Sri Lanka is gearing up to hold its first annual Design Festival at the end of this month in a bid to put the country on the map as a source of design as well as a manufacturing destination.

The event, which has been organised by the Academy of Design in association with Sri Lanka Apparel, the Export Development Board of Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Industrial Development, and Brandix, will include fashion shows, design exhibitions and workshops.

The organisers also say that key buyers from retailers including Topshop, Warehouse, Asos and Monsoon have also pledged to attend.

Already established as Sri Lanka's largest export earner, the garment industry shipped goods worth US$3,469m in 2008 - the majority of which went to the US and Europe.

Supplying global brands such as Victoria's Secret, Speedo, Marks & Spencer and Nike with products ranging from intimate apparel to high performance sportswear, the sector has also built a reputation for producing garments under ethical conditions.

At the cornerstone of its efforts is the 'Garments without guilt' campaign, which reassures buyers that clothing sourced from the Indian Ocean island is free of child and forced labour, free from discrimination of any kind, and free from sweatshop conditions.

Events organised as part of the Sri Lanka Design Festival 2009, which is being held in Colombo from 27 November to 5 December, include an Ethical Fashion Symposium, a workshop on 'The Business of Fashion,' and final collection work from fashion students graduating from Moratuwa University.