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Empowering Cambodia’s women through craft

Marie Lamy / Khmer Times Share:

Marie Lamy meets and talks with Lynn Johnston, founder of clothing business Morijana, about her experience from living in Cambodia and the importance of sustainable fashion and helping uplift the local community through thick and thin.

In a nondescript alley located in the capital’s Boeng Tumpon commune in Meanchey district, Lynn Johnston refurbished an old French colonial-style house to serve as her workshop. Three women steadily focused on sewing argument sets the scene as Lynn oversees the production of masks, which are set to be shipped out.

Founded in 2017, Morijana is a dedicated ethical fashion business with the sole purpose of empowering women of Cambodia.

A second home

Hailed from Sydney, Australia, Lynn worked as a hairdresser for several years until she said she “got a call from God,” prompting her to pack her bags and leave for Cambodia.

Taking on the journey, she finds herself in Phnom Penh, propelled by the mission to help women who are either trying to escape prostitution or homelessness and guide them towards leading normal lives.

“The experience was the main trigger for me. I was set to stay for half a year but today just marked my seventh year in Cambodia,” says Lynn.

Enjoying rides, strolls and catching sunsets at the mark of the golden hour, Lynn admits Phnom Penh has become her home, with the prospect of leaving becoming unimaginable.

Wearing sustainable clothing

“Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour herself said, ‘value the clothes that you own and wear them again and again,’” tells Lynn.

According to the UN, the fashion industry is the world’s second-most polluting industry, right after petroleum. A study conducted by the Global Fashion Agenda in 2017 says the fashion industry produced 92 million tonnes of waste in 2015 – a number which is forecast to increase by 62 percent in less than 10 years.

As such, Lynn created Morijana to put forth a brand that specialises in the fabrication of ethical quality garments made of linen, viscose and cotton.

Recycling fabrics sold by garment factories in Phnom Penh, Lynn stresses the importance of sustainable fashion in a world where the demand for fast fashion is ever-present.

“We focus on creating good quality and comfortable clothing which will last,” says Lynn.

The success of the brand, whose namesake is an ode to Lynn’s parents, comes from the designs ingeniously created by Cambodian women and the persistent support of the community despite the impact of the global pandemic on small and medium enterprises.

“Linen masks are very popular at the moment. The support [for our products] has been overwhelming so far,” says Lynn.

Fighting poverty in the community

Having been active in the community since 2013, Lynn and her team combine sales of the ethical clothing business to support women working at the workshop.

By partnering with the women and, in turn, helping their families escape poverty, Lynn emphasises the value of women empowerment.

“Without proper [opportunities], many do not realise their full potential. Mentoring contributes to one’s success,” she notes.

Aside from taking enthusiasts under their wings, Morijana’s team also provides health and education assistance and other donations, on a weekly basis, to ensure the well-being of those in need, especially in current times where workers are bearing the brunt of the pandemic.

With their slogan, “One Woman Can Change a Community,” Morijana’s leadership brings in a new actress in a stage where women help fellow women achieve their goals.

Website : https://www.facebook.com/Morijana/ / https://morijana.com/

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/morijanaclothing/

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