From teaching people that there is value in the materials they discard, to creating change in the attitudes of society surrounding the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender) community, La Chhouk Recycled and Creative Fashion is much more than your average clothes design company.
Turning discarded trash into incredible Cambodian-inspired costumes and jewellery, is what founder and designer Ith Sovannareach does best. And it is with pride that he transforms trash into catwalk-worthy designs.
“We aim to protect the environment by inspiring and educating people so that they see more value in waste and recycled products, like aluminium, plastic, or paper products,” he says. “We do this by transforming these waste products into beautiful dresses influenced by our Khmer culture, and highlighting the urgency to adopt more sustainable lifestyles.”
The project was born out of Ith’s drive to do something different. Joining forces with his fellow Royal University of Fine Arts’ students, they aimed to create pieces of art that can contribute to society.
Using recycled materials, the group began its collaboration, working on a project for a school fair in 2014. Each member was assigned to scour the city for different materials that would eventually become their first experiment in recycled fashion.
Drawing inspiration from Khmer culture, such as the Cambodian Royal Ballet, the designs incorporate crowns and jewellery from traditional Khmer dancing costumes. All carefully crafted from discarded items, such as plastic bags, cans, scrap paper, glass bottles and wire.
“This can be difficult for us, because it’s not fabric,” says Ith. “We need to cut the materials carefully, like the aluminium and cans. We also need to clean them a few times and think about how it may affect our models, or not.”
As well as creating quirky clothing, there is a green message behind La Chhouk Recycled and Creative Fashion, adds Ith. To date, their attention-grabbing designs and environmental message has caught the attention of various companies, who have rented their clothing for branding events and fashion shows. “They use them to surprise their audience and clients,” says Ith. “Also, they help to promote our works to send a message to people.”
Also keen to support and offer a platform to the LGBQT community, La Chhouk Recycled and Creative Fashion’s models, makeup artists and designers are often recruited from the community.
“We really want them to rise above discrimination,” he adds. “La Chhouk is everything to me. It is like a machine that shows the world what I want to say. La Chhouk continues to teach me a lot about how to work in a group, how to manage people, how to help people and how to involve society. Actually, I don’t know how to express my feelings about La Chhouk because it means so much to me.”