The staying power of Lankan apparels

Testimonial by Sanath Nanayakkare

Pulling the wool over someone's eyes, usually, means to deceive someone. However, 'pulling the cotton over someone's eyes' could mean convincing someone beyond doubt about the quality of a cotton shirt manufactured in Sri Lanka. This was demonstrated at the business session of the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association which was held at the JAIC Hilton on Wednesday.

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The personality at the centre of this exercise was Alexander Karchava, Russia’s ambassador to Sri Lanka, who exhibited a 44-year-old Hently shirt made in Ceylon for present-day apparel exporters to see and believe.

Sounding characteristically modest, Karchava told the surprised apparel exporters,"You’ve done the right thing by inviting me to this event as your chief guest because probably it was the Soviet Union that first saw the enormous potential of your apparel manufacturing, such a long time ago. I bought this cotton shirt at the open market in the Soviet Union. In that era in the Soviet Union, Ceylonese shirts were probably the best brand young men sought to dress in for special occasions. Today your apparels are selling all around the world, but that was an entirely different era."

"Although this shirt has seen its better days for obvious reasons, it’s still in good shape. The colour is a bit faded, it is old-fashioned, but it hasn’t frayed or worn away. I’m sure this shirt is older than half of you here, he told the uncontrollably laughing audience that had never expected such a pleasant industrial surprise from their chief guest.

As he finished his speech, a group of high profile apparel exporters surrounded the Russian ambassador and thanked him profusely for revealing something they hadn’t known, thereby giving them tremendous courage to do even better in the apparel industry.