My wardrobe in Cambodia is a bit sparse these days. However – that’s the key with Cambodia. Always arrive with only what you need. Cambodia will provide the rest! And over lunch with my old friend, the ever stylish Sarya, I was given a great tip! Make the tailor the second stop…go vintage and second hand shopping first!
And what a great idea that was! Custom tailoring can get pretty pricey here. Though definitely nowhere near the cost of what you would pay for retail back in the West – the cost of material and tailoring can add up here. So if you’re freelancing at the moment, but still looking for a funky and fresh wardrobe – Sarya recommended to hit up the vintage and second hand scene in Phnom Penh first!
(Psar) Boeng Keng Kang Market
The second hand scene here is amazing. There are so many sources for style here. On one end you have Boeung Keng Kang Market – which is the source for all things second hand. Jeans, shirts, Ts – everything you can think of in one massive market in the BKK1 neighbourhood! And if it doesn’t fit – they can tailor it for you on the spot. When we were first starting out here in 2007, my friends and I would go here trolling for the most random pieces that would cost only $1-2! Now, the market is also filled with new Asian-kitschy items too, which makes for some really interesting shopping. So if you’re willing to take on the potential market heat and wrestle with the need to try on clothes in an open setting where change rooms and mirrors may or may not exist – go forth my intrepid friend! There is a wealth of amazing pieces to be found here!
Japanese Thrift Store
On the other hand…and at the other end of town – is the Japanese Thrift Store. At least that was what we call it. The Toto Japanese Recycle Store is a treasure trove. Words can’t describe it. Located near Wat Phnom (closer to the Cara Hotel), the Japanese Thrift Store serves as the place where goods from the Japanese Salvation Army-type charities find a home. And the clothes tend to be in good shape too and cost nearly nothing! We’re talking about the comfiest Benetton sweaters for $1, cowboy boots for $5 and beautiful trench coats for $2 or $3 at most! And among this reservoir of clothes are the ones you would normally pass – the clothes that are far too big, resembling moomoos or your granny’s nightdress…but they may contain amazing textiles. This is where vintage and tailoring totally make out. My friend Amy once gifted me this atrociously beautiful granny dress….and my wonderful tailor Monika turned it into this piece – what a transformation! I can’t wait to start this all over again!
Toto Recycle Shop Japan can be found on Street 47 (Rue de France), House #21B, Phnom Penh
PS – On the day I wrote this post, I had found a hot pink woven leather beach bag here. I thought to myself, “good god, that’s pink,” and threw it back into the pile of purses. Approximately 36 hours later, I was overcome with the immense urge to own that bag. When I returned a day later….it was gone. Missed connections. C’est la vie. The lesson learned here is that everything at Japanese Thrift is so cheap – you can’t turn it down – and don’t…because you will regret not bringing home, that hot pink woven leather bag.
Color Vintage and Accessories
And then there are the proprietors of vintage in Cambodia. The hip and mod members of the art and design community who make vintage part of their careers. Their markets used to be private affairs – where they would invite friends to partake in items from their finds all over Asia…but now many of them have taken it to the next level – the storefront! And this is just what Sovandalis Chum did with Color Vintage & Accessories – she opened the first truly 100% dedicated vintage fashion retailer in Phnom Penh this past July 2011! And what a wonder it is. I fell in love at first sight. With items from both Europe and Asia, personally found by Dalis, Color Vintage offers treasures for all shapes and sizes. While prices are definitely not as low as the second hand finds from the Japanese Thrift Store or Boeng Keng Kang Market – the slightly higher prices are not without justification ($38 for a Pierre Cardin trench coat, $12 for a silk skirt). Sadly, I was too sweaty from my Japanese Thrift Store bike ride to try on any of her beautiful pieces, but I completely intend to soon! I just can’t wait to shop!
Color Vintage & Accessories can be found at House #168, Street 13, Phnom Penh
PS – i went back for that red skirt and it was still there! Phew! And I forgot to mention, Colors Vintage offers free tailoring on anything you buy there!
Private Sales – The History of Things to Come
Private sales in the Penh will always be thriving – it always seems to be about the informal economy here! So expat Amanda Bloom has taken her love for serious vintage to Phnom Penh with The History of Things to Come! I’m really excited for this sale, coming in just a couple of weeks to The Living Room Café, when Amanda will unleash her real vintage items into the Phnom Penh market! And by serious vintage – I mean pieces ranging from the Victorian era to the 1980s! Though I’m not too sure if all that polyester, velvet and brocade will be manageable in this heat, I’m sure there will be some treasures to be found. I’m so ready to give my wardrobe some flare!
All photos in this post, unless otherwise noted, by infinitiff. Please do not reproduce or use without permission).