Thursday, 26 August 2010

WEEK FOUR

This week we have spent most days collating our research. A nice way to end the month, relaxing and working reflecting on our experiences and research findings.

We have formulated our research into a presentation that will be presented at the tourist board on Friday 27th in the afternoon. To British Council representatives, University of Moratuwa lecturers and industry professionals.

To be honest we are feeling a little nervous, but confident that we have constructed some valuable information. (wish us luck)

And we are looking forward to our day on the beach tomorrow to soak up those last rays of sun before braving the English winter.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

DAY TWENTY ONE AND TWENTY TWO

Cake for Breakfast, G&T's for dinner!


Our first proper weekend off!!!! After a LONG week of work we where happy Friday was finally here! Not that we wanted to wish the time away, but our days where, for some, 6 am starts and late nights for all! So we really deserved a night out. We had arranged a night at the local Barefoot shop/bar/cafe, which was hosting a jazz night. We enjoyed the music and friendly atmosphere, and even made it onto the dance floor... accompanied by the local 'talent'!!


We woke latish on Saturday hoping the sun was out so we could enjoy a day at the beach, for that long awaiting sun tan hit! But, with our luck the clouds where thick and gloomy, so we decided to utilise the day, and focus on our presentations that will be delivered later next week. It was a productive day and we thought we had produced a solid amount of work for one day! And now wished for the sun to shine the next day for Kate's birthday!


Beth, Saida and Zoe woke early on Sunday and prepared a surprise breakfast for Kate. We all got high on sugar with Chocolate pancakes, biscuits, popcorn, ginger coffee, crisps, and a Swiss roll cake topped with party hats. To make the day even better we where graced with the sun!!!


After our healthy start to the day, we packed our togs (swim suits) and sun lotion and made our way to the gorgeous and famous Mount Lavigna Hotel. On the way we met our new friend Prianca an extremely talented textile designer, who Kate had met in the week on her placement at Barefoot.


We found our spot on the beach and paid for the special deal of lunch, pool, private beach and sun lounge for around 6 pounds, a total bargain. We were too excited about the sun, sea and sand and laid there in bliss soaking in the rays!!!!!!! In pure English style!!!!!!


It was the perfect day, we where completely satisfied especially Kate who declared the day to be 15 out of 10 for a birthday! (even if we did all end up to be a bit toasted and pink!!)


To top this perfect day we were invited for drinks by Dominic and family (Barefoot CEO) who Prianca is currently staying with. We drank and snacked in their amazingly homely outhouse living room, with a pond and croaking frogs. Dominic and Nas' children Isabelle, Sebastian and Sophia where on perfect behaviour and made us all feel envious and hopeful that we where to once have children as cute and enthusiastic as them! We chatted politics with Dominic and Nas, and favourite films, TV soaps and hot boys with the kids...

and drank G&T's with cheese and biscuits all our favourites!!!


A fantastic day and evening!

WEEK THREE (16th-20th August)

A week at the office.

All four of us have been on our own paths of exploration this week. Working in different companies within the Sri Lankan garment industry, focusing research orientated towards our individual areas of interest and study.

Beth: Hirdaramani
Kate: Shoba. Maliban and Barefoot. http://tangledthreadsweweave.blogspot.com/







Sunday, 15 August 2010

DAY THIRTEEN (13th August)

Friday the 13th

A slow start for some, but not so much for Saida who woke at 6.30am for a swim in our infinity pool. There was a little bit of a storm making everything look very dramatic with sheets of rain falling and blowing palm trees, we braved the wet and piled into the van to get to the Martin Wikramsinghe Folk museum which turned out to be surprisingly interesting. On the path towards the museum we saw the smallest frogs ever; they were about the size of a blue bottle fly – all attempts at photography failed as the miniscule creatures hopped away before we could focus our cameras. The museum itself plots the heritage of village life from pre-colonialisation through to the Portuguese and Dutch periods. They even have a scale model of the Monsoon steel furnace (built by Exeter university archeology students), these used to be dotted along the cliffs of Sri Lanka and the strong monsoon winds were funneled through pipes to create carbonised steel that was unsurpassed by any other nation.



We stopped at Shermila batik factory where we met a group of busy women creating batik in traditional Sri Lankan style. Again, we were walked through the process of batik from drawing through to dying and boiling. The set up was not as large or as organized as Ena De Silva but the woman who runs it has had the opportunity to go on a government run course on how to become a World Fair Trade Organisation member, however she doesn’t think it is worth it as it would be expensive to set up. It was interesting to note (although slightly obvious) that they use cold water dyes so as not to melt the wax. This means however, that it is expensive and difficult to find cold water Azo free dyes and they often don’t bother especially for the deeper colours like black and maroon.



