Inspired by a love of Cambodian culture and a dedication to reducing plastic use in the Kingdom, Vouch Sivhak, owner of the Cambodia Official Wedding Gift Shop, collaborates with local communities to produce uniquely Khmer wedding gifts.
She said her business began in 2017, at a time when few Cambodians were using kramas as wedding favours.
“All of our products are locally made. I buy them from several communities across the Kingdom. For example, the palm leaf and bamboo packaging we use comes from Siem Reap province,” she said.
“We focus on krama based products that can be made into key chains, while we use palm leaf or bamboo boxes to present fruit or candy to guests at morning wedding receptions. In the past, people used plastic Chinese bags to pack candy,” she added.
Former tourism student Vong Panh Srey Leak sought out Cambodian products from local communities as gifts for the guests at her late 2019 wedding.
“There were a lot of Khmer gift shop owners, but none of them could fill my order – I did not want to provide my guests with normal krama, but with handbags which had been made from the iconic Khmer scarves,” she told The Post.
“I asked Sivhak if she could fill my order, and she produced excellent samples of what I wanted. When I saw them, I knew she had understood my vision perfectly. I ordered more than one thousand of them,” she said.
“I bought about 90 pairs of orange baskets for guests at the morning function, and nearly 1,500 handbags. I ordered five months in advance to make sure all the products were ready for my wedding day,” she added.
Sivhak, 30, said that each order was made according to customer’s specifications.
Citing commercial sensibilities, she did not name her suppliers, but said she only brought kramas from local suppliers.
Although some see them only as complimentary gifts, she places great value on the cultural worth of her unique krama keychains.
Generally, an order of keychains takes about five to ten days to prepare, but the boxes made from palm leaves are a more complex proposition. She suggested ordering up to two months in advance if the wedding was going to be large.
“The boxes are assembled by disabled people, and we pay them a reasonable price,” she said.
Before Covid-19, she would regularly supply up to 2,000 kramas for weddings with hundreds of tables of guests.
She acknowledged that during the two-year locked down period, sales were reduced to zero.
“During the Covid-19 crisis, we pivoted from catering to weddings and began to produce face masks and hats,” she explained.
Following the reopening of the Kingdom, she said business had begun to pick up again, with one wedding ordering 1,300 kramas. The majority were smaller affairs, with three or four hundred being ordered, she added.
Because of her love of all-natural products, she does not use plastic materials her gift items, or their packaging.
“We want to contribute to preserving the environment. These boxes that be reused, whereas plastic or paper bags will be thrown away by the guests as soon as they have eaten the fruit or candy inside them,” she said.
“Our main goals are to focus on environmental issues, combined with promoting the Cambodian products we love. This also creates jobs in the community,” she added.
Neth Pheaktra, secretary of state and spokesman for the Ministry of Environment, has always encouraged businesses that produce non-plastic products.
He said that using these items was not just good for the planet, but also for consumer’s health.
“People are more aware of the environmental risks of using plastic products and have changed their behaviour towards reducing plastic,” he added.
When the government first reopened the country, many brides and grooms were using bottles of disinfectant as gifts. Now that the threat of Covid-19 has subsided, people are returning to the use of kramas as wedding gifts, said Sivhak.
“Who wouldn’t love our products? We wrap the kramas neatly with paper and they look very attractive,” she added.
“Packaging is an important factor. Some people tie the scarves with a rubber band, but it looks untidy when guests unfold them. This is why we use a paper ring,” she explained.
Each krama can be bought for as little as $0.50, with handmade keychains going for as little as $0.38, depending on the size of the order. Sivhak also welcomes custom ideas from anyone who wants to make their big day truly unique.