Cambodia is like a ‘Wild West’ in a true adventurous sense. It is very different from Laos and is filled with buzzing energy. Khmer people are so lively and many I met are very positive people.
Reinterpreting and redefining the traditional weaving became my mission in Laos, where my weaving collection started.
Joom Noon (Gift of Hope)
One such was an encounter with an American man called Bud. He created this incredible weaving commune far north of Preah Vehire province. They were producing an amazing silk – the best hand-woven silks I have seen in Cambodia, to this day. Bud called the project Joom Noon, which means Gift of Hope in Khmer.
Bud was a Vietnam war veteran. He had this abiding passion for what he was doing to help the Khmer people and to create something beautiful. He was a leader in many ways, but one quality that set him apart was his ability to make things happen from scratch. He lived through his vision and belief and successfully created many opportunities for Khmer weavers.
The project was handed to the Khmer community and Bud started his yet another brilliant silk production project elsewhere. But I always remember Joom Noon as my starting point in Cambodia.
My most marked effort in Cambodia was starting my clothing label, boheme.
I always dreamt of bringing my textile production into fashion. For me the fabrics and materials are always the starting point of creating different collections, be it home décor or fashion. And clothing was no different. My fashion collection is very much textile-led.
Having said that, the clothing production takes the endeavour of its own. Textile design for clothing is quite different, as clothes are dimensional, and we also have to consider a lot more practicality. But at the same time, I had to remember my passion for textiles and that is what started boheme. Using the same design concept (colours/textures/motifs) and the same method (wooden loom), I started to create my fashion fabrics.
Being dimensional requires construction, which in clothing means pattern-cutting. I knew the importance of pattern cutting in clothes production, and it was a challenge to find a good pattern maker in that part of the world. One day, I met a Japanese lady who ran a fashion boutique in Phnom Penh and we came to an arrangement to produce my clothing line.
boheme production is two-fold – dyeing & weaving the fabrics & tailoring the clothes. My boheme team in Cambodia includes several dyeing & weaving projects, a pattern maker, and two lovely Khmer assistants in my small studio.