Next was the soft toy making workshop called Indika, it was a lovely peaceful place set in the middle of lush forest, at the time we visited there were 9 women working there doing the hand-stitching and stuffing. It was nice to see that they were using the local kapok to stuff the toys. The owner, Manek, used to work in a clothing factory but decided to leave to set up this initiative using his skills learnt from the factory and the skills of local women.



After Indika we went to another couple of Beeralu lace places along the main Galle highway, this is where Dr. Nirmali and Dr. Lakdas left us to go back to Colombo. We were now free to do our own thing. So we travelled back to the fort and found the Beeralu lace initiative that we visited the day before and Saida bought an amazing lace tablecloth for her mum. We then had a relaxing time wandering around the fort and eating toasted sandwhiches for lunch in a restaurant that had an amazing zen bathroom with a gravel floor and a large copper shoot for the tap.

Our driver Mahesh then picked us up and we headed back out of the fort walls towards our hotel, stopping at the paradisical beach of Unawatuna on the way. It is like something out of Treasure Island, with the curve of the cove and aesthetically placed palms, but it was incredibly squally and even as we were walking along the beach we got soaked up to our waists by the waves. We found a friendly café where they let us change, and Beth, Saida and Kate braved the ocean and all got thrown about like little ragdolls until their swimsuits were full of sand and they were quite out of breath, Zoe didn’t quite make it in as it was all a little too violent.

We headed back to the restaurant that most of the group had enjoyed so much the night before, but which Kate and Beth had not managed to due to Kate’s vomiting extravaganza. Feeling totally recovered, and quite peckish Kate was able to enjoy pizza and salad along with everyone else. It was also the ideal place to check emails as they had relatively fast wifi.

The tuk-tuk journey back to the hotel was eventful, not only were four of us piled into what should only be a three person vehicle, we also had a slight disagreement on price. We had been told that it would cost no more than 500 rupees, however although we agreed this with the driver, he then demanded more when we arrived at our destination – we of course told him where to get off and he responded with some colourful and offensive words. Not a very nice contrast to the usual friendly and helpful demeanor of the average Sri Lankan tuk-tuk driver.

DAY TWELVE (12th August)

"It was like the exorcist in there"...


After an ok nights sleep at the New Old Dutch Hotel we had a few billing issues resulting in us feeling very disappointed and annoyed, However a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast in a little cafe near the fort wall got us back on track, until our stomachs started churning and we realised it might not have been the best idea to have something so spicy and fishy so early.


We headed further into the fort, through the grid of narrow lanes, popping into a beautiful traditional Dutch Protestant Church, an amazing refurbished Colonial style Hotel with a man playing lovely tunes on a grand piano, and stopping to buy stamps at an old post office.


We happened to stumble upon an amazing new craft project called Sipnara, which is run by a lovely woman who teaches unemployed women traditional Sri Lankan crafts such as Beerala lace and crocheting, it was wonderful to see such a positive step forward in this struggling community after the Tsunami devastated the city in 2004, we supported their efforts whilst enjoying another little splurge on intricately designed hand-made crafts.



Shoba lace formerly known as ‘Power of Hands’, was our next stop, it is another handicraft programme initially being supported by the trans-rural trust, now an independent self sustaining venture. Cheerful lace makers greeted us as we crossed the threshold into the colourfully laid out shop. The manager that we spoke to was very open minded, reiterating the need to learn and the importance of sharing knowledge with others for continuous development to encourage economic stability. The lace work was beautiful and we were kindly invited to share a drink with her in her families home. This trip has also been an opportunity for Kate to share her knowledge and she will be returning for work experience in the coming week.



A greatly needed break was had sat on the windy harbour wall, a beautiful little baby was thrust into Zoe’s arms for a photo opportunity for the parents – the blond hair and white skin was obviously a novelty for them – and greatly amused the rest of the group!


After a short stop at the pharmacy for some anti-vomit pills we trekked through the tropical jungle spotting huge monkeys, beautiful kingfishers and a two foot long lizard, to visit a small household producing coir rope, the whole female side of the family were involved in the making including the old ladies and little children who twisted and swept respectively. They bought the fibre already processed and proceeded to use two basic spinning wheels to twist the coir into a strong cord often used for farming and coconut matting. Measuring in hand widths rather than conventional means, the ropes were roughly 6 metres long and the ladies could produce up 250 per day earning 2.2 rupees per rope.




We headed down to the main coir producing mill which deals with retting and decorticating (shredding!) the fibres found on the outside of the coconut, before being fed into machinery that refines the coir into manageable sausage like tubes ready to be mechanically spun on a hand-made twisting machine.


