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T / happy monday / creeping on dorsu’s new line

There is pretty much only one brand I turn to when I think of sustainable and ethical basics that are also affordable and look amazing.  Ask any girl in Phnom Penh and they’ll have one, two or perhaps even an entire wardrobe filled with these black, grey, striped tees, tanks, T-shirts, shirt dresses.  The whole kit and kaboodle.  And did I mention that the entire biz is packed with amazing ladies committed to upcycling all that remnant fabric waste that gets chucked out of Cambodia’s garment factories on a regular basis?  So yeah, that.

I’ve admired Dorsu from afar for ages.  And with this blog handy, Cait and I quickly became pals with co-founder Hanna Guy.  She’s a freaking awesome lady who hails from gorgeous Australia and, together with co-founder Kunthear Mov, is committed to producing clothing that you’ll actually wear everyday and everywhere, in a workshop that pays everyone ethically, and is constantly pushing the edge of what can be done in sustainable and ethical fashion.  They’re the kind of pieces that you’ll tell your friends that the very jersey or French terry you’re wearing was once considered waste (you can read more about that here).   There’s so much of it that Hanna and her team can produce entire collections that you can purchase both in Cambodia at their store in Kampot or at retailers in Phnom Penh, or online, where they’ll ship basically anywhere.

This year Hanna got together a Dorsu crew to add some ideas to the collection.  This means the classics are still around, but there are some amazing new pieces added in their Core Collection and Classic Capsule wardrobe.  More items that you can transition from office to night to weekend  She’s been teasing about this for ages.  And this past Friday, these new pieces were released, and the interwebs is going nuts.

In August, I got a sneak peak at the line (and colours! check out that millennial pink), when Hanna invited me to shoot some behind the scenes photos.  This also meant I got to shadow the uber talented Rita McNeill, Hanna’s pal and awesome lady behind the lens for all the official Dorsu shots, and watch the styling feats of Dorsu’s sales and marketing guru, Ellen Tirant.  Creeping on their creative process was exactly what I was doing.  I walked away with a bunch of shots and my eye on some periwinkle items. 

I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a weekend.  And I’ve been trying (and failing) to plan a trip to Kampot for ages.  I just want to hang out with these amazing ladies again and learn all the things from them (yes this means a future interview of course).


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.  Cait+Tiff are not liable for that spending spree.


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T / happy monday / how to help

Artwork Credit: Libby VanderPloeg.

Artwork Credit: Libby VanderPloeg.

There is nothing more exciting than a creative collaboration.  And on top of that, nothing better than when it’s for a good cause.  Even though the situation in the US might be cloudy with a chance of meatballs for the time being, refugees and other new arrivals arrived not long before the gates closed, and will continue looking for safe haven across the West.

I grew up in ultra diverse Toronto where virtually everyone was a new arrival.  And the one thing I will always remember is how generous my mother was to every mom in making sure their kids got the right start.  This is how you get your kid into the best public junior high; they offer free swim classes at that community center; the city offers free heritage classes for your [insert Farsi, Russian, Tamil, Hindi]-speaking kid so they don’t lose their culture; this is a better apartment block than that one; do you need a ride somewhere?  The list was endless and it’s probably why I’m not too shabby at the listicle.

The best stories are happening all over.  But it might be hard to figure out where to start.  Thank you Libby VanderPloeg for this tiny little infogram.  You might have met Libby before as one of my favourite lady artists.  Ever since the hail started this past January, Libby’s been illustrating all the feelings and all the tools in support of all the movements (see this amazing GIF she made to support women’s involvement in political movements).

HOW TO BE AN ACTIVE ALLY TO IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES (High Res) from Design*Sponge on Vimeo.


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C+T / Alchemy Design, revisited

Tiffany Tsang

In January of 2015, we did our very first interview for the blog with the guys at Alchemy Design, a reclaimed wood furniture company in Phnom Penh. A few months ago, we caught up with Jonathan at their new-ish showroom in BKK1, and talked about how the company has changed since our first meeting, and all the fun stuff that lies ahead.

Tiffany Tsang

Before we start, you should know that they are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to, well, kick-start their international reach. Please, do yourself a favor and fund this campaign. There are very few companies that we have faith in like we do this group of awesome humans, and to have their work around the world would make this big blue marble even better.

The past few years have been full of growth for our friends at Alchemy, and when we first met, the company was basically three guys who liked making stuff, working on projects in the front yard when they had free time. Fast forward, and Alchemy is now one of the most recognizable and well-loved brands in Phnom Penh, ready to go international.

