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In New Zealand, nobody does it like Dara Lee

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A model shows off the costume creation of Lee Dara Punleu, aka Dara Lee, in New Zealand. Photo supplied

In New Zealand, nobody does it like Dara Lee

Despite not winning the best-in-show award like he did last year, Khmer designer Lee Dara Punleu, 23, was selected people’s choice at the Best Edible Fashions contest in New Zealand for his traditional Kenor costume made of kitchen products.

Known as Dara Lee, the designer has lived on the island nation since he was a young boy, but has gotten encouragement and recognition from fans worldwide via social media.

Kenor, a traditional dance costume popularised during the reign of King Sisowath, was reimaged in an offbeat way when Dara Lee constructed his outfit using pizza boxes, plastic plates and spoons, bottles, cans, buckets, pasta, aluminium and paper.

Held annually in New Zealand since 2006, the Edible Fashion Awards showcase creative designers who make clothing and jewellery from household or food products.

Sure enough, when voting closed on Sunday, Dara Lee’s photo had gotten the most votes out of all 47 contestants and was awarded the 2018 Sprouts In-Home Childcare People’s Choice Award.

Catching up with The Post, Dara Lee said, “I am very thankful . . . I’m waiting for [the judges] to contact me, then I will know what I am going to do next.” Giving a shout out to all the supporters in his native country, he posted: “I will try with all my best efforts to promote Khmer arts and Khmer culture to the world.”

The young man who studies 3D animation confirmed he intends to keep showing pieces that advance Khmer traditional arts, saying, “next year, I will compete in a similar event. It’s a larger platform called ‘World of Wearable Arts’”.

The designer of the year award went to Katherine Bertram, whose “There Are Many More Fish in the Sea” garment was made from rice paper, squid ink and dried anchovies, mackerel and fish skin.

“Peace and Diversity” was the theme of the contest this year, while last year’s was “Myth and Legend”.

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