All dolled up

All dolled up

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Photo by Chhim Sreyneang/Phnom Penh Post

Last week's Glamazon extravaganza at Pontoon raised the bar for stylists with daring dos by The Doll House.

Cambodia's first hair extravaganza – Glamazon – drew applauding crowds to Pontoon on the last Thursday of April, as experimental hair sculpture and fashion collided with avant-garde couture in an inspired union to celebrate the first anniversary of trend-setting hair salon The Dollhouse. At times it stretched beyond the reach of superlatives, but that was its intention.

“This kind of hair show has never been done in Cambodia before,” explained Ryan Drew Taylor, the creative force behind The Dollhouse team. “It’s a unique opportunity to show the industry what we do and a chance to give something back to our customers.”

The theatrical event was divided into two imaginative halves: “Transformations” saw designer Eric Raisina providing the haute texture while “Avant-Garde” drew its inspiration from collaboration with artist and designer Matthew Cuenca.

Twenty of the highly coveted tickets went to stylists from 20 of the capital's salons in an effort to encourage them to embrace their creativity. “We want to empower and inspire other stylists’ choices to be brave,” Taylor said, explaining that the message was “that you really can express your creativity and change the perception of what is considered to be ‘conventionally attractive’.” It was a tonic for those who consider so many of the current “alternative” hairstyles in the city sing a K-Pop tune. “Our intention with the Transformations segment was to show creative colour-cutting techniques that would be edgy yet still wearable in the everyday,” Taylor added.

Eric Raisina’s innovative work involves researching and creating unique fabrics from natural Cambodian materials, such as silk, raffia, linen, sisal and cotton. His methods, resourcefulness and ingenuity have won him many awards and commissions for textures, from among others, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Lacroix. From his workshop in Siem Reap he trains weavers, crotcheters, embroiderers and seamstresses in their detailed and painstaking crafts. He has uniquely patented his own original Silk Fur and natural Raffia Lace – both beautifully in evidence during the show.

Ahead of each model’s highly anticipated debut, images of their (sometimes intentionally) dowdy “before” photo shoot followed by a collage of the extensive preparations they underwent to create their Glamazon “look” were screened. Then darkness. A lone spotlight shone and the transformed model stepped onto the runway. Each subsequent model was greeted by an increasingly awed congregation of rapturous admiration of the sheer spectacle and creativity at work – as well as surprise.

What was offered was an escapist window into a world of sultry red-heads, eerily beautiful pinch-mouthed Japanese tree witches, mirror-balled basked and glittered disco queens, feather-eyed tribal priestesses and bare-footed, dreadlocked, reptilian-eyed tribal dancers.

And that was just the start. Those more perceptive saw the slyly humourous nod to Marie “Let them eat cake” Antoinette through a veil of punk: resplendent with pink bouffant, the apparition was complete with a crowned cupcake - fascism meets fashion. The Bowie-esque silver alien with what appeared to be a luminous squid for jewelry was as timeless as one of his tunes. The wildly ingenious bling and accessories designed by The Paper Dolls (on St 240) deserve a special mention here. Their promise to ‘bling it on!’ delivered in abundance.

What asked about the avant-garde, Taylor said his influences were eclectic. “We’ve drew our influences from many different cultures and nations, and then mixed them up. Our idea was originally inspired by Pangea, when all land-mass and continents were joined before splitting up and dividing. One world. Our models are a mixture of African, Khmer, US and Chinese – but we put them in cultural clothing contexts you are not used to seeing.”

It was a provocative juxtaposition that astonished, mesmerised and commanded attention. It was so visually mesmeric and so detailed that one catwalk per model did not allow enough time to absorb the intricacies of what was on display. “We wanted to show that beauty is not just pageant and it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what garment you are wearing,” Taylor said.

The outfits from the Glamazon Avant-Garde section will be displayed at Institut Francais from May 9 to 12. They will be auctioned and the proceeds will go to Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital, which also provides outreach mobile health clinics.

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