It may only have been open for three years but Estampe is the product of years of sifting through Vietnamese and French antique stores in search of the last remnants of colonial Cambodia by shop owner Lien Bouvet and her husband. Words by Erin Hale. Photography by Lucas Veuve.
Half a day of sifting through postcards in a Ho Chi Minh store unearthed original black and white photographs of Central Market, while other finds over the years include original French tourism posters from the 1920s and 1930s advertising the romance of Cambodia and Indochina.
Bouvet started her collection to decorate a boat and then a hotel, but after 15 years her personal collection was starting to overflow. “I decided to open the shop because we don’t need to keep it all for ourselves,” she says. “We cannot make a museum, so I made a shop and started to sell originals, then I started to make reproductions.”
After a year on Street 174, Bouvet relocated to Street 19 two years ago. The shop is intimate and full of a treasure trove of exciting finds that beat the usual fare found at Russian or Central Market.
Many of the posters sold in Bouvet’s store are copies of originals in her home.
Small reproductions printed on paper start at $9, while larger prints on mounted canvas start at $25. Limited edition prints and maps can go for $45, with framing options available. Reproductions of black and white photographs are also for sale, depicting a range of scenes from Apsara dancers to prominent spots in Phnom Penh, and start at $15 for a small print.
Collectors, however, can find original maps of Cambodia and Indochina from the early 1900s, which start at $110 depending on the map’s size and subject. A real gem comes in the form of a map from 1910 depicting all of Indochina ($210). History buffs can also take home original stock certificates of French companies operating overseas (from $40).
Sadly, many of the original places where Bouvet found her collection have since closed in Ho Chi Minh when older owners retired. “When you [go] now there aren’t so many pictures left, there aren’t so many shops and it’s difficult to find pictures,” she says. “We are lucky to have collected for 15 years, but if I wanted to start the business now, I’m not sure I would have that many pictures.”
While known for her interest in Indochina antiques, Bouvet is experimenting with new products. She has reprinted many of the vintage graphics and photographs onto notebooks ($7 to $9), as well as a line of leather keychains engraved with Apsara images and decorated glasses.
Beyond its location on Street 19, Estampe products can also be found on consignment at a range of hotels in Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem Reap, including the Plantation, Villa Langka, FCC and the White Mansion.
19A Street 19, Phnom Penh. Open Monday to Friday 11am to 7pm, Saturday 9.30am to 7pm and Sunday 10am to 5.30pm.