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Published by Harmonia Norah, 2017-06-21 07:49:09

reportage fashion

reportage fashion


Friends and business partners Kim and Carol


Beyond the shop fronts and mass-produced clothing that keep the fashion wheel turning
there are a host of new, small operations offering beautiful, traceable clothes and a

new lease of life for the women who make them. Deirdre O’Shaughnessy travelled to
Cambodia to meet the women who are battling the odds and forging careers in fashion.

Cambodia is a growing source of clothing, with many familiar
brands being made in huge factories there. Conditions are better
than those in Bangladesh, but factory work is unskilled,
precarious, and can be dangerous.
While Cambodia’s garment industry is booming, and the
country is making progress on many key development indicators, it’s
still a tough place to be a woman. Almost 20 per cent of women have
never attended school, while almost 50 per cent have not completed
primary school. Just 40 per cent of women own their homes, mostly
jointly with their husbands, and 50 per cent of women believe their
husbands have the right to beat them.

With eight in every ten garment workers worldwide being women,
conscious shopping can make a real impact. The happy byproduct of
considered purchasing is independent women with their own livelihoods,
the bargaining power of skilled workers, and the ability to support
their families.

A small online start-up store focused on empowering women and
offering beautifully made classic garments – the white shirt, the black
maxi – Banteay Srey is the brainchild of Wexford native Carol Murphy
and her business partner Rathavann Ke, known to her friends as Kim,
who’s from Cambodia’s biggest tourist destination, Siem Reap.

They met when Carol, an accountant by training, was teaching English
in Siem Reap and Kim worked in a nearby bar, making $80 per month.
Carol, whose mother’s family were all tailors, has always had an interest
in tailoring and spotted an opportunity to bring quality, well-cut clothing
in beautiful fabrics to the wider world.

“It’s hard to support a family on $80 a month,” says Kim, who’s
divorced with two children. “Carol had an amazing idea to make life
better. Now we have a business and can help ourselves and our family,
we help each other. In the bar I worked eight hours a day and earned
$80 per month, it was all spent immediately. Now I have more time
with the kids.”

Oun with some of her favourite designs from Banteay Srey

The focus on empowering women at Banteay Srey goes

right from manufacturing to models. Their seamstresses

tailor oun takes a call as her are shrewd businesswomen who negotiate their rates
daughter watches on.
without blinking; a far cry from the factory workers of the
mass market, who are simply glad to have any job that

pays regularly.

“In the bar I worked eight Most of the garments are currently sourced through
hours a day and earned $80 tailor Oun, who employs a number of other women
per month, it was all spent in her small home workshop, down a side alley in
immediately. Now I have
more time with the kids” bustling Siem Reap. The day we visited, Oun and two
of her team, both women, were busily stationed at
their sewing machines, surrounded by neatly folded
garments, scraps of fabric and patterns. Oun’s six-

year-old daughter, Tang Moy Mien, who usually

attends school, stayed home that day to meet us, and

shyly posed for photographs with her mother.

Oun has three children and trained as a tailor at the age of 14 in

order to support her family after her father abandoned them. She never

went to school, but all three of her children do.

Rani wearing some of on a farm for $2.50 per day.
Jivit Thmey’s jewellery She managed to save some

money to run away, and that was
the beginning of her new life in
Siem Reap, where she went from
being an unskilled, low paid
massage therapist to working in
an NGO that helps to educate
women. The NGO’s funding ran
out, and now she works as a
receptionist in a medical clinic.
Her English is fluent, and she’s
studying German.

Modelling for Banteay Srey was
a huge boost for her confidence,
she says, pointing at her skin and
mine, and bemoaning her sallow
tones that so many Irish women
would kill for.

Banteay Srey is not unique in
Cambodia. There are numerous
non-profit clothing and
accessories firms. One such is Jivit

“I’m very happy with my career. I wanted to sell dresses of Oun’s team of seamstresses

good quality. I learned from an older tailor and I love this job,”

she says through an interpreter, beaming at us.

