5.26.2010

Wonderful WANDERLUST

What is WANDERLUST, you may be asking?
Wanderlust is a clothing company designed in Cambodia by American designer Elizabeth Kiester, and let me tell you it is fun and fabulous and screaming summer. Elizabeth had been working in the fashion industry very successfully as a fashion director for various top magazines and top design companies when she  decided to quit her high fashion job in NY and followed a calling to Cambodia where she opened up SHOP. On top of that she is doing a collaboration with Madewell , it's in stores NOW and selling out fast. I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with her via email where we exchanged fun stories about working in fashion during the 80's and 90's in NYC and hear more about Wanderlust! 
All I can say is she is an awesome inspiration and TOTALLY COOL!
 Here is a bit of our conversation about Wanderlust so you can see for yourself just how cool she is.
So tell me all about Wanderlust!
Well, I don't know where to begin with my story. Its quite a long one, although it's been very short in terms of actual time. I guess I am someone who gets things done.

Well then, how did you end up in Cambodia?
I went to Cambodia initially to do a volunteer vacation through a US based non-profit. I needed a vacation desperately and yet, the idea of sitting on a beach didn't appeal to me. I wanted to do something more and get out of my own head. I was really burning out and so exhausted and spent months circumnavigating the globe for my job.  So off I went to Siem Reap for two weeks and installed water pumps in a rural village, painted a pagoda and taught English in an orphanage, and something inside me changed. It is something i can't explain.
 Inside one of her shops. I have the Wanderlust Jones now and need to get my hands on her cute cotton dresses they are prefect for beach life and summer.
Follow the read more to see and hear the rest of her story!

So When did you actually start Wanderlust?
I went back to NYC and changed my life drastically-bought a ticket to go back to Cambodia for the summer (summer 08) with the idea that if I found a space in which I could open a store I would stay. After three days of being back in Siem Reap, I found an abandoned 1929 french colonial house on a little alley in town, and went for it. Signed a lease, renovated the space with the help of some new khmer friends, met a great young seamstress who helped me make clothes I designed.  We pantomimed through the process, since I don't speak khmer and at the time she didn't speak english, made a sign, printed business cards then returned to NYC six weeks later with the store finished and ready to open. So I sold everything in my apartment in NYC, boxed up my special belongings, then returned to Siem Reap in October and opened the first Wanderlust shop in October '08.
How did the whole collaboration with Madewell happen?
Madewell came about via a great friend who works there doing visuals. In the summer of '09, Madewell was opening a store in East Hampton, NY and she asked me if I could do some bracelets for the store opening, bracelets she had seen me wearing on one of my trips home. These bracelets are handmade by a young disabled woman who lives across the street from our glorious Angkor Wat temples. She goes and collects the discarded water bottles in the trash, cuts them into strips and wraps them with colorful threads making them into friendship bracelets. I worked with her and we created patterns and I put together all kinds of fun, cool color combos and off they went to East Hampton. They sold out immediately and that caught the attention of the big guns at Madewell.
Do you design your own prints and how is your line produced?
I don't' design my own prints, I wish I did! Because we currently don't do enough volume to entice a mill to make small quantities that we desire. So I buy from the local people in the fabric markets and I have a team of amazing young woman who sew in their homes. I don't use factories and I believe in fair trade.  I make sure each of my staff feels empowered and I support and encourage their entrepreneurial spirit. I call what we do "Hope on a Hanger"  we provide great opportunities to young women to earn a good wage, create their own hours, stay at home and look after their children and parents and be in control of their own destiny. Their attention to detail and pride in their work is unparalleled! This is critical to me and drives the Wanderlust spirit.
What's your goal for Wanderlust?
The goal is to wholesale to more cool stores worldwide and get Wanderlust out there and spread the good energy and vibes.

