Jun 04 2013
Phnom Penh can be a shopper’s paradise, where seemingly every week a new shiny store opens selling the latest in international fashion. Sihanouk Boulevard boasts brands such as Mango, bYSI and Skechers retailed in icy air-con with fancy changing rooms. But I must confess my secret passion for secondhand clothes shopping — digging around in market stalls and the vintage boutiques springing up around town. Here are your best bets for finding some treasures.
The first places to rummage are the secondhand stalls in Central Market and BKK (Boeung Keng Kang) Market. Look for stalls which only have one of each item on display. Once you find the right area the vendors are handily arranged together, so you can work your way through the piles of dresses, tops and trousers. If you’re of a more “European build” like me you may need to hunt for a while to find the items that don’t make you look like you raided your kid sister’s wardrobe. Trying on can be a challenge — either over your clothes or with the aid of a sarong gripped tightly between your teeth to protect your modesty. The labyrinth-like O’Russei Market has a fantastic collection of pre-loved shoes on the second floor, although most women’s styles don’t go above a European size 39.
Another Phnom Penh favourite is ToTo Recycle Shop Japan, generally known as Japanese Thrift. Containers of men’s and women’s clothes are regularly shipped in, a fabulous hodge-podge of cutesy T-shirts, kimonos, jeans, dresses and coats. There are several locations, the easiest one to find being on France Street (Street 47) between Wat Phnom and the Japanese Friendship Bridge. My motto is that if you can bear to try it on in the muggy warehouse-like shop, then it will pass muster on Asian streets.
Vintage boutiques are an increasing phenomenon — around town you’ll find several shops that have done the hard work for you, selecting pieces that will fit and appeal to Westerners. Prices are higher than the markets, but they do throw in changing rooms and fans to make the whole experience more pleasant. Lost ‘n’ Found Vintage stock hand-picked dresses, bags, shoes and accessories in their bright yellow shop, and post new arrivals online.
There’s plenty of beautiful things to make you go “Oooohhh” at the bijou Poco Loco shop at Le Jardin and at Phnom Boutique, which also stocks kids clothes and newly tailored items in retro prints. Keok’jay adapts their finds to create one-off pieces and you’ll find similar creations on the hangers at Color Vintage near the National Museum, displayed under low-hanging bags. As well as dresses, skirts and shoes, there’s also a smaller men’s section with shirts and trousers.
Fellas don’t need to miss out on the secondhand fun — several stalls on the streets behind the night market and on Street 19 sell pre-worn tops and trousers. Khmer men aren’t shy when it comes to shirtage, so indulge your inner diva with some embroidery and bling. If you’re a serial loud shirt offender, check out the shirt shop on Street 136 which has floral extravagances alongside more sedate work shirts. Just be sure to try the items before buying, to make sure the cuffs don’t finish halfway down your arm.
168 Street 13, Phnom Penh
T: (092) 738678
Corner of Street 110 and Sisowath Quay
Lost ‘n’ Found Vintage
321 Street 63
T: (023) 640 5047
Men’s Second-hand Shirts (Khmer name sign)
97 Street 136, Phnom Penh
14A Street 294, TOnle Bassac, Phnom Penh
Le Jardin, 16 Street 260, Phnom Penh
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