With the audience at his fashion shows packed elbow to elbow, Eric Raisina’s electrifying clothing is undoubtedly winning applause. I met the innovative designer, who for more than a decade has made his home in Siem Reap. Photography by Dylan Walker. Interview conducted in and translated from French.
Your ongoing exhibition and February fashion show at Hotel de la Paix were called Emotional, what does that name represent?
Living here in Siem Reap, I have created a universe that I know and love very well. My hope with the show was to share a little bit of that universe. For me, the materials, textures and colours in my clothes unleash a certain emotion but the people who know my work don’t always see what is behind it – for example the minute, detailed work that takes so much time. I wanted to introduce a little of this emotional universe that infuses the spirit of what I do, and share that with people.
What is your inspiration?
Before anything, I come from Madagascar and so much of my inspiration comes from there. It’s a magical island influenced by Asia, Africa and a former French colony. That global idea is the base of my inspiration. I want to reflect and reach out to people from all over the world and my aim is to create something magnificent that will appeal to anyone, whether they’re from Africa, Asia, Europe, or anywhere.
You had a busy year last year with Fashion Weeks in Manila, New York, Angola and Cambodia as well as opening a new shop in Phnom Penh. What have you got lined up for this year?
The launch of the French fashion magazine l’Officiel in Bangkok. This is the French fashion magazine, it’s very cultural, very couture. Later in the year, I will of course be taking part again in this year’s Cambodia Fashion Week.
What was your experience of Cambodia’s inaugural Fashion Week?
First, I must say I found the idea a really good one and I thought the organisers were very courageous in carrying it out. I was very happy to see it happening, and to be a part of that. There were some problems with the organisation, which I think were because of a lack of funding, and the greatest disappointment for me was that there were not enough Cambodians at the shows. I don’t think there was very good communication with the press so people did not know. On the other hand, it was very good for Cambodia, and received a lot of positive press from all over the world.
I didn’t hesitate when they asked me to join again this year and I think that it will be better. The organisers were keen to learn from the people, they asked lots of questions and I think they understand now. I hope that this year it will be shorter and that there will be fewer locations. Ten days last year was too long, and logistically it was very difficult to manage the different locations. But I really think that this year we will see something great.
What were the highlights of last year’s event for you?
I thought that Water Lily created something really magical. It was really superb, the collection and the presentation. I was also impressed with the work of the three Cambodian American brothers who were returning to their country for the first time. That was magnificent. I think we should also keep an eye out for the young French designer who focused on men’s clothing, which was not always well represented.
What is the future of fashion design in Cambodia?
I was really surprised and happy to discover that there are now one or two fashion schools in Phnom Penh. Cambodia still has a little way to go to reach the standards of international fashion and that will change in time. But it will be good for Cambodia soon. I see they are hungry to learn and impassioned.
My fear is that the young people will lose themselves in modern popular culture, and not seek to carve out their own identity. I don’t think that young Cambodian designers should rush into the modern just yet. They have so much of their own culture to explore, to understand and bring back to life. It would be a shame, a total loss, if the potential under the surface in Cambodia were not animated. I’m so worried that they will forget that they have this great culture, that no-one else has. It’s not just about temples, there’s so much more than that.
Eric Raisina’s exhibition at the Hotel de la Paix will run until Apr. 30. The designer would like to thank everyone who participated in the show.