Visit to: Koh Dach, Cambodia
Words & photos by Emily Lush
Located less than two hours from Phnom Penh, Koh Dach (Silk Island) is a popular excursion from the capital. This island in the Mekong is one of few remaining places where you can still see silk being grown, dyed and woven by homeworkers. Cambodia is home to approximately 20,000 weavers, and 95% of the raw silk they use is imported from Vietnam. A small-scale sericulture operation on Koh Dach represents one of the country’s efforts to revive local silk production. Working on frame looms set underneath stilted houses, some weavers produc sampot and chang kben garments, which are traditionally worn by women and men during weddings and ceremonies. These are sold on the local market. Preparing the loom and weaving is done in between other jobs, including rice planting and harvesting. A time-intensive process, most weavers only produce a few sampot each year. To prop-up sales during the wet season when there is less demand for sampot, some weavers have entered into partnerships with local brands such as FAIRWEAVE to produce scarves and other textiles.
Other weavers on Koh Dach have set up their own small studio/shops in the front rooms of their homes. Many of them underwent product development training with the UN’s International Trade Center, and now supplement their income by selling hand-woven textiles to tourists. Koh Dach has a visitor’s centre, which includes a sericulture and weaving demonstration plus a showroom. A more authentic experience can be found simply walking or cycling around the villages of Koh Dach and its adjoining island, Koh Oknhatei. Different stages of textile production can be seen in the houses and studios here, and most women will be happy to show you around their operation. View the full article on Wander-Lush.