique at Gandhara, in Stratford Avenue, Kirulapone marks in many ways the resurgence of a uniquely Sri Lankan style, as delineated by Mrs. Jayawardene herself. But the team is one member short – Rohan passed away recently. His sisters Manel and Menik are shouldering bravely on, and this week with the launch of the new store, they’re presenting another facet of their mother’s much prized designs.
Long known for their gorgeous tie-dye and batik, Swanee are expanding their collection to include a line designed especially for young people- a vibrant new range of mini-dresses, halter tops, t-shirts and shorts, along with men’s and women’s apparel and in particular Swanee’s signature sarees and competitively priced accessories like scarves.