Reimagining traditional Malay kerawang embroidery in fine Songket cloth

Commonwealth Fashion Council

Explore the story of designer Bernard Chandran from Malaysia and find out how he came to create his look for The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, 2018. 

“Traditional craftsmanship, that may be deemed mundane, dull to some, must be given a new lease of life, a whole new perspective. We can create a ‘nouveau’ sense of modernity with these artisanal ideas, which would be sought after on an international scale.”
Bernard Chandran
The Exchange: Malaysia
For The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange 2018, designer Bernard Chandran created a look in fine 'songket' - a royal Malay brocade. The look was unveiled at Buckingham Palace on February 19, 2018, and later moved to the Australian High Commission, London, where it was open to the public in the run up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, April 2018.
Malaysia: Designer Bernard Chandran
Bernard Chandran was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, grew up in an Islamic country and comes from a mixed parentage background of Indian and Chinese. He received a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the Paris American Academy and Pattern Making at L’Union Des Chambers Syndicales Parisiennes, Paris. Bernard Chandran was the first non-European designer to win both the coveted Silk Cut Young Designers Award and the Open European contest for Look of the Year 2000. In 2007, he was conferred Dato (the Malaysian equivalent of a knighthood) by the Sultan of Pahang for his outstanding contributions to fashion design.
The story behind the look
Bernard chose to create his design in fine ‘songket’ – a royal Malay brocade, handwoven and patterned with gold and silver threads. He drew inspiration from Malay ‘kerawang’ – a style of traditional embroidery that involves cutting away the base-cloth to create a lace effect, contemporising the look with a geometric feel. The strapless dress is carefully structured and the floor-length coat is embroidered with wool yarn.

Illustration of the look

Traditional materials

Bernard chose to create his design in fine ‘songket’ – a royal Malay brocade, handwoven and patterned with gold and silver threads.

Embroidery techniques

He drew inspiration from Malay ‘kerawang’ – a style of traditional embroidery that involves cutting away the base-cloth to create a lace effect, contemporising the look with a geometric feel.

The Dress

The strapless dress was carefully structured.

The Coat

The floor-length coat was embroidered with wool yarn.

Final look on display at Buckingham Palace, 19 February 2018

Final look on display at the Australian High Commission, London, 22 February 2018

Credits: Story

This content has been specifically curated for the Google Arts & Culture platform on behalf of the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange exhibition that launched on the 19th of February at Buckingham Palace in partnership with Swarovski, The Woolmark Company and MATCHESFASHION.COM.

The project, created and managed by Eco-Age, with the support of The Commonwealth Fashion Council and The British Fashion Council.

More information about the images is available by clicking on them.
Read more about the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange at http://eco-age.com/commonwealth-fashion-exchange/

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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