Designing from Dumpsters: Cambodians Start at Grassroots with Fashion

Author: Medvedev, Katalin

Source: Fashion Practice: The Journal of Design, Creative Process & the Fashion, 1 November 2010, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 223-248(26)

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Abstract:

This article, based on field research carried out in Cambodia in 2008, outlines current government-backed and private channels of fashion production in the country. It also describes how fashion has been created and consumed in Cambodia in the first decade of the twenty-first century. In addition, it introduces a case study of an environmentally sound fashion design project with an impressive social agenda, the Home-based Production Project (HBPP), which was developed by Mith Samlanh (“friends” in Khmer), a local non-governmental organization to benefit marginalized segments of the Cambodian society, mostly homeless families who live and subsist in the streets of the capital, Phnom Penh. I describe the concept and operational practices of the HBPP and the social, political, economic, and cultural contexts in which it was set up. I demonstrate that despite the lack of formal education, the participant-designers’ artistic and aesthetic abilities as well as manual skills are remarkable, especially when one considers that they mostly create their designs from materials obtained directly from recycling of garbage. I suggest that the HBPP not only provides a promising alternative for existing hierarchical Western fashion design practices, but that it can be easily replicated in other developing countries as well, which makes it a significant phenomenon from a global perspective.

Keywords: Cambodia; Home-based Production Project; field research; non-governmental organization; social consciousness; sustainable design

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/175693810X12774625387512

Affiliations: Email: medvedev@uga.edu

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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