Dorsu – Kampot, Cambodia

Dorsu in Kampot, Cambodia.

Another great thing about going to Kampot a few weeks ago, was checking out Dorsu.  A local company that makes some of the most ethical clothing here in Cambodia.  Their name has come up a few times in various conversations so I was glad when the Prayer Circle team was grabbing breakfast next door to Dorsu and they were open!

Founded through a Cambodian-Australian friendship, Dorsu has grown from a two- person concept in 2008 into a thriving company employing over 25 people in 2018.  With a diverse team hailing from Cambodia, Australia, England and Philippines, the skilled and experienced Dorsu crew are proud to offer the unique opportunity of knowing the people who make clothes.

Dorsu believes that fair and safe employment is the responsibility of every company.  They offer all their staff:

  • A 9-hour workday that includes a 1-hour lunch and two 15 minute breaks.
  • Entry-level wages that exceed the Cambodian garment industry’s legal minimum by 30%.
  • Monthly performance-based bonuses.
  • A 5-day work week. (Cambodia typically has a 6-day work week), with an optional 6th day at overtime rates.
  • Accrued annual leave plus paid national holidays.
  • Illness & personal leave, as well as maternity and paternity leave.
  • Annual review of permanent contracts.
  • Required on-the-job safety training and equipment maintenance.
  • All staff are provided with protective shoes and clothing.
  • Each team member is given a bicycle and/or a motorcycle helmet upon employment.  One of the most significant safety issues connected to garment factories in Cambodia is the transportation of worker crowded, open-air trucks on dangerous roads with no enforced traffic laws.
  • Strict fire, equipment & safety policies are upheld in an open plan studio.
  • All management staff are trained and equipped to deal with safety hazards and incidents, staff grievances, gross or serious misconduct.

Dorsu financially supports Chumkriel Language School (CLS), a Cambodian operated organisation that provides education to the local Kampot community. CLS offers English classes, computer workshops, agricultural programs and creative arts activities to students, as well as a public library, additional lessons to support students with Cambodian State School classes and parent inclusion programs to encourage community-wide participation. Dorsu believes in their approach to education and choose to support their efforts in providing inclusive, quality education to the Kampot community.

Cambodia is one of the largest producers of clothing globally, employing over 700,000 workers and accounting for approximately 80% of the country’s total export revenue. Garment workers are subject to harsh and often dangerous working conditions, with long working hours, low pay and unsafe transport to and from factories. Through running a safe, fair and supportive garment production space, Dorsu offers workers an alternative, to learn and grow in an environment that supports them as individuals and as skilled workers.

Dorsu provides skills development and training to all staff members, creating opportunities for growth both within Dorsu and beyond. A significant barrier to skills development in Kampot is the need to be apart from families, forfeiting an income to complete training. Onsite training, support and professional development opportunities help workers to develop their skills while earning an income and being able to support their families. With highly experienced and skilled workers in a community, employment and living standards increase, with education becoming a priority for future generations.

Dorsu’s in house factory.

Through running a local production space Cambodia, Dorsu is contributing significantly to the growing awareness and recognition of the negative impacts the garment industry has on workers, their families and communities. Providing an alternative helps workers to seek better conditions, demanding the protection of their rights and paving the way for large-scale industry change.  With two retail stores and an expanding presence in the Cambodian market, consumers, both local and foreign, can see the positive effects of producing and buying locally made products, that are in full support of workers safety and livelihoods.

My Dorsu tank top.

Produced in-house start to finish, Dorsu versatile designs are carefully crafted in soft, breathable cotton jersey.  They don’t conform to the conventional fast-fashion calendar that’s influenced by temporary trends.  Dorsu uses fabric is remnant cotton jersey sourced from independent suppliers in Phnom Penh.  Remnant fabric (also known as “deadstock” or “surplus”) is unused and unwanted leftover rolls of cloth in its original condition.  As a result of Cambodia’s pervasive garment manufacturing industry and issues that occur along the fashion industry’s incredibly complex supply chain, vast amounts of fabric are deemed unusable by brands on a daily basis. This waste arises due to reasons such as incorrect or oversupply of cloth, last minute changes in production schedules and the ever-increasing need for brands to be immediately responsive and adaptive to fashion trends.  These fabric leftovers are sold on from brands and factories to a local fabric supply industry, who then sell on through the Cambodian supply chain. Dorsu scour the warehouses of preferred suppliers and purchase rolls of fabric per kilogram. When sourcing for collections, they buy up to 100 kilograms of a collection colour (like burgundy) and up to 300 kilograms of a core colour (like black and navy).  Due to the nature of sourcing factory remnants, they can’t guarantee consistency in the fabric blends. Consequently, they burn-test every fabric they buy to ensure it has very little or no synthetic fibres.  Then they pre-wash a sample of every new fabric, testing for color fastness and shrinkage.  They know that using factory remnants has limitations. You can’t trace the true origins of the material. Cambodia doesn’t have cotton mills or weaving facilities so, there are limits by access. As a small brand, Dorsu experiences financial barriers of meeting minimum order quantities of suppliers outside of Cambodia and then importing fabric into the country.

Ever been to Dorsu?  Or Kampot, Cambodia?  What did you think?

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