Shop responsibly this holiday season   Leave a comment

This week as the emails started to roll in for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I breathed several deep sighs of relief not to be in the US during this holiday shopping season. And what the heck is Cyber Monday anyway? Being a retailer myself, I understand the pressures that retailers today undergo in the current economy. And I almost feel bad for them. Really. But, when a system is clearly broken, should we really keep trying to fix it? Whatever happened to “less is more?” Maybe it’s time to start looking for some alternative options. Normally, I don’t like to be preachy trying to guilt trip people with extreme statistics. But since other retailers are assaulting you with their marketing campaigns, I feel it’s important to offer a few alternative facts to ponder while you are considering what to buy for gifts this year:

– Garment factory workers are often paid less than a percent of the final retail value of the items they make.

– Child Labor (children under the age of 14) accounts for 22% of the labor force of Asia (where most of the clothes in the US come from)

– Although many companies ban the use of child labor and sweatshops, they often outsource work to companies that do not keep the same standards

– There are approximately 30 million people living in slavery today, through bonded labor, forced labor, and trafficking. Many of them are working in garment factory work, or agriculture related to garment manufacturing

– Conventional cotton uses 2.5% of the worlds agricultural lands yet eats up 25% of the worlds insecticides

– It takes a third of a pound of synthetic pesticides to grow one pound of conventional cotton.

– Americans throw away 25% more trash during the holidays than any other time of the year.

– The largest volume of waste being dumped from New York City is textile and garment waste.

Many people feel helpless to deal with these issues, but there are alternative options if you want to buy gifts for your loved ones. You can buy gifts that actually contribute to positive change, and don’t contribute to some of the horrible issues I’ve mentioned above.

Of course we’d love for you to buy from KeoK’jay. We’ll be launching our products on two new websites on December 3rd, Wanderlust and Project Artisan. Keep your eyes peeled for another post about that in the next 2 days! Your purchases with KeoK’jay not only pay women a fair wage, but offer them a chance at a better life for themselves and their children. 25% of the cost of each product goes directly to paying salaries of our staff. Another large chunk pays for services, training, and micro loans that are provided directly to our staff. Of course we have to pay expenses too, such as rent, travel, advertizing, “un-official fees,” and so on. But you can trust that no one’s making a huge profit off this venture and all profits are invested back into the community. Plus everything is eco friendly.

But alas, we know not everyone will love KeoK’jay’s style, so I would like to also introduce you to some other companies and non-profit organizations that we like. I’ve only put people on here that you can actually buy online (and have stuff people actually want of course.) – fair trade and eco-friendly women’s clothing and accessories, made in India ($20-$60) – fair trade clothing made by Global Mammas, a non-profit and fair trade organization assisting women in Africa to become economically independent. ($20-$60) – fair trade gifts and accessories from Cambodia and Beyond ($8-$40) – Preloved creates one-of-a-kind clothing from reclaimed vintage fabrics, with a passion for design and a philosophy of sustainability. These are some of my favorite up-cycled pieces. ($80-$200) – Who could forget Etsy, the world’s most vibrant online marketplace for all things handmade? Here you can find one of a kind items and lots of unique gifts. You just need to do a little searching ($10-$500) – for the crafters out there, consider buying a pack of beads made from recycled paper by women in Uganda. You can also get amazing jewelry if you’re not feeling so adventurous! BeadforLife eradicates extreme poverty by creating bridges of understanding between impoverished Africans and concerned world citizens. ($10-50) – I am directing you to this website so that you can buy adorable little monsters hand knit by people living in marginalized communities in Cambodia, through a project called Cambodia knits. It was started by our friend Monika Sok and CK products are also featured in our Cambodian boutique. The perfect quirky gift for kids and old kids alike! ($5-30) – Sustainable outdoor + urban apparel. Everything here is amazingly designed, timeless, and very useful, so that you can look effortlessly stylish for every occasion, save the environment, and reduce the amount of clothes that you buy at the same time. Nau also does a ton of amazing community programming and advocacy, and dedicates a portion of every sale to a partner for change of your choice. We also appreciate how they take the time to educate customers about the clothes they are buying. Score for transparency! ($40-$300)

And there are many, many more businesses with a focus on the environment, social responsibility, and amazing style. Don’t forget, another incredible benefit of supporting these small businesses is that you’ll find gifts that no one else will have, and have a great story behind them. What’s not to love?

At KeoK’jay, we also advocate for shopping vintage and second-hand, and making your own gifts for people. It takes some time, but it’s worth it!

This holiday season, please consider giving gifts that reduce environmental impact and do not exploit the people who make them.


Posted November 30, 2010 by keokjay in Uncategorized

KeoK’jay hits LA Fashion Week   Leave a comment

KeoK’jay was proud to present our Spring Summer 2011 collection at LA fashion week at Sunset Gower Studios, with the Green Initiative Humanitarian Fashion Show. We had a blast, met lots of cool people, and got to talk about our work with people from a completely different world. It was so exciting seeing the work made by the hands of our lovely ladies side by side with some other incredible (eco) designers: Emily Factor, Jonano, and Kristinit.

