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.
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?