On first impressions, Siem Reap might not seem like a fashion haven, but there are options here and, believe us, it’s better than a few years ago when female expats had to be physically restrained from mugging arriving planes of visitors in the hope of getting their hands on trousers (or knickers) they could pull up past their knees.
Things here are changing, and if you dig around you can find some really gorgeous attire, many of them designed and created here.
In Siem Reap, we have world-class designers such as Eric Raisina, whose work has been shown at International Fashion Weeks in Paris, New York, Manila, Bangkok and Phnom Penh. His stunning, vivid designs, chiefly using silks that he manufactures and dyes in-house and including his fabled “silk fur”, can be found at the FCC Complex and at his larger boutique store in Charming City.
While you’re at the FCC, check out Jasmine Boutique whose range of sensual, ultra-feminine and simply gorgeous clothes may be just the right thing for an upcoming event back at home.
Another designer with an internationally recognised name is Romyda Keth, whose designs can be found at Ambre in the hotel J7 in Central Park. Her exquisitely feminine designs — which seem to embody contemporary boldness with a clean 1940s elegance — are irresistible investment pieces that will never date.
Back in town, Wild Poppy on Alley West takes a more youthful, but still classical look in their range of soft, comfy day wear, which is perfect for here and home — believe us, those elephant pants won’t make it off the plane. Also on Alley West, Spicy Green Mango has been using factory ends to create quirky, fun designs from wonderfully soft fabrics for almost ten years now. They also design their own range of footwear.
Just up from there, Old Forest takes things up a notch with a range of dreamily romantic clothing created by a cooperative of young Japanese designers. The styles are primarily European, but they are gorgeously fine-tuned with an Asian eye, with delicate, hand-printed fabrics that will leave you swooning.
On the other side of Pub Street, Three Seasons on The Lane is a blend of three different outlets — Tonle, Elsewhere, and Zoco — each with its own identity. Tonle is the creation of a young American designer, Rachel Faller, who has created a clothing social enterprise in order to support women living with HIV/AIDS. Her loosely urban designs are directly inspired by young women in Cambodia today. Elsewhere is a label that was born in Phnom Penh and stands for classic, stylish designs that will never date.
Meanwhile Zoco brings together the old and the new, the funky and classic in a mix of styles that the owner has scoured from markets across Asia. Every visit is unique, and fun.
Also on The Lane, Mitsou is the creation of two French designers who have produced a range of structured, feminine clothing that will appeal to all age ranges, and at very reasonable prices. You’ll find them upstairs at Graines du Cambodge.
If silk floats your boat, then you could check out Artisans Angkor, an organisation dedicated to crafts revival which has workshops dotted around Siem Reap, and a silk farm in Puok, about 18 kilometres away from central Siem Reap. They have a range of crisp silk wear that will see you through any special occasion. Slightly pricier, but also more bespoke, Samatoa has a collection of silk clothing that is beautifully designed and crafted.
At the whole other end of the scale, and only if you have the patience for it, the Sakura Recycle Shop on Route 6 — on the north side of the street, between the river and the junction with Wat Bo Road — has a massive, tightly, tightly crammed mash of second-hand clothing that you will need all of your strength to wade through, but you can pick up some incredible bargains if you’re up for it.
Eric Raisina: Charming City and FCC Complex, Pokambor Ave, Siem Reap; www.ericraisina.com.
Jasmine Boutique: FCC Complex, Pokambor Ave, Siem Reap; www.jasmineboutique.net.
Ambre: Hotel J7, Central Park,Siem Reap; romydaketh.net.
Wild Poppy: Alley West, Siem Reap.
Spicy Green Mango: Alley West, Siem Reap.
Old Forest: Alley West, Siem Reap.
Three Seasons: The Lane, Siem Reap.
Mitsou: The Lane (above Graines du Cambodge), Siem Reap.
Artisans Angkor: Route 6, Siem Reap; www.artisansdangkor.com.
Samatoa: Street 26, Siem Reap; samatoa.com.
Sakura Recycle Shop: #99 National Route 6, Siem Reap.
By Nicky Sullivan.
Last updated on 17th February, 2016.