The story of ancient Tuvalu kolose crochet, Indian embroidery, and repurposed wool

By Commonwealth Fashion Council

Explore the exchange story of designer behno from India and artisans Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa from Tuvalu and find out how they created their look for The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, 2018.

Artisan from Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa in Tuvalu crocheting patches for behno's dressCommonwealth Fashion Council

“Our mission is to produce
beautiful pieces that come from a place that is equally as beautiful.”

Shivam Punjya

Behno's Commonwealth Fashion Exchange lookCommonwealth Fashion Council

The Exchange: India x Tuvalu

For The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange 2018, designer behno exchanged with artisans Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa to create a look which highlights craftsmanship and traditions from both countries. 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.

Designer Shivam Punjya, behno by behnoCommonwealth Fashion Council

India: Designer behno

Shivam Punjya had an unlikely education for the creative director of a fashion brand. The founder of behno, the womenswear label designed in NYC and ethically manufactured in Asia, studied politics and global poverty, and was leaning towards a career in academia, when he began to research his thesis on the textile industry in India. “There were two learnings from my research; first there was a massive disparity between what the workers were earning and what they were producing; and second there was a very negative global perception of ‘made in India’.” 

behno's workshop by Shivam PunjyaCommonwealth Fashion Council

behno's artisan cutting fabric by Shivam PunjyaCommonwealth Fashion Council

behno, the womenswear label is designed in NYC and ethically manufactured in Asia

Artisans from Fafine Niutao I AotearoaCommonwealth Fashion Council

Tuvalu: Artisans Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa

From the fourth smallest country in the world comes a craft that arrived in the Pacific islands of Tuvalu in the early 20th century, and quickly became a national craft. ‘Kolose’ is a form of intricate crochet that encourages self-expression. The Kolose artists adopt a freestyle approach to each design, making patterns up as they go along and choosing colours while they work, to portray their love of their island, community and culture. 

Artisan from Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa in Tuvalu crocheting patches for behno's dressCommonwealth Fashion Council

Keeping tradition alive

Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa is a collective of women artists who work together to create Tuvaluan crochet in the form of fashion and wall hangings. This cooperative of women is part of a Tuvalu community that has migrated to New Zealand. They keep alive their memories of island life by meeting every Thursday to crochet together while singing songs and telling stories. Taking their lead from behno, five of the finest Kolose artisans spent a month crocheting 100 square panels for behno’s design.

Behind the scenes with designer behno by behnoCommonwealth Fashion Council

Benho for the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange on display at Buckingham Palace (2018-02-19) by BenhoCommonwealth Fashion Council

The story behind the look

behno originated a signature style for the brand that combines innovative textiles with strong masculine tailoring. 

behno's sketch by Shivam PunjyaCommonwealth Fashion Council

Illustration of the coat

behno's sketch of the coat that was created for The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, using repurposed wool (certified by Woolmark)

The wool used to create behno's coat, Shivam Punjya, From the collection of: Commonwealth Fashion Council
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behno created a repurposed wool coat, certified by The Woolmark Company

Close up of the mirror-work on behno's wool coat, Shivam Punjya, From the collection of: Commonwealth Fashion Council
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The process of embellishing behno's repurposed wool coat with Indian mirror-work and border and grid beadwork

Close up of the mirror-work on behno's wool coat, Shivam Punjya, From the collection of: Commonwealth Fashion Council
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Close up of the mirror-work on behno's wool coat by Shivam PunjyaCommonwealth Fashion Council

Indian mirror-work on behno's repurposed wool coat

Close up of the mirror-work on behno's wool coat by Shivam PunjyaCommonwealth Fashion Council

behno's sketch by Shivam PunjyaCommonwealth Fashion Council

Illustration of the dress

behno's sheer dress made from remnants of silk organza, embellished with Swarovski upcycled crystals, and scattered with black crochet 'kolose' panels

Artisan from Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa in Tuvalu crocheting patches for behno's dress, From the collection of: Commonwealth Fashion Council
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Artisan from Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa who specialises in Kolose crochet creating square panels for behno's design. Kolose crochet is a national craft that arrived in the Pacific islands of Tuvalu in the early 20th century.

Artisan from Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa crocheting patches for behno's dress, From the collection of: Commonwealth Fashion Council
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The cooperative of women that make up Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa migrated to New Zealand and keep their memories of island life alive by meeting every Thursday to crochet together while singing songs and telling stories.

Artisan from Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa in Tuvalu crocheting patches for behno's dress, From the collection of: Commonwealth Fashion Council
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Five of the finest Kolose artisans from Tuvalu spent a month crocheting 100 square panels to complete behno's dress.

Artisan from Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa in Tuvalu crocheting patches for behno's dressCommonwealth Fashion Council

“The Tuvaluan people have so many artistic
talents in terms of handicrafts and design work.”

Embroidered patches created by artisans for behno's dress by Shivam PunjyaCommonwealth Fashion Council

Kolose crochet square panels that completed behno's design

The making of behno's dress by Shivam PunjyaCommonwealth Fashion Council

Close up of Behno's Commonwealth Fashion Exchange lookCommonwealth Fashion Council

Back of behno's coat by behnoCommonwealth Fashion Council

Behno's Commonwealth Fashion Exchange lookCommonwealth Fashion Council

Final look on display at Buckingham Palace, 19 February 2018

Behno's look by behnoCommonwealth Fashion Council

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

Behind the Scenes of The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange 2018Commonwealth Fashion Council

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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