Expat, Fashion, Travel

Gidgette Bardot- a maker, a muse.

GBOsiris

A few years ago, I had the exciting and extremely fun opportunity to model the lookbook for Gidgette Bardot, an online vintage shopping site set up and co-founded and run by the delightful and lively Osiris Navarro.

Talented in numerous ways and busy, busy, busy- I finally had a chance to get inside the mind of one of Seattle’s favorite vintage connoisseurs, Osiris- the great.

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Cambodia, Expat, Fashion, Personal, Phnom Penh, Travel

The History of Things to Come.

Vintage Pinup

Amanda Bloom is a triple threat. She’s known in Phnom Penh particularly for her music, composition, and stage presence along with her authentic, dress-up fabulous vintage pop-up sales she has been hosting for the past three years since she has lived in Cambodia, gorgeously titled “The History of Things to Come”, along with a compelling mind rich with knowledge on the projects she’s involved in. Amanda is passionate when the topic of vintage arises, as it truly is her lifeblood, an integral part of her personal history, and has been in a way methodically soothing to her in many ways which is apparent as she softly says in one part of our discussion, “I love the little details of vintage, the things that surprise you. The details in the buttons…the pleating… the garment…”

I had a chance to sit down with Amanda over a glass of white wine, raw almonds, and kittens to discuss why she conducts The History of Things to Come and what sparked her initial interest in vintage. One of my dear friends back home, Brooke Casanova, is a vintage connoisseur of sorts and loves a great find- so it was of particular interest to me in how Ms. Bloom runs her business, why she does it, and how she manages her product and client base with an increasing, sometimes fraudulent, vintage market growing in The Charming City.

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Cambodia, Fashion, Phnom Penh, Travel

WUPPS!

WUPP! December 2012

The gorgeous Laura Joy Kiddle

Seems I forgot to post the articles I did for December’s WUPP! issue.

ur artist: BLACKSTAR

During one of my beginning weeks in Phnom Penh, an English woman came into my place of work and the first thing she barked at me was ‘why would you ruin yourself with those?’, waving about at my tattoos. Instead of a sharp response about her own grave state of physicality, I gave her my brightest smile and replied “because I think they’re fun.”

Opinions of tattoos go completely across the board: tacky, sexy, dangerous, ugly, exotic, cheap, beautiful, interesting…everyone is absolutely entitled to their own opinion of them. After my talks with Sun Kang, Korean tattoo master at Black Star, you may gain new perspective into the world of body modification and art.

In Korea every young man must join the army for the minimum of 2 years unless they come from extreme poverty, are severely disabled, or heavily tattooed. For this reason, tattoo parlors are illegal so that men can’t go get tattooed to avoid being drafted. Another reason tattooing is so looked down upon in Korea is if one is tattooed it usually means they have status as a gangster. As a rule of thumb, heavily tattooed individuals in Korea have spent time in prison and when are released get inked to represent the time the spent there. Sun explained that if I went to Korea and they didn’t know I was a Westerner, they would “think I’m a very, very bad girl” or be “very afraid because I am daughter of Yakuza”.

Sun began his apprenticeship with a Japanese tattoo master 17 years ago in Korea, regardless of the law. He had seen a tattooed individual and thought the piece had such beauty and artistry that he wanted to be able to create the same thing on other canvasses of skin. His passion for tattooing and their meanings are obvious and I respect the seriousness in which he takes his craft. His favorite style is traditional Japanese and although he does a fantastic job with other styles, admits he cannot do everything and will be honest about what he can and cannot do well. After two years of apprenticing with his Japanese master and practicing on his own body, as testees were obviously hard to come by, Sun opened his own secret parlor in Korea. Ninety five percent of his clientele were gangsters and the favorite piece he’s done is a full torso, chest, and arm piece on a man who had served eleven years for murder. After eleven years of tattooing in Korea, he came to Cambodia for vacation and like many of us, fell in love with the country. He decided he wanted to take a “quest” and instead of returning home, had all of his equipment shipped to Cambodia. With no English or Khmer language skills, he created an entrepreneurship here with a tattoo shop in Sihanoukville for a year with his current partners, Eddie Newman and Paul Ouk, and then moved to Phnom Penh where they have now run Black Star for 3 years.

Considering Black Star is the only tattoo shop in Phnom Penh that uses a professional grade autoclave, sanitation that passes Western standards, and the overall atmosphere of the shop is welcoming and clean one can understand why his business does so well. Foreigners make up eighty percent of his clientele and the other twenty percent are Khmer. People have come from all over Cambodia, even the world, to get tattooed by Sun and some have even called two to three months in advance to get booked for an appointment. He now has an apprentice of his own, Charly Han, who has proven to be just as skilled and interested in the craft and will continue apprenticing until he can build his own clientele. Sun enjoys his current workspace as he’s the only artist at Black Star at the moment who books many appointments and never wants to get overwhelmed to the point where he cannot perform at his highest, but may one day expand to a larger shop if he finds other artists skilled enough to join his team.

