DOCU. Christiane Waneissi exports the mission dress, a symbol of Kanak culture and know

Christiane promotes New Caledonian craftsmanship beyond her native land. Her startup, labeled French Tech Tremplin, offers the online sale of Melanesian dresses that have become an identity sign of New Caledonian cultural creativity. Discover the portrait of “The one who reclaimed the mission dress” in this new episode of “Your photos, our story”.

Christiane Waneissi was born on October 12, 1972 in the Luecila tribe in Lifou, one of the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia. Daughter and granddaughter of teachers, the young Kanak pursued brilliant studies in New Zealand and then in France. Back home, Christiane held several management positions in the cultural sector and regional cooperation. In 2020, she left the workforce and started her own business. Christiane is not a seamstress, but she has always been an intermediary to sell mission dresses at weddings or during the traditional festival on the island of Lifou. She tells us the story of the mission dress by looking through the photos in her family album.

Back-to-school mission dress - Your photos, our story

Christiane wears a mission dress on her first day of school

©Good Company

When the missionaries arrive, men, women and children dress in a skirt made of vegetable fibres. Missionaries, whether Protestant or Catholic, forbid nudity. The mission dress was born at the end of the 19th century with the arrival of the first Christian missionaries. Imported from the West, the dress imposes modesty and modesty on women. It is long and covers the whole body from head to toe. It accompanies the evangelization of the archipelago.

19th century mission dress

Mission dress worn in New Caledonia in the 19th century

©Good Company

Kanak women have been able to adapt it, transform it, make it evolve over time. They integrate it into custom: the mission dress just like fabric, tobacco or yam can be offered during customary ceremonies. It is also part of the wedding gifts.

The meaning of the mission dress is changing. Throughout history, women have appropriated this dress, symbol of evangelization, to make it an object of claiming their cultural identity. So much so that the Melanesian dress is prohibited as well as the vernacular languages ​​in certain educational institutions such as the Lycée Laperouse in the mid-1960s.

Family mission dress - Your photos, our story

Kanak family photo

©Good Company

The mission dress is worn every day, to work in the fields, cook or sleep, but also during parties and ceremonies. The dress unifies the women as Kanak and identifies them to their tribe either by color or by the number of stripes on the breastplate.

The official dress of cricket, a sport played by women in New Caledonia, is the mission dress. The colors differentiate the teams, they represent the tribes. Thus the players of Luecila wear a red and white dress, those of the village of Hapetra are green and yellow.

Luecila cricket team mission dress - Your photos, our story

Luecila cricket team

©Good Company

The style of the dress evolves, its length also. From the ankles, it passes to the calves and then to the knees. The sleeves are also shortened. The mission dress follows fashion. It is perpetually transformed, reinvented. Christiane Waneissi facilitates its international exposure. She supports Annie Diemene (Hadda Creations) who participated in London Pacific fashion week in 2021.

London Fashion week mission dress

One of the Hadda Creations mission dresses presented during London Pacific Fashion Week

©Good Company

On September 13, 2022, the mission dress paraded in Paris at the Hôtel Napoléon with Hadda Creations. In New Caledonia, Christiane proves that her land is also a source of innovation by organizing the #MadeInLoyalty collection parade at the Tjibaou Center.

A film written and directed by Agnes Jamonneau

Production Good company

Duration 14 minutes – © 2022

Bonuses The little story of Christiane Waneissi

DOCU. Christiane Waneissi exports the mission dress, a symbol of Kanak culture and know-how – Outre-mer la 1ère