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A fashionable weekend unfolds in Siem Reap

Peter Olszewski / Khmer Times Share:
Garments from the Silkworm Festival and Fashion Show last year. Supplied

Siem Reap fashionistas feared that this year was shaping up to be a fizzer with the cancellation of the Silkworm Festival and Fashion Show, held annually on the full moon in March, also known as the Worm Moon.

The Silkworm Festival, held annually by the Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles (IKKT) in their silk-making village, is a celebration of the silkworms and the lives they sacrifice so the villagers can make a living.

The men women and children who make the garments in the village usually put on a fashion show, modelling the clothes they’ve fashioned.

Muoy Chorm’s fishnet-style dress. Peter Olszewski

But this week, IKKT’s Midori Iwamoto confirmed there won’t be a live festival this year. “However, we are preparing a video of a fashion show in the IKKT village that features traditional style and dress-up style and the models are our artisans,” she said, “The video is now being edited and it will be available on our website in late March.”

However, perhaps as part compensation, this weekend will be a treat for the fashion set, as two seemingly impromptu fashion shows that have emerged virtually overnight go some way to addressing the angst.

Kicking the weekend off in spectacular style is an invite-only function on Friday afternoon at FCC Angkor, with the ultra-trendy Beijing fashion designer Mario Duyuchen showing off his “Blossom Collection for 2022.”

Mario Duyuchen is a compelling designer and his Siem Reap show promises to be special. To say that he’s unconventional is perhaps an understatement. He’s certainly an out-there character, but, unlike many strenuously out-there-designers, he doesn’t knock out the sort of fraught couture that gains gasps on the catwalk but proves unbearably un-wearable on the street. His fashion – at least that seen by Khmer Times – is beautifully distinctive, disciplined yet wearable and comfy, except perhaps for a super large hat he designed from recycled clothing scraps on Koh Ta Kiev island, where he decided to create “sustainable clothes” partly by recycling travellers’ discarded apparel and jettisoned rags, turning them into sensual riches. He also used cloth which he found in a shop in Kampot.

While staying on Koh Ta Kiev, he also filmed the second episode of his UKM video series, UKM standing for “United Kingdom of Mernimals”, meaning that we are all animals and all equal. Or so he explains.

The video also shows the clothing he made on the island.

As a child, Beijing-expat Mario lived on South Korea’s Jeju Island and north-east China, before moving to Europe and studying art and design in Rome. Then “feeling like a falling leaf” he decided to explore his Asian roots, moving to Beijing to study modern Chinese literature.

He also began working as a designer for foreign clothing companies and after graduating he joined the World Luxury Association in Beijing. He then signed on as fashion director for the Dutch Bespoke Men’s Suits Company and also became a fashion TV host.

He then opted for a quieter life and in 2016 moved to a small village near Beijing to help establish the Little Poems Community and build the Little Island Guesthouse and pottery workshop.

Thirteen months ago, Mario came to Cambodia for a holiday and set up a provisional home here after the virus set in and the borders closed. To return the kindness he received in the Kingdom, he opted to make this fashion show to raise funds for Khmer women who are struggling to support their families during these times. “They are the ones who will be bringing Mario’s pieces to life,” a press release says. “It will be their time to shine and bloom.” There’ll be a collection at the show, sales of Mario’s creations, plus an auction of some pieces during what the PR release spruiks as an “unforgettable experience”.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, the Kraum Chat Makers Market, featuring design and fashion at the Mirage Contemporary Art Space, will hold a macramé workshop at 1pm, hosted by the Mirage Collective’s talented Sumi.

The afternoon highlight is at 4pm with a runway show titled “The Killer (The String of Life)” by Siem Reaps’ hip designer and former teenage fisherman Muoy Chorm, a protégé of the Kingdom’s high profile designer Eric Raisina.

Mario Duyuchen’s designs. Supplied

Muoy concedes that the show title is unusual and says: “The collection is really inspired from a dark and difficult time that I just came through in 2020. For me it is related to being in depression, feeling almost like my life is over, to being reborn again and coming back up the string of life.”

Muoy, the youngest of seven children, was raised in Kampong Khleang, the Tonle Sap floating village.

He moved to Siem Reap to design and to study, where he met Raisina who saw his potential and gave him a job as an assistant in 2012. His career took off in 2016 when he opened his own shop, launched his own label – Muoy Chorm Cambodia,  – and in September he represented Cambodia at the Asean Pop Culture International awards night in Chiang Mai,  a highlight fixture on the region’s fashion calendar, where he presented his bold signature fishing-net inspired dress.

Since then, he’s moved his shop from the night market to the trendy Hap Guen Street precinct, designed uniforms for hotels and his fashions have been shown on the catwalk at the Marriot resort in Siem Reap.

“People should feel confident when they wear my clothes, like they own the style”, says Muoy, explaining why his designs are a success.

More success is on the cards as Muoy explains: “This weekend will be the soft opening for this collection in Siem Reap. In the next few weeks we will be preparing for the main launch of the collection in Phnom Penh. We have a few big hotels interested to host the event, and we will choose the venue soon.”


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