Tiffany Tsang Tiffany Tsang

The team has changed a bit, and that is no surprise in a city with almost constant turnover. Out of the original three, Jonathan is the only one still living in Cambodia, while Joel works from the US, and Willem is now back in Holland, no longer working with the group. They have grown substantially, and now have a team of 20 employees, working between the showroom and the workshop.

Joel now leads the design side of the business, and prepares the mood boards and overall design concept for all new pieces. Initially, the Alchemy “look” was industrial and rugged, with lots of re-bar and unexpected accents. They have kept some of those elements, but have shifted into a sort of Scandinavian-mid-century vibe, and it works.

Jonathan leads the production team and manages the in-country logistics, expansion, and probably a million other things. In some recent projects, they have partnered with lovely local interior/graphic designer, Nataly Lee, who has a crazy eye for beauty and detail. This combination of super powers has proven very successful.

Tiffany Tsang

Tiffany Tsang

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When Alchemy first started out, they focused mostly on custom home furniture, but that has changed as well and they are now working mostly with commercial spaces. They will continue to make furniture for home use, but the model is shifting to a more traditional retail set up, where they have options, and you decide if you want that thing. The amount of growth and reach in Phnom Penh is impressive, and you can see their footprint all over city, from the gorgeous Tonlé shop at the airport, to the clean lines of The Tiger’s Eye, and the uber-cool, always boozy, Elbow Room

Future plans are to keep roots in Cambodia, but to expand internationally, hence the Kickstarter. They have stayed true to their original mission, and are still sourcing wood from right outside of Phnom Penh, with an NGO that helps with resettlement. A number of Cambodian families are making the switch from traditional wood houses, to more sturdy concrete houses. The NGO connects Alchemy to the families so that they can purchase the wood, rather than the family have to pay for the junk yard to clear it out. They are also now working with an NGO in a nearby province, providing projects for capacity building in woodwork.

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When we were talking to Jonathan, he mentioned something remarkable. The traditional style of furniture in Cambodia is shiny, shellacked to an unnatural shade of orange, and usually has an elephant carved into it somewhere. Needless to say, the Alchemy style is a touch different than this. A few of the local team members in the workshop have started to refer to the Alchemy pieces as “awt saat” which literally translates to “not pretty.” It’s become somewhat of a team joke, but this new style of production has allowed these craftsmen to explore other styles of wood working, and become more involved with the design process. He says that many of them work on their own projects during breaks, and are constantly evolving. How cool is that?

Alchemy Design, we love you, and we think you are saat naa (very pretty). Keep going.

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All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.  We’re not liable for the sudden accumulation of wood in your house.


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C / Emma and Zady

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Photo via @emmawatson

I love a good collaboration. I love it even more when it involves one of my favorite public figures and one of my favorite companies. Emma Watson and Zady have come together to promote ethical and sustainable fashion and are currently launching their collaborative collection. So far, there are only three pieces available to pre-order, but they are solid. The shiny-objects side of my brain was hoping for more items, but they are staying true to the less-is more principle, and focusing on three timeless pieces you can wear forever.

Hermoine Granger  Emma Watson has been a badass since she was like 6, and I have a ton of respect for her for using her fame-powers for good, and generally choosing to be an awesome person in an industry that does not require that of her. This collection is anther example of her pushing forward businesses that are doing things the right way, and proving what a Gryffindor she is.

 

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C / dream weaver

Maybe it’s the slightly cool air, the thought of October in America, or the fact that you buy buy “pumpkin spice” ANYTHING, but I am feeling cozy right now. I’m in DC for about 20 minutes and heading back to Tucson, and am all curled up in a sweater at the airport.

For those of you who do not live in tropical climates, this is probably uninteresting, and at best, borderline boring. That’s fine, you’re excused. For the Cambodia/Myanmar/Thailand kids, OHMYGODYOUGUYSSSSSSS. Yesterday, it was straight up crisp after dinner, and I had to pull my sweater sleeves over my hands. Most other people were dressed in t-shirts and shorts, but they all probably died of hypothermia last night.

