Article and photos by Elena del Valle
High fashion dresses were on display in the shop
One of the off the beaten path activities I most enjoyed during a trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia this year was a tour of the Golden Silk Pheach farm, about an hour away from the city. As soon as I found out about the farm I was intrigued. With the help of the staff at my hotel I scheduled a guided visit. This required advance planning as visits, with the owner, were strictly by appointment.
Oum Sophea Pheach explains the process of creating silk fibers
What impressed me about the Golden Silk Peach, before even visiting the farm and store, was the sheer dedication and determination of its owners. Oum Sophea Pheach, a Cambodian and former director of the National Center of Cambodian Silk, and her husband Patrick Gourlay, a French banker, had the vision to manufacture rare fine golden silk in their own farm. In 2002, they created the project from the ground up, funded the farm 32 kilometers from Siem Reap and trained 100 staff (many of them young and disadvantaged rural residents).
The deep golden color produced by the silk worms
It would be nine years before the first silk production was successful. Visiting the farm and watching the staff at work was a learning experience. The painstaking process required time, skill and patience. A single unique silk fabric could take months to manufacture.
The next stage is to make thread from the silk
Visiting the shop was an exercise in restraint. In addition to fine silk textiles and silk products made at the farm, the shop sold art (sculptures, stone, wood, bronze and cotton items) produced in the area. The Golden Silk ikat designs and colors varied; prices ranged from $50 for a basic scarf to $1,200 for an elegant silver gray wrap I fell in love with and as much as $15,000 for an elaborate large wrap.
The cloth is woven by hand
For tourists who couldn’t spare the time to drive to the farm and wished to see the silk products the owner offered private display and sales at her home (by appointment only), a handsome and lovingly built property in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods of the city. We stopped there after the tour of the silk farm. Golden Silk Pheach (+855 (0) 12 59 68 11, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.goldensilk.org)