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The Dream Girls of 2015, with aspiring artists and designers as young as 5 years old. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Aspiring young female artists given a platform to dare to dream

Having empowered young women for the past six years, the annual Dream Girls contest is here again to wow with designs submitted by aspiring artists and designers.

As with last year, this year’s overarching themes are Apsara dance, Cambodian nature, and Angkor Wat, and participants can choose to submit more than one design based on any of these three options.

Finalists were chosen in August after the competition opened its doors this year in June. This year, 448 designs were submitted from 290 applicants mainly representing Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem Reap.

Kayo Suwaki, manager of this year’s Dream Girls contest, expressed how she felt overwhelmed by the standards of the submitted designs, which have been steadily climbing up over the amateur ranks into the professional realm over the last few years.

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A brand that adopted a Dream Girl design. PHOTO SUPPLIED

“All of the designs which we got this year are so amazing. Our panel of judges, ranging from many different design backgrounds, are judging right now, and it is so hard to judge,” Suwaki said.

Since the Dream Girls project was founded in 2010, over 35 girls and women have received awards from the competition. Many of the winners have gone on to achieve national acclaim, and pursued their dream of becoming professional designers while releasing themselves from the shackles of financial disabilities.

Kanako Watanabe, spokesperson for the Dream Girls’ management committee, spoke in high regards of the girls and women who participate tirelessly in the contest, which also entails special workshops.

After the first round of application, contestants are eligible to attend a workshop course conducted by experienced designers. Normally a one-day event, these workshops enable the contestants to improve their submitted designs and re-submit it.

“We are all about giving chances. This year, from 290 original applicants, we retained 285 of them as finalists,” Watanabe said, adding, “Many of them have a lot of talent, but their skills need to be honed as these amazing talents are still very raw.”

Joining the Dream Girls competition opens up their eyes to how their artistic talents can be polished and made more alluring to commercial buyers.

Dream Girls’ participants are not only privy to making their designs as aesthetically and commercially pleasing as their uninhibited talents allow them, but a select few of them each year are also lucky enough to be chosen for a Yamada Arts School scholarship.

Six or seven Dream Girls, including the top three winners, are carefully selected for the opportunity to study at the arts school, which was established in Phnom Penh in 2012 by famous Japanese artist Yamada sensei (teacher). Since 2013, 20 Dream Girls have completed their scholarships at the Yamada Arts School.

Sopheap, first prize winner of the competition in 2013, represents the contest’s more prolific success stories. Having started off her artistic journey by selling hand-drawn decorations and paintings to local stores for $5, her works now hang in Intercontinental Hotel and Meta House. Each design of hers can now be sold for $500 or $600.

Watanabe knows Cambodia is teeming with prodigious artists whose talents have not yet been realized. According to Watanabe, Wakana Nukui – founder of the Dream Girls project – together with Yamada sensei, believe that based on the resplendence and detailed majesty of the Angkor Wat, artistic genes have been passed down through the generations, thus accounting for Cambodians’ innate flair for the arts.

On November 20, at Aeon Mall’s Daylight Plaza at 1pm, the ultimate Dream Girls 2016 will be announced, fulfilling yet again the dreams of young women to become renowned designers.

Aside from the $1,000 top prize, $500 second prize, and third prize of $300, other awards include the Glowing Award, La Corbeille Award, Iseki Sangyo Award, and Honorable Mentions, of which there is more than one. ​​

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