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Made In India: Meet Shivam Punjya, CEO Of The Contemporary Fashion Label, Behno

Avani Purohit



Who said ethical and luxury fashion don't go hand in hand? Shivam Punjya’s label, Behno provides you with just that. It’s a marriage between sustainability and minimal contemporary style that would appeal to the socially conscious shopper. Designed in New York and manufactured India, Behno has been worn by International celebrities - Emma Watson, Alysia Reiner and Jessica Williams. Shivam opens up to us about the label:


Avani Purohit: How did Behno come into being? How did the transition from global health to fashion come about?

Shivam Punjya: Well, to be honest, Behno is a nerd. Or the product of a nerd meets world. After studying political economics and global poverty at UC Berkeley, working for an education advocacy non-profit based in India, I was intrigued by global health and social entrepreneurship. I wanted to see how benefits from India’s education system could be maximised with the midday meal policy that was in place at that time.

So, I went on to complete my masters from Duke and time flew by. I found myself doing my research thesis in India. And that’s when I learnt a bit about textile workers, their families, the disparity that existed between what they were producing and what they were earning. As I was exploring the textile industry, I gained insight into a larger picture and into the perception of ‘made in India’. Something that was either negatively received or quickly dismissed. This coupled with the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh shook my world. I was appalled, really. I just wanted to challenge the common perception of ‘made in India’ with a strong design sensibility and also explore ethical manufacturing in order to address some of the largest issues circling the garment industry.


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AP: Whats the story behind naming your brand Behno?

SP: Behno means ‘sisters’ in Gujarati and Hindi. In garment factories, women are addressed by their first name followed by ‘behn’ or ‘sister’. The plural, behno, reflects a community that is  fostered within garment factories.


AP:You don’t come from a fashion background - do you feel that limits you in some way? Tell us about the challenges you’ve faced while setting up this label.

SP: I think that starting the brand with a clear vision and mission was paramount. My research and academic background gave me a deep understanding of knowing what social impact was demanded and how to go about crafting “The Behno Standard”. I was also headstrong about curating collections that were clean, minimal and slightly whimsical. I was fortunate enough to build a strong design team that shared that aesthetic and mindset. It’s the dream team!

Challenges? Name a day where we don’t have a challenge and I’ll tell you right off the back that something’s wrong. There’s something new to learn everyday. That’s what keeps it exciting, am I right?


AP: Your take on the horrifying side of the garment manufacturing industry - how do you think we can overcome them?

SP: Social change has never been singular. Marches always had a following and a strategy. So much of recent discourse has been placed on understanding and accepting that there is a problem. But what’s next? We have to open up our supply chains and forge partnerships so we can tackle issues together. Brands and other players in the industry need to build each other into each other’s business plans.


AP: Can you describe Behno’s manufacturing process for us? How do you ensure that your supply chain is fair trade?

SP: We work with many different factories in Asia, particularly India. At our partner factory, MSA Ethos, we have a non-profit partner that is instrumental in ensuring that our social programming is implemented and our workers are well looked after. We visit all the factories we work with to have a look at their working conditions, see if there is room for improvement and find ways to start implementing piecemeal efforts to improve their conditions. We know that change is a process and we’re lucky to have found forward thinking partners.


AP: How would you best describe Behno’s style aesthetic?

SP: Menswear inspired, tailored yet slouchy with fun details. Casual luxury.


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AP: Are you looking to open a flagship store in India anytime soon?

SP: Want to open one together? I’m down!


AP: What advise would you give to aspiring ethical fashion designers?

SP: Take in everything…everything has the potential of being a lesson. And let conscience, conviction and collaboration drive everything forward.




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Images courtesy Behno. 



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