Having found such a skilled artist and interesting person, it will be a pleasure to grow my small collection of tattoos with Sun and look forward to designing my first large piece with him.

ur ride/tuk tuk of the month: Narak Kun

“Michael Phelps drives a tuk tuk”

Narak: 017 558 075

The next time you’re stressed out because you have a lunch meeting at Raffles, a hair appointment at three, need to send a dozen emails, and have cocktails with the girls at seven I’d like you to keep in mind Mr. Narak Kun.

Narak begins his day at seven, Monday through Saturday, as the assistant coach for swimming at iCAN British International School until four, then drives his tuk tuk from five until ten, maybe eleven at night. After his normal coaching schedule on Saturdays, he continues on to ICS School until three where he continues his swimming coaching.

Sundays are his day of most rest, where he coaches at Sunrise, an NGO for orphaned children, for four hours in the morning.

The desire to support his family of six in Kampong Cham moved Narak to Phnom Penh and keeps him determined to continue his more than busy schedule in hopes to one day open his own restaurant and become head coach of a competitive swimming team.

On the path he’s currently taking, I see future achievements even beyond what he may hope for. A previous member of the Cambodian National Swimming Team, competing in Thailand five times although training has been difficult in Cambodia, his drive and dedication prove him to be extremely successful in his endeavours; the boys team he coaches have been victorious in their most recent competition, placing first through third in breaststroke and the one girl he trains in second place.

Although Narak is new to tuk tuk driving having only started three months ago, he is setting up his trade professionally with business cards and although he’s only studied English for the past three years, has quite excellent understanding of the language. He is available on call, but spends most of his time near Sothearos awaiting customers. Narak’s hopes to continue his entrepreneurship are apparent and with his perseverance, I believe Phnom Penh will one day be dining at his establishment and seeing the names of his trainees on trophies.

ur shop/ Paperdolls
Brunswick Street, Melbourne. Broadway to Sixth, New York. Camden, London. Via Monte Napoleone, Italy. Street 204 ½, Phnom Penh? We may just have found the start of Phnom Penh’s street of best shopping.

Hidden away in this little alley of wonders is Paperdolls, a mashup of all things fun and whimsical in Phnom Penh’s trend driven world. This clothing and accessories hideaway holds everything from kitschy jewelry and gorgeous pop surrealism prints to filmy pastel dresses and studded clutches.

Opened recently in May 2012, branching off Dollhouse Salon, Paperdolls has quickly cultivated its own following. According to Brandon, one of the partners in this treasure trove, the established Dollhouse Salon clientele were “moaning about (the salon) not having a proper store” and “ending up at parties wearing the same dresses” as other expats.

Brandon and Ryan collaborate in the buying process, which is a perfect match according to Brandon; Ryan tends to gravitate towards the edgier and trendier and Brandon’s aesthetic appeal is toward the more practical and conservative. This blending attracts a wide base yet still keeps things interesting. Paperdolls’ goal is to source things throughout the world, from India to Colombia and Korea so that each item is one of a kind in the area. Along with keeping Phnom Penh stylish, Paperdolls’ focus is to support new designers in the area by reserving sections of the shop for designers to display their product on a commission basis. Allowing this space gets their product on a shelf in an attractive boutique, subjects them to market research, and lets customers experience the product without the designers having to expend their resources on their own shopfronts. Paperdolls makes attractive adorning accessible to everyone, so keeping price points reasonable and keeping products fresh and new is of great importance.

Make sure to keep an eye out for this partnership and I can assure you, walking out of Paperdolls emptyhanded is simply impossible.

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Cambodia, Fashion, Personal, Phnom Penh

7 Days: The History of Things to Come

This past week I had the pleasure of doing a quick photoshoot with 7 Days for the Vintage Sale “The History of Things to Come”, curated by Amanda Bloom and hosted at The Living Room Cafe. Poppy organized the shoot while Amanda styled, steamed, and assisted in covering up under things.

Ms. Bloom had literally dozens upon dozens of gorgeous pieces, ranging from Edwardian blouses and Mexican bridesmaid dresses to 80s swimwear which made it extra difficult to pick a few items to feature. Next time she puts on a sale, I highly recommend any fashion conscious or history curious individual to check it out.

From the event invitation on Facebook:

“There is a certain beauty to authentic vintage, a time tested glamour that adds depth and character. Although there will be cocktail dresses, gowns and winter pieces, the sale will have a focus on practical day to day summer items to compliment the weather and lifestyle of Phnom Penh. With a focus on natural fibre fabrics like cottons, silk, laces, linen and rayon the selection will be a refreshing change from synthetic fabrics.”

Anna says: The straw handbag with the chain strap and lightweight, whimsically printed sundress were playful and a fun change from the norm. I felt as if I should have melted icecream dripping from my hands on Balboa Island after a ride on the ferris wheel, snapping Polaroids on the sand

Stephanie says: Two things that drew me to this dress were the bright lime green sash and the deep pockets. The sash gave the otherwise basic dress an unexpected pop of color and the pockets, which were almost the length of my forearm, was an unusual but practical detail. No purse needed!

