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This Luxury Handbag Brand Is Reframing What “Made In India” Actually Means

This Luxury Handbag Brand Is Reframing What “Made In India” Actually Means

In Refinery29’s Talking Shop series, we’re chatting with owners of up-and-coming small businesses about their experiences launching, the big challenges and wins they’ve faced, and, of course, their products and services.

When Shivam Punjya, founder and creative director of Behno, launched his NYC-based handbag brand, he wanted to use his accessories line as a jumping-off point for doing good. The idea came to Punjya in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in which over 1,100 workers died in Bangladesh. Later, in his motherland of India, he met and interacted with several local garment workers in rural and peri-urban areas, whose lives were similar to those lost in the Rana Plaza tragedy.

“This struck a nerve in me. It was an emotional moment where I saw space to fundamentally challenge how brands employed, treated, and viewed garment workers and artisans,” he says.

Behno Elizabeth Baguette Pebble, $490

Shop all Behno

Since the beginning of Behno (the word means “sisters” in Hindi), Punjya has run his business on what he calls “the Behno standard,” which is a set of six guiding principles that include health, women’s rights, and eco-consciousness. This, he mentions, is slightly different from the corporate social responsibility (CSR) model that a lot of other ethically minded companies use.

With “the Behno standard,” Punjya is able to retrofit additional principles into his overall vision for the company, which has him thinking outside the box when it comes to fair treatment of workers. He has launched his own initiatives, like chatting with and conducting focus groups with garment workers and artisans to determine how to partner with factories. “For us, ethics and consciousness are a fundamental part of our brand DNA, not a CSR initiative but rather a value system by which we operate,” he says.

Ahead, we chat with Shivam Punjya about his contemporary luxury handbag line and how his Indian culture has served as inspiration for the bright, poppy, geometric silhouettes.

Behno Simone Crossbody, $945 $495

Shop all Behno

What made you decide to use handbags as the vehicle to further your humanitarian mission?

“When Behno launched back in 2015, we actually were a ready-to-wear collection. About four years ago, we actively transitioned to handbags and small leather goods [because] our social impact could be larger. For me, our product has to stand on its own. We wanted to be sure our timeless designs, high-quality standard, and expert attention to detail presented our customers with a piece that would live in their wardrobes, hopefully over generations.”

Behno Ina Mini Crossbody Ruched, $475

Shop all Behno

How do Behno handbags celebrate or embody elements of Indian culture and design?

“As a South Asian, I have envisioned Behno to celebrate what I’ve always known India to be and to also challenge the preconceived notions of what ‘made in India’ hold. India has been and is home to some of the largest luxury brands’ hand-embroidery and embellishment needs. Similarly, this level of craftsmanship when constructing a handbag or wallet is inherently a part of our culture, and I envisioned it being a part of our output for a global platform. While our design sensibility is rooted in minimalism, soft structure, and crisp silhouettes, we do work with artisan cooperatives to translate age-old hand embroidery and embellishment techniques for our modern-day collector.”

Behno Lex Mini Accordion Binidi Pebble, $445

Shop all Behno

What other ways set Behno apart from other accessories brands?

“At Behno, I’ve always believed that the brand has to work with factories and artisans directly. My teammates and I at Behno spend a lot of time at our factories and our partner artisan cooperatives, working directly with them. This gives us a pulse of what’s happening at a grassroots level and also allows us to foster stronger capacity building.”

Behno Tina Baguette Mini Nappa Ruched, $390

Shop all Behno

What are some of the design inspirations of this current handbag collection?

“Our latest drop is launching soon, and I’m so excited to share it with the world. It’s actually in remembrance of my aunt, Usha, who passed on from Covid-19 compounded by neurodegenerative conditions. She didn’t have any children of her own, and as an immigrant in the U.S., she uprooted her life several times over and became a mother to all her nieces and nephews and created space within her family to allow it to thrive. She was an eloquent listener, wildly quirky, and peculiar in her demeanor.

“Our latest collection‘s palette recollects her being; her penchant for bright prints and colors with scuba blue, fuchsia, and acid green; her love for flashy gold jewelry with shimmery metallic leathers; her kempt and polished nails through our poppy red. The collection‘s Bindi bag leans into her unconditional love for her family, a marriage of compassion and extreme humility.”

