From trade to aid
Phnom Penh has many wonderful not-for-profit organisations whose programmes are funded or partially funded by stores selling their products. So why not spend and feel good about it at the same time?
Whether you’re hunting for gifts for family or a memento of your time spent here, there are a few special places it might pay, and pay it forward, to check out. We’ve rounded up some of the very best to get along to.
On St. 13 is Friends ‘n’ Stuff, a funky little store specialising in bags, clothing, jewellery and accessories. All the products are made by local families who come from a variety of difficult circumstances. Their creations feature bold colours and quirky designs, and are often crafted using recycled materials.
Further up along St. 13 you’ll find the Artisans Angkor Boutique showroom. Artisans Angkor is a social enterprise founded with the aim of providing training and employment to underprivileged rural Cambodians. It now employs around 1,100 people, 700 of which are artisans. The Phnom Penh store showcases beautiful gifts, decorations, artworks and garments crafted by talented staff at their 48 workshops in Siem Reap province.
A few steps east of the Russian Market along St. 450 is the store and workshop of Rajana Association. Rajana’s mission is to reignite the creative spark doused by the Khmer Rouge regime. This Cambodian-run not-for-profit organisation provides training and employment opportunities for local people, pairing traditional skills with contemporary designs. With unique jewellery pieces, bags and other accessories, fellas might struggle to drag their partners away from this one. They have also recently opened a new showroom on St. 240.
Daughters of Cambodia’s boutique store and visitor centre, found on Sisowath Quay, stocks a variety of interesting and attractive products including jewellery, scarves and bags, children’s toys, men’s products, t-shirts, and home décor items. You’re sure to find something with your name on it. All the products in-store are handcrafted by young women and men who have overcome their former lives as victims of trafficking in Cambodia’s sex industry.
On the corner of St. 51 and 360 is the Tabitha store. This store features a gorgeous range of beautiful, handcrafted silk products. From bedding to tablecloths, to bags and shawls, all crafted from the finest Cambodian silk. These products are all designed and produced locally by Cambodian artisans through Tabitha’s programme. As part of this project, participants learn valuable skills including craftsmanship and management of personal finances.
Tucked down the laneway known as St. 240 1/2 is Cambodian Creations. This social enterprise aims to generate income for at-risk Cambodian workers in an ethical, fair-trade environment. The proceeds generated by this initiative provide the workers with dependable, meaningful employment that allows them to make plans and lay the groundwork for a brighter future. They stock a fabulous range of jewellery, handicrafts and knitted toys, sourced from a number of socially responsible producers across Cambodia. Word to the wise, though: their knitted elephants are truly adorable. If you’ve got kids or younger siblings in your life, you’ll definitely struggle to leave without buying one to send home.
Have a wander down St. 144, near Kandal Market, and you’ll come across the 3Strands store. The ethos of this transformative project is all about providing sustainable, viable employment as a way to aid healing, restoration, and reintegration for survivors of human trafficking or sexual exploitation. Everything in-store is carefully handmade to the highest quality in their employment center just outside of Phnom Penh. 3Strands provides these survivors with financial security, training, and most importantly, a life of stability away from the world they’ve left behind. Featuring a variety of cool, casual apparel, bags, wallets and other accessories, it is well worth a visit.
Even as you leave the Kingdom of Wonder, there is still time to sneak in some benevolent buys. Tonlé at Phnom Penh International Airport is an ethical fashion label which is all about paying workers fair wages with decent benefits while using ethically and environmentally sourced material (zero waste) so you can feel good about looking great. With everything from youthful prints to sophisticated dresses and funky accessories, you’d be forgiven for splurging a little here.