After stopping for some late lunch snacks (not for the dodgy tummy ones!) we checked in to a beautiful little hotel right on the beach with its own pool – bliss!



Friday, 13 August 2010

DAY Eleven (11th August)

Journey to Galle


Today we were back on the road, a little later start to the day we were picked up at 9am by our driver Mahesh, with Dr Nirmali and Dr Lakdas.


We headed south down the Galle Road which is one straight coastal road all the way to Galle. With a few planned stops on the way.


First stop the Blue Water Hotel, a Geoffrey Bawa (a famous Sri Lankan architect) masterpiece. One of his latest works, a traditionally designed building with his trade mark use of water features and his modern take on Sri Lankan roof design. A truly tranquil place, that we are for sure planning on returning to, probably for Kate's Birthday on the 22nd August.


In amongst our hotel extravaganza we had the great opportunity to visit yet another factory, this time another one of Sri Lankas accredited green factories, Hirdramani.


Hirdaramani has a similar ethos to the MAS green factory, however it has only met a Gold standard and MAS has reached a Platinum standard by the US Green Building Council. Hirdaramani's lower rating is apparently due to their air cooling system, which according to the council does not meet a comfortable working environment, 25 degrees or less. We were given a detailed presentation explaining all their sustainable elements that aid their 'green status'. They illustrated their energy saving achievements, by comparing their consumption to an equivalent factory. Savings where: Electricity use down by 48%, Water use down 60%, Carbon Footprint down by 48%, and they use 22.000 kwh/annum, and they send no waste to land fill. On average they use 50% less energy than a conventional factory.

A dome shaped ceiling with sky lights allow natural light to flow into the factory reducing bulb use, the dome shape increases light and are coated in a translucent film to filter UV rays and they use low energy lighting for the factory and sewing machines.


They use an air conditioning unit which runs off a variable speed motor rather than a fix speed, saving energy usage. The outside lighting is light sensitive, and 7% of their energy comes from solar power.


To encourage bio diversity they have created a conservation area around the factory. They have recorded 146 species in this marsh and woodland area. 29 indigenous, 12 endemic, 129 exotic.


An interesting way they decided to use their food waste rather than it just been composted they send it to a piggery which is then used as food for the livestock. Piggery waste is a really highly nutritious fertilizer and bio fuel (for domestic gas). This correlates to their ethos, reduce reuse and recycle.




They recycle 35,000 litres of water a day, using treatment tanks. The process has different filters, Starting off with a anaerobic filter, an aerobic filter, a reed bed filter, a sand and carbon filter and finally it's chlorinated. The water is technically safe enough for drinking but they only use it for sewage and their cultivation areas.


After a lovely lunch provided by the factory we set off on our way. A quick right off the Galle Road onto the long stretched west coast beach, we arrived to a small family run Viktor Hssselblad Turtle Sanctuary. The owner was related to Dr Nirmali, and proudly showed us around. The area held 5 to six tanks, three holding hundreds of tiny baby turtles all frantically swimming around waiting to be released into the ocean. the others contained older turtles, one an albino which had an amazing coloured patterned shell, one that was blind since birth and one that had been injured by a boat and was missing one flipper. We had the privilege to see three tiny baby turtles hatching from their sand nests that the sanctuary made. They instantly scrambled towards the sea, we were allowed to pick them up and transport them to the safety of their holding tank with their brothers and sisters for observation.We named them Zoe, Beth and Dr, they were released into the ocean the next day, we think of them now swimming out in the big wide world adventuring and surviving for the next hundred years or so, and believing they will not be one of the 75% who don't survive.







Satisfied with our turtle experience we continued down the coast and arrived at another Geoffrey Bawa masterpiece, The Light House Hotel. A grand building with views towards Galle Fort and its light house (hence the name) and out toward the stunning views of the Indian Ocean. We talked Dr Nirmali and Dr Lakdas in staying for a drink which in fact they were keen for. Lakdas introduced us to the local drink Arrack! A liquor made from the from Coconut Palm, distilled from the the coconut toddy, strange and strong! We sat for an hour listening to Dr Lakdas' travel stories from the 70's, whilst the sun set over the long west coast. We were also lucky enough to be entertained by a traditional Kandian dance, by male and female dancers dressed in ornate costumes.





We then had to get back on the road to find our hotel in the famous Old Fort within Galle, we found our home for the night The New Old Dutch House. A clean and fresh hotel two minutes from the sea front. Happy with our rooms, we then found a recommended sea food restaurant. A friend of the Doctors joined us, who worked in the shipping industry as a Chandler. He had fascinating stories of the troubles in sea territory, concerning Somalian pirates.


