A Cam­bo­dian de­sign group trash­ing tra­di­tion

A new col­lec­tive of Cam­bo­dian de­sign­ers is try­ing to turn trash into this sea­son’s hottest trend

Southeast Asia Globe - - Contents - – Hem­munind Hou

Miss Ja­pan strut­ted down the run­way in Bangkok, wear­ing a gar­land of card­board leaves around her head, a tube top of tiny pyra­mids wrapped around her chest and a dress, short in the front with a flow­ing train, made en­tirely of rolled up copies of news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines from Cam­bo­dia.

The gown, part of a fash­ion show in Oc­to­ber for the Keep Bangkok Clean cam­paign, was de­signed by La Ch­houk Re­cy­cled and Cre­ative Fash­ion, a team of young de­sign­ers in Ph­nom Penh carv­ing out a so­cially minded niche in the coun­try’s fledg­ing fash­ion scene.

They out­fit­ted the en­tire lineup of beauty queens for the event. Miss Thai­land World wore a long, tiered dress com­posed en­tirely of shreds of plas­tic. Miss Grand Thai­land wore a strap­less plas­tic minidress and cape. Miss Ja­pan 2015 wore an avant-garde yel­low tulip dress with plas­tic pon­chos bunched to­gether at the bottom and wrap­ping around her neck, with a match­ing bon­net to boot.

“As graphic de­sign and in­te­rior de­sign stu­dents, we wanted to do some­thing dif­fer­ent from our field,” said So­vannareach Ith, who started La Ch­houk with fel­low stu­dents from Cam­bo­dia’s Royal Univer­sity of Fine Arts. “We also wanted to cre­ate pieces of art that can con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety.”

Us­ing only re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als, which might pass for trash in the eyes of some, the group be­gan their col­lab­o­ra­tion work­ing on a project for a school fair in 2014, each as­signed to scour the city for dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als that would be­come their first ex­per­i­ment in re­cy­cled fash­ion.

Now much of the ma­te­ri­als they gather – plas­tic bags, rice sacks, cans, bot­tles, card­board, pa­per – come from class­mates keep­ing an eye out for them, fam­ily friends who keep left­over bits from their busi­nesses or di­rectly from scrap col­lec­tors trawl­ing the city’s streets.

“We want to ed­u­cate peo­ple about us­ing re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als and let them see the value of those ma­te­ri­als through our beau­ti­ful dresses,” Ith said. “We want to let them know that waste could also be reused to make an­other won­der­ful thing.”

For their lat­est fash­ion shows in Ph­nom Penh, the La Ch­houk crew have pushed the so­cial pos­si­bil­i­ties of their projects even fur­ther, hir­ing trans­gen­der mod­els to show off lines in­clud­ing a colour­ful col­lec­tion of plas­tic dresses made in the style of Cam­bo­dia’s swing­ing ’1960s.

By mix­ing tra­di­tional styles with con­tem­po­rary so­cial is­sues, La Ch­houk is en­cour­ag­ing Cam­bo­di­ans to pay more at­ten­tion to both, said Ith. The group is plan­ning their big­gest fash­ion show yet for the end of the year in Ph­nom Penh.

Clock­wise from top left: So­vannareach Ith; mod­els pose af­ter a La Ch­houk fash­ion show at Ph­nom Penh’s Royal Univer­sity of Fine Arts; a model strikes an Ap­sara pose in the show’s sig­na­ture dress

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