Lastly, How did you come up with the name Wanderlust and does it have any meaning to you?
The word "Wanderlust" is a word my late mom used to call me, and she would say  it in her sweet southern drawl: "you're such a waaaaaaaanderluuuuust"  as I would be packing yet again for another trip. My mom was quite a traveler and journey woman herself so I definitely inherited my curiosity from her, and my dad who spent his career as a journalist roaming the globe. I have the word tattooed on my right arm, and yes, it was there before the store was!
 Since Elizabeth opened her first store in Siem Reap she has opened a second on the street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital city, and her e commerce site Wanderlustcambodia.com and is posed to open a third location in a hotel called the FCC in Siem Reap in June.
Just a few of the fabulous dresses we want, and these wooden bangles and espadrilles which are fun and easy to wear.



I just contacted Elizabeth last night because we went on to the Wanderlust site to shop and all the clothes and accessories we wanted to buy were SOLD OUT!

BUT! do not fear.  She has informed me that the NY times did an article on her last Sunday and along with the massive press from Madewell the site went CRAZY! She's not complaining, but she said to sit tight and all the great pieces will be available again real soon.

I am guessing she will be able to start designing her own prints soon I am sure she won't have trouble enticing the mills anymore.
 her last words were  "Oh my god, I am so busy I can barely breath."

Congratulations Elizabeth!
Anyone who follows a dream is pretty awesome and to top it off she made it a success.

XX
Valerie and Camilla


23 comments:

corksandcaftans said...

Thanks for this amazing Q&A!!! Thank you for sharing. "spread the good energy and vibes"--you can't argue with that! Really incredible stuff. Those bracelets are stealing my breath away!

You guys are awesome. Thanks for the sweet comments on C+C :)

best
Carey

A and A said...

"something inside me changed. It is something i can't explain"... yes.
So true. I wish more people leapt out of their comfort bubble to help the global change, it does change you... you never go back to the same ideals, everything now looks different.
Thank you for this brilliant post.... she rocks.
x
refusestolabel.com

Mother of Style said...

All the colors! What a beautiful line. The store looks so inviting- very cool.

Jen said...

oh my god, those clothes and patterns are insanely gorgeous! i'm loving wanderlust :)

Nadiye said...

those pictures are seriously
AWSOME!

xx
Nadiyeisnotmyname

Jennifer said...

I am lovin EVERYTHING at Wanderlust. Everything looks awesome! (:
Great pics!

xx
Jen

http://belledecouture.blogspot.com

Juliet said...

All the prints are so sweet!


juliet xxx

ilovesunsets said...

I've been to her shop and yes everything's pretty and colorful and her story is very inspiring! Thanks for sharing this! :)

Ancia said...

Your Blog is so cool! I have to follow you! You post nice and inspiring pictures!

www.overdivity-fashion.blogspot.com

DrinkMoloko said...

Elizabeth is amazing.

The Photodiarist said...

Fantastic story and interview. I enjoyed every word. Totally inspirational. Her dresses are adorable too.

Cindy Whitehead said...

Really great photos, interview and I loved learning more about this line - I am for sure checking it out Now!

Loved hearing about your adventure with Chanel Iman - lucky girl!! Been meaning to check her store out and now I will for sure.

have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Krimly said...

I like so much the photos! and the one with the car is fabolous! :)

xoxo
mycherrygum.com

Marinka said...

those clothes look amazing!! I love the story behind it too

FESI-FASHION said...

Great blog!!

xx fesi-fashion

Morning Cloak said...

That's awesome you got to speak with her. Now maybe we can get a sneak peak at that Madewell collection?! hehe

Danielle Barbe said...

looks awesome!

MarchMusings said...

Her use of colours and prints is spot on. What a great post.

Alice said...

Thank you for visiting me back :)
I really like that shirt, is somewhat original and not many people have it!

Sure, I'm following you back, your blog is really nice!

xx
Alice

Biana said...

I love the second photo, with the red windows... so pretty.

jenni said...

I just found your blog and I love your take on things! And thanks for introducing Wanderlust!

KALIN said...

Great post, I'm following you, follow back?

XO, Neuter Kalin

LADY REBEL said...

lovy VISUAL FROM THE SHOP
XX
L.R. http://ladyrebellady.blogspot.com