Sapor Yon Rendall tempts Cambodia’s clothing industry with her
new fashion collection, a range of designs for slinky cocktail dresses
Sapor Yon Rendall launches her debut fashion collection this Saturday. Photo Supplied
Owner of Cambodia's first modelling agency and training school, 37-year-old Sapor Yon Rendall is one of Cambodia's best-known women.
However, her story is hardly the stuff fairy tales are made of. When Sapor was 10, her father died and she was adopted by her rich, business-savvy Sino-Cambodian neighbours.
She voyaged to Australia with her new foster family - the boat almost sunk on the way there - and, upon her return to Cambodia in 1995, Sapor, endowed with newfound confidence, started her own modelling agency.
Since then, she's been the first lady of Khmer fashion, grooming local beauties for the catwalk.
This weekend Sapor launches her debut fashion collection, tempting the Kingdom's clothing boutiques with a range of designs for slinky cocktail dresses.
Tell us a little bit about your forthcoming fashion show.
It is called Sapor's Collection. Back in 2000, I started a very small collection but had to postpone it because my modelling agency was so busy. Now I've got it back on track, after two years of planning.
I've been working on the designs for the last six months.
Saturday's show is to raise awareness of my designs, which are elegant and sexy. It will mainly be casual cocktail and evening gowns.
Will your designs be stocked locally?
I'm talking to shops in both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh but nothing's finalised yet.
If shops take my designs on, they benefit from the extra publicity I generate through magazines and newspapers; also, my models are on TV every Sunday.
Saturday's show is to raise awareness of my designs, which are elegant and sexy.
They have nothing to lose: They can take my tailor-made designs on a consignment basis and test the market.
If not, I'll just start up my own shop and do it myself.
Do you think the local fashion scene is ready for your sexy designs?
My dresses are quite revealing, which goes with my personality: I like to dress sexy.
I think that nowadays people dress better in Cambodia; There's more fashion awareness, more confidence - it feels like a good time to do this.
I favour European cuts, which are nothing like most domestic Cambodian styles. Many people are doing modern traditional long silk gowns already; I want to do something different.
Has modelling become a profitable profession for Khmers?
I think so, although modelling is just a part-time occupation for them.
We don't have enough work for full-time modelling, partly because of the economy.
The more professional models on our books can earn US$200 to $300 a month; it depends how many events they are assigned to. Although from that, they need to support their families and their education.
Last year we had models working on a big project earning full-time wages on a short-term basis, so they earned $400 a month, which is great.
What physical attributes are most prized by the average Khmer?
Traditional Cambodians think that a chubby, round face with big eyes and a nice broad nose is pretty.
That doesn't really work for my agency; I prefer sharper features, high cheekbones - a more international look. But then if a model is good at everything and happens to have a round face, we'll still put her on the catwalk.
Do you have a personal style icon?
Oh, so many! I like Angelina Jolie. In fact, I know her; we met about five years ago in Siem Reap. She's very beautiful, both inside and out, and her style is very casual and down to earth.
I also admire Jennifer Lopez. As a model, Kate Moss is petite but she's great. And Tyra Banks, of course ... Victoria Beckham. I've even been told I look like Halle Berry once or twice.
What are your favourite shopping, dining and nightlife venues in Phnom Penh?
I go to Sovanna pretty often. If I buy clothes in Cambodia, I just buy casual stuff - usually I design and make garments by myself.
I also buy directly from Khmer designers like Ambre and Jasmine.
I'm not fussy about restaurants; I can go anywhere. For Western food, I like Metro.
And bars? If I want to dance to hip-hop music, I like the Riverhouse Lounge or Pontoon. I also like a local club called Spark, as well as one called Rock.
What do you love and hate about Phnom Penh?
Phnom Penh feels like my own town in my own country.
I'm well-known here, which makes me feel really comfortable.
What I don't like is that, nowadays, there's too many young kids leaving home, doing drugs, driving fast on motorbikes and having accidents. They don't really go to school.
I want them to help their families, have a good education so they can have good jobs in the future.
Who's been the greatest influence on your life?
Does it sound stupid if I say my mum? She gave birth to me and I've gotten this far because of her.
Also, my foster mum, who adopted me when I was 12 years old. I'm very thankful to her for giving me confidence.
I love them both and I will never forget them.