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Fashion Institute of Technology exhibits artisan designs from British commonwealths

By Robyn Turk

28 Sep 2018


An exhibition of the United Kingdom’s Commonwealth Fashion Exchange has just opened at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. Originally launched at London’s Buckingham Palace in February, the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange is a celebration of fashion and artisan talents in commonwealth nations. The project teamed rising talents from commonwealth countries with major designers to help showcase works created by the rising talents to a wider audience. Designers including Stella McCartney, Karen Walker and Bibi Russell participated. “The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange aims to reflect the fact that fashion provides a common language to create new networks and connections,” a statement read.

Works included ranged from a collaboration between Stella McCartney and Indian brand Oshadi featuring textiles dyed naturally by craftsmen in Tamil Nadu, an evening gown inspired by flora and fauna of island nations created collaboratively between Theodore Elyett and Catherine Rocheford, from the Bahamas and Barbados respectively and a wool dress trimmed with Maasai beading by Cameroon label Kibonen New York and Tanzanian Makory Mgece.

FIT exhibits UK's Commonwealth Fashion Exchange

New York-based brand behno, which works with Indian artisans, represented India for the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange and teamed with five artisans from Tuvalu to create a sheer dress made with blue silk organza and black crochet kolose panels. The crochet panels were all crafted by the Tuvaluan artisans, using a technique popular to their region that is very intricate and took a month to complete.

“For the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, our entire look was inspired by indigenous Indian embroideries that was taken from Persians and other parts of Asia,” behno founder Shivam Punjya said. “We’re inspired by how people have interpreted India in a modern way. I think the traditional is beautiful and i think a lot of people have inspiration but there’s also a whole different world to India that doesn’t necessarily make it into collections sometimes.”

The exhibition is currently on display at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s newly renovated Pomerantz Building. The exhibition is sponsored by Swarovski, The Woolmark Company, Matches Fashion, Paddle8 and Nest and is free to the public, running through October 8.

Photo courtesy of FIT