Free silk in Phnom Phenh

11-15 October: Free silk in Phnom Phenh…

Well it feels like it anyway!  Buying boxes full of scarves, bags, clothes at the most beautiful shops in the city without paying a cent!  I just place my order, leave the shop and they send it all home for me!  Wonderful!  Of course reality will come crashing in when I have to make the payments by internet transfer but for now it is all good fun!!  So here I am in Cambodia on the first official Silk Road buying trip (unfortunately without Rob but having an absolutely fantastic time.)

I started in Singapore on Sunday, arriving at 6.20am and pounding the pavement in search of Silk Road merchandise all day until about 10pm!  (so the picture is not exactly a silk shop but I needed a camera to capture samples for future reference!)  I looked mainly at antiques as I think most of the stuff for sale here is from China or India and will be better sourced at the Hong Kong Fair.  What isn’t from China or India is from Vietnam and is actually the very least interesting of what is made there.  So I walked till my little feet couldn’t take me any further then retreated to the hotel for a coffee and bed.  Mandarin Marina Bay – nice hotel and good area to stay in…Flew to Phnom Phenh the next afternoon but arrived too late to get out and about.  Did some research on Australian customs and importing to kill the time and learned some interesting things.  In the morning, I contacted a customs broker as is recommended for first-time importers. (that’s us!)
Morning I had my first official appointment – with Chomnab of the KSV (which sounds like the cambodian secret service but is actually a co-op that consolidates small-scale silk production from individual households and businesses.  (Most of these pictures are examples of the silk products they source from the villages).  I had set up the meeting prior to my trip but in fine south-east asian form, I still arrived to chaos and Chomnab running around on a thousand errands. He showed me a small range of work from the villages (lovely stuff) which I photographed madly and ultimately bought as samples. They were very trustingly delivered to my hotel that night without me having paid a cent! Chomnab confirmed my visit to Siem Reap to visit the production villages on 16th and gave me the contacts of the AAC – Artisans Association of Cambodia to follow up in the afternoon.
Went exploring for more silk in the afternoon – started at the Russian Market and bought a stack of bags (not as good quality as Vietnam but nice designs and lovely colours.)  In the old antique shop (where we bought apsaras and other items in 2005) i spotted a pair of antique chinese horses.  Sorry but I just can’t go past bronze statues – especially asian ones (and while not strictly “silk” they will set the tone perfectly as one enters the showroom wondering “so what’s this silk road all about then”…  and will be great mates for my lone horse, my camels and the buffalo family!)  An added bonus was that i was introduced to Phallo from the freight company and he has continued to help me throughout the week.
Next I discovered Orange River – and struck up a fantastic relationship with Sitha and her sisters.  Sitha conducted the business while her sisters played “supermodel” and gave marketing advice for each product!  We had good fun.  They are experienced in wholesale and had price lists etc for me to look at.  Backwards and forwards (with a trip out to their workshops on the outskirts of PP) and a day later I had placed our first ever order for the Silk Road!  Also talked with the Angkor Silk Group – but missed an appointment with her and they have no email or website.  She had some good silk hangers that would be very useful in the showroom.  Found the AAC – excellent shop and very willing to work with small buyers to custom make items.  Found a beautiful range of bags and things like the beads in the picture below.  Placed our second order with them!  In my last minutes in PP (which is how these things often happen) I also found Sentosa Silk who have a great range of silk fabric and can make anything we want (might talk with them for organza curtains).  Have also received an email from them since so they are keen to follow up – I like that!  Couple of other shops of note along the way too – Jasmine Boutique and Designers (upmarket silk clothing); Kavan House (upmarket bags / scarves) and another two or three – all wholesale and are happy to do by email.  So all in all, I consider the visit to PP a great success and a very easy introduction to dealing with manufacturers in Cambodia…. more next time…