So now we know how Elizabeth ended up owning a store and designing clothes in Cambodia. Next we talk about how she fits into the local community and even more importantly whether or not we’ll be able to get our hands on Wanderlust goodies more readily here in the States.
Plus, we all know that no matter how blissful life can be far removed from the big city, there’s gotta be some things she misses. I, for one, would struggle for quite a while without my regular unhealthy dose of crappy television and require regular care packages of American candy.
Though the idea of managing a possible Maldives location of Wanderlust does not sound like a very bad thing at all.
Here goes part II of our e-chat with Eliz.
How are you doing working with the community as whole there? Has it always been a welcoming one?
You would think that because of all the strife of the past 30 years that Cambodia (Ed Note from Abby: There’s a really interesting article on Cambodia in the latest GQ with Channing Tatum on the cover) has suffered through, often at the hands of westerners, there would be some resistance, reluctance or some bitterness on the locals part. But I really believe that since Buddhism is so prevalent in everyday life, that the Khmer people let go of the past and have forgiven. I challenge anyone to find more lovely, warm, beautiful, welcoming people than the people of Cambodia. They are wonderful. and while I’ve tried to heal some of the wounds that have been inflicted on them, in true Khmer spirit, they’ve healed a lot more of my wounds. And taught me so many many invaluable lessons.
“Me and my dear friend, Pierre Mainguy, at a cleansing ceremony at the pagoda. This is a very very sacred rite, one in which the monks and the nuns cleanse you of any bad spirits and wash them away by pouring water over you at the end. strings are tied around your wrists and ankles, blocking the spirits from getting back in. Chants, incense, candles, strings tied around your ears to emulate buddha—the ceremony lasted over 2 hours. It was incredible. amazing. This was one of the most special, unforgettable moments of my life and I am so fortunate to have had this experience.”
What are your best-selling items?
I made a sleeveless djellaba-style dress–with pockets, of course!– that skims the knee as an homage to Jackie Kennedy when she came to see Angkor Wat in the early 70s. This dress blows out! I can’t ever keep it in stock. It looks so cute and fresh for day, but awesome with a nice sandal or earring for dinner and it also works as something to throw on over a bathing suit. It’s like the dress that have 700 lives.
Another Wanderlust design!
What are your goals for Wanderlust and for yourself as an entrepeneur?
More stores! I want to have Wanderlust shops in wanderlust-y destinations. First, I want to open more shops in Cambodia—Phnom Penh and Kep. I want to continue to support the Cambodian people and keep them employed and happy and work with the communities here. I want to have shops in Bali, the Phillipines, Thailand, the Maldives… the list goes on and on. I want to continue to have Cambodian made products in all the locations. I would like to have my products sold in resorts in tropical locations, where women holiday and have wanderlust-y desires and dreams. I would like to sell my things to select US stores in warm weather climates. I would love to branch out into swimwear, home furnishings, handbags…oh, I have so many dreams and goals!
“I call this the “comfort station”–pillows for home, cute & fun hair accessories for those humid bad hair days, handpainted postcards done by kids in an amazing local orphanage. I keep a post box out front so my customers can buy a card, write it, and mail it home. One stop!”
Is e-commerce coming for those of us who can’t get to Cambodia?
Yes, I am currently working on an e-commerce site, so those who can’t buy a ticket to Cambodia can wanderlust in their cubicles! I want the site to be interactive and have girls post pics of themselves in cool places where they are having fun, feeling free and liberated, sunshine-y and hopeful. That’s Wanderlust.
What do you miss most about your old “life”? About New York? About the magazine industry?
I miss delis and salad bars. I miss movie theaters and art exhibits at the Met. I miss bagels sometimes and I miss cheese. I miss a subscription to the New York Times—I am old fashioned in that I like to hold something as opposed to reading online. But I deal with it! I am being fulfilled and filled up in ways I didn’t even know I could, so the what’s ‘missing’ part becomes less important and not so much a focus.
“This is my humble home, above the shop. And yes, the closets are full of inappropriate-for-Cambodia 7″ heels, a down cape from Helmut Lang, a Marc Jacobs kimono, wool sweaters and other things I just could not let go of. But I wear Wanderlust every single day!”
You’ve always been one of my fabulously accessorized friends…do you still get to rock all those amazing shoes and baubles in Siem Riep?
My thing is that I am who I am, no matter where I am. I don’t really concern myself with what other people think of me or what I am wearing! I just like to express feelings through clothes. So I do wear my 5″ heels here and cover myself in random junk jewelry. And to tell you the truth, no one here thinks it’s weird—or at least they don’t tell me they do! In fact, today I am wearing my 5″ marni pumps and a crochet necklace that touches the floor. My great friend, Don Protasio, who lives here, too, wears Comme des Garcons and polka dot gym bags and funny jewelry, too, so we’re like two peas in a pod around here. And it’s fun and we inspire each other.
“My constant partner in crime–fashion and otherwise–Don Protasio. Don is the most creative person on the planet. He’s not only the curator of the most amazing art gallery at the incredibly posh 5 star hotel, Hotel de la Paix, he is also a sought-after fashion designer (as if you couldn’t tell!) in the Phillipines and has a shop here with his best friend, Loven, called Poetry which is across the alley from Wanderlust. Don designs the clothes, Loven is a photographer/graphic designer/painter extraordinaire. The store is chock-a-block with amazing little trinkets—cute notebooks, totes, stationary, cosmetic cases—all with funny graphics on them that loven writes and creates. Don’s clothes are very high fashion—I swoon over every single piece. Sigh.”
Okay, and now onto some of your favorite things!
Food: Grilled cheese, BBQ’ed hot dogs, cheeseburgers, potatoes in every manifestation, my “white salad” from Chop’t on 17th Street. You think it’s pretty funny that I now live in Asia, don’t you? :-)
Place: Anyplace tropical, exotic, interesting, strange, new….but for cities, I love Tokyo, 2nd place winner is London, a close 3rd is New York, of course.
Word: exuberant, wanderlust, any words that end in “ion” like ‘creation’, ‘devotion’, ‘emotion’, ‘passion’…..
Shoot you’ve ever styled: for YM in Wyoming, and in Ireland
Photographer (fashion): Irving Penn, Michael Thompson. Both clearly love women and make them look beautiful using very different techniques.
Photographer (other): Vietnam war photographers
Designer: Ann DeMeulemeester, Isabel Marant, store brands in Tokyo like Journal Standard & Beams
Book: Sophie’s Choice, A Catcher in the Rye, The Lizard Cage, Crime & Punishment…I am an AVID reader and tend to love most of what I get, however I don’t read ‘chick lit’ or anything with a brand name in the title! I love the New York Times, The New Yorker and Esquire passionately and all of their writers knock me out. I covet copies of these when my loving friends mail them to me to Cambodia!
Fashion Show: I will never, ever forget the McQueen shows when he was still showing in London. They were awe inspiring and tear inducing. Unforgettable. True artistry.
Fashion purchase: Most things I have bought in Tokyo, which are chic, kawaii, silly, cool and edgy all at the same time, a combo only the Japanese can do.
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