This was a satisfying day, we were happy to retire to our lovely room ready for the next day of Galle exploration.




Monday, 9 August 2010

DAY EIGHT (8th August)




Elephant excitement...

Another traditional breakfast was had of coconut milk rice and potato curry with lovely roti’s (and a cheeky marmite topping!). After a manic week we we’re looking forward to a slightly more laid back day!

A windy and bumpy journey up through breathtaking scenery and brought us to a beautiful 15th century wooden temple, with intricately carved pillars depicting ancient gods and mythical creatures.
We made our way back to another important temple in Sri Lanka set amongst the hills. We then climbed up well worn steps in bare feet which were scorching hot from the midday sun, until we reached a lovely temple built from pale grey sandstone. Surrounding the main temple were smaller devotion room adorned with carved elephants and topped with domes.
We met a lovely tour guide who was also a painter, who took his inspiration from the ancient carvings and paintings in and around the temple. He showed us a selection of fabulous drawings and paintings which he had done, each falling in love with different ones!
The afternoon was a real treat as we visited Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, arriving to huge crowds of visitors, this was clearly a popular tourist destination in Kandy. We arrived at feeding time where crowds of visitors huddled around outdoor feeding pens to try and catch a glimps of the baby elephants being fed with giant milk bottles (as the Orphanage goes through 17000kg of greenery a day we dreaded to think how much milk each baby got through!), A short walk up the hill led us to a huge ‘pasture’ surrounded by greenery and tropical plants – although the elephants much preferred to stick together and wallow in the mud to keep cool!
Everyday at 2pm the elephants are walked from the field to the nearby river to bathe and cool down in the refreshing water for two hours– we were all quite envious and wished that we could jump in the cold water too! It was amazing to see them all enjoying the water and squirting themselves cool. We were then treated to a presentation on how the Orphanage began, how it is run and the work they do in ensuring that the elephants are safely looked after and returned back to health.
We then headed back on the long journey back to Columbo, and Saida and Kate cooked delicious fresh fajitas for supper!

DAY SEVEN (7th August)




Tea and temples weekend...

After an eventful night of crunchy cockroach infested pillows, we had a traditional breakfast of string hoppers and dhal at the hotel, then had a brisk walk along the river to see a huge Dam. We then made our way to the centre of Kandy to change some money and pick up water for the day ahead.
Our first stop was the tea factory, set high in the hills it was a beautiful drive up surrounded by, tea plantations, peppercorn vines, tobacco plants and Teak Trees. Oode Wella Tea Factory was a traditional huge white colonial style building, with beautiful traditional machinery throughout, some made from wood stretching back as far as the 1800 or even earlier. The manager took us around and explained each step of tea production from the plucking of the buds and leaves to the drying, rolling, firing and grading resulting in 6 different grades of tea.
Close to the factory was The Tea Museum which housed ancient machinery and memorabilia showing the rise in popularity and value of tea and its production in Sri Lanka, we also got to sample a lovely cup of tea as we sat below a lovely wooden slatted roof.
On our way to the Botanical Gardens we passed through the Kandy’s University set in amongst beautiful tropical trees and manicured lawns, the University looked like a tranquil and inspiring place to learn.
The Botanical Gardens which was set out in an enormous area, was incredibly well maintained with bright flowers and towering trees cascading from every available space. We were very excited to stumble upon the mysterious Upas Tree which was beginning to feel like an elusive mythical story – The Upas tree is often called a Sack Tree – So Beth is very excited to start researching into this as soon as possible!
We had a really tasty lunch of rice and various spicy toppings before walking through the lush gardens, orchid house and saw some huge bats asleep in the trees!
We then took a ride to the close by market, which had fruit, leather, woven baskets, huge stalls full of ‘western’ clothing – and bought some lovely gifts our friends and family!In the evening we wandered up to The Temple of the Tooth, stored our shoes away safely and made our way up the temples carved steps into an ornately decorated shrine. We were lucky enough to see the beginning of their evening ceremony which involved percussion music to introduce the offering of foods and medicines to their god Buddha.

DAY SIX (6th August)



All hands on bobbins...



