Diplomacy dolled-up: Thai-Cambodia fashion exhibition

Designer Hung Chin (centre) stands with models wearing clothes from his new collection
Designer Hung Chin (centre) stands with models wearing clothes from his new collection. HONG MENEA

Diplomacy dolled-up: Thai-Cambodia fashion exhibition

Thai-Cambodian diplomacy came in the guise of sequins and tweed over the weekend.

Scores of style fanatics turned out to see a fashion and beauty expo aimed at furthering cultural and economic exchange between the two countries.

The four-day 2013 Thailand Fashion and Beauty Show at Phnom Penh’s Paragon Supermarket, which ended on Sunday, showed off designs from both sides of the border, including one promising young Cambodian designer.

A string of models paraded down a red-and-white carpeted catwalk to a hip-hop soundtrack, dressed in tweed jackets, patterned skirts and cheap, modern designs typical of Thailand’s booming fashion industry.

“I am so happy to celebrate this event in Cambodia, and to encourage customers to trust the quality of our products,” said Jiranuu Wongmonkol, a commercial representative from the Thai embassy.

A further purpose of the event, she continued, was to strengthen the strong economic ties and trading volume between the two countries, as Thailand has long been an investor in Cambodia.

The real stand-out of the show, however, hailed from closer to home.

Young Cambodian designer Hung Chin, the man behind hand-made fashion specialists Chin FDesign, exhibited his styles of casual, avant-garde and haute couture clothing.

From sequined mini-dresses and iridescent pearly gowns to ensembles formed entirely from tassels, his brand promises a new standard in hand-made, low-cost Cambodian design, he said.

“It’s my dream for the next generation of Cambodians to see more Cambodian brands selling for acceptable prices,” said Chin. His clothes retail at $10 and upwards, with casual wear available at the lowest cost.

The 21-year-old designer, who recently graduated from Limkokwing University, will open his own shop next week, after two years selling to local shops.

Last weekend was the second time Phnom Penh-based Chin has showed his collection in the capital, having also participated in the 2012 Thai fashion show.

He said he was proud of the co-operation between Cambodian and Thai designers.

Alongside styles from South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, Thai fashion is enormously popular in the Kingdom, with stores like Pencil Supermarket sourcing clothes from across the border.

“I like using Thai products like clothes and cosmetics because they are good quality and cheap,” said Van Naka, 22, a university student who attended the show on Thursday.

But, she added, the show also encouraged her to buy local designs.

“After I saw the models wearing both Khmer and Thai clothes, I was passionate about both styles, but also encouraged to buy more clothes, bags and shoes by local designers,” Naka said.

Chin will open his shop near Russian Market in Phnom Penh on August 15.

“Even if it is not a large brand name to export outside the country, it can show Cambodian people Cambodian talent,” he said.

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