Reflections on a father’s legacy from a third-gen owner of 101-year-old bespoke jeweller H Sena
Updated: Jul 26, 2021
Owner-director Medhanie Senanayake talks us through bringing a century-old family heirloom into the 21st century – just in time for Father’s Day.
It’s easy to talk of modernisation and its IT-forward cousin, digitisation, for age-old companies with nary a care for the spectre that is heritage and by extension, legacy. Yes, there’s concrete benefits from bringing an organisation up to speed – and equipping it with tools to obtain said speed – but there’s also much to be said about keeping what’s stood the test of time.
It’s a balance that third-generation owner of bespoke family-run jeweller H Sena, Medhanie Senanayake, had to find rather recently. She’s no greenhorn at the biz – she’s been at the helm for a decade of the house’s 101-year history – but she, like so many others, was faced with a threat of isolation, bordering on obsoletion, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Before, the legacy brand – founded in 1919 by Henry Senanayake – served a string of high-profile commissions to royalty in Malaysia and Thailand, notable political figures and even the late Prince Philip in its heyday in the 50s. The legacy was continued by Medhanie’s late father Dharma Senanayake since 1962 as he continued to provide custom pieces for royals and elites alike, until finally Medhanie took over in 2010.
We speak with her to find out how she brought the label into the modern age while retaining its hard-wrought legacy, helped along by her parents. It is Father’s Day after all – which means there’s no better time to talk about how to juggle moving forward, while looking back.