Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer silk products back on track

Khmer silk products back on track

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Chen Sopheap wondered why Cambodian customers chose imported silk products over traditional Khmer ones. Photo supplied

Khmer silk products back on track

Traditional hand-made woven Khmer silk products are struggling to survive since they have to compete with import from neighbouring countries. Chen Sopheap, who has been working for international NGOs for over a decade decided to join the weaving crafts sector, as she sees the potential and wants it to survive .

The Post reporter Hin Pisei sat down with Sopheap, who is now the founder and managing director of Keiy Tambanh Khmer to discuss the future of the sector.

Why did you decide to enter this sector?

I guess it is my favourite job; I like to use hand-made Khmer products such as Seung and Krama. In the last few years, it has been really hard to find such products in the market. They seem to have been abandoned, but the truth is that the same products are being imported from Thailand and Myanmar.

I wondered why the Khmers, who have had a long history of manufacturing and using these products started opting for imported ones, while many manufacturing facilities in the Kingdom have been left unused.

After studying the market, I found that Khmer textile products (Khmer Seung) weren’t exposed sufficiently because the designs failed to be updated in terms of fashion and quality, in line with market demands.

When did you start your business and where do you source your products from?

After interviewing local weavers, I decided to establish Keiy Tambang Khmer (KTK) crafts in mid-2015 to showcase Khmer handicraft products of good quality, in different styles and colour choices.

All my products are made from high-quality raw material and are produced in close cooperation with the weavers. When KTK was established in 2015, we had only 10 family members working for us. But now, this has increased to more than 200 families based in Koh Dach, Kandal Province.

How is the current market for traditional Khmer textile product?

Well, the demand for traditional Khmer textile products is steadily increasing for our two branches [in Phnom Penh]. This is because we update the styles and quality and offer them at affordable prices.

I also got an order from outside the country, but so far we have not agreed on the terms as yet because we haven’t been able to meet even the local demand.

How do you promote the use of your products?

We always want to gain exposure through events that showcase local products, such as the Buy Khmer Products Campaign, the River festival or the Sea festival.

We always bring our products to seminars and other meetings of various institutions and associations as well.

You have won many awards in competitions. How can they help to promote your products?

I recently won a 2018 Leadership Ambassador award, which is among the three major awards I have won so far. In September, I was invited to the US as the founder of KTK to attend a study tour conducted by the International Visitors Leadership Programme (IVLP). I was one of nine women entrepreneurs and two ministries that represented Cambodia.

Khmer-styled garments made from Seung, Phamoung, and Cotton Scarfs are beautiful and exemplify our national identity. They are traditional clothing, but nowadays, you can also wear them to various event. I think the demand will continue increasing.

However, producers must also strive to produce high quality and beauty and they must be loyal to customers.

I believe Cambodians want to see Khmer products in all areas. Not only in handicraft, but also in the industrial sector as well. Khmer products will flourish through mutual support.

I wish to see Cambodia having the world’s most prestigious brands. My goal is to realise my dreams.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

MOST VIEWED

  • Draft law on state of emergency pending finalisation

    Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a top-level meeting on Tuesdays to review the draft law on imposing a state of emergency. Meantime, he has decided to close all casinos in Cambodia effective April 1. In the press conference after the National Assembly met today, Hun

  • State of emergency on table amid pandemic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, his deputy prime ministers and legal team will meet on Tuesday to review the draft law on declaring a state of emergency, as Covid-19 cases rose to 107 in the Kingdom on Monday. Speaking at a press conference after a parliament meeting

  • Stranded passengers petition UK for help

    Some 10,521 people have signed an online petition calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and relevant officials to fly nearly 200 passengers out of Cambodia. The petition is targeted at 15,000 people. Most of the passengers are British nationals, who are stranded in Cambodia after airlines cancelled

  • Many in limbo as tension heightens

    As the Kingdom restricts travel and prepares for a state of emergency, some foreigners in Cambodia are scrambling for a way home. Foreign embassies in Phnom Penh are making efforts to get their citizens out, but cancelled flights have become common due to the coronavirus

  • Covid-19 Pandemic: Force majeure and legal consequences

    Is the Covid-19 pandemic considered an event of force majeure? The World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a pandemic on March 11. Following this declaration, the Ministry of Health and other ministries have taken various legal and administrative measures to prevent the rapid

  • No word on state of emergency

    The National Assembly (NA) said it will postpone all unnecessary meetings in line with guidance from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) amid the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it did not say when or how it will debate the “state of emergency”