Marina Braun is a recycled bag designer for Paris, France. She was evicted five years ago from the center of Phnom Penh to satisfy the appetites of real estate developers.
Maria says it is because of this she wanted to help people had come to the same fate and found parallels with the millions of Cambodians found themselves relocated overnight to a vacant land, 20 kilometers from the capital.
“People arrived with nothing, absolutely nothing, none of their own things, no clothes, so they had to recreate a life here and that meant working. The problem with that, of course is there were very few, if any jobs available so they were stuck between a rock and a hard place.“
This former executive in a luxury goods industry chose this site to produce bags made from unsold French newspapers stating;
“We ultimately decided to make fairly simple bags out of magazines with a technique of collage, but then when we tried to teach them how to make a nice design with collage it was a disaster.”
Five thousand of these bags have already been sold in France, enough to pay Cambodians 15 Euros per week and to life them out of extreme poverty. These eco bags are really making a difference to everyday people’s lives whilst giving them a chance to earn fair wages for a fair days work. It also gives them back their dignity too and you can’t put a price on that. Most are very grateful indeed for the contribution marina has made to their area and quipped that a local came to her recently and personally thanked her;
“Before, the roof of my house was made of plastic bags and we were constantly flooded, thanks to the money I earn, I was able to buy a corrugated roof and that changes everything for us.”
I really do hope that her situation will get even better in the months to come though, because even though it is a vast improvement, they fact of the matter is she is still living in filthy conditions, so it’s good but it’s not good enough.
With her success in France, Marina is looking to develop her bags in other countries, casting her eye in particular to Germany. Giving a coy smile she says only, “you’ll have to wait and see”.
So, are you ready to connect to the inhabitants of this slum-district by buying their handcrafted bags? But perhaps more importantly, are customers interested in green fashion?