AFESIP Fair Fashion (AFF) started in 2003, as a pilot project of the non-governmental organization, AFESIP Cambodia. AFESIP (a French acronym meaning “Acting for Women in Distressing Situations”) works to rescue, rehabilitate, and reintegrate victims of trafficking, forced prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation; additionally, it also tackles the factors that contribute to the issue of trafficking through prevention and social outreach and awareness programs. In that first year, the AFF program had only 5 residents of AFESIP Vocational Training Center working in a workshop in the rural province of Kompong Cham making simple cotton shirts and skirts for local sales.
With the objective of becoming a self-sustaining business without need of donor funding, AFF registered as a social enterprise in May 2005, and became an independent and separate entity from AFESIP. We initially focused on both the local and international markets but soon realized that we could not offer competitive prices in the regular local market. We shifted our market focus and strategy, concentrating more on the international market while also promoting AFF as a boutique retailer in the local market. We improved our designs, switching from regular cotton to higher valued silk fabrics, and directed our product line to mainly women’s apparel and accessories. Since then, we have continued to strengthen our foundations, improve our products, and build on our relationships with business clients, as well as increase our collaboration with grassroots organizations in Cambodia to further advance our social objective.
Currently, AFF operates garment workshops in two distinct locations in Cambodia, the first is located in the rural village of Tloc Chreau in Kompong Cham province and the second workshop, opened since 2004, is in Phnom Penh city, Cambodia’s metropolitan capital. Having a workshop in these two different locations gives the women a choice between working in a rural or urban setting. Since most women working at AFF came from a rural background, many in the past have chosen to work in the Kompong Cham workshop because of their familiarity and comfort in this environment. .