It was an “everything is amazing, everything is beautiful,” sort of night, according to the glam MC at the ‘Fashion And Wine For A Cause’ bash on the Marriott Courtyard Siem Reap Resort’s ritzy seventh-floor Upper Deck bar overlooking the twinkling lights of Temple Town.
And the MC had a point. The night cooked, helped along by cool sounds from Aussie DJ Jordan Parello, creating a buzzing youthful edge to the highlight, a fashion catwalk show.
The MC was also on the money when she said all is beautiful because the event was host to a bevy of beauty queen contestants who modeled the fashion statements, including By Sotheary – Miss Cambodia 2016, Miss Universe Cambodia 2017, Rern Nat – Miss Cambodia 2017, Miss Universe Cambodia 2018; Em Kunthong – Miss Cambodia 2016, first runner up at Miss Earth Cambodia 2017; Lyhour – Miss Cambodia 2017, first runner up Miss Earth Cambodia 2018; Nita Chhay – Miss Tourism International Cambodia; Srey Keo – Miss Tourism International Cambodia; Ly Naisim – Miss Cambodia 2016, third runner up, Miss Chinese World Phnom Penh 2017; Ann Chhany – Miss Cambodia 2017, fourth runner up, Miss Asia Pacific Cambodia 2018; Thoung Mala – Miss Chinese World Cambodia; and Phay Ravy, Miss Cambodia 2016 runner-up.
According to the hotel’s marketing communications manager Lenen Mar Porras, the beauty contestants were keen to strut the catwalk.
“Initially, the plan was just to invite them to be guests of the event,” Lenen says. “But when they knew more about the cause they were moved and wanted go the extra mile to raise awareness and support the cause by actually walking the ramp.”
Lenen Mar Porras was the instigator of the night after getting the nod from her GM, Ashley Lai, and it all came together with a little help from up-and-coming Khmer fashion designer Muoy Chorm, a former disciple of Cambodia’s fashionista, Eric Raisina.
The night’s aim was to give hope (and some cash) to the Cambodia Development of Hope Organization, headed by Miss Chhim Sophorrn.
The show was shaped carefully by Lenen, a member of what one senior hotel owner described as Siem Reap tourism’s secret weapon –Filipino hospitality management operatives.
She graduated from university in the Philippines with a degree in mass communications. After working as a junior tax adviser in New York for Argentinian-headquartered company MK Consultores, she arrived in Siem Reap to sign on as deputy manager of sales and marketing for Angkor Miracle Resort in March last year. Then in last December she started with the Marriott, where she blends charitable work into her portfolio.
The Marriott, like most major hotels in Siem Reap, supports high-profile NGOs like Feeding Dreams Cambodia, Angkor Hospital for Children, Sala Bai, and Egbok.
But unlike most other hotels, the Marriott also works with small virtually-unheard of NGOs, like the Cambodia Development of Hope, so low-profile that it doesn’t even have its own website.
“There are a lot of NGOs in Cambodia and it’s only the popular ones that always get the attention,” Lenen says, “Most of the time, we tend to overlook these smaller ones that actually need the help more.”
Chhim Sophorn executive director of Cambodia Development of Hope Organization, says, “We only started working with the Courtyard by Marriott this year. I first got to know Ms Lenen when she started visiting us with her friend in 2016.
“From then on, she always comes to the centre and tries to help us. After she started working at the Courtyard by Marriot she always contacted me, and then began to create this event to help my orphanage.”
From 2002 to 2010 Sophorn worked as a teacher at Siem Reap’s prison, and in 2011 set up her organization and orphanage virtually next to the prison.
“Working in the prison was why I decided to start the orphanage,” she says, “In prison I saw so many kids without parents and I promised myself that one day I would open a center to help them.
“Now I run that center, although without any sponsors and we only have a Facebook page.”
The other player that made the night happen was 30- year-old self-taught Cambodian fashion designer, Muoy Chorm, who at the age of six became a fisherman near his home in the a floating village.
He then moved to Siem Reap and later began designing his own clothes until Eric Raisina gave him a job as assistant designer in 2012.
In April 2016 Muoy started his own brand, ‘Muoy Chorm Cambodia’ and opened in his own shop.
In September 2016 he represented Cambodia at the Asean Pop Culture International Event in Chiang Mai, presenting a fishing-net inspired dress.
For the Marriott show, Muoy began working with Lenen about a month ago, and he designed a special collection called, ‘Colours in the Dark’.
“With, this collection I use a lot of basic black and white,” he says. “But with most details in colour to present that in life no matter what bad situations you are in, you can always find the way out.”
Not a bad statement to make to a bunch of prison kids who once had no hope and now, well, maybe.