Anyway. I got into thinking about wooly, cozy, sweater-y things last night and decided that I need to learn how to weave. I have never weaved, unless you count friendship bracelets in Girls Scouts and the sweet hemp necklaces that me and my freshman year roomie made in 2001. (HI THEA!) My aunt is an incredible weaver and I had the priviledge of drooling over her loom when I was in Cape Cod a few days ago.* Her stuff is gorgeous and she does it to relax. I will do it, almost certainly, to become frustrated, threaten to quit, pout, and probably hurt myself, but I’m excited . I looked up weaving classes in Los Angeles, and lo and behold, the universe provides. Next Thursday night, Makers Mess is hosting a Weaving for Beginners class with Kellee, and I already have a world of faith in her. Two “L’s” and two “E’s”? I trust her.

Until then, I will be filling my life with photos of things I want to wrap myself in. Like this.

 

Have a cozy night.

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*I love everything about this sentence.


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C / reformation

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Sustainable-ish fashion companyReformation, has come back on my radar this week thanks to a conversation with Tiff. I was turned off by the company a few years ago, because it was feeling a little too Coachella-y, too waif-hipster, and too try-hard. I don’t know if it was the language they use, or the general vibe they put out, but I was was afraid I would have to attend music festival and wear offensive pseudo-Native-American gear. (Totally rational fear.) Tiff gave the argument that things are looking different these days, so I gave it another shot. I’m impressed.

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Started in 2009 by Yael Aflalo, the company strives to use sustainable fabrics, good manufacturing practices, and make awesome clothes that fit a range of bodies. What I like about them today is not only their dreamy wrap dresses, but their transparency regarding their own practices.

The website reads:ref

The company isn’t perfect, but they aren’t saying that they are. The operations are a vast improvement from the common standard in the garment industry and they have nailed the user experience. On the website, any shopper, or general nosy person (hi!), can dig around without much effort and find out which fabrics they use, the employee benefits and what they are doing to make the company better. They have even made cool visuals like this one, to highlight the garment, but also show why that dress is better than the evil dress from Forever 21.

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And it’s not just empty promises to make yourself feel better about buying a $120 slip dress that you could totally have made for $30 in Cambodia. The team at reformation uses crazy stuff like math and science to monitor their impact on the world and stays transparent about what works and what doesn’t.

Due to this giant professional crush I have on them right now, I went down the rabbit hole this morning and spent much too long perving on all their pieces, and there are a lot. They do constant design, rather than collection, which I honestly don’t feel great about. There are pages and pages of designs, and it feels like the clothing equivalent of the menu at The Cheescake Factory, it’s just too much. That being said, I am going to buy at least three of these things.

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This post is not sponsored, because we don’t have sponsors.

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All photos via Reformation 


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T / wit + whimsy x fragile pretty things

Jen-Thrift-HeaderAccording to the new favourite agenda that Cait got me, yesterday was National Thrift Shop Day.  And if you know us, we love a good thrift shop session.  So when our favourite coffee yoda, Jen, asked me to join her on an expedition, there was only one reaction.  Time and date please.

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One of these has got to be a literally millennial treasure.

When she’s not supporting sustainable and ethically produced coffee in Cambodia and across the region, Jen also collects more than her fair share of gorgeous, cheeky, and second hand ceramics.  Nearly all of them are from the Japanese second hand shops which dot Phnom Penh and have become more than popular among expats to decorate their abodes with.  These places are treasure troves.   Like any other illicit contraband, it gets addictive.  You could easily lose an hour or two scouring these places for easterly treasures.  Plus Japanese porcelain and pottery has been practiced for millennia, so you never know when you’ve literally got a treasure in your hands. Often times, the backs of each piece will bear the signature of its potential famous maker.

The lady at work.

Snapping the lady at work.

And Jen takes these treasures up a notch.  I discovered this at the last Swap Sabai, the fabulous little flea market that pops up in my community every few months, where Jen had a table selling these gorgeous wares.  Part Etsy, part garage sale, and always a great way to get to know your neighbours, I stumbled upon Jen’s little collection of hand-upgraded ceramics at their last event.

This guy is just asking for a Jen treatment.

This guy is just asking for a Jen treatment.

By hand-upgraded, I mean that Jen carefully and quite cheekily paints and decorates Wedgwood and Japanese porcelain pieces with a little pop-culture finesse and social commentary.  If a piece looks a little too colonial, Jen will infuse a little irony in there.  With a dry sense of humour, each piece hits it perfectly on the nose.  Too many pretty flowers? Jen will add in a few bugs.  They’re perfect to serve your biscuits and tea on, or to have hanging in your dining room for guests to giggle at.

Finished-PiecesAnd I can’t wait to get myself some pieces this weekend!

If you’re in Phnom Penh, you can find Jen’s goodies at Swap Sabai, this Sunday, August 21 at Crossfit Amatak from 10am-2pm.  Come get your ironic pretty things!


