Reimagining traditional Malay kerawang embroidery in fine Songket cloth

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.

By Commonwealth Fashion Council

Bernard Chandran drawing his sketch by Bernard ChandranCommonwealth Fashion Council

“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

Side of Bernard Chandran's look at Buckingham PalaceCommonwealth Fashion Council

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.

Bernard Chandran HeadshotCommonwealth Fashion Council

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.

Bernard Chandran creating his dress by Bernard ChandranCommonwealth Fashion Council

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.

Behind the scenes with designer Bernard Chandran by Bernard ChandranCommonwealth Fashion Council

Bernard Chandran drawing his sketch by Bernard ChandranCommonwealth Fashion Council

Bernard Chandran's sketch by Bernard ChandranCommonwealth Fashion Council

Illustration of the look

The making of Bernard Chandran's pattern by Bernard ChandranCommonwealth Fashion Council

Close up of Bernard Chandran's coat by Bernard ChandranCommonwealth Fashion Council

Traditional materials

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

Bernard Chandran creating his pattern by Bernard ChandranCommonwealth Fashion Council

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.

Bernard Chandran's dress Bernard Chandran's dressCommonwealth Fashion Council

The Dress

The strapless dress was carefully structured.

Bernard Chandran's look by Bernard ChandranCommonwealth Fashion Council

The Coat

The floor-length coat was embroidered with wool yarn.

Side of Bernard Chandran's look at Buckingham PalaceCommonwealth Fashion Council

Final look on display at Buckingham Palace, 19 February 2018

Bernard Chandran's look by Bernard ChandranCommonwealth 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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