Shopping in Siem Reap

I am going to indulge in a bit of materialism right now by expressing my love of Siem Reap's shopping scene. But first, some background information. Remember my blog post about choosing ethical clothing? Intentionally buying clothes that are not "tainted" with injustice can be inaccessible and expensive for many people. For example, in my home town in rural Kansas, Wal-Mart dominates the shopping scene, with only a few independent boutiques and thrift stores to offer alternatives. For my family to shop ethically means to restrict themselves to thrift stores or online boutiques.

Just a few weeks ago, over 3,000 garment workers employed by a Cambodia factory producing clothing for Nike held widespread protests which eventually led to violence. Cambodia is such a mix when it comes to fashion. Although garment factories dominate, there are dozens of fair-trade, ethical clothing business springing up across the country, providing livable wages to Cambodians and also amazing products at very affordable prices.

Siem Reap has a concentration of many of my favorite shops. If you don't live here or have any intention of visiting here, I'm sorry - this will probably just make you a bit jealous. But if you live in Cambodia, you have an amazing opportunity to vote with your dollars and support local businesses. Below are just three of my favorite shops open in Cambodia. None are NGO/charity-run, and all are fair trade businesses.

Bags lining the shelf at Smateria, Siem Reap

Smateria - Smateria is probably one of my favorite shops of all times. It was started by two Italian women who met in Phnom Penh - one creative, one business-savy - then opened a business making bags, purses, and fashion accessories out of recycled materials. The products are made out of fabric scraps, netting, motorcycle seat covers, and any other reusable product they can get their hands on. They employ artisans who make the products at a fair wage and also provide benefits, such as child care and medical insurance. That may sound pretty standard for Western companies, but those are huge steps forward for Cambodian workers. I literally cannot stay away from their shop - they've even made some custom products for me (I get to pick out the fabric and netting color!), so I'm pretty much hooked. 

 Keo K'Jay - Keo k'jay means "bright green" or "fresh" in Khmer. Their clothes are Cambodian-inspired, modern designs made with recycled or locally produced materials in environmentally-friendly processes (whew! that's a lot of loaded words!). At my last visit, I picked up some artistic, screenprint tees made of fabric remnants from factories - fabric that would be burned or tossed aside, but instead is made into something beautiful. They recently participated in the Phnom Penh Designers Week, which means you're getting designer fashion for very affordable prices. They sell through some shops in the USA (even one in Tulsa!) and online. 

Spicy Green Mango - SGM is funky, hippy, and a bit of the rebel. Andrew and I both bought t-shirts with the logo of Burma's National League for Democracy, the party Aung San Suu Kyi - The Lady - belongs to (if you don't know who that is, please do yourself a favor and watch this movie!). Their clothes feature screen prints of dragonflies, flowers, and whimsical insects. Some of their pieces look really "patchwork", almost like you found it in a thrift store and remade it into a new outfit. Some people don't go for that, but it definitely comes out fun.

Do you have any favorite ethical fashion stores to share with me?