Savvy Aussie sisters open hip new boutique

Savvy Aussie sisters open hip new boutique

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Sister Srey Café and Twiggy co-owner Lauren Gravett. Photograph: Miranda Glasser/Phnom Penh Post

Customers at the former Angkor Bodhi Tree Café –re-branded as Sister Srey Café – can now indulge their appetite for fashion as well as caffeine, with new boutique Twiggy which opened this month above the café. The shop sells a mixture of vintage clothes, retro jewellery and spa products as well as handmade items from local NGOs.

Australian sister act Lauren and Cassie Gravett decided to turn the upstairs space which also houses a small library into a shop after failing to find certain items in Siem Reap that they were looking for themselves.

“We thought it’d be a great way of showcasing a couple of the local NGOs that have some really beautiful products,” says Lauren. “So we started doing that and then Cas and I thought why don’t we incorporate some clothes and products?”

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Handmade children’s books made by local villagers. Photograph: Miranda Glasser/Phnom Penh Post

Both being hairdressers in their hometown of Melbourne, the girls had been on the lookout for good beauty products but found them in short supply.

“I’ve got sensitive skin and hair so we needed good quality shampoos, conditioners and skin products and we came across a brand that uses all-natural ingredients called Pattrena,” says Lauren. “I trialed it for a couple of months. I never thought I would sell it here but I was using it for my own benefit and loved it. Cas and I know what to look for and we were really pleased with it. So I’m confident in selling it to people.”

The Thai brand, also stocked at Shinta Mani and Amansara, includes delicious-scented products such as honey grapefruit body scrub, bamboo lip-balm with SPF and shower-gels, shampoos and conditioners in a range of fragrances including vetiver, and green lime.  There are also aromatherapy oils and room sprays.

Fashion junkies can pick up something shiny from the funky jewellery range designed by a friend of Lauren’s, with a retro-pop art theme. Enamel stud ear-rings featuring images of Audrey Hepburn or a blonde Roy Lichtenstein heroine sit alongside over-sized pendant necklaces showing John Lennon, Debbie Harry or – slightly more quirkily – a cherubic 1920s sailor-suited child holding a teddy-bear.

Lauren says her friend is a student jeweler who’s becoming quite established and says the necklaces are not sold anywhere else. “So that’s an independent designer there,” she adds.

Racks of clothes line the walls, from cute tops to vintage dresses sourced in Thailand and Los Angeles via Lauren’s designer contacts.

“The shop’s definitely designed for women,  but in the future we’re going to look at getting in men’s clothing,” says Lauren. “We’ve had a very good response from girls who wanted something really different, things that you just can’t find at home. The stock is always changing as well so usually every time you come up there’ll be something new out.”

The boutique also stocks photographs by local snapper Darren Wilch, woven bags by NGO Grace House and cheery-looking handmade children’s books made from material rather than paper. The books are made by local village women, trained by an Australian expat.

As for the shop name, what else could be more fitting than that epitome of fashion and swinging sixties cool. The stylish sign outside depicts a silhouetted, ever-so-slightly 60s lass riding a bicycle, designed by fellow Antipodean Clementina Velasco. There is something pleasing about the way ‘Twiggy’ sits jauntily amongst the other bikes and motos parked out front.

The Gravetts also plan to introduce contemporary artwork to the shop, in addition to men’s clothing.

“We want to keep it really different but also trying to help Cambodia as much as possible,” says Lauren. “We just want to grow and make it something really unique, and a little off-centre – like the café.”

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