It’s holiday season, and whether you are traveling or staying put, we bet that buying gift buying is on your mind. Not to worry! We’ve pounded the streets of Phnom Penh to find unique gifts from locally-owned businesses which support local and female producers for a gifting season that can make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside for reals.
This gift guide is heavy on textiles (scarves, blankets, clothing) because these industries can be run easily on a small scale by producers without massive capital investment. These gifts are surprisingly affordable — purses, necklaces, wallets and scarves start at $18 at almost all of these shops, so get your shopping list out and follow along.
We have focused for this guide on locally-owned businesses, since socially responsible NGO and expat-owned businesses like Friends International, Tonlé, Trunkh., and CocoKhmer are pretty well-known already, and these Cambodian business owners are making excellent products or marketing for groups of other Cambodian producers. If you know of other locally-owned businesses selling products made in Cambodia, please share in the comments!
Color of Life
This shop doesn’t look like much from the street, where it competes with the likes of fancier shops like Insolite and Garden of Delight towards the Riverside end of 178’s “Art Street.” But alongside the same-samey silk scarves and bags are some beautiful striped and tie-dyed scarves in superfine silk and silk/cotton blends.
Craft Village brings together producers from four Cambodian provinces, and the products on display here showcase each of their unique weaving styles and specialties. From Takeo where very fine strands of silk are the specialty and the scarves are drip-dyed simply, to the vertical embroidery of Banteay Meanchey, the scarves here are affordable and great quality. Stripes were my favorite here — hand-painted on lovely silk scarves, or woven in washed out colors for cotton breton striped dresses. And check out the ikat wallets; an unusual and beautiful gift that anyone can use.
Featuring “Women for Women” products made by female cooperatives, this shop just off Riverside on St 178 is a gem. My favorites here were silk string necklaces accented with brass, and unadorned versions using tie-dyed silk — in great color combinations like grey and magenta, and bright green and royal blue.
Mr Loom has been in the textile business for almost 20 years, and really knows his stuff. Cotton and silk, some dyed using only natural dyes, are woven into blankets with bright stripes reminiscent of Hudson Bay wool blankets for a warmer climate. The bright blue and orange ikat bag would also be a great, versatile gift for a textile-savvy traveler. Mr. Loom also stocks products from other local coops and producers, including Afesip Fair Fashion.
Street 240 is known for its cute eateries and boutiquey shops, but Lotus Silks is one that can easily go unnoticed, but for the wooden boat on their sidewalk. This shop is surprisingly stylish, although some of the pattern combinations border on kitschy. They have a great selection of dresses from vintage fabrics, but if you are buying for someone else, stick with a cute clutch, wallet or purse.
Colors of Life
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Street 178 between Sothearos and St 13, next to Mekong Art, Phnom Penh
T: 017 888 916
375Eo Sisowath Quay, between Streets 178 and 184, Riverside, Phnom Penh
T: 023 220 859
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
St. 178 between Sothearos and Sisowath, across from A.N.D, Phnom Penh
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sisowath Quay between Streets 110 and 108, Riverside, Phnom Penh
T: 012 507 717
Open daily, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Street 240 between Norodom and Street 19, Phnom Penh
T: 017 556 226