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use. Cait+Tiff are not liable for anything that decides to break on your journey home from Swap Sabai.


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John’s Fancy Booze, No. 7

Remember John?  That super hip global mixology loving pal of ours?  He may have left us for South Africa but he’s still sharing his amazing concoctions with us from the other side of the world.  This time, he’s corralled his pal Dawn Greensides for photo duties and some of his new buddies in Pretoria for tasting duties (we’re more than a little jealous). Thanks John! We miss you!


John's-Fancy-Booze-HeaderCocktails have a way of bringing – and keeping – people together.  Sure, there are the obvious ways; as Dorothy Parker famously said, “I like to have a martini, two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, and after four I’m under my host.” But beyond serving as a social lubricant, they can provide a common ground, a point of interest over which to bond and connect. Case in point, here I am again, all the way from Pretoria, re-connecting with wonderful friends from the Penh. All thanks to cocktails. It’s a beautiful thing. Plus, they’re tasty and make you feel good.

Following the themes of connections and delectability, I submit to C+T’s readers the Dawa. A popular Kenyan beverage – “dawa” is Swahili for “medicine” or “magic potion” – its lineage can be traced back to the Caipirinha and Caipiroska, with a slight nod to the estimable Mint Julep. I was introduced to the Dawa by a long lost family friend, Jeremy, who happened to be in Pretoria a little while back and requested the drink at a braii. And now he’s showing up on this blog. See, connections!Dawn-Greensides---Jeremy-in-Red-Shirt-with-Drink

Dawn-Greensides---Bring-people-togetherTraditionally the Dawa is comprised of vodka, lime wedges, brown sugar, honey, and crushed ice, with a dawa stick thrown into the mix (think combination honey dipper and swizzle stick). Instructions seem to vary, but it appears that the traditional way to make the drink is to build the limes, sugar, vodka and ice in an old fashioned glass, dip the dawa stick in honey and then stir it into the drink, further muddling the limes while you’re at it. The drink can be a little sweet, but a touch of soda water helps mellow it out while adding a little effervescence, and you can always add more lime or vodka to taste.

John's-Drinks-27-April-2016-10Not one to be beholden to tradition, I couldn’t help but tinker, and the end result is what I like to call the Dark Dawa. In place of honey and brown sugar I substituted honey syrup and a simple syrup made with unrefined muscovado sugar. This serves to cut down on the sweetness a skosh, adds a deep molasses flavor to the mix, and helps ensure the drink blends properly. While the dawa stick and associated ritual adds a wonderful aesthetic, I have two issues with it. First, I don’t have a dawa stick, and my muddler is way to big to serve as a garnish. Second, honey is difficult to mix well in cocktails, especially in a drink that is built in the glass rather than shaken. Muddling the limes directly with the honey syrup and muscovado simple syrup prior to adding the ice goes a long way towards resolving both issues.

Dark dawa and John! We miss you!

Dark dawa and John! We miss you!

The biggest change in the Dark Dawa, though, is the move away from vodka in favor of a dark rum. Vodka has its uses, but in cocktails I find it disappears too easily behind whatever other ingredients are incorporated. If you like to taste your booze, try the Dawa with some dark rum and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how well the rum, limes, honey and muscovado sugar blend together.  And in a way it brings the drink back a little closer to its origins in the Caipirinha. See, more connections!


Dawn-Greensides----RecipesRecipes

Dawa

2 oz vodka
2-4 lime wedges
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons honey
crushed ice

In an old fashioned glass, add the lime wedges (enough to fill the bottom of the glass) and brown sugar and muddle lightly. Fill the glass with crushed ice, add vodka and stir. Dip your dawa stick in honey and stir into the glass, muddling limes further. If you don’t have a dawa stick or a suitable stand-in, add the honey at the same time as the sugar. Fill glass with more ice or with soda water, if desired.

Dark Dawa and Friends

Dark Dawa and Friends

Dark Dawa

2 oz dark rum
2-4 lime wedges
.5 oz honey syrup*
.25 oz muscovado simple syrup**
crushed ice

In an old fashioned glass, add the lime wedges (see above), honey syrup, and muscovado simple syrup, and muddle.  Add the rum, stir, fill with crushed ice and stir again.  Top off with ice to fill the glass, or add soda water.

