Behind The Design: Un été à Kep-sur-Mer
Phnom Penh’s alleyways have become go-to destinations for hip watering holes and trendy eateries. Now, chic french fashion is added to the mix with Un été à Kep-Sur-Mer, a new clothing boutique by French-Cambodian sisters Neary & Borany Mam. Located in BKK1 (near Patio Hotel, off st.51), Un été à Kep-Sur-Mer stands out with its "canard" blue exterior and colorful window displays showing off Neary and Borany’s designs. The space inside is bright and airy, with retro furniture and posters on the walls. Attracted to the interiors of the boutique (as well as the clothes!) we wanted to learn more about this bijou corner of Phnom Penh.
Neary and Borany, tell us a bit about yourselves first - how long have you been living in Cambodia now?
Neary (N): I have been living in Cambodia for two months. But before that, I had been visiting each month for a year.
Borany (B): I have been in Phnom Penh for five years. I came here just after I finished my art studies.
What were you both up to before opening your boutique? Do you have other careers outside of Un été à Kep-Sur-Mer?
B: In addition to running Un été à Kep-Sur-Mer with Neary, I restore paintings at the National Museum in Phnom Penh. I used to run Bistrot Bassac, a french restaurant on street 308. I sold it few months ago to open the boutique.
N: I was previously the communications manager for the french TV channel TF1.
How did the idea for Un été à Kep-Sur-Mer come about?
B: I have been designing my own clothes since living in Cambodia. Many of my friends told me if I opened my own shop they would come... so I did!
N: After 10 years, I wanted to do something different and more personal. Creating our own clothing line together in Cambodia felt like an obvious choice as Borany & I are half Cambodian, and we have both loved fashion for such a long time!
What was the inspiration behind the brand?
N & B: We wanted to create great clothes as well as an inviting retail space - we want to offer our customers a french shopping experience: women’s clothes with western cuts in a Parisian style store! We were really attached to the idea of a long french name which had an old fashioned sound and a sense of nostalgia.
How would you describe your designs? Do your individual styles come through?
N & B: Our designs are feminine, delicate, fresh, bright and colorful… Chic “à la française !”. And yes - both of us love color, light fabrics and timeless outfits.
On to the interiors!...
We love the retail space you’ve created and we’d love to know more about it... Who designed your shop, and what was the process of designing the space?
N & B: Our father designed our shop. He used to renovate apartments here in Phnom Penh, but this was his first project designing a boutique. We told him our ideas for the space and he submitted a plan to us, taking into account the materials available here. For us, the lights and the floor were very important parts of the design to create warmth, that’s why we chose to have a wooden floor and white ceiling lights. Then, it all happened so fast! We found the space (a garage!) in October 2016, construction began in November, and it was ready for Christmas! We definitely felt good in our shop right from the start.
Un été à Kep-Sur-Mer before renovations:
One month later:
How have you translated your brand into the interior design of your retail space?
N & B: We really wanted to translate our brand’s strong sense of femininity into our interior design. We also wanted to create a luminous space with a big window display, and we were very particular about the colors we chose. The logo of our brand is a girl wearing a retro yellow bathing suit, so we knew we would incorporate yellow, which we did with our sofa. From the beginning, we had in mind the color “blue canard” (a distinctive petrol blue) to represent the sea, which we've used on our facade. For balance, we also incorporated some softer colors, such as the grey pearl we used for the curtains and storage spaces.
Were you inspired by any specific interiors? Or any interior designers?
N & B: We wanted a Parisian style boutique, modern yet retro. Our parents have always been interested in architecture and design, so we are really inspired by french designers like Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Paulin.
What are your favorite features of your shop’s design?
N : For me, it’s the custom-made movable furniture in wood and marble.
B: I love the colorful poster we put above the sofa. It’s for the annual music festival organized in a small seaside resort we enjoy on the West coast of France.
You do have some lovely art on the walls! We love the flamingo wall paper too, and the clever way you’ve used it! You where did you find all these?
N & B: The wall paper is made by a little french wallpaper brand called Lé Papiers de Ninon. We bought it in a lovely concept store in Paris called No Bla Bla. As for the art, our father used to frame posters, most of them old ones from Europe, but the two we have in our shop are new ones. We also have two pictures printed on Japanese paper in the style of old Polaroids which we also bought in Paris. A friend of ours also made a lovely drawing of our boutique for the opening.
Where is your yellow sofa from?
N & B: From the furniture shop Display in BKK1. It was custom-made. We chose the the model, the fabric and the size.
How did you choose the location for Un été à Kep-Sur-Mer, and what do you like about it?
N & B: We chose this location because we believe in the potential of the alleyways in Phnom Penh. There is no traffic here like in the rest of the city and it’s quiet during the day but lively at night with The Patio Hotel nearby; restaurants like Bistrot Langka (french food), Sushi Lab and Katanashi (Japanese food); and bars like Battbong (a speakeasy behind a fridge door).
We’d love to know, what are some of your favorite places in Phnom Penh to shop for art, furniture, accessories, etc?
B: I enjoy shopping at Bobo and Trunkh for accessories; Pastel on Koh Pich for kitchenware and Display for sofas and chairs. The carpenters and antique shops on Sothearos boulevard can also reveal some treasures.
Which are your favorite venues in Phnom Penh for their architecture and/or interior design?
N: I’m really inspired by the history of the city and how Phnom Penh used to be… I really like the Institute of Foreign Languages at Royal University because of Vann Molyvann’s architecture and the FCC Mansion Heritage Bar (such an atmosphere!)
B: The National Museum for its traditional design by french architect Georges Groslier in the 1920’s.
Lastly, what is next for Un été à Kep-Sur-Mer?
N & B: The first month has gone so quickly. We just had our launch party on Saturday 5th February to celebrate! But, perhaps the future might hold a second shop in Siem Reap!
Un été à Kep-Sur-Mer
023 A st.51 | Open everyday 11am - 9pm.
Homepage photograph by Cochise Ory
Blog post photographs by Rhiannon Johnson