Wanderlust In Cambodia

Elizabeth Kiester grew up in Westport, but she always had the world in mind.

Her father was a Vietnam War correspondent.  Her dream of living in Asia was stoked by constant travel in her jobs on the fashion side of magazines, including Mademoiselle, Jane and YM.  She had a huge creative job at Abercrombie & Fitch, and served as global creative director of LeSportsac.

When the 1983 Staples grad gave up her high-powered LeSportsac post, she volunteered in Cambodia.  She fell in love with the country and its people.

She moved to Siem Reap and opened Wanderlust, a sunny shop selling local goods, handmade art and a clothing collection — designed by Elizabeth and made by local women — in a French Colonial building near the famed Angkor Wat temple.

“Siem Reap was an ancient arts and culture capital, and that creative spirit is still here,” Elizabeth told Travel & Leisure.

Elizabeth Kiester

Elizabeth Kiester, as seen in the pages of Travel & Leisure Magazine

The magazine noted:

Kiester set out to create a fashion line that is democratic in its approach (one size that really fits all), affordable (nothing over $60), and universally appealing, with a Palm Beach-meets-Phuket look.

Nearly all her goods are commissioned from Cambodian artisans.  A severely handicapped woman weaves $2 bracelets from plastic bottles; children at an orphanage tie-dye $6 T-shirts, and a local seamstress creates $8 scarves.

An admirer wrote on Readmuse, a fashion and culture blog:  “She’s giving back to the community, which is still reeling from the Khmer Rouge.  In an area that was so ravaged by conflict, she’s begun teaching English to locals.”

Elizabeth says:  “The younger generation in their 30s never got the chance to go to school, learn a trade, or experience anything since they were orphaned.

“Cambodia is filleed with relief workers trying to help the people here regain some skills and get a lifestyle back.  So that’s why I am trying to keep all of my products local, and keeping 6 young girls gainfully employed and learning about Western sewing and designing techniques.”

A fan wrote: “(Elizabeth’s) sincerity, thoughtfulness, courage is unlike anyone I’ve met….Not to mention, Wanderlust’s designs are awesome.  Truly an unexpected, perfect fit of East meets West.”

Elizabeth’s Wanderlust continues.  A sister store opens soon, in Phnom Penh.

4 responses to “Wanderlust In Cambodia

  1. wanderlust in cambodia can be found on Facebook

  2. hi dan! thank you so much for this amazing shout-out! westport will always be my home, even though i am now living 10,000 miles away…it means so much to me that my old friends and family in westport can see what i am up to in SE asia! thank you! or as we say in khmer: ARKUN! sincerely,
    elizabeth kiester/wanderlust. p.s. yes, i am on facebook: wanderlust in cambodia! become a fan! 🙂

  3. This gal is amazing!!

  4. fashionableliferadio

    Elizabeth, I was just in the shops during stay in Cambodia..Left my card and took home fab stuff from Wanderlust. Talked about you and store on my show this am and went to Lillian August this afternoon only to see the bracelets on the check out desk!!!! The sales staff had NO idea who had made them or about the store. Told them all and made them put a explanantion in frame!!! So sorry we didn’t meet. Live in Greenwich, wish i was in Cambodia!!! check out STATTRIP.com blog and mine http://www.fashionableliferadio.com.
    Jen Goodkind, Co-host A Fashionable Life