*Honey Syrup

.75 cup honey
.25 cup hot water

In a tea kettle bring water to a near boil, then measure out required amount and pour into a mixing bowl. Add honey, then stir with a whisk until fully mixed then store in a sealed container. Makes about 1 cup, and should last indefinitely.

**Muscovado Simple Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup muscovado sugar

In a sealed container add the water and sugar and shake vigorously until mixed. If you’re feeling a little lazy, you can use hot water to help speed up the process.


Thanks for yet another delicious post, John!  We can’t wait to see what you cook up next.  In the meantime, you can check out the rest of John’s tasty things he’s made for us here, or at his blog, Alchemy & a Twist!

All photos by Dawn Greensides. Please request permission for use.  We are not liable for the extreme thirst that results from this blogpost.


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T / client love / penh lane and khmer creations

KC-HeaderWhen you’re first starting out, you’ve got to be infinitely grateful for the clients who come to you. And even more thankful for the ones who are patient enough to understand that you are still learning.  This is when I learned that white background product photography is one tough cookie.  There was definitely more than one attempt to produce this:

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Angkor Necklace and Turning Leaf Bracelet by Khmer Creations available through Penh Lane.

Eventually you figure things out, and that relationship with your very patient client grows into something awesome.

So I wanted to give a shoutout today to a client who first came to me out of nowhere to me last year.  Khmer Creations Jewellery Studio was first founded by one, two and then three ladies.  Antonia and Jane, who are from Australia, joined forces with Samnang to create a social business that provides income generation for women in vulnerable communities in Cambodia, and has since grown to become an all-female, locally managed jewellery design and production studio that now exports its products to Europe, North America and Australia.  Women from low-income and vulnerable communities in the Phnom Penh area are provided with an income matched to the local living wages, as well as health insurance and a safe workplace.  Not only that, but they’re also educated and equipped with skills in financial literacy and personal development.  They’ve even got a savings and loan group going on inside Khmer Creations.  Some are single moms, and Khmer Creations even has a day-care to make sure that the cutest bubs are taken care of. Penh Lane came around shortly after as a trading company that not only works with Khmer Creations, but also four other Cambodian social businesses to design, wholesale and retail jewellery and other accessories to markets around the world.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been taking editorial shots for Penh Lane, featuring models of my choosing. I picked my lady lifting buddies from Crossfit Amatak because they are a joy to work out with.  Rebekah has an infectious smile even during the toughest of workouts, Julia is always amazing conversation in between the burpees and Lyda can lift a mighty mass and look fabulous at the same time.  I knew they’d look great in Khmer Creations’ goodies.

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Upper: Angkor Earrings, Lower: DeVine Recycled Timber Necklace (left) and Cotton Bead Earrings (right). All by Khmer Creations.

I also got to shoot a couple of the gorgeous ladies that work at Khmer Creations Jewellery Studio.  Which was just so much fun and a big lesson in directing a shoot with my could-definitely-be-better Khmer language skills and with Samnang as my translator.

So I’m beyond thankful to Khmer Creations and Penh Lane for supporting me and my growing skills.  I can’t wait to work with you guys again!

Find Penh Lane and Khmer Creations products online and at local stockists!  If you’re in Phnom Penh, you can find the goodies at Lot369, Teahouse Asian Urban Hotel, the Watthan Artisans shop on Street 240 and at Aeon Mall!

A big huge thanks to Farm to Table for letting me run around your beautiful green space!


All photos by Tiffany Tsang for Khmer Creations. Please request permission to use. We are not liable for any accessories shopping binges.


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C / Said Mahrouf

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I am in the process of designing a wedding dress for one of the coolest humans I have met in Phnom Penh. She’s French/Moroccan, a lawyer, gorgeous, and a genuinely lovely person to be around. How annoying. I want to make sure this dress matches her personality and effortless sense of style. What I don’t want to do is make a basic dress for a not-at-all basic lady.

I have been looking at Moroccan art, architecture, and traditional clothing for the past week. I want the dress to have a subtle element of Moroccan culture, but steer clear of the appropriative and the “look at me, I’m at a festival” vibe.

In my research for the design, I came upon Said Mahrouf. Mahrouf is a Moroccan-born, New York/Amsterdam trained designer. He launched in 2007, and I am sad I only just found out about him. His women’s wear manages to be breezy while structured, and creative, while wearable. I want all of it on me, right now. Especially that green and grey business, hot damn.

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Going broke just looking at these. Sadly, I’m not sure if he is still designing, and he hasn’t released anything for 2016. Here’s hoping he is waiting for fashion week in September.

All photos property of Said Mahrouf

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