A funky reversible pillow slip, a vintage steel fairground horse and a screen-printed sarong are among treasures that can be found at Trunkh, the new Siem Reap branch of Phnom Penh’s popular concept store which celebrates everything “wonderful and unique” about Cambodia.
Located on the up-and-coming Hup Guan street, home to Frangipani Spa, Louise Loubatieres Gallery and a medley of cafés, Trunkh is easily recognisable by the large blue metallic horse strategically hung at right angles to the shop, giving the impression it is about to prance off into the street.
This merry-go-round horse, says co-owner Doug Gordon, is indicative of the shop’s ‘rescued treasures’ ethos and is one of 14 that he and his business partner Marianne Waller salvaged from an old carousel outside Kratie, where the horses were destined for the scrap heap.
Californian graphic designer Doug and Marianne, whose background is in advertising, opened the original Trunkh in 2012, based on a shared love of Cambodia in all its quirks and colours.
Doug says that when Marianne and he first opened the store, customers told them that they loved the concept, and the duo then devised the store’s tagline: ‘Cambodia’s first concept store.’
Doug says, “We are both very visual, and we realised we loved the exact same wonderful things about Cambodia, from everyday items that you can find on street corners, to out-in-the-provinces more collectible items like the hand-painted shop signs.”
“The concept is basically how unique Cambodia is. It’s not just beautiful silk, it’s not amazing wood carvings or beautiful coloured elephants, it’s all this other fodder.
“ We love recycling things. We love going to junk shops and making tables out of old steel,” he says, indicating a table which is made out of a large wooden shutter on a steel frame.
“When we’re out shopping the exciting thing is that one thing always leads to another,” he adds. “I’m really into the everyday items – not really vintage, not old but definitely unique and one of a kind.”
Both keen design enthusiasts, with an eye for what Doug describes as “what’s au-courant,” the duo filled their shop with a mixture of Cambodian-inspired items – such as self-designed, silk screen-printed tote bags, shirts and tea-towels – and ‘found’ objects, for example the fairground horses and a set of diminutive old-school metal café stools that Doug waxes lyrical about.
“It’s the old mixed with the new, and the new being inspired by the old,” he says. “We sell a lot to expats who are living in Cambodia, and we sell to people who are travelling.
“But one wonderful thing that’s developed, at least in Phnom Penh, is we’re also selling to Khmer people now. We get a lot of young couples who’ll come in and buy a wrap skirt or a sarong, and now their mothers are beginning to come in too.”
The name Trunkh, he says, has multiple meanings; a trunkful of treasure, an elephant’s trunk and the trunk of a body, referring to the many clothes the shop sells, with the ‘kh’ tagged on as a nod to ‘Khmer’.
The shop certainly is a treasure trove; fish-shaped cushions etched with vintage-style piscine illustrations sit alongside cute colourful pillow cases, while river mud animals and ceramic bunnies line the shelves. The walls are hung with various paintings and silk-screen prints.
The cheapest item is $1 while objects such as the fairground animals go for $725. “We have some great things for a dollar,” says Doug, “Just really cute or wonderfully Khmer things like a stainless steel fork and spoon set with Wat Phnom embossed on them. Then the most expensive things will be some of the furniture we do. We sell these wonderful coffee tables for $325, the carousel animals are $725 because they’re so unique. The original hand-painted shop signs will be from $200-$500 depending on how unique or large they are.”
Most popular, he says, are the mid-range items from around $15-$40, such as the quirky, destination-themed tea towels, the men’s shirts and the cotton wrap skirts.
Doug says he is also working on a line of products that will be specifically tailored to Siem Reap.
“We do a wonderful line that’s been popular in Phnom Penh of Vann Molyvann prints on t-shirts,” he says. “It’s not really a Siem Reap oriented thing, so in the next couple of months I’m really going to be trying to come up with ideas that are specifically Siem Reap.”
Trunkh will open in June, with opening hours 11am – 6pm Tuesday to Sunday.