Khmer silk, whether in the form of skirts, shirts or scarves, is a traditional heritage textile with a long history in the Kingdom.
Products made from Khmer silk are widely recognised and remain popular at home and abroad, however it is important to be aware that many of the so-called “Khmer silk” items for sale in the markets and tourist traps are anything but. Owing to a significant decline in the population of silkworms, the production of genuine Khmer silk is currently close to an all-time low.
Morn Saroeut is one of the women fighting to preserve this precious piece of the Kingdom’s rich cultural heritage.
Her company, Khmer Golden Silk, turns silk into many high-end products in two locations in Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey provinces. She has also joined the One Village, One Product movement display of unique Cambodian products that are for sale near the Morodok Techo National Stadium for the duration of the ongoing 32nd SEA Games.
She explained that although Khmer silk is very unique, it is difficult and time consuming to produce. In addition, she said that demand has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.
“The silk that we produce in my area is gold. This is related to the silkworms that we raise. There are a lot of stages to the production of the silk, and we have to be careful to make sure each one is done very precisely and hygienically,” she said.
“We use traditional methods and make our silk by hand. It takes a lot of strength, a lot of patience and a lot of time. The traditional looms and tools that we use make it a very delicate operation,” she added.
Saroeut said the production time varies from product to product, with a blanket, for example, taking from one to three days to complete.
“The more complex a style, the longer it will take for us to create,” she added.
She said that with the arrival of Covid-19, demand for her silks dropped dramatically, and have yet to return to normal.
At present, Saroeut’s business creates blankets, pillows, scarves and bolts of fabrics that can be used to make complex shapes, such as handbags.
“I urge the public to support traditional Cambodian products, because there are fewer remaining with every passing year. I realise that some of them may seem expensive, but people need to understand that it takes a great deal of energy and motivation to make them,” she said.
“What is more important is that we continue to produce goods that are unique to our own culture. I want more Cambodians to understand why this is important,” she added.