Confident and colourful is how Siem Reap-based fashion designer Muoy Chorm describes the clothes he creates. The self-taught 31-year-old credits his love for his native Cambodia as his inspiration. He has carved a flourishing career using his trademark daring yet practical designs to create bold one-off pieces and chic ready-to-wear collections, for both men and women. However, Muoy’s thriving boutique store in the city’s lively Night Market area is a world away from his simple upbringing in rural Cambodia.
Muoy was the youngest of seven children born to poor, farming parents. His childhood was spent close to nature, farming or operating boats in Kampong Khleang, a floating village on the shores of the Tonle Sap lake.
“I was always inspired by the colours of flowers and the nature around me”, he recalls. “I saw people from my village going to weddings and I noticed what they were wearing – the colours and the fabrics. I spent hours drawing clothes, and I loved to see new fabrics at the market.”
It was a later move to study in Siem Reap that enabled a chance meeting with a renowned Parisian designer, who recognised Muoy’s potential, employed him as an assistant and exposed the ambitious young man to new skills, ideas and influences from Asia, Africa and Europe.
Muoy’s dreams became reality in 2016 when he launched his own brand, Muoy Chorm Cambodia. Muoy’s original designs have propelled him to prominence within the Asian fashion scene. He achieved critical acclaim in 2016 while representing Cambodia at ASEAN Pop Culture, a highlight of the region’s fashion calendar. His iconic fishing net dress, a nostalgic nod to fishing scenes from his childhood, put the international spotlight on his distinctive and imaginative style.
Muoy recently paired creativity with practicality, working with Siem Reap boutique hotel, The Butterfly Pea, to create a couture uniform concept. “I focused on the personality and the signature colours of the hotel”, he says, of the characteristic blue-hued outfits now proudly worn by the hotel’s staff.
Muoy still relishes the organic process, from the initial sketches, through painstaking creation, proudly done by hand, to the end result. “Seeing my designs become reality is the best part of my work”, he reveals.
“People should feel confident when they wear my clothes, like they own the style”, explains Muoy. He describes his clothing as relaxed, with an emphasis on comfort and fit. Favouring freedom and comfort above the formality of traditional clothing, Muoy continues to infuse his designs with flowing movement and natural tones, effortlessly evoking the scenes surrounding his childhood home on the lake.
Muoy frequently takes time to encourage the next generation of fashion designers, speaking to them at schools or events. His advice is simple, but tells a story of a man whose challenges in early life might easily have dampened his ambition. “Never compare yourself to others,” he advises. “Never let where you come from stop you from doing what you want to do”.
Muoy Chorm’s fashion store is located on the north side of Angkor Night Market Street and is open daily (Monday – Saturday, 10am – 8pm; Sunday, 1pm – 8pm). Visit the official Facebook page for the latest news & updates.