The Artisans Association of Cambodia opened a new showroom this week, embarking on a new approach that places focus on the artisans rather than the products. While the AAC’s previous showroom operated primarily as a storefront for members to sell their wares, executive director Men Sinoeun said the new showroom should be defined as an exhibition space rather than a retail store.
“Of course, we can still sell things from the showroom,” he said. “But if a customer is interested in a product, we prefer to connect them with the producer directly; this way, they discover more from the artists and support them directly.”
The AAC is a collective of craft producers and sellers in Cambodia, with a focus on fair trade and labour practices. All members support and employ vulnerable individuals affected by issues such as landmines, disabilities, HIV or trafficking. About two-thirds of AAC’s organisations are managed by women, and nearly 80 per cent of the 3,000 staff and producers are women.
AAC’s focus is to send their members’ creations across the globe. So far, their work has reached 18 countries outside Cambodia, including Japan, Italy, the US, Norway and Hong Kong. Through AAC, members have also shown their work in an international trade fair in Lyon, France, and in regional trade fairs in Thailand and Vietnam.
Because the showroom has shifted its focus away from sales, the wares will be displayed in a more creative way. “We are going to introduce themes,” Men explained. “Before, we mixed everything that the members sent us together, but now we select what we show depending on a theme, like home wares, or fashions, or market trends that we see. It will harmonise the showroom.”
Men hopes that the 47 member organisations of the AAC will gain more knowledge about business and customer preferences under this new approach, while still being supported by the association.
“If they become more independent, they will make relationships directly with their customers, and this way they will learn and develop a product together with the customer,” he said.
The new AAC showroom is located at #12C Street 105. It is open from 7:30am to 12pm and 1:30pm to 5pm.