All photos by Jack Fleming

All the designs are by Genny and Rachel, and were inspired by Traffic.  As usual, they use our recycled materials, signature prints, and some new natural dye techniques. There’s lots of hand knit elements and creative embroidery as well. These items will hit select locations in the spring. We’ll keep you posted about how to get them!

Special thanks to the Gallery Los Angeles for having us, and to Mikey Koffman for putting together an amazing show.

Also, here’s some links to what other people are saying about us. Thanks for the out-pouring of support!

Fashion News Live

Disarray magazine

Wanderlust and Lipstick

Posted November 1, 2010 by keokjay in Uncategorized

First Fridays on the Alley!   Leave a comment

It’s the beginning of “high Season” in Cambodia, and it’s time to start first Fridays in the Alley West, Siem Reap!

That means all the businesses on our lovely little alley will be giving amazing discounts and special offers that would tempt even the shiest non-party goer away from their television for an evening of music, great food, surprises and merry-making…

Circle boutique (Co-owned by iida and Keok’jay) will be having a sidewalk sale and joining in the festivities, so you should too!



Posted October 31, 2010 by keokjay in Uncategorized

KeoK’jay’s new clutch   Leave a comment

What to do with all these buttons? Make an awesome clutch, of course.

Hahah! This collage is cute… though a bit misleading. These bags actually require a lot more handwork and the involvement of almost all of the women at some point in the production process. Each bag requires cutting and screen printing of fabric, putting in the lining of the bag (which is made from straw mats and covered with recycled red or gray jersey), sewing on buttons (many, many buttons), and putting on the clasps. The final product is pretty amazing, though. Look for it in our boutique and at our private sales in the US next month (and later, in Paris!)

Congrats, Gen!

Posted September 20, 2010 by Sasha in Uncategorized

“Traffick” prepares to launch at LA Fashion Week!   Leave a comment

A sneak preview!

EJ hanging around Phnom Penh in our brand new romper, designed by Genny Cortinovis.

A special thank you to our photographer, James Grant, and our model, EJ Callahan, for this awesome shoot. Also thank you to Mail Lynn Miller for all the help, and to our new designer, Genny Cortinovis, for everything else. 🙂

More James:

More Genny:

Check them out, they’re amazing!

Posted September 15, 2010 by Sasha in Uncategorized

Your official invitation: NEW YORK!   Leave a comment

Consider this your invitation, East Coasters!

Posted September 11, 2010 by Sasha in Uncategorized

krohom, swai, krohom   1 comment

Re-arranging the boutique to make room for new items from our Traffick collection

Between re-arranging our Phnom Penh boutique to make room for new pieces, getting our new washing machine set up, and preparing things for our trip to the states, things have been really crazy and exciting at KeoK’jay these last two weeks.

Genny and the women have been working overtime to get all of our samples ready for LA Fashion Week, where we’ll be launching our new collection, Traffick, next month (more info to come!).

The real adventures and laughs and cries of frustrations, however, have come from trying to fill an order we got from Norway for a few sets of screen-printed table cloths, table runners, and tea towels.

It went something like this:

“It needs to be swai (purple) along this edge (*hand waving and showing on the table cloth*), krohom (red) along this edge (*more waving and demonstrating*) and then a little bit of gom leat (space), and then krohom (*more waving and pointing to the picture of the design*) and swai (*more waving*). Okay?”

“Jah. Okay.”

The tea towels and table runners we've been screen printing this week

“Ack, no, not like that. Krohom *waving and pointing*, then swai, then krohom. Okay?”

“Jah. Okay.”

“Nooooo!! Krohom, swai, krohom. Gom leat. Krohom, swai, krohom, Jah?”

“Jah. Okay.”

“Not there! Not swai! Vutha! Come translate!”

This went on for hours.

What was intended to be a small project, involving only two basic prints, two colors, and minimal sewing, has turned into a week-long, labor-intensive endeavor, requiring the full attention of Ravi and Sam Ahn, Genny and myself, and our manager, Vutha. We have now burned through several meters of the expensive goelle fabric due to mis-cutting and mis-printing and mis-just-about-everything.


Lets call it cultural miscommunication.

Far too late into the process, I realized that none of the women had any idea what a table runner or tea towel even was. They really couldn’t picture what we were trying to make, especially when it involved screen printing several tea towels on one piece of fabric and then cutting it afterwards.  So then I had to explain that in the US and Europe, people put cloth on their tables before they eat. And the women were like “why?” and I was like, “I really don’t know.”

I’ve never thought to question the tradition of putting decorative cloth on a table before a meal, but now that I’m in Cambodia, it seems like a funny thing to take for granted. Why cloth on a table? To spill wine on and feel bad about it?

It inspired me to look up the origins of table cloths and table runners. I found this article pretty entertaining: Hope you enjoy it.

Stay tuned for New York and Los Angeles news!

Posted September 11, 2010 by Sasha in Uncategorized