Along with Carol and Kim, Oun takes great pride in designing

the clothes, and her team make them to the customer’s

measurements. Oun gets paid approximately $20 to make a dress

– as Carol points out, the same price you’d pay for something

similar in some highstreet stores – and she pays her workers $220

per month. She drives a hard bargain, and spending some time

with them, you can see which way the power dynamic goes.

The brand’s first model, recruited through Facebook, was Lida,

who escaped a traumatic rural childhood to seek a better life in

Siem Reap at the age of 15.

“I came here because I wanted a new life, to get away from my

family. I had a bad relationship with them. When my mother was

pregnant with me, my father left my mother for another woman.

My mother left [to work in Thailand]

when I was 12 and I stayed with my

grandmother and aunt.” Carol and Rani discuss business in Sister Srey, a trendy ethical
“My mother said she was coming coffee shop in Siem Reap

home…but she never came. My aunt “Lida wanted to study, and
told me she left me, but I think she was had a vision of herself at a
probably robbed by the person who took computer, a sophisticated
her over the border – she was illegal – and

killed.” office worker. After her aunt
Her mother’s disappearance was never tried to marry her off to a man

reported – Cambodians don’t have much of 27 when she was 14, Lida
faith in the authorities – and Lida lives

every day with the pain of not knowing threatened to kill herself.
what happened to her. She also lives with

the burden of being an orphan, something

which brings huge stigma in a country

where your ancestry is everything. Thmey jewellery, from which Banteay Srey’s accessories are sourced.

“I had no friends because I was an orphan. My aunt treated me badly, Founder Rani is head of operations at a large hotel in Siem Reap; her
I had to learn how to cook when I was five and I worked on the farm. husband also has a good job. Her eureka moment came after visiting
If I made a mistake she hit me. I thought it was normal and I tried to a shooting range with her husband and seeing shiny brass bullet cases
be as good as I could be. I just needed love and care but I never got it.” wasted on the ground.Waste not, want not – she now has four employees
Lida wanted to study, and had a vision of herself at a computer, a make beautifully crafted bracelets, earrings and neckpieces that she
sophisticated office worker. After her aunt tried to marry her off to a sells to Banteay Srey, a US company specialising in ethnic crafts and at
man of 27 when she was 14, Lida threatened to kill herself. She was markets here in Siem Reap.
sexually harassed by her aunt’s new husband and forced to get a job As Banteay Srey develops, Kim also works in a casino at the Thai

Carol and Kim at the market in Siem Reap

border, while Carol has recently Kim travelling between
relocated to the Netherlands from meetings on a tuk tuk
Perth, Australia, feeling that there is
better scope for expansion in Europe. “Her eureka moment came after
Their start-up money was Carol’s visiting a shooting range with her
taxback from work in Australia, and husband and seeing shiny brass bullet
they are on the look-out for an investor,
with a view to opening a store in cases wasted on the ground”
Hilversum, near Amsterdam, by the
end of 2016.

“The feedback is all on the quality,
how beautiful the pieces are, the craft
that’s gone into it,” says Carol. We all
love going to the highstreet and
spending $100 for loads of things. But
these are key pieces for a long time
that will last.”

This project is supported by the Simon
Cumbers Media Fund.



With half a decade in the industry already under her belt,
Irish model Thalia Heffernan is taking London by storm.

Interview by Shauna O’Halloran.



