Go to Cambodia, and you might be surprised to notice a preponderance of plaid. Welcome to the land of the krama, a traditional Cambodian checkered scarf that’s used for everything from keeping warm to washing cars to carrying babies. A sampling of less orthodox uses includes:
Weapon to fend off rabid dogs
… Etcetera, etcetera. The krama is a symbol of Cambodian identity, particularly in the countryside. Some say its origins trace back to the time of the magnificent Angkors, who used simple cloths to cover the top portions of their bodies. Today, they’re ubiquitous across classes.
I bought my first krama at the Russian Market in Phnom Penh — a bright pink, yellow, and black number that matched perfectly with my skinny jeans and graphic tees (this was back when hipsters ruled Williamsburg). I love it dearly and use it often.
Ahkun sells a similar version in orange, green, and red that’s perfect for summer. Their kramas are produced by a weaver named Kakeda Sun, based in the Chrouy Ampil village of Cambodia.
A start-up social enterprise based right here in New York, Ahkun works to connect Kiva-funded micro-entrepreneurs, artisans, and co-ops with larger marketplaces by purchasing their goods at a fair rate, selling them online and off-line, and sharing the profits back with the artisans. The long term mission of the organization is to become somewhat of an Etsy for small-scale producers.
I discovered Ahkun at the beginning of the summer, and began working with them to get the word out about their mission, which I believe in fully. Our big project is a summer pop-up at the end of July, where kramas will be available in abundance. Learn more and RSVP here.
If you can’t wait, or aren’t based in New York City, you can order the Ahkun krama in orange/green/red, green/red, and the more traditional blue/white and maroon/white. All scarves are $18, and go to support the efforts of small-scale entrepreneurs around the world.