Our first visit of the day was Selyn handloom, which is World Fair Trade Organisation certified. We were first shown the dye facilities, which was about 15 minutes away from the outlet shop and looms. We wound through tropical roads and parked outside a small holding which appeared to us to be in the middle of nowhere. The dye house did not use natural or organic dyes, nor organic cotton fibre. We were not given much more information than that the dyes come from Germany on the environmental standards of the dye. We were assured that the effluent was treated to a safe level before being used in agricultural cultivation, however it is not processed to a drinking water standard. All the information was a little hazy and we left with questions not fully answered.
We then visited their handloom workroom, which was an awash with brightly coloured yarns, being woven by senior ladies who were very welcoming, the room was also filled with the cadence of rhythmic clatter from the looms. This workshop is where they weave the fabric that is used for clothing and craft. It was interesting to note that most of the women weaving were over 45, due to their experience and the reluctance of younger women to hand weave. Kate bravely decided to have a go and quickly mastered the rhythm, and managed to weave 14cm in about 15 minutes – and managed to make a couple of friends at the same time, while the rest of us got distracted by the beautiful products in the shop.
Next a quick stop at a handmade soft toy factory to see the production line, where they used the same fabric from the Selyn handloom. An interesting point of note from the toy factory was the use of either synthetic or Kapok stuffing. Kapok is a natural fibre, which is cotton wool like spores from the Kapok tree. The choice comes down to the buyer and Kapok is more expensive, unfortunately resulting in this not being the favorable choice.
Next stop was Ena De Silva, which took a while to find as it was hidden way up in the hills in a beautiful setting. It was a haven of tranquility and creativity, with a warm smell of wax from the batik. We walked down the path into the work room which was an open sided corrugated shed, with women creating detailed batiks, and 5 women hand embroidering intricate cushion covers. This is not an indigenous technique but an adaptation of appliqué and needle work developed by Ena and the workers. It was fascinating to watch these skilled crafts women at work. Some had worked there for 45 years, these women are the batik masters and the younger generation generally works on the embroidery. After being fascinated by the work that was going on around us we had a walk around the premises which was an array of tropical flowers and cascading views of the surrounding hills. Then of course a visit to the tiny shop could not be resisted where we indulged ourselves and each bought an embroidered elephant.
A two hour drive found ourselves in the lovely city of Kandy, where we settled ourselves in our hotel (nowhere nice as our chalets from the previous nights)! (and there wasn’t a giant cockroach on Zoe and Beths bed)!!!.....
We went to a pub for dinner with Dr Nirmali, we had salads, shandy’s and complementary cheese cake. We chanced upon two very interesting American anthropologists currently working in Sri Lanka, who gave us some excellent references for reading on women and globalisation.
We again fell into a bed exhausted after a LONG day.

DAY FIVE (5th August)




The day of the boardroom...

After luxurious showers in our bathrooms open to palm trees and lizards, we had a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast at MAS Thurulie of string hoppers and dhal (and a little scrambled egg.) In the same boardroom where we ate breakfast we were introduced to the vision behind MAS and specifically the MAS Green Plant – the first purpose built sustainable garment factory of its kind.
The presentation was given by the very informed and informative manager of sustainability and communications – Vidhura Ralapanawe. He outlined the main arguments concerning climate change; the information ranged from statistics surrounding Greenland’s melt area to a cows carbon foot print to the potential displacement of over 160 million people in Bangladesh due to sea level rising. He also discussed the affect that climate change is having on Sri Lanka, resulting in changing weather patterns creating irregular rainfall and extreme weather conditions – this destroys delicate eco-systems, directly effecting crop yields.
He handed over to Hira, his deputy who explained the sustainability aspects of the green plant. She covered the materials that were used in construction, the water curtain cooling system, the structure and positioning of buildings, the use of rainwater harvesting for sewage and many, many, many more factors that help to bring the factory toward carbon neutrality through energy efficiency.
We were then given a tour of the factory, which was surreal to say the least. It soothed our factory jaded eyes seeing the idyllic surrounds. Everywhere we went the temperature remained constant, even on the factory floor where there were numerous people and machines working away due to their innovative water cooling system. All the machines are energy efficient helping to reduce the entire plants energy consumption by 40% to a factory of a similar size. The working atmosphere was very calm and pleasant because it is so in tune with nature. Lean manufacturing has increased their productivity by 30%; this helps them to recuperate some of the extra costs they incur from their sustainability practices.
So, as you may be able to tell we were very impressed. However, there is still a way to go with their raw material sourcing, waste fabric disposal and product use phase. These issues are on their agenda, so lets see what the future holds…
The next stop was Dogiefa, a part Spanish owned warp knitting factory – which makes nylon and spandex fabric for lingerie and swimwear. Their fabric ends up in a range of swimwear, from Speedo to Florence and Fred. We were shown the warp knitting machines, which was really quite amazing. Each width of fabric (or, for those in the know - beam) contained 1340 gossamer thin yarns. Before dying, the fabric is put through the holven scourer, which removes any oil from the fabric, this residue (which looks like a sludge) is then sold to a cement factory. We were then taken to their colour lab, which matches colour samples and creates dye recipes for production. The fabric is wrapped around a pipe which is then immersed in the dye, after dying the fabric is heated to set the dye and stabilize the fabric.
TexPrint was our next stop, they are an MAS company, part owned by a Spanish company (TexPrint Spain) who have been specializing in digital printing and screen printing onto stretch fabrics since 2008- they print the warp knit fabrics which are most commonly used in swimwear. Their main customers include Speedo and F&F for Tescos.
They have four different printing methods – flatbed, rotary, dry-on and digital printing.
It was really interesting to see how the designs and inspirations of the designer get turned into reality through Photoshop and clever editing to enhance the pattern so it does not distort during printing onto stretch fabric –it is then transferred into CAD/CAM software to perfect it.
TexPrint have 4 digital printers altogether and on the upper level concentrated on screen printing from big screens (up to 15 colours) because of the length of the machine beds they are put through. Before printing the fabric has to be treated with fixing paste, is printed, and then goes through a series of dryers to make the stretch fabric completely colour fast.
To round off a tremendously busy day, the last presentation was held back at MAS Holdings office, which was about the general sustainability of the whole park. We were told about the biodiversity projects which included increasing the green cover of the park from 14% to 20% by 2012, and educational projects to school children based around each of their other 32 factories, that promoted sustainable thinking.
After our interesting day of frantic information delivery, we went for a lovely dinner at the on-site restaurant. We happened to meet a selection of Nike managers from across the globe who were having training at MAS holdings park, they were celebrating an efficiency award so were in high spirits and as luck would have it they had a huge selection of karaoke tunes, beer and spirits and a very “interesting” live performer, so we fell into bed a little more chilled out and merry.

