Silk-weaving project Weaves of Cambodia opened its first shop this month, in the Visitor Centre at Angkor Hospital for Children, where it will sell its trademark high-end silk scarves, cushions and bags.
Founded by American textile specialist Carol Cassidy in 1997, Preah Vihear-based Weaves of Cambodia employs disabled artisans including landmine survivors. Cassidy, who is based in Vientiane, said Siem Reap was chosen as the site for its first and only shop specifically because of the hospital.
“Siem Reap is a buzzing city with an active design community, so it felt natural that we should choose it as our location,” she says. “But primarily we are here because we wanted to collaborate with Angkor Hospital for Children to create a retail space that is both design led and community based.
“Weaves has co-operated with Angkor Hospital for Children for many years through their fundraising events – silk scarves adorn hospital donors around the globe. We are committed to our common goals of continuous quality training, and strengthening a community.”
The hospital’s boutique sells beautiful silk products, primarily scarves and wraps, in every hue imaginable, from cool blues to warm autumnal oranges and reds. There are stripy reversible bow-ties with bright pops of purple, pink and lime green, and delicate little bags made of silk and fishing net. The stripey rainbow scarf, Cassidy says, is particularly popular, and her scarves sell internationally, including in New York and Washington.
“We hand-dye, hand weave and hand craft everything in the store,” she says. “We specialise in silk – silk shawls, scarves, wraps, cushions, bags and pouches. A house of silk. We draw from ancient Khmer traditions and present it in a fresh contemporary style. Our signature rainbow scarf is always a great favourite, as well as the single colour designs in the lightweight silk.
“In addition to the range of luxurious scarves, we are also working on some exclusive international interior projects, weaving hand woven drapes and custom upholstery for high end clients. We have been in the Guggenheim museum shop for over seven years. This is a confirmation that our product is of a global standard, having met the Guggenheim challenge!”
Here in Temple Town, Cassidy’s designs can be seen in the Park Hyatt’s Living Room, where pink and black elephant tapestries adorn the large bookshelves. Weaves of Cambodia has also custom-designed
a range of shawls for Amansara.
Cassidy has been working with textiles for nearly 30 years. Having studied weaving in Norway, Finland and the US, she spent eight years working with the United Nations in southern Africa as a textiles expert, and training local women to produce handspun mohair yarn for export.
Moving to Vientiane in 1989 to work as a weaving advisor to the UN, she set up her own weaving studio, Lao Textiles, in 1990, which in 2001 was awarded the Unesco Product Excellence Award.
Cassidy still acts as advisor to the UN and other development agencies on income-generating projects for rural women.
The Weaves of Cambodia shop will hold a grand opening on January 22, to coincide with the fifteenth anniversary of Angkor Hospital for Children.