Fashion

This Designer And Model Search Abroad Proves Fashion Is For Everyone (Even Business And Engineering Majors!)

Many of the contenders in both the designers and models categories are actually university students!
IMAGE Courtesy of Maddie Cruz

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.  

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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Maddie Cruz
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If you know me, and know me well, I am not the biggest fan of idyllic lifestyles. With a Type A personality, I act immediately upon whatever challenge that needs to be addressed. I actually enjoy keeping my mind preoccupied: doing university work in my favourite cafe then running errands around town, grocery shopping here, updating my accounts there, photocopying documents on the way down the street - all just in time before having a glass of champagne at the bar with my friends come evening.

And so, you could imagine my bewilderment when the next challenge to be faced was an extensive self-quarantine protocol. I didn’t know what to do when my greatest responsibility in this situation was to do nothing at all. My first few attempts to combat my consternation were very much rooted in distraction and imagination. My distractions involved conducting research, writing songs, calling family and friends, filming videos, and eating chocolate! My imaginations and fantasies were centred on travelling, shopping, even clubbing (which I rarely do) for when they find a cure to COVID-19. I did anything and everything that could be considered constructive in order to pass the time, mainly hoping I could just undertake the basic human necessities to survive - that is, eat and sleep the day through - until the next day comes, until the world is closer to becoming a better place, until quarantine ends, until my flight follows through, until I see my family and friends again.

Days in self-isolation and suspended flights turned to weeks and turned to months. By the third extension here in Spain where I study Fashion Business, I had to tell myself this shall be my new normal now, that I was blessed to be healthy, that I was tired of merely existing and missed what it was like to actually live - even if just within four walls. Little by little, I began to find significance in the simple occurrences of the day: the soft glare of the rising sun beaming golden streaks through my bedroom window upon waking up, the fragrance of freshly washed bed sheets that I had painstakingly hung to fit a relatively small clothes rack without crumpling them, the crunch and tanginess of warm toasted bread topped with raspberry marmalade, the buzzing sound of a phone call from home just waiting to be answered, to the caress of a fuzzy sweater to keep warm at night. I realised, “What pleasures to be enjoyed in the pause of slow living!” Through this continued pause, which I loathed at first, I began to appreciate each moment of the day rather than wish it would pass more swiftly, moments I had overlooked so often before the lockdown. I started to find that the challenge of self-isolation was never to pause both the regular routines of life as well as the positive emotions that came with these - as initially, I thought it meant to pause all happiness, so as to withstand a time of endurance in hopes for a better tomorrow, much like a form of delaying gratification. Life is just too fragile these days to delay gratification any further.

Life has paused, but it has not stopped. Believe that like any punctuation mark in a sentence, the pause will provide the right timing of things to take place. Till then, let us not waste our time waiting. Instead, we could be in the moment, seek substance in simplicity (that is, in what we already have), And enjoy the pleasure in pause. “Practice the Pause. When in doubt, pause. When angry, pause. When tired, pause. When stressed, pause. And when you pause, pray.”

They say time heals all wounds, but it has been ages - is heartbreak exempted?

I have forgotten when was the last time we shared a smile - the last time when I saw the glow in your eyes and the last time when you whispered an I love you to me. I have forgotten when, but here I am - writing to you again.

I do not know if you will read this or you will just add this one to my proses and poems that you left unread, but you see, I am still hoping. I am mailing the pain of us to the gods out there - hoping they can take the pain away. I should have gotten over you, but instead of forgetting and accepting our ending, I am writing about us in tissue sheets, carving about us on trees, telling about us on the back of my journals, hoping that a thousand or a million write ups about us, can make me forget about what happened.

I am writing, waiting for the point where I can no longer write anymore, for I have none to tell - but when? I have nothing in me anymore, but the memories of us - and no matter how hard I try put those to its own grave, the memories grow back like lilies in the swamp - painful and beautiful at the same time.

No matter how hard I try to silence those and put it at the back of my mind, those ring back, playing like the favorite song we used to listen. They say heartbreaks turn into poetry and that is what happening to us - but poetry should be dulcet and dreamy, why does ours sound like pain and agony? They say time heals all wounds, but it has been ages - is heartbreak exempted? Darling, I guess not.

Anne Luna A day ago
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