🇰🇭 The Khmer Empire 🇰🇭
Cambodia ( /kæmˈboʊdiə/; Khmer: កម្ពុជា) officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia is a country located in the southern portion of the Southeast Asia. It is bordered by Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.
In March 2017 photographer Oscar Ouk took a road trip through Cambodia with a handful of Gypsy Sport samples from our Spring '17 collection. Along the way he met some very friendly Khmer people OF ALL AGES and convinced them to model the clothes for his lens. Read his story:
"IN 1979, MY PARENTS MET THROUGH A GROUP OF REFUGEES WHO WERE ESCAPING CAMBODIA FROM THE COMMUNIST PARTY, THE KHMER ROUGE. THEY FOUND SAFETY IN VIETNAM BEFORE RELOCATING TO THE THE UNITED STATES AND SOON AFTER I WAS BORN, IN CONNECTICUT. GROWING UP IN THE STATES, MY IDEA OF CAMBODIA WAS THIS HORRIFIC WAR-ZONE THAT MY PARENTS PAINTED IN MY HEAD."
"In March 2017 I went to visit Cambodia with my dad, I brought my camera and my favorite pieces from Gypsy Sport's recent collection. I didn't know what to expect, but I was excited to meet my relatives and capture their stories. We started in the capital Phnom Penh, where my parents grew up."
"THE STREETS WERE OVERFLOWING WITH BRIGHT COLORS, FOREIGN FOOD SMELLS, AND SO MANY KIDS ON VESPAS. I WAS BLOWN AWAY BY THE BEAUTY EVERYWHERE, AND EAGER TO START SHOOTING AS SOON AS WE LANDED. BUT SINCE I NEVER LEARNED THE KHMER LANGUAGE, MY DAD HAD TO TRANSLATE EVERYTHING WHICH SLOWED THE PROCESS DOWN A BIT."
"MY FIRST SUBJECTS WERE MY FAMILY. MY UNCLE, A GENERAL IN THE MILITARY, HIS WIFE, AND THEIR SON. EVEN THOUGH THE CLOTHES WERE PECULIAR TO MY AUNT, SHE WORE THEM WITH SUCH POISE AND GRACE. MY COUSIN ON THE OTHER HAND, HE HUFFED AND PUFFED THE WHOLE TIME. HERE IS THE SHOT”
"THE NEXT DAY WE DROVE FROM PHNOM PENH TO SIHANOUKVILLE, A POPULAR COASTAL CITY. WORD HAD ALREADY GONE AROUND THE VILLAGES THAT AN AMERICAN GUY WITH FUNKY CLOTHES WAS LOOKING FOR SUBJECTS TO PHOTOGRAPH. BEFORE I KNEW IT, PEOPLE STARTED SHOWING UP TO OFFER THEMSELVES AS MODELS AND AT ONE POINT THERE WERE A DOZEN LOCAL KIDS GATHERED AROUND ME. SOME MODELED OR HELD MY REFLECTORS, SOME KIDS GUARDED THE CLOTHES AND EQUIPMENT FOR ME. THE KHMER KIDS TURNED OUT TO BE AMAZING TEAM PLAYERS; VERY CURIOUS, QUICK LEARNERS AND EAGER TO HELP."
"I remember watching this boy playing with marbles, in a field nearby; his dark brown skin was caked in dirt and his bare feet were scuffed up and tough from running through the rocks. I signaled to him that I wanted to take a picture and he ran towards me. As soon as I lifted the camera the boy's gaze BYpassed my lens and went straight for my heart. I never witnessed eyes that were so present in my entire life; completely void of distractions or ego. IT WAS A HUMBLING EXPERIENCE."
"ON MY LAST DAY ON THE COAST, I SPENT HOURS LOOKING FOR ONE OF THOSE FOOD VENDORS CARRYING A LARGE PLATTER ON THEIR HEAD; I WAS COMMITTED TO GETTING THIS SHOT. BY 5PM, THE SUNLIGHT WAS RAPIDLY DISAPPEARING AND I STILL COULDN'T FIND A SUBJECT TO SHOOT. SO MY DAD ASKED A PASSERBY ABOUT THE VENDORS, WHO RELAYED THIS MESSAGE TO THEIR NEIGHBOR, WHO SENT HIS SON TO FETCH A VENDOR FROM THE OPPOSITE END OF THE BEACH, JUST IN TIME TO CAPTURE THIS SHOT. THOUGH STRESSFUL AND RUSHED, WE MANAGED TO GET THE EXACT SHOT I WAS IMAGINING. IT WAS A MIRACLE OF CAMBODIAN TEAMWORK. THE GIRL WAS SUPER MODEST BUT I LOVE HOW SHE ROCKED THE GYPSY SPORT PIECES.”
"MY GRANDMOTHER LIVES IN A TINY VILLAGE CALLED OUDONG. SHE SLEEPS IN A SMALL WOODEN HOUSE WITH HER CARETAKERS AND THEIR SONS. THERE'S ONE ROOM WITH FOUR WOVEN STRAW BEDS, NO RUNNING WATER OR PLUMBING. THE VILLAGE HAS NO GARBAGE DISPOSAL, NO POSTAL SERVICES, AND NO INTERNET. POWER OUTAGES ARE COMMON, LEAVING THE ENTIRE VILLAGE IN CANDLE LIGHT. PICTURED HERE ARE TWO LOCAL KIDS I CAUGHT BICYCLING HOME FROM SCHOOL ."
"WHEN I ASKED MY GREAT AUNT TO MODEL, SHE EXPRESSED APPRECIATION FOR THE BRIGHT COLORS AND LIGHTWEIGHT FABRICS OF THE CLOTHES. THE LITTLE GUY PICTURED BELOW FOLLOWED ME FOR DAYS. HE WAS VERY INTO THE CLOTHES BUT TOO SHY TO ADMIT IT. HE FINALLY GOT THE COURAGE TO STEP IN FRONT OF THE LENS AND CHOSE TO WEAR THE FEATHER CROWN DESIGNED BY CHRIS HABANA"
"I chose Gypsy Sport for this project because it is the only American brand that could authentically connect to my Khmer culture. Gypsy Sport champions diversity by casting people that are unique and often over looked. Cambodia is a country that is rarely acknowledged, so I wanted use this opportunity to reveal and celebrate the undiscovered beauty of the Khmer people." - Oscar Ouk
Photography & Text: Oscar Ouk
Jewelry: Chris Habana x Gypsy Sport
SPECIAL THANKS TO ALL OF THE KHMER PEOPLE.