Koemyean comes from Kor Koh village in Battambang Province. He is 27, he’s a fashion designer, and he teaches graphic design in our Visual and Applied Arts School (VAAS). 

Not so long ago, he was a student in that very same school: « I enrolled in VAAS in 2013. I thought what they offered corresponded with my aspirations and personality! I remember my first class of « expression » taught by one of the founders of Phare, Lokru Bandaul. He asked us to create an artwork showing what we are feeling… I did this abstract and very colorful painting and thought this school would help me develop my creativity as a fashion designer. » 

« Fashion fascinated me since I was young. I loved drawing the clothes I saw on TV, in Thai movies, or in magazines ads. I was keeping all the drawings to myself at that time. Even if there was no specific classes about fashion technical skills in VAAS, I decided to continue to study there because I liked the very stimulating atmosphere of the school. »

After graduating, Koemyean worked in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, but soon felt he missed his hometown. « I saw Phare was looking for a design teacher. Coming back here made me think like a student again, it helps me anticipate what my own students need. Now I know how it feels when they are not disciplined and teasing their teacher! But most of the time they show great motivation and have so many ideas, it is very rewarding to share my knowledge with them. »

Koemyean is also very dedicated to his own personal fashion show projects, spending all his spare time to create new dresses. « Making one dress takes 12h. I spend 4h per day to make it, after work, so it takes me 3 nights for each. I don’t always draw the designs first, sometimes it comes directly to my mind and I just follow my instinct. Normally I gather more than 10 outfits for a show, but I often only have time to make 4 or 5 new ones for a new show because I do everything by myself. I’m also reusing outfits from previous shows and customize them a bit differently each time. »

He is working at his place, in his room where he stocks everything! « I keep all the outfits I made piled up in boxes and bags, they are actually quite resistant and durable because most of them are made from recycled plastic and rice packs. Plastic waste is a subject they often talk about at Phare and the dresses I made with patches of multicolored paint are also a tribute to VAAS, they were created to be showcased during Phare Open Days festival in July. »

Koemyean likes to transform cheap, raw material into spectacular costumes, mixing contemporary and traditional elements. « I am using cardboard as well, and hard glue to make 3D patterns on the apsara crowns and tiaras. I like these kinds of accessories and I am making 12 of them for my next show, at the Chumnor Art Fair. »

This big fair will showcase more than 40 artists in the street 2.5 at Battambang city center, on the weekend of 21-22nd of December. No time to rest for this busy creative mind, after the show he recently did for the United Nation Day in Battambang University. The event, gathering more than 1000 visitors, was to raise awareness about climate change, centered on the theme «  for the people, for the planet ». On this occasion, Koemyean made shiny golden costumes symbolising the sun, and others looking like big floating clouds.

« I love to work on ever changing themes. I am not interested in making casual fashion that one can wear on the streets. The internet is a great source of inspiration, I also watch all the shows from some fashion brands I like, such as Victoria’s secret! Their shows are very unique, they convey a lot of freedom. Contrary to what you think, it’s not all about underwear and their fashion creations are developed around original themes like snow, angels or sports with a lot of accessories and details. » 

We are looking forward to discover Koemyean’s latest creations this weekend, and will keep you updated about his promising fashion career!

Interested in helping change lives through the arts? Join Phare Ponleu Selpak as a volunteer and use your skills and expertise in transforming the lives of children and youth in Battambang, Cambodia.