behno has originated a signature style for the brand that combines innovative textiles with strong masculine tailoring. For the Fashion Exchange, behno has created a repurposed wool coat (Woolmark certified) featuring Indian mirror-work and border and grid beadwork, and a sheer dress made from remnants of blue silk organza, embellished with Swarovski upcycle crystals, and scattered with black crochet ‘kolose’ panels. Five women from Tuvalu, artisans from a cooperative called Fafine Niutao I Aotearoa, spent a month creating the panels, using a crochet technique that is particularly intricate and popular in the region.
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’.”
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. 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.