It’s hard to remember thatThalia Heffernan star on the rise. By the end of last year, she had Dress (€2,995) by
is just 21 years old when you’re in her signed to one of London’s top agencies, Elite, Stella McCartney @
company. She exudes self-assuredness and and has been dubbed Ireland’s answer to Cara;
is completely comfortable with a team of Delevingne. Kicking off her career across the stacked rings (€35),
hair, makeup, styling and photography pond has involved casting after casting in a big white ring (€40),
pros directing her on shoot day. Of course, she city – it’s a stark contrast to the family-feel of bracelets (€70 and €75)
has already been doing this job for six years; the industry in Ireland. “It’s huge; there are so and earrings (€35), all @
going out into the working world at 15 makes many people. At home I’d see pretty much the MoMuse
you grow up fast.“I didn’t have that much time same faces on various jobs and doing shows,
for a social life as a kid beause I was always I’d be with my regular friends and regular clients MAKEUP by Celebrity
working,” she tells me, adding that when and I’d be used to them. But in London, you Makeup Artist Christine
weekends and mornings weren’t taken up with don’t really see the same face twice. And Lucignano using
modelling jobs she was finding herself studying naturally, it’s more competitive.” Bourjois makeup
to catch up on missed work.“I would fall behind HAIR by Michael Leong
a little bit. I was able to do it, but it was hard Even so, the Dublin girl is taking the move in NAILS by Pamela Laird
work – I’m not going to deny that.” Double her stride. It’s a lot, she says, to do with waiting using Tom Ford Beauty
jobbing as a teen,Thalia quickly learned to adapt until she was 21 to take the challenge on.There
to different situations.“I definitely felt different are things that her years so far in the business Shot on location at
[to my schoolfriends]. It was almost like I had have taught her that help her to make the best the National Botanic
multiple personalities for a while! I was bouncing decisions and take the knock backs on the chin. Gardens
from being in a work environment to being a “To not take yourself too seriously,” she offers
schoolgirl, taking the piss with my friends and up as one thing she has learned. “To know the
stuff. I was well able to take any slagging I got. difference between constructive criticism and’s hard when you’re 15, you’re at a negativity. And focus on the positive as much
vulnerable age. You feel different already and I as possible. It’s hard, when you’re being
was a big lanky thing, so I was kind of always constantly judged on your physical attributes.
different.” You have to remember you’re walking into a
casting and a client will have an idea of what
She was always‘tall and skinny’, in her words, they want – they might want a brunette, or they
but it was when she entered her teens that people might want someone with dark skin, light skin.
began stopping her in the street to tell her she If you’re not that person, it’s not because you’re
should model. It’s not that surprising, since her not good enough, you’re just not what they’re
mother Susan Ebrill was also a model and when looking for.
she reached transition year, her mum took her
to see one of the best in the business, Rebecca “I love my job, I think it’s a great thing to do,”
Morgan of Morgan the Agency. Things moved she adds, “but you have to have a good head
quickly and an influx of bookings, regular trips on your shoulders to do this full time.”
to London and a stint in New York saw Thalia’s
Thankfully for Thalia, I can’t envisage any
problems there.

Conscious shopping
and sustainability are MOthDeEL
buzzwords gaining
traction on the fashion Our cover star Thalia has two
scene. Here, we ask four passions: pre-loved fashion
of Ireland’s top fashion and wildlife conservation.
insiders where they think
the future of fashion lies. My passion is big cats in the
wild. I worked with them in
South Africa: My dad was a
director on No Frontiers and
I forced him to bring me on
this trip! I ended up going over and being able
to work with lions for two weeks and I knew
since then that that is what I want to do with
my life. I’m studying advanced animal
psychology; I find it gives me a lot of purpose.
I’ve kept up to date with hunting and poaching
and preservation of wild species – if I was able
to hone in on that and spread the awareness,
that would be my ultimate goal.

“For certain jobs, I’ve had to wear fur in the
past, but I wouldn’t have been pleased about
it. It’s a hard one because sometimes I go to a
show and I won’t know what the clothes are
until I get there – so I don’t really have much
of a say in the matter. It’s something I’d like to
work on. But personally, I wouldn’t wear fur,
in my own time.

“I spend a lot of time in vintage markets. I
love to buy second hand or pre-loved clothes.
It’s style thing as well as a resource thing. I like
the fact that it’s getting a new life.”

