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Olympic Market Comes Under the Spotlight

By: Tanja Wessels Posted: May-21-2008 in
Tanja Wessels

It's big, confusing and smells of incense (in places). I'm at the market- Olympic Market to be exact- to see what, if anything, it has to offer wardrobes around the capital. Phnom Penh's markets are always entertaining and I have done the circuit enough times to know that I'm not going to unearth any vintage Yves Saint Laurent on this expedition. However, there are many degrees between: designer collector's pieces and "yes-I-can-see-myself-going-out-to-dinner-in-that"...

Less hectic than Central Market, less touristy than Russian Market and spatially less surreal than O'Russei, Olympic Market boasts two very large buildings and escalators- some that work and some that don't, but escalators none-the-less. The ground floor doesn't offer anything that's going to wrestle for space with the existing contents of your wardrobe, but the same can't be said for the other levels...

The second floor is pure fabric fantasy with stall upon stall housing metres of material just waiting to be shaped into a breathtaking creation...For those who are constantly tearing pages out of Marie Claire, Elle or Vogue hoping to replicate the latest Marni dress at the local tailor, it may be worth your while to stop by. Phnom Penh's other fabric hotspot, the street running on the left-hand side of O'Russei's main entrance, has similar designs, so for those familiar with that area don't expect too many surprises here.

What did surprise me here however, were the haberdashery stalls. D/102 and D/76 are cases in point. They look a bit chintzy at first glance, but I'm sure the right imagination and creative streak can whip up an ensemble that will make Vivienne Westwood proud. I think. Alternatively one could end up looking like a figure skater. Anyone who has ever watched a world figure skating competition will know exactly what I'm referring to.

But fabrics alone do not rule this realm. I couldn't resist a pair of adorable goldfish sunglasses for the trendy toddler in my life from stall B/218, and D/7 impressed me with t-shirts and blouses by a label called Beryl. Available in apricot or cream they will look great with jeans and I noticed a number of different items by this label scattered around different stalls.

Paying close attention to the t-shirts hanging all over the place is not something I'm in the habit of doing and now I know why. The words on them make absolutely no sense, and no number of sphinxes could concoct these unintentional riddles. A black t-shirt with 6 neon paint buckets on it with the words 'still waters run deep' left me feeling the same way as the one with 'restaurant' on it did. Baffled. 'Happy is friends togethre' was only outstripped by 'lifeis iouh'.

The third floor is the 'Bond Street', the '5th Avenue', the 'Faubourg Saint Honore' of Olympic Market. The atmosphere is calmer and the stalls offer more fashion than the rest of the building put together. A few dresses here and there warranted further inspection and if anything is going to be that: 'I-can-see-myself-out-to-dinner-in-that' item, you are bound to find it here. Failing that, stop pedestrians and traffic in English speaking countries in a 'lifeis iouh' t-shirt.

Corner of Street 199 and Street 286


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