DAY FOUR (4th August)

Factory fusion...



Today was the first factory tour day, so after leaving Columbo after a quick breakfast at 8am we set off to collect Dr Nirmali and Prabani also from UoM. We made our way to Ocean Lanka at Zone B - a governmental owned industrial park. Ocean Lanka specializes in circular machine knitting, producing cotton mix with elastane for the apparel industry.

The highlighting facts we found from a really interesting presentation and thorough tour around the factory are as follows -

Like most Sri Lankan apparel manufacturers they have a comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy, this includes paying above minimum wage, free meals, free transportation to and from the factory and medical insurance. Ocean Lanka follow the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) base code which means they can produce Fair Trade certified fabric, they are also Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified and Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) compliant.

Whilst walking around the factory we saw every single process they conducted, from yarn storage, knitting, dyeing, finishing and effluent filtration to finalizing a commercially viable end product.


To conclude we were inundated with Sri Lankan hospitality and their amazing interpretations of Western snacks, whilst being able to ask the board members any questions we wanted!

We were very impressed with this factory, until we went to the next one, MAS Linea Intimo, which was equally impressive. We were given a short presentation, from Ivan Brown CEO of Intimo a fellow English man from Liesecter, to introduce us to the MAS way of life. MAS Linea Intimo specialise in seamless knit technology for the lingerie and active sports wear sector.

The highlighting facts are -

MAS holdings as an umbrella company who pride themselves on offering their employees many additional benefits to government set laws, including a 25% above minimum wage, free transportation to and from the factory, free meals and medical care.

Again the tour around the factory was fascinating. The factory machines reminded us of Willy Wonkers surreality of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with many different machines sucking and dropping out highly technical pieces of sports wear all around us. The intricate detailing and amazing performance enhancing sports apparel was fascinating to see first hand. We were again given an interesting interpretation of western cuisine - lasagne - which was delicious, and spicy potato croquettes. For pudding we had the most amazing buffalo curd and coconut treacle - which didn't taste of coconut but caramelised sugar - we are definitely going to have to buy some when we get to another Food City.

We were given a copy of a book that covers an MAS initiative called "Women Go Beyond" - which helps to build a community spirit focussing on training and empowering initiatives for women in the workplace - and with a working ratio of 95% women to 5% men it sounded like a great investment to us!

Ran Malu Fashions was our next stop, which specialises in hand machine knit and Shima Seika seamless knit construction who supply to companies such as Littlewoods and Zara.
Their set up was very different from the previously visited factories, with a much smaller output and market share. It was however very interesting to see 'chunky' knitwear being produced for the knitwear market, mainly using acrylic yarns and fashion yarns sourced either by the buyers or on request from them.

Their factory also employed 90% women to 10% men, and the factory operated 24 hours a day relying on shifts of 9 hours with the possibility of 3 hours overtime.

