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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Former Fashion Editor's Cambodia-Based Company Wanderlust Partners With Madewell

There's a little corner of Cambodia set up in lower Manhattan.

Madewell, on lower Broadway, is currently showing off the wares from its collaboration with Cambodian brand Wanderlust in a charming little hut on the store's second floor. This capsule collection, which consists of a couple of dresses, sarongs, bracelets and more, is designed by former New York fashion editor Elizabeth Kiester and made by Cambodian women artisans.

Kiester recently traveled from Cambodia to New York to celebrate the collaboration and shared some thoughts with StyleList.

StyleList: How did you end up in Cambodia?
Elizabeth Kiester: I went to Cambodia to do a volunteer vacation installing water pumps and working in orphanages for three weeks. Something about Cambodia really changed the way I saw my life and the world. I came back to New York and sold everything, went back and opened a store (Wanderlust).

SL: Everything is made in Cambodia, right?
EK: Everything is made in Cambodia. I design everything and the women make it out of their homes. I drive around in a tuk-tuk (a three-wheeled motor taxi) and pick everything up. They're all young women and I like to instill in them that they don't have to work in a factory. They can look after their children and their parents. It's been amazing.

SL: How did the collection with Madewell come about?
EK: Last summer, I did a little bracelet for the East Hampton store opening. They sold out of them in a weekend and here we are.

SL: The woven water hyacinth flower bag is great. What's the story behind it?
EK: The water hyacinth flowers were growing up and choking parts of the Tonle Sap river, therefore killing the fish. Once the fish were dead the men were out of work because that's how they survive. They figured out that if women could pull up the water hyacinth and dry them, they could weave them. The women are crafting something out of this, saving the wildlife and saving their husbands' or fathers' jobs. I call this 360 degree fashion – it looks good and it is good.
Find out what other feel good fashion initiative recently earned almost $43,000 to an important charity.

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