I (Flick) visited Cambodia in July for two weeks and caught up with partners. It’s the first visit back since Flying Fox Fabrics was launched but we have been doing business with them since 2013 so they are old friends and very keen to chat about the new venture. Previous visits had always been rushed as I had to race back to managing an art centre, however, this time we really had time to chat and visit the workshops and document the stories of some of the artisans. A big part of the motivation to start Flying Fox Fabrics was to support the Cambodian makers so it was deeply satisfying to spend time with them and hear and see firsthand how working for social enterprises made them economically independent and also gave them dignity. I will be sharing those stories, photos and videos in coming weeks and months.
As luck would have it we arrived in time for Phnom Penh Designers Week #ppdw – an annual event focusing on contemporary fashion and clothing. The week culminated in two catwalk shows on August 3rd: Menswear and Womenwear and we were gifted tickets by A.N.D. who were presenting their collection ‘The Birds and the Bees and the Flowers and the Trees’. The venue was the outrageously swanky Rosewood Hotel in the very distinctive Vattanac building. Their function rooms were on the 36th floor. The building opened in 2013 and, funnily enough, I’d watched it being built from the back of a motorbike traveling to and from Tuol Kork each day to work for two years. My next post will be about Designers Week.
Welcome to Flying Fox Fabrics – a brand new start up. On June 26th we finally took the plunge and started a Facebook page, an Instagram account and told people about the online Etsy shop that had been quietly slowly getting stocked. The ladies in the photo are employed by Kravan House founded in 2003 and it was the first craft social enterprise in Cambodia. The founder of Flying Fox Fabrics has been a friend of the founder of Kravan House since she went to Cambodia in 2010 on an AVI volunteer placement as a business management adviser and lived only two blocks away in Phnom Penh. Thanan is disabled and founded Kravan House to provide employment options for others. As long term admirer of the local crafts, Flick would often visit and they would discuss ideas about how her business could be strengthened and they could potentially work together in the future.
Their first collaboration was in 2013 whilst Flick was working as a consultant with Injalak Arts in Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) but based in Cambodia. She took Injalak fabric samples to Cambodia and they were made into three different styles of bags. She paid Kravan House with her credit card (a true entrepreneurial move) and took them back to Australia in her luggage to see how they would be received. She started with fairly dull colored fabrics thinking that would be the market. They all sold through Injalak Arts onsite store and the money went to Injalak Arts. These baby steps paved the way for the growth of the Cross-cultural Collaboration Project (CCCP) that saw thousands of bags, purses and cushions covers made from Aboriginal designed and hand-printed fabric being made. The founder of Kravan House is Mrs Thanan Hok, a disabled woman who wanted to create opportunities for other people in Cambodia who experienced the same kind of challenges and discrimination that she did. Many years later, 26 to be exact, the shop is still open and Kravan House retails, attends international Trade Fairs and exports all over the world. Social enterprises like Kravan House thrive when business is steady and they can keep their employees and contractors busy with work. Retail is very seasonal and Flying Fox Fabrics can schedule production to generate activity and income during the down season.