Ran Malu operate by both SA800 and the ETI base code, and although have not produced with organic cottons yet they have tried to source but have been met with demand challenges.

After a lovely cup of tea we headed to T & S Buttons, who produce polyester buttons in the Sri Lankan factory (their parent company in Hong Kong is the biggest worldwide supplier of buttons who also make Ceroso and Urea buttons - but sadly not in Sri Lanka). T&S Buttons Sri Lanka comply with OEKATEX standards and are part of the Brandix company. Although the company had a rather chemical aroma it was apparently safe and we tiredly enjoyed the tour around the production line showing exactly how they made buttons (in two different ways - if you're interested its either by a rod or a sheet process), the cutting process was very intricate and could be specified to each customers needs and engraved if necessary.


We had a delicious toffee cake and tea, before heading to Thuruli for dinner and a bed for the night, which we found to be pretty much like five star accommodation. A small bungalow chalet, with polished concrete throughout, flat screen TV and cabal, 4 bedrooms all en-suite with open aired palm tree view shower rooms, unbelievable! We felt completely spoilt and overwhelmed. But happy and content. We slept well that night!

DAY THREE (3rd August)

Facilities galore...

After a fitful night’s sleep in our sweltering apartment, we travelled to the University of Moratuwa where we were to give our second presentation to the students.
We had the opportunity to listen to a lecture on ‘Industrial Fabrics for Commercial Applications’ by Dr Rathna Perera from E Y Technologies in Massachusetts, USA. It was fascinating to learn about the uses of fibres such as glass and ceremics.
We were given lunch in little paper packets of sweet rice and chilli vegetables, embarrassingly we had to ask for a spoon so we didn’t spill food down our fronts.
This time, our presentation was not met with quite the same enthusiasm as we had technical difficulties taking half an hour to set up. One of the students gave us a tour of the amazing facilities that the university offers. Including the; fabric testing lab, spinning lab, weaving lab and knitting lab – all of which house industrial machinery that the students can use and learn about the practical aspects of their trade.




On our way back from the university we stopped by Barefoot, at company that sells handmade crafts including hand-woven fabrics and home-made pickles and cookies. We decided to spend a girly night in, so Saida cooked a lovely meal with fresh vegetables and short grain Sri Lankan rice.
We packed and went to bed early in preparation for our five day journey to garment factories and historical Kandy.

DAY TWO (2nd August)

The Real Hustle To Sea Food Cove...

We started the day with a birthday breakfast for Beth, complete with water melon, chocolate milk and milo cereal, topped with a singing candle!

We then headed out into the heat to the British Council head office, conveniently it was walking distance away. We were greeted with a second breakfast, spicy chinese fish rolls, tomato sandwiches and tea. The presentation was at 10.30, which got slightly delayed by a wardrobe malfunction. Seconds before the presentation Saida's side trouser zipper decided to break! Kate's initiative and Dr Nirmali's spare stash of sari safety pins saved the day!

After the dilemma we delivered the presentation of a lifetime, to all the industry professionals, senior lecturers and British Council representatives. We were all really nervous but the film and powerpoint visuals seamed to make an impression on our audience, (and the content of course).

We wanted to experience dash of local culture, so we endeavored to find a local market via an auto rickshaw, which was cramped as they are primarily for only three people and NOT four western girls. After a typical rickety ride we found our destination of the chaotic Pettah Market. Where we finally found a taylor to fix Saida's zipper for the grand total of the equivalent of 90 pence. We adopted a friend that persisted to show us the ins and outs of the market who did actually suggest a traditional restaurant for lunch, which was amazingly tasty Thali and 3ft long masala Dosa. Our friend was still waiting for outside who still persisted to help us but by this point we had enough of his pestering and ushered him away in a gentlle manner to be answered with 'You stupid proud girls'. we laughed and went on our way to sight see and conduct 'retail research'. The market was a wash of eclectic colours, smells, sights and sounds. It was fascinating to see Hindu and Buddhist temples in amongst the English colonial architecture.

After our intense experience we drifted to the swish calm of Odel department store where we indulged in our 'retail research'. From the lap of luxury we ventured out to the bustling streets and to catch a local crowded non AC bus to the esteemed Mount Lavinia hotel, in true Sri Lankan hospitality, the bus conductor took pity and drove us to the door (out of their way). The hotel was a complete contrast to our experiences of Colombo so far. On the beach side bar we drank ice cold local beer and heady long island ice tea's, and ate the most delicious sea food dishes, freshly caught that day. As we ate our dinner the waves were crashing right in front of us so close they were lapping under our table and feet, A wave in the shape of a 'Sri Lankan waiter' crept up on Beth, who shrieked in the poor mans ear!!! Who jumped out of his skin! This was too funny everyone laughed including the tables around us! the waiter insisted he wasn't another Tsunami!

