Meet The Makers: Ka-Lai from Manava

Manava Meet The Makers

Name: Ka-Lai Chan
Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in Cambodia: I am originally from The Netherlands with Chinese roots. I am living in Cambodia for 4 years now.
Tell us about your favourite place in Siem Reap: I have so many, but currently I really enjoy the riverside from Jaya House until road 60. I love to have my walks there around sunset time. So many trees and it’s beautifully green!
When did you launch Manava: December 2016 together with co-founder Baraing Tho.
What’s the story or inspiration behind your brand: While I was volunteering in Siem Reap, I did a lot of research on different local traditional crafts and spent time with families in the countryside. This was such an enriching experience; they were always happy and smiling. But behind the smiles, I could see they were struggling with many challenges, the most obvious of which was their income level. Yet they have such incredible weaving craft skills. With my entrepreneurial and design background, I saw possibilities to help them and share this beautiful craft. I then met Baraing Tho, a local creative young man with the same vision and together we decided to start MANAVA.
Where does the name Manava come from: MANAVA means “human being” in Sanskrit. MANAVA believes in love, people and culture being at the heart of all our designs and products.
Out of all your products, which one is your favourite and why: Can I choose two? 1) I looove our COSMOS bangle set, they are designed in collaboration with Rebekka Evers. I love them, because of the intriguing organic shapes. It makes you look at them and trying to understand the shape. They are inspired from elements of the Cosmos. Each bangle is a piece of art on itself.

2) VANNA is my favorite bag, because it’s simple, aesthetic and you can carry it around you as a fanny bag! I’m quite active, therefor this bag suits my daily life very well.

What’s the plan for the next year for Manava: We will be launching a new home collection, with storage baskets, planters, bowls and so on. SS21 will be released with earrings, bags and hopefully a hat. Opening a shop in Siem Reap, but let’s see how the situation is with this pandemic. Furthermore, we are planning to join the fair Maison et Objet in Paris September 2021!

Name one thing you cannot find in Cambodia and that you miss: My mom’s food <3

If you could have any product from the SATU collection (other than your own), what would it be: The Stretch lids and Saarti Body Oil

What was the last gift you gave someone: A Loofah sponge and natural soap

After answering these questions, you walk outside and find $1,000 on your doorstep. What would you spend it on: I would love to spend this on a trip out with our artisan weavers team, anywhere they would like to go. On life skills training for our team provided by Women’s Recourse Center. And treat myself on some products from Shop Satu.

Some of our favourite lifestyle products from Manava

Manava was founded in 2016 and is a social enterprise created to support rural Cambodian artisanal women for a stable and sustainable future. The founder is Ka-Lai Chan, a Dutch designer with Asian roots who has worked for 10+ years with renowned international design brands. Co-founder Baraing Tho is a local Khmer man who has an impressive background working with several creative NGO’s within Cambodia. Together Ka-Lai and Baraing are currently working closely with 24 female artisans, all of whom are living in Krobey Riel village located just 10 km outside of Siem Reap. Translated from Sanskrit, Manava means humankind. Manava believes in love, people and culture being at the heart of all their designs. They support female artisans by creating exclusive, artisanal rattan products that strengthen the international reputation of Cambodia's creative industries. Manava provides their artisans with a sustainable income, empowers their creativity and offers them a safe working environment, where their views and opinions matter. 

Shop the Manava Collection here.

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