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The world of vintage colour


The capital’s newest boutique has its sights set on becoming a premier vintage retailer

The opening night of the boutique saw a mixture of foreigners and Khmers stop by to check out the impressive range of men’s and women’s vintage fashion. Photo by: WILL BAXTER

Coloured coconuts and glasses of wine in hand, the small yet enthusiastic crowd that turned out last Friday evening for the soft opening of Phnom Penh’s newest vintage store, carefully thumbed through the racks of stock, visibly excited by what they found.

Color Vintage Clothing and Accessories, located in an ideal area to attract locals, expats and tourists alike, sits directly across from Friends Restaurant on Street 13 and so far, general consensus says it’s set to be the next go-to store for unique vintage finds.

Color, which aims to bring the very best of vintage and retro fashion to Phnom Penh’s shoppers, is the brainchild of Sovandalis Chum, a 28-year-old whose love affair with vintage fashion has been a long one.

“My mother and a friend of hers have been working with vintage for over 20 years. They’ve been able to help me find things from many, many places around Phnom Penh,” says Sovandalis Chum, who’s never seen without a huge smile spread across her delicate features.

Previous to realising the dream of her own vintage store, Sovandalis Chum worked with the socially responsible fashion store KeoK’jay and the vintage store located within it, Bella Rose, for about six months. There, she honed her skills in altering and restoring organic, handmade and vintage clothing and accessories. The idea of environmental sustainability in fashion, a concept which employs reusing, recycling and repairing old garments, giving them a new lease on life and supporting the healthy life of the planet, is one rising to prominence in the Kingdom, and for good reason.

Color has a seamstress in residence, there to restore found garments as well as to make any adjustments to purchases made by the store’s clients. She sits on the upper level of the store with a commanding view over the shop floor, able to monitor what sort of client is attracted to Color’s wares and, importantly, what they like to wear.

Her work space is one that’s had a good amount of thought put into it – a wall was knocked out to ensure the air-conditioning reached the upper level, that she was fully integrated into the operation of the shop, and that the most comfortable work area possible was put in place.

The construction of this upper level was part of the sizeable undertaking that was to bring Sovandails Chum and her team’s vision for the shop to life. The man largely responsible for the transformation was Ahti Westphal, a 31-year-old architect who took on the project as a volunteer. “It’s not easy working with shop house space so we just tried to keep everything very clean so as to make it about keeping the focus on the clothes,” Westphal says.

“We made it very open and easy to maintain.”

Presently, the store has been created to suggest what Westphal describes as a reflection of the beginnings of Modernism. Just three colours have been used – yellow, blue and red – with only small touches of black and white highlighting the décor.

Although the space is fairly understated at the moment, Westphal says the team is looking at potentially getting an artist in from the US to create a unique mural on one of the inside walls which will continually serve to frame the clothing all the better, which is really what it’s all bout.

In terms of what you’ll find at Color, in stock at the moment is a range of cotton dresses, varying in style from those influenced by the Far East to cute  50s-style numbers and costing between $5 and $17. Some more unique finds, for example a floral dusty pink dress from the ’60s with a rounded collar and fitted cuffs is a touch more expensive at $20.

It doesn’t stop at dresses though. Color also stocks a range of tops (around $8), shoes (around $15) and skirts (around $8), plus jewellery, belts, jackets and jumpsuits.

There’s good news for the city’s male population too; Color stocks a small collection of men’s wear and Sovandalis Chum says this is one area she’ll be specifically focusing on expanding.

Color Vintage Clothing and Accessories gave it’s opening-night crowd a pleasant surprise, and with knowledge of the team’s plans for the future, it’s sure to become one of Phnom Penh’s most prominent vintage outlets to date.

Color Vintage Clothing and Accessories is located at #168 Street 13 and is open from 10am until 9pm daily. Call 095 787 768 for more information.

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