From the breathtaking scenery and the warmth of the locals, Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh, is definitely a must-visit for anyone wanting to get a good glimpse of what the rest of Southeast Asia has to offer. Aside from the Cambodians’ cool, calm, and collected nature, there’s so much more we can learn from them—particularly in fashion. Phnom Penh serves as the creative home for many budding artists and dare we say, the next big names in fashion.
In December, I was given the chance to cover an event in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Having identified myself as a writer more than anything else, you can only imagine my excitement to be wearing the “International Media” tag for the first time ever! The event, ABC Lions of Fashion, was the first of its kind in Cambodia and even in Southeast Asia at large. I was excited to see innovation from the fashion and style scene in this side of the continent. Truly, it did not disappoint.
With an abundance of skill and talent, the Cambodian fabric and garment industry can definitely be propelled into greater heights. The first-of-its kind designer and model search in the kingdom, ABC Lions of Fashion all started with a purpose—to open doors for opportunities. Essentially, one that would uplift both the fashion and garment industry.
Witnessing the innovative designs parading on the stage, one would be surprised to know that many of the contenders in both the designers and models categories are university students. Some of them are pursuing other fields, like business or engineering, but have still decided to heed the call of their hearts that led them to fashion, proving that it is never too early to following your dreams—even while still finishing your degree.
The competition was tough, with 1,318 models and 127 designers aspiring to be the next big names in Cambodian fashion. Leading up to the finals, only 10 contenders for each of the categories were left vying for the much coveted titles. The glamorous gala night took place earlier in December 2019 at the Koh Pitch City Hall in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Winners among the models were: Lev Socheata (2nd runner up), Meas Chanrou (1st runner up), and Leap Srepov (Champion). For the designers, the winners were: Kong Sothea (2nd runner up), Sok Panha (1st runner up), and Pov Sithan (Champion).
Aside from the astonishing designs that bring us new perspectives when it comes to fashion and style, it’s also worth noting that there are several Filipino creatives making their mark on this part of Southeast Asia. Reynier Abello and Don Protasio are two of the established Cambodia-based designers who mentored the aspirants. The ABC Lions’ brand manager and the woman behind the whole project, Golda Gomez, is a Filipina herself.
Apart from being history makers in their own right in the Southeast Asian fashion scene, the winners from both categories received a $3,000 all-expense paid trip to attend the Paris Fashion Week and a six-page spread each in Cambodia’s #1 Fashion editorial magazine. We’re low-key hoping doors like this open for fashion creatives in the Philippines, too!