DashDividers_1_500x100

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy or click on something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

In Refinery29’s Talking Shop series, we’re chatting with owners of up-and-coming small businesses about their experiences launching, the big challenges and wins they’ve faced, and, of course, their products and services.

When Shivam Punjya, founder and creative director of Behno, launched his NYC-based handbag brand, he wanted to use his accessories line as a jumping-off point for doing good. The idea came to Punjya in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in which over 1,100 workers died in Bangladesh. Later, in his motherland of India, he met and interacted with several local garment workers in rural and peri-urban areas, whose lives were similar to those lost in the Rana Plaza tragedy.

“This struck a nerve in me. It was an emotional moment where I saw space to fundamentally challenge how brands employed, treated, and viewed garment workers and artisans,” he says.

Behno Elizabeth Baguette Pebble, $490

Shop all Behno

Since the beginning of Behno (the word means “sisters” in Hindi), Punjya has run his business on what he calls “the Behno standard,” which is a set of six guiding principles that include health, women’s rights, and eco-consciousness. This, he mentions, is slightly different from the corporate social responsibility (CSR) model that a lot of other ethically minded companies use.

With “the Behno standard,” Punjya is able to retrofit additional principles into his overall vision for the company, which has him thinking outside the box when it comes to fair treatment of workers. He has launched his own initiatives, like chatting with and conducting focus groups with garment workers and artisans to determine how to partner with factories. “For us, ethics and consciousness are a fundamental part of our brand DNA, not a CSR initiative but rather a value system by which we operate,” he says.

Ahead, we chat with Shivam Punjya about his contemporary luxury handbag line and how his Indian culture has served as inspiration for the bright, poppy, geometric silhouettes.

Behno Simone Crossbody, $945 $495

Shop all Behno

What made you decide to use handbags as the vehicle to further your humanitarian mission?

“When Behno launched back in 2015, we actually were a ready-to-wear collection. About four years ago, we actively transitioned to handbags and small leather goods [because] our social impact could be larger. For me, our product has to stand on its own. We wanted to be sure our timeless designs, high-quality standard, and expert attention to detail presented our customers with a piece that would live in their wardrobes, hopefully over generations.”

Behno Ina Mini Crossbody Ruched, $475

Shop all Behno

How do Behno handbags celebrate or embody elements of Indian culture and design?

“As a South Asian, I have envisioned Behno to celebrate what I’ve always known India to be and to also challenge the preconceived notions of what ‘made in India’ hold. India has been and is home to some of the largest luxury brands’ hand-embroidery and embellishment needs. Similarly, this level of craftsmanship when constructing a handbag or wallet is inherently a part of our culture, and I envisioned it being a part of our output for a global platform. While our design sensibility is rooted in minimalism, soft structure, and crisp silhouettes, we do work with artisan cooperatives to translate age-old hand embroidery and embellishment techniques for our modern-day collector.”

Behno Lex Mini Accordion Binidi Pebble, $445

Shop all Behno

What other ways set Behno apart from other accessories brands?

“At Behno, I’ve always believed that the brand has to work with factories and artisans directly. My teammates and I at Behno spend a lot of time at our factories and our partner artisan cooperatives, working directly with them. This gives us a pulse of what’s happening at a grassroots level and also allows us to foster stronger capacity building.”

Behno Tina Baguette Mini Nappa Ruched, $390

Shop all Behno

What are some of the design inspirations of this current handbag collection?

“Our latest drop is launching soon, and I’m so excited to share it with the world. It’s actually in remembrance of my aunt, Usha, who passed on from Covid-19 compounded by neurodegenerative conditions. She didn’t have any children of her own, and as an immigrant in the U.S., she uprooted her life several times over and became a mother to all her nieces and nephews and created space within her family to allow it to thrive. She was an eloquent listener, wildly quirky, and peculiar in her demeanor.

“Our latest collection‘s palette recollects her being; her penchant for bright prints and colors with scuba blue, fuchsia, and acid green; her love for flashy gold jewelry with shimmery metallic leathers; her kempt and polished nails through our poppy red. The collection‘s Bindi bag leans into her unconditional love for her family, a marriage of compassion and extreme humility.”

DashDividers_1_500x100

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy or click on something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

Source:https://refinery29.com/en-us/behno-shivam-punjya-interview

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