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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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Continued Dredging Threatens Coast: Watchdog

The watchdog Global Witness is warning in a new report that Cambodia continues to export millions of tons of dredged sand despite a government ban and the potential environmental risks.

The report, “Shifting Sand,” says Singapore’s demand for Cambodian sand is undermining environmental and governance efforts in the country and threatening the coastal environment, endangered species, fish stocks and local livelihoods.

Global Witness fingers two ruling Cambodian People’s Party senators, Mong Reththy and Ly Yong Phat, as having received sand extraction licenses “behind closed doors” and “gaining control of an industry worth millions of dollars.”

“Once again, we have not seen any revenue reaching the government’s account,” George Boden, a researcher for Global Witness, told VOA Khmer.

Global Witness has rankled the government on several occasions, reporting on a “kleptocratic elite” who are close to the prime minister and control lucrative trades in timber and other natural resources.

Ly Young Phat could not be reached for comment.

Mong Reththy told VOA Khmer he had government permission to build a seaport in Koh Kong province, which required dredging. But he said he was not selling the dredged sand.

The report comes a year after a sand-dredging ban by Prime Minister Hun Sen, which Global Witness called a “mockery.”

“There is no evidence that basic environmental safeguards have been applied, with boats reportedly turning up and dredging sand, often in protected areas, with no local consultation,” the group said in a statement.

Boden said donors, who provide as much as half the government’s national budget, have failed to hold the elite to account for the loss of natural resource wealth that could lift the populace from poverty.

“Global Witness is calling on Cambodia’s donors to use a forthcoming meeting to lean on the Cambodian government more to ensure the money from the sale of natural resources reach government accounts and benefit ordinary Cambodian people,” he said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan called the report an “attack” and said the policy of the government is that “any income must go to the national budget for development.”

He declined to comment on other aspects of the report.

Global Witness reported that at least 790,000 tons of sand from the coast are monthly shipped out, at a price of about $26 per ton, and that Singapore, the world’s largest importer of sand in 2008, has expanded its landmass with fill by 22 percent since the 1960s.

Global Witness said Singaporean demand for sand had created problems for the coastlines of Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, prior to Cambodia.

In a statement Monday, the Singapore National Development Ministry said, “We do not condone the illegal export or smuggling of sand or any extraction of sand that is in breach of the source countries’ laws and rules on environment protection.”

The statement said Singapore has not received official notice from Cambodia on a ban on sand exports.
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WCS Applauds U.S. Senators Kerry and Lieberman

The Wildlife Conservation Society applauded U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) for their leadership in introducing new legislation, The American Power Act, which would provide important measures to protect wildlife and wild places while ensuring our U.S. energy independence.

WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs John Calvelli issued the following statement:

"We praise U.S. Sens. John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman for their leadership in pushing for legislation that will ensure our nation's energy independence, and when reconciled with the Waxman-Markey bill in the House, will play a critical role in protecting tropical forests and all their biodiversity. There is no zero-sum game when we strive to create better energy policies and to protect our planet's forests and wildlife.

"The new legislation contains essential language designed to manage the negative impacts of climate change on natural resources within the United States and abroad. The bill supports the international effort known as REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), through which developing nations receive payments in exchange for protecting forest carbon reserves, but unfortunately provides no public funding and only limited opportunities for the private sector to support that work."

Around the globe, the Wildlife Conservation Society has led an effort to assist nations in which poverty rates are as great as their vast stores of biological richness. From Bolivia to Cambodia to Madagascar, forest carbon crediting has been used to provide an economic alternative to the destruction of precious forest land. In delivering economic benefits to local communities, this program also protects large tracts of forest in which carbon is sequestered and that a diversity of unique wildlife such as tigers, gorillas and jaguars depend upon.
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