Brought together by a desire to aid the environment, 20 students have for the past three years been collaborating on a project to design fashion items out of recycled materials.
But the La Chhouk Recycled & Creative Fashion group has a second goal: to preserve and display Khmer culture to the world.
Ang Oudomchakriya, 21, a fashion designer and student of interior design at Royal University of Fine Arts, said, “Actually, what really drew this team together was a love of fashion.
I first thought about joining this group in 2014 when the founder called for applications from students who loved fashion.”
Ms Chakriya said she never thought La Chhouk would be as successful as it has been to begin with, the team only thought about exhibiting their work at the university. But La Chhouk Recycled & Creative Fashion eventually began to receive support from both students and companies.
“Friends would support us by collecting trash such as cardboard and other raw materials for our designs. Sometimes we’d buy it from scrap sellers. Also, we needed glue to create our fashions. Since 2014, we have made at least 100 pieces,” Ms Chakriya said.
The most popular styles created by her team are Neang Sbai Plous, Neang Neak, and Sbai Thom. It takes her a week to 10 days to make one piece.
“We face some challenges from the fact that our raw materials are all recycled from garbage,” Ms Chakriya continued.
“Everything has to be cleaned; we have to know whether it will affects the model’s skin. Our models often sweat a lot, because some of the materials, like plastic bags, are hot to wear.”
La Chhouk Recycled & Creative Fashion is influenced by traditional Khmer dancing costumes and other attire such as sarongs, crowns and skirts.
Its members believe traditional styles have great cultural value and should be shown to the world.
SuppliedThe group has also designed clothing for Miss Universe contestants in Thailand and Japan, and participated in a fashion show in Bangkok.
But things haven’t always gone smoothly. “Initially, our team was criticised for using gay models. But after stories were written about us in the media, people started to understand our concept. Gay people are victims of discrimination: they are perfectly capable of doing the job,” Ms Chakriya said.
She pointed out that, straight or gay, everybody has his or her own set of abilities. People should not devalue them.
She asked: “If people can appreciate the beauty in fashion made out of trash, why can’t they see the beauty in all kinds of people?”
Ms Chakriya urged people to think about whether something can be reused before they throw it away. Once people understand the consequences they will think more about how they dispose of refuse, she said, adding that our towns will be kept beautiful and healthy and our environment kept clean if people know how to dispose of trash, particularly plastic, in the right way.