Anna says: This red evening gown takes me back to nights of being wined and dined properly on a rooftop bar, sipping a dirty martini. The open back bares enough but the length leaves  bit to the imagination and one can’t help but feeling like a vixen in crimson.

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Cambodia, Fashion, Food, Personal, Phnom Penh, Travel

October 13, 2012.

It never ceases to amaze me what our bodies can endure.

I think back on my regimented sleep schedule in Washington (wake at the same time, religiously fit in my toddler nap at 3:30 pm, and be in bed covered in fur blankets by 11pm unless working at Marrow), my inability to not throw up after a night of imbibing and my no-nonsense allowance and choice of drinks (strictly potato vodka, Fireball if shooting, no red wine, and my rigid dirty martini with 3 olives). I may have regressed to my first hours out of high school, running off 5 hours of sleep, three iced coffees, and the promise of pizza. I can proudly say vomiting hasn’t been part of my nightly drinking activities and my body has had less reaction to histamines. I don’t mean to sound like a lush, I’m just in wonderment of this re found ability to live without so many self inflicted rules. In reference to my last entry, maybe I’ve just knocked off the chip on my shoulder and shed the stress that possibly affected me so much back at home. We all know the studies that state that stress can be one of the biggest causes for health issues both physically and mentally, it is possible that this newfound Khmer calm is just making it a whole lot easier to eat, sleep, and drink without worrying so much about the aftereffects, resulting in…well, no aftereffects.

With these extra waking hours, ability to sip a glass of Malbec without breaking out in hives, and general freedom of a night time schedule I’ve met some really, truly fantastic people. It would be possible to write about all the memorable individuals I’ve come in contact with here, but I’ll stick with three women I’ve had the honor to connect with.

Hana Cook may be one of the kindest people I’ve ever met and one of the first friends I’ve made since my arrival. She’s lived in Phnom Penh for three years and has resided in Canada, a neighboring island off Sihanoukville and her home, England. I get to see her for few hours a day at .BEYOND (more on this in a later post) as she’s the design team manager at the firm. Hana has managed to bring me iced coffee almost every morning for the past two weeks, donuts on an especially hungover day, and has had the wherewithal to keep a smile on her face even during a week long stint in the hospital from Dengue Fever, getting her phone and purse stolen, dealing with jerks, and placating difficult clients. Not only is she a skilled furniture and interior designer, she runs a graphic design company called “We Made This” in Phnom Penh and is co-owner of a guest house called The White Rabbit. She appreciates a chorizo pizza and pack of ESSE cigarettes as much as I do, and at the risk of sounding like a complete sap, I can see this turning into a lasting friendship.

The unforgettable Amy Derek Dorrah was the first gal who’s style I could truly appreciate since I’ve gotten to Phnom Penh and that would make complete sense; she owns Kampuchea Vintage, a vintage import and export company based here. The girl has some serious talent in the hunt for good vintage (which seems pretty damn difficult in Cambodia) and business savvy that’s going to take her to and from Australia for her Kampuchea Vintage. The lady leaves for home (AU) in a few weeks and it’ll be sad to see her go, but a real treat for when she comes back for more vintage scouring. Not only does she have personal style that actually shines through the terrible throngs of Angry Bird tee shirts, backpacker cargo shorts, and sexpat sleaze but a sunny disposition, fresh outlook and smarts that I truly admire.

Before moving to Phnom Penh, I scoured the internet for an interesting blog aimed towards daily life in Phnom Penh to give me a vague idea of what I was getting myself into. I assumed they would be abundant, but was proven wrong after coming across only several backpacking sites and a whole lot of parenting blogs. Finally, I came across the gem that is “Our Dear Lady Expat: All about living a lovely expat life in Phnom Penh!” It didn’t take me long to click through the entire thing, following her travels, style inspirations, and the things that she generally likes in this great city. On a whim, I sent her an e-mail the first week I got here to let her know how much I enjoyed her blog and we ended up corresponding and planning on meeting for dinner (we aimed for Chuck Norris Dim Sum, but it turns out THE PLACE IS NEVER OPEN WHEN WE WANT TO GO THERE), internet dating style. Wonderfully enough, the awkward first meeting didn’t stay awkward for long and I found that, not surprisingly, Dear Lady Expat Ashley is just as interesting and fun as her writing. She’s got a personality resembling candy floss, absolutely darling and sweet but topped with a solid brain and book references that a gentleman and scholar would cheer. Her ability to keep up on her writing all while working long days teaching, having a full social life, and bein’ in love with PIC (her man and Partner in Crime) is admirable and I tip my hat to her talents.

These three e-introductions to these bad asses barely even touch the unforgettable individuals that I’ve been lucky enough to meet, and I’m so grateful for the chance to maybe make a memory or two with these ladies. All I can say is this: although I left behind some of the most amazing friends and family back in Washington that I will always love more than anything, Phnom Penh is proving true the age old phrase “make new friends but keep the old, one of them silver and the other is gold”.

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