Barefoot is a textile design company based in Sri Lanka, which exports its clothing and soft furnishings globally. Barefoot has two retail stores in Colombo and one store in Galle.
This establishment was originally started by that erstwhile gem merchant from the south, Ahamed Salih where he carried on his lucrative gem business catering to both tourists and locals up to the early seventies.
The store has since changed ownership and has been transformed into a general tourist store offering a variety of Sri Lankan produce and also a wonderful collection of valuable books and publications by Barbara Sansoni, who is an artist, writer and designer who has exhibited her drawings and woven panels across Asia, Europe and North America.
Sansoni with her then husband, Hildon, established and financed four village weaving centres. Sansoni’s initial involvement mainly related to the design aesthetics of the material being produced.
Sansoni then began to sell the weaver’s products from her home.
Barefoot currently has five weaving centres in Sri Lanka, run by the weavers, using designs by Sansoni and the Barefoot design team.
The Gallery, within Barefoot, is an extension of the company that is popularly patronized for its music, drama, poetry and visual art.
Barbara was born in Kandy and educated in Ceylon and Southern India. She showed an early interest in art and developed an intense love of colour. The vibrant hues of South Asia have provided her with a lifetime’s worth of inspiration for painting and cloth design.
Though Barbara had painted and drawn since early childhood, she was not initially drawn to weaving as a means of expression. In the early 1960’s, she started designing for cloth at the suggestion of a family friend, Mother Good Counsel of the Sisters of the Order of the Good Shepherd.
Having understood the principle of weaving, Barbara soon grew excited by its creative possibilities. She sought inspiration for her designs from the colours of life and nature around her, finding ways to represent what she saw and felt without the aid of representative figuration. She travelled the island, observing, sketching and taking notes.
Her bold, brilliantly-hued hand loom designs soon attracted attention. The cloth was first sold from her home in Colombo. The first retail store, HOUSE, was in The Fort area of Colombo and a second shop, called BAREFOOT and selling her first collection of clothes, opened at the Galle Face Court in the late 1960s.
While Barefoot grew under her influence, Barbara continued her creative work, as an artist and writer. She held her first one-woman exhibition in London in 1966 and has continued to exhibit regularly in Sri Lanka and abroad. Having worked as a journalist and essayist at the Ceylon Daily Mirror and the Times of Ceylon during the early 1960s, she published the book, Vihares & Verandas, in 1978; Architecture of an Island, in 1998, Missy Fu and Tikkiri Banda in 2002 Press with the Toes in the Grass, in 2004, A Passion for Faces in 2014 and Missy Fu in Yala 2015.