SIEM REAP: STYLISH SHOPPING
Haute Couture The king of Khmer couture, internationally acclaimed Madagascar-born fashion designer Eric Raisina has been the toast of Cambodia’s famous temple town since he opened his original haute couture outlet close to Siem Reap’s royal residence in 2005. The consistently high quality of his work has contributed to the transformation of the town from a service stop for Angkor Wat to a fashionable destination in its own right. The designer was inspired to set up shop in Siem Reap after a visit in 1996 to the ancient site introduced him to local silk weavers who used techniques “as old as the temples”. Today his team of 40 is entirely local and his designs draw heavily from temple architecture and Cambodia’s tropical trees and plants. Customers interested in learning more about his work can observe his team in action at his atelier. “When you see my ladies crocheting it helps you understand the nature of couture,” he says. In a new initiative, Park Hyatt Siem Reap is offering visits to Eric’s atelier as part of its Haute Couture tours package and the hotel will stage a Eric Raisina fashion show later this year. Shops at 75-81 Charles de Gaulle Avenue and the arcade of FCC Angkor, Pokambor Avenue; ericraisina.com; siemreap.park.hyatt.com.
Contemporary jewellery Managed by British-born jeweller Madeline Green, Ammo sells fine pieces made from recycled brass ammunition. The symbolism of making beautiful trinkets from neutralised bullets resonates with anyone familiar with Cambodia’s trouble past. The stunt crew from Angelina Jolie’s new film on the Cambodian conflict, First They Shot my Father, commissioned 10 pendants from Green. And to thank the Hollywood star for her work, Ammo made Jolie an intricate brass hair pin from bullets. Ammo is also keen to look to the future and has recently launched a Temple range of jewellery, drawing inspiration from Angkor Wat. It provides apprenticeships to young Cambodians who train at the Ammo workshop in central Siem Reap. Clients are encouraged to visit the studio to see the jewellers in action, buy from the collections and even have a lesson in making bullet jewellery. 120 Wat Bo Road; craftsiemreap.com; ammojewellery.com.
Fashion The most interesting new artisan district in Siem Reap is in the quiet city-centre enclave of Kandal Village. Barely more than one main street of French colonial buildings, it features a range of upscale interior design shops, art galleries, cafes and the odd day spa. Right in the middle of Hap Guan Street is Sirivan Chak Dumas’s fashion boutique and within this jasmine-scented space she displays a tasteful collection of accessories, home decor and her own men’s and women’s clothing. Stripped-down, elegant tailoring and quality fabrics are her signature style. Upstairs is Dumas’s workshop, where everything from her smart linen shorts to a range of hand-tailored beanies are created. 10 Hap Guan Street; sirivan.asia.
Natural lacquerware The tradition of extracting sap from lacquer trees was dying out in Cambodia until French craftsman Eric Stocker and his brother Thierry helped to revive it. They needed the dark, smoky sap to build up the many layers of their highly polished lacquer artefacts. The duo has improved on the traditional technique and passed on their knowledge to teams of local apprentices. The skill level at Angkor Artwork is extremely high; in particular, the eggshell-coated Buddhas produced by deaf craftsmen are a wonder to behold. The brothers are busy producing a range of lacquer and gilding commissions for design houses and private collections across the world. They welcome visitors to their open workshop and verdant garden 10 minutes from the centre of Siem Reap. Original pieces of stunning artistry are for sale at the on-site boutique, including new textured boxes in parchment and stingray skin. 498 Sala Komroeuk Road; angkorartwork.fr.
ONYX: Tailored linen fashion Noteko is a Thai-born fashion designer who has set up her stylish shop, Onyx, within the narrow passages of the Old Market in central Siem Reap. Her carefully chosen collection of homewares, jewellery and linen clothing has caught the attention of Phum Baitang, a country hotel composed of individual villas, all laid out to resemble a traditional Cambodian village complete with rice fields. The hotel, a favourite of Angelina Jolie’s, asked Noteko to stock its boutique and the result is a resort retail space that feels like a cross between a curated exhibition and a fashion salon. Brad Pitt purchased one of Noteko’s bespoke linen shirts during his visit to the hotel and the designer’s tailored dressing gowns are popular with female guests. All her linen clothing is made in a workshop above her market store where clients come for alterations and to say hello to her talented tailors. Onyx Boutique and Workshop, The Passage, Old Market; chantreemas.com; phumbaitang.com.
ARTISAN LUNETIER: Handmade eyewear After his apprenticeship in Paris, Jacques Danger set up a workshop making bespoke eyewear for the Parisian elite. Now settled in Cambodia, his Artisan Lunetier is offering a range of spectacles and sunglasses made with black buffalo horn and specialist materials such as diamond, snakeskin and sharkskin. The easy access to raw materials is the main draw of his new Asian home. The buffalo horn is light and the grain makes each pair of glasses unique. To understand his craft, take a trip to his workshop on the outskirts of Siem Reap. He also works closely with optician Nony Huor at Eye See in Kandal Village. Danger’s workshop is just beyond Psar Leu Market on the main National Highway 6 (phone for directions; +855 096 673 9728); Eye See, 626 Hap Guan Street, Kandal Village; artisan-lunetier.com.
Busy bars and shops of Siem Reap, top; dressmaker Sirivan Chak Dumas, above; L’Artisan Lunetier, above right; Onyx, below right; designer Eric Raisina in his boutique, below left