We took the night bus home to a hot and humid apartment, and we retired to our beds satisfied with our exciting day, ready for the next.

The Real Hustle To Sea Food Cove...

DAY TWO (2nd August)

We started the day with a birthday breakfast for Beth, complete with water melon, chocolate milk and milo cereal, topped with a singing candle!

We then headed out into the heat to the British Council head office, conveniently walking was walking distance away. We were greeted with a second breakfast, spicy chinese fish rolls, tomato sandwiches and tea. The presentation was at 10.30, which got slightly delayed by a wardrobe malfunction. Seconds before the presentation Saida's side trouser zipper decided to break! Kate's initiative and Dr Nirmali's spare stash of sari safety pins saved the day!

After the dilemma we delivered the presentation of a lifetime, to all the industry professionals, senior lecturers and British Council representatives. We were all really nervous but the film and powerpoint visuals seamed to make an impression on our audience, (and the content of course).

We wanted to experience dash of local culture, so we endeavored to find a local market via an auto rickshaw, which was cramped as they are primarily for only three people and NOT four western girls. After a typical rickety ride we found our destination of the chaotic Pettah Market. Where we finally found a taylor to fix Saida's zipper for the grand total of the equivalent of 90 pence. We adopted a friend that persisted to show us the ins and outs of the market who did actually suggest a traditional restaurant for lunch, which was amazingly tasty Thali and 3ft long masala Dosa. Our friend was still waiting for outside who still persisted to help us but by this point we had enough of his pestering and ushered him away in a gentlle manner to be answered with 'You stupid proud girls'. we laughed and went on our way to sight see and conduct 'retail research'. The market was a wash of eclectic colours, smells, sights and sounds. It was fascinating to see Hindu and Buddhist temples in amongst the English colonial architecture.

After our intense experience we drifted to the swish calm of Odel department store where we indulged in our 'retail research'. From the lap of luxury we ventured out to the bustling streets and to catch a local crowded non AC bus to the esteemed Mount Lavinia hotel, in true Sri Lankan hospitality, the bus conductor took pity and drove us to the door (out of their way). The hotel was a complete contrast to our experiences of Colombo so far. On the beach side bar we drank ice cold local beer and heady long island ice tea's, and ate the most delicious sea food dishes, freshly caught that day. As we ate our dinner the waves were crashing right in front of us so close they were lapping under our table and feet, A wave in the shape of a 'Sri Lankan waiter' crept up on Beth, who shrieked in the poor mans ear!!! Who jumped out of his skin! This was too funny everyone laughed including the tables around us! the waiter insisted he wasn't another Tsunami!

We took the night bus home to a hot and humid apartment, and we retired to our beds satisfied with our exciting day, ready for the next.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

DAY ONE (1st August)

An 11 hour comforatable-ish flight brought us (Beth, Saida & Zoe) to Colombo airport at 2 am local time. Customs was a breeze, a super hospitable welcome rasied our sleepy moods.
As promised we were met by our friendly driver who rushed us out of the airport through the night time hussle and bussle to his air conditioned jeep. He drove us through the clear roads, whilst we sleepily sight watched the night time views of jumbled buildings and varied religious shrines, a mixture of Roman Catholic and Buddhist. We arrived at our apartment to a sleepy and confused welcome from our fourth team member Kate, who'd arrived earlier that day from Delhi.
We chatted in excitement, feeling very surreal to be in Sri Lanka, and all together again in our plush aprtment. We eventually went to bed after Kate had given us a brief insight into her travel adventures she'd had over the last month, through Bangladesh and India.
We woke to the smell of of French toast, Kate was in the Kitchen cooking away. We ate and chatted about our up and coming adventures.
Dr Nirmali De Silva came to our aprtment, who is very sweet, and made us feel at home and confident that our next month was going to be jam packed with various productive and educational trips and meetings. That will no doubt give us an amazing insight into the Sri Lankan garment industry and culture.
We spent the afternoon finding our bearings in our area of Colombo, instantly finding ourselves lost! But soon found our way once we bought a map, we orientated ourselves and found the Cricket Club, which proved to be a perfect place to ease our tummy's into some nice tradtional cuisine.... Burgers and chips!!!!
After filling our tums and chatting some more we then found a super market to buy some essentials for our apartment which already feels like home. We spent the rest of our evening prepping for the next day of presentations to the British Council to illustrate our personal aims and objectives for the next month.
Let the adventures begin!!!