“It’s like fast food versus organic food. It’s
easier and it’s cheaper to go for the microwave
meals or the fast fashion that mightn’t be
produced in the most fair way.

“Of course, I’m guilty of it. I might buy
something and not think about who’s making
it or how mass-produced it is. But I try to be
as good as I can be. It’s a small step towards a
bigger goal. If everybody made just a small step,
we’d see change happen.

“I think it’s about education and making the
information accessible so people can learn
about what they’re buying, where their money’s
going and what was involved in the making of
the clothes they’re going to buy.

“The beauty of working in Dublin so long
was that I got to work with so many Irish
designers, including up-and-coming ones. I
think that because of the times we’re in, they’re
very aware of where they source their fabrics.
It’s an amazing thing to see our country thrive
in this area and work with people who are
using Irish products and Irish people to produce
beautiful garments.”


eventually change the way things happen.
I do see ethics in fashion becoming much

more mainstream. Companies like H&M with
its Conscious Collection – that’s wonderful
because that actually educates a new audience.
Take the parallel of food labelling and how
fetishistic that has become for people. You go
to the supermarket now and check the labels.
We never used to do that.There is a groundswell
which starts with what we put inside our bodies
and that ultimately affects how we think about
all our decisions.

Our clothing brand, Lennon Courtney, was
never based on volume. Even though we’re
licenced to Dunnes Stores our minimums are
very small, the collection is very tight. It’s not
about selling lots of stock. It’s really important
to us that the factory that our clothes are made
in is a boutique factory. It’s not a massive, big
facility and that’s why they can handle small,
minimum runs.


BUStIhNeESS In terms of Frockadvisor, that business was
OWNER designed to support smaller businesses. We are
boutique mentality at our core. The difficulty
Sonya Lennon is the co-founder of the fashion label for a smaller business is, in a world that is fuelled
Lennon Courtney and the Frockadvisor app. She by paid discovery, how do you get discovered?
is passionate about considered consumerism and How do you build your business when the big
together with Brendan Courtney initiated Fashion boys have the departments and the budgets to
be found and you don’t? That’s what
Independents’ day, to encourage shoppers to buy from Frockadvisor is: It’s about putting all the smaller
independent Irish retailers. boutiques on one platform so that a shopper
of discernment, who wants to find something
Iam not one for disposability.That hasn’t that can stay with me for a long time and enjoy different, experience excellent customer service
always been about my ethical backbone, them over time. and be emotionally connected with their
it’s often been about the fact that it purchase, can find those types of stores.
doesn’t appeal to me. If I’m making There’s always going to be somebody who’s
purchasing decisions I want to feel going to buy the cheapest top but that is going Fashion Independents’ Day grew out of a trip
comfortable with them, I don’t want to be to exist alongside a parallel ethos around an Brendan and I took to Galway two years ago.
questioning how someone can do this for that increasing understanding of the impact of our We documented the drive back to Dublin, calling
price. I like to buy a small amount of things choices as consumers. I think that the smaller into 30 boutiques on the way and posted the
community of people who value that will whole thing on social media. More often than
not you don’t know all these hidden gems.
That’s the point: They’re hidden, and the people
who love them, love them but nobody else
knows about them. Last year in London #FIDay
had 88.8m impact on social media, it was
trending above FIFA all day in the UK, even US
retailers used the Fashion Independents’ Day
hashtag to promote discounts online.

What’s wonderful about it is the landscape
of smaller businesses has changed and they’ve
realised that coming together is much more
powerful than standing apart.”


Shelly Corkery is the fashion “IF ALL THE
director at Brown Thomas. FARMING
She has the inside track WOODLAND
on Irish and international IS GONE,
design and sees FUTURE FOR
how sustainability has FASHION”
become an increasingly

important issue.

