Jean-Benoît Lasselin's thoughts after "10 ans d’élégance à Phnom Penh", his first exhibition
Updated: Mar 24
INTERVIEW Final day at the Institut Français du Cambodge for the exhibition 10 ans d'élégance à Phnom Penh. We can hear Jean-Benoît Lasselin in the main rooms describing the meanings and ideas behind each piece his team has produced. Visitors are quiet, as if stunned by the flood of information and stories behind each design. Jean-Benoît Lasselin turns to us, we are going to steal him for a few minutes, "Are you ready ? Because I can talk about fashion for hours" warns the designer with an impish smile.
colorblind is celebrating its 10 years anniversary, what is the meaning of this celebration?
JBL: Can you believe it? 10 years already! Even myself sometimes I don't. 10 years of colorblind mean 10 years of investment, sacrifice, belief and beyond all beauty. If colorblind is celebrating its 10's anniversary it shows that all this work and dedication make sense, Phnom Penh has adopted the brand, elegance has a meaning in the Kingdom. Life style has became very central for a lot of people living here: going to a nice coffee shop, enjoying modern urban spaces, dressing up, discovering trends ... and we are very enthusiastic when consumers are turning to colorblind when it comes to building up a wardrobe.
Why celebrating 10 years with an exhibition?
JBL: Because I wanted fashion to be seen differently. Fashion is mostly felt, I wanted it to be explained this time. Being able to take a moment to select iconic pieces from our collections to showcase them allows us to meet differently our public by explaining the concepts and work behind each piece. It is a real honor. Not many brands get to do that.
It is quite unusual. I also understand you are doing most of the visits yourself. Even more unusual. Why leading the visits?
JBL: The meaning of fashion is unusual! Ahahahah. My team will tell you: I can talk for hours about colorblind's designs. And I have studied Cultural Mediation. So that makes me big talker. If visitors don't stop me, they are stuck here for hours.
colorblind has a lot of meaning for my team and me. Every single piece that we sell is cut, assembled, supervised and fitted for a very unique person. 50% of our job is to guide and advise each individual. I really want the visitors to understand that. So I explain the whole process, how an idea is born, how a trousers is made, how an outfit can change minds.
So what is the story you have been telling the most?
The story of the woman black suit of course! I didn't realized it at the time but this outfit was quite noticed during the Cambodia Fashion Week 2011. It was my founding event. My first show, the first time colorblind went public. I was very focused and not really listening to conversations around me during the fittings, photoshoots and show preparations. But after a few months, Kouy Chandanich who was wearing this outfit on the runway told me it was the first time she was wearing a suit and she felt beautiful in it. I was a bit surprised because for me of course a woman is beautiful in a suit. But she insisted on the fact that this was the first time ever a woman suit is designed and showcased to be fashionable in Phnom Penh. After a few researches, that was true, no suits for woman were ever seen on the runways or photoshoots in the Kingdom.
And how do the public reacts to this story?
So this black suit is part of the exhibition, so I tell this story in front of it. Most of visitors are really paying attention and asking a lot of questions about this suit. They understand the meaning of a design and the story behind it and they want to know more. So I keep talking. Telling the story is very important to me.
One last question before we let you head back to your last visitors, you mentioned earlier that life style has became very central for a lot of people. Why?
The Kingdom of Cambodia has witnessed strong social developments for the past 20 years. Especially in Phnom Penh. Beyond the simple fact of owning or consuming things, the public is asking for knowledge, the stories behind the product, the proper ways of enjoying what we buy. Being able to buy it is not good enough anymore. We want to meet the designer, the engineer, the people who are creating. And this is exactly what it means to embrace a lifestyle, it means you understand and approve how things are made and enjoyed.