Dear readers, in the continuity of my series of portraits of Khmers with an atypical journey around the world, we return again to California, to Long Beach. I am therefore pleased to introduce you today – exclusively – to the founder of the clothing brand that is causing a stir on social networks: REP CAMBODIA.
Cambodge Mag is also delighted to announce that this interview is the first that the creator based in Cambodia Town grants to a magazine.
Who is behind Rep Cambodia?
My name is Cameron Sam, born in a refugee camp in 1981, Marie and father of 3 children … and I am the founder of REP CAMBODIA. The brand came into being after trying out two other clothing brands that gave me a good understanding of the clothing manufacturing process:
The 1st STRONG BEACH FIT
The second a fitness brand was called FIT FAM APPAREL
It’s been 8 years since your brand was born. What was your trigger to make the promotion of Khmer culture a reality?
It is important to me that our culture must be recognized throughout the world and that present and future generations be proud of who we are, despite the tragedies and the killing fields.
Living in Long Beach, I was finally able to see the birth of CAMBODIA TOWN in 2007 and I knew then that the time had come to do something to put us forward.
It is a first in California to see a Khmer designer so involved in representing his culture in an urban way. How did the Khmer community of Cambodian town welcome this initiative?
The community was immediately very receptive and also proud to wear the brand.
How important is Khmer culture in your daily life?
His place is essential and I try to speak Khmer on a daily basis with the whole family.
Khmer music also holds a very important place in my life, as does the transmission of our traditions.
What were the main difficulties in launching this wonderful project?
The hardest part was undoubtedly reconciling my family life as well as my full-time job at the time with the launch of this project.
I devoted my nights to it and discovered the power of social networks and their possibility of giving me real feedback from consumers.
Your line is only available online. How did you make yourself known so quickly?
By focusing on the Instagram account and nurturing it daily in the best way I can
Your first flagship product was the Classic Angkor Wat SnapBack and it was an immediate success. Where did this idea come from to start with this item?
A conversation with my cousin sparked this idea. Every Cambodian here has an Angkor Wat engraving at home and the cap is a popular accessory in the USA.
What would be your 3 favourite creations?
My first creation therefore the Angkor Wat cap (photo below)
The baseball T-shirt
The T-shirt with 3D effects
What are your sources of inspiration?
I would say that I like to give a certain form of life to our culture, then my family, and in particular, my parents.
Your Instagram page is not presented in a conventional way. All of your customers are the stars. How was this concept born?
From my first sales, buyers have themselves posted on their pages by tagging me. I thought it would be nice and different to use all these posts to make it the brand’s own page.
Your clothes are very sportswear. Faced with your success, have you considered developing a more classic line? Or why not more ethnic?
Yes, I am definitely considering these two options for the future.
Do you ever have occasion to return to Srok Khmer?
The last time I went there was in 2011… I guess a lot has changed since then.
Being a Khmer designer in the USA in 2022 is still a rare phenomenon. Could you explain this observation to us?
Yes, it remains rare but I deeply believe that there is a place for each of us! So if you are Khmer (e) and the desire to create takes you … do not hesitate.
Do you have any crazy projects that you would like to realise?
Yes, I now feel ready to collaborate with other influential Khmers, especially Khmer musicians (I previously collaborated with Jay Chan) in order to create even more projects, always with the aim of keeping our movement on the front stage.
In the 2000s, a brand was created by African Americans that was based on the same type of message FUBU – for us by us. Today your brand is much more than that it is a movement. If you had to convey a new message through your brand, what would it be?
Represented what you are
Never forget where you come from
Always pushing our culture forward
Interview by Françoise framboise (Chantha R)