People now are much more aware PHOTO BY: Aaron Hurley
of sustainability than 10 years ago. PHOTO BY: Hazel Coonagh
I think the new generation, the
millennials, have really focused on looking at your packaging, keeping your it was probably difficult. So I think she’s
it, because the concentration on standards and quality high – it’s about not incredible. She’s up there at the top end of luxury,
craftsmanship, history, and the environment scrimping on anything. she’s not sitting below anybody.They’re all clean
is all very relevant now. It’s more experiential fabrics, they’re all within animal rights and she
and people are much more interested in where I’m a great fan of Stella McCartney. She did has really stuck to her rules and led the way.
their garments are coming from, and the story this a long time ago; she was very focused on
behind it. clean fabrics and production transparency and Ethical is good and it doesn’t have to affect
animal rights, which is a big thing for her and quality. It’s actually to enhance quality. Our
There’s environmental change as well. We has been since she started her brand. I’m sure vision is about empowering our people, our
have made a huge impact on our environment at different points it was expensive to research partners and our customers. It’s to make the
in terms of farming, water and the climate in and I’m sure from a profitability point of view right choices today for a better tomorrow.”
general. I think we’ve got to be very aware of
that. From animal rights, when it comes to
leather and fur production, to whether an
environment is safe for manufacturing and
workers’ rights – all of those things impact on
where we’re going in the future. It does have
a massive effect on the supply chain.
Environmentally, we can’t go forward like

Companies have to be very aware of the
future. The Kering group for example [home
to Gucci, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen]
has a sub-group now looking at the intensity
of the raw materials. In years to come, if all
the farming land and woodland is gone, there’s
no future for fashion.

As a business Brown Thomas is quite
focused on sustainability. We’ve had a lot of
discussion and research into where fabrics
come from; we’re working on our relaunch
of Level 2 in store and the lighting that we’re
using will use 90 per cent less energy and we’ve
done auditing on the carbon footprint and
waste in the company, as well as our recycling
materials. We don’t sell fur as a group and
haven’t done so for some time. Each one of
those is a step in the right direction.

Sustainability is all about respecting the
environment and future thinking, but it’s also
about selling products responsibly. It’s about


their practices, but they were and are continually
lauded for huge quarterly profit margins. It’s
been 2000 years…it seems the conversation
hasn’t changed.

Re-dress is a project that since 2008 has been
telling the unheard stories of the fashion supply
chain through communication projects, design
and consultancy. It’s a platform for redressing
the balance between what we as consumers of
fashion understand the industry to be and the
reality for the millions of people producing
fashion. Brands are increasingly externalising
the human and environmental cost to achieve
greater profit margins and as consumers we
rarely know the true price. It’s our remit to
ensure those stories are heard and action can
be taken.


ARTISthTe AND PHOTO BY: Aaron Hurley I’m also the designer at contemporary fashion
CAMPAIGNER house We Are Islanders.We create womenswear
fashion and lifestyle products utilising luxury
Rosie O’Reilly is the designer behind Irish fashion fabrics from Ireland and around the world.We
label We Are Islanders. She is also the director of produce all our work to the highest standards
the Re-dress project which aims to make real change through experienced, local craftspeople.
when it comes to human rights in the
fashion industry. What’s interesting is seeing a shift in power
T he Greek legend of Pandora’s box where consumers can literally vote with their
is one that I loved as a kid. We all clearly the price to be paid by a growing money. This was clearly seen in 2013 when
know the tale: She was the god of obsession with materiality. This price became Rana Plaza collapsed. Over 48 hours, four
beauty and held all the wonders clearly evident with only a small bit of research million people in Europe put pressure on the
as I tried to understand my role as a designer brands involved through social media and online
petitions; they listened, accepted responsibility
of the material world in a casket and artist. What became the main drive for and began a compensation pay out and signed
a legal contract for change. There is still much
she carried with her. She was sworn to never wanting change was the utterly unfair more to do but consumer power is a growing
force – we’re starting to realise it and so is
open it but did; what was released were all the economics of the industry where businesses business.

ills of the world. This was written over 2,000 were not being held accountable for the From a human rights perspective, more
transparency is needed. From an environmental
years ago and even then the Greeks understood environmental and human costs underpinning perspective, big business understands the fast
fashion model hinges on a fallacy that we can
continue to create infinite products with finite
resources. They are responding and now we
see in store recycling facilities in M&S, TK
Maxx, etc.

