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Cambodian Fashion Designer Tells His Story in New Exhibition

PHNOM PENH: The youngest of seven, raised in a floating village in Kampong Khleang, fashion designer Muoy Chorm lives a life far removed from his roots as a farmer, boat driver and fisherman. It is his childhood on the Tonle Sap, however, that inspires many of his beautiful creations.

Muoy Chorm has been creating under his own label, “Muoy Chorm Cambodia” for nearly ten years now. He has amassed a stunning collection over the years which will now be displayed at the Friends Future Factory under the title “The World of Muoy Chorm.” The exhibition kicked off with a fashion show on May 20 and will run until June 30, during which the public can see the designer’s signature pieces and get to know more about his life and process as a Cambodian fashion designer.

Taking us on a tour of the exhibition, he proudly showcased a dress whose bodice is crafted with green and white flowers alongside a golden brown tulle dress. “The first two dresses that I created [take] a really big inspiration from my hometown. This one from a fishing net and this one from nature because I grew up in a floating village, so it was half water, half land; doing fishing and also farming,” he said.

Taking inspiration from Cambodia’s natural elements, his collection addresses a wide range of the human experience interpreting topics like depression, marriage and the constrictive nature of gender norms. His style rebukes the idea that “men should only wear men’s colors, women only women’s colors with floral prints” which produces traditional blazers adorned with golden flowers.

When Muoy Chorm began his designing career as an assistant to a designer in Siem Reap, the Cambodian fashion scene was almost non-existent. As a fashion pioneer, he developed his own style, combining Western design concepts with Cambodian elements. He has received pushback, however, for not adhering to ancient Cambodian aesthetics. He does not let the criticism get him down, saying, “My work gets a lot of hate because of the culture, but I always keep going with a smile and also I believe in myself.” He spreads this message to Cambodian youth who are getting involved in Cambodia’s nascent fashion scene, encouraging them to follow their passions rather than public opinion.

With support from the fans, family and friends, Muoy has become one of Cambodia’s founding members of the fashion scene. The fashion show’s emcee, John Alexora, is happy to see his friend succeed. “I saw his talents from the start and now with the event and everyone supporting him, it’s like, you deserve it! He deserves everything like that because he is so talented and makes good quality designs,” he said.

The World of Muoy Chorm exhibition at Friends Futures Factory will be on display through June 30. As Alexora put it, “If you would like to know more about the designer, know more about the design industry in Cambodia, you can [come] to see what Muoy Chorm is doing.” You’ll be sure to leave with insight into Cambodia’s evolving cultural scene.

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