The struggles ethical brands face entering the
market are similar to the challenges that all new
brands face; price points, minimums and so on.
It’s a tough and complex industry no matter
how you enter it, but future-proofing your
brand now involves embedding sustainable
practices at the heart of your supply chain
whether in the luxury sector or the lower price
point brands.”

DEStIhGeNER all the rest but it’s a business: The people at the back in time to how things used to be produced.
top are in boardrooms wearing suits, they Turning people’s brains on to where is the stuff
Emma Manley is the probably don’t know what the next trend is. I coming from and how it’s being made.
designer behind the Manley think if people make conscious decisions, sales
brand available at Arnotts, in certain areas would most certainly drop and I think a move to‘slow fashion’ started years
sales in other areas would go up and that would ago, it’s just taken a while to get more
a number of boutiques encourage companies to change. recognition. You look at the fast food industry
nationwide and at Kildare and how that’s changed. I think fashion is very
Village’s Só Collective of Irish Part of me believes that some of these‘ethical’ much on its heels and I’m excited about what
design. Top of her priorities lines are massive PR stunts but sometimes I it’s going to bring – we’ve been stuck in the
have to bite my tongue a little and say, well it’s fast-fashion rut for a little bit too long.
is building and keeping great that they’re starting to make the customer
relationships with the aware of the ethical lines they can do. So maybe When you see these massive luxury labels
family-owned suppliers of it’s not such a bad thing.Everything in fashion collaborating with high street stores, they’re
is cyclical. We’ve gone through the times of getting into fast fashion, which previously is
her materials. having totally handcrafted pieces that everybody something they’ve been against. In many
went to tailors to buy, then fast fashion came respects, now they’re partaking in it. This isn’t
W hen I set up Manley what in and it took over because it was so new and the last time we’re going to see fast fashion, it’s
I set out to do was create so now. Now it’s almost gotten too fast for going to continue for sure but I think it will be
a beautiful, fashion- people and perhaps that’s going a few steps paced differently in the future. It’s going to
forward brand but one reinvent itself.”
that was ethically
conscious and had a story. Part of our story “FAST FASHION CAME IN AND TOOK OVER...
was how, where, and why we produce things NOW PERHAPS THAT’S GOING A FEW STEPS BACK IN
the way we do as alot of what we do focuses
on embellishment and hand-detailed work. TIME TO HOW THINGS USED TO BE PRODUCED.”
When we started out I was quite naïve in how
certain things could be produced. I was told PHOTO BY: Hazel Coonagh
time and time again, ‘Send everything over to
India, to China, mass produce it, you don’t
need to do all this time-honoured embellishment.
How is that going to sell?’.

But very quickly it became part of what is
now is the core of Manley. I love technology,
and fabric technology has come on in leaps
and bounds but in some cases technology has
taken away what I believe is the beautiful
element of fashion: The hand finishing, the
embellishment work that we do.

I’ve worked with an agent in Italy for three
years. At the time I was trying to fly the Irish
flag and have everything 100 per cent made in
Ireland but the reality was the craftsmanship
here is lacking in certain areas. The guys that
I work with now, their craft was passed down
from their grandparents to their parents and
now to them. They’re two brothers and they
were brought up in the business; they know
things inside out.

As time goes on our customers want to know
more and more.

To encourage transparency in the fashion
industry, the customer has to vote with their
feet.The customer is king – if you’re not buying
something they won’t produce that any more.
You can say that it’s fashion and trends, and

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