When Louise Loubatieres (first picture) was growing up in London, she would pack her tiny suitcase to accompany her Vietnamese mother – Bich Tyler, the founder of homewares brand Nom – on work trips to Vietnam. Here Tyler sourced beautiful ceramics and lacquerware for her Walton Street boutique. Loubatieres went on to get a BA in textiles from the Chelsea College of Art and an MA in men’s fashion from the Royal College of Art, followed by a job at Lyle & Scott (while her brother took over the Nom business and moved the shop to Columbia Road in Hackney). So it’s not surprising that Loubatieres has found her path as a designer-retailer. What’s a bit less expected is that she’s chosen not Walton Street, nor Hackney, nor anywhere else in London to set up shop, but a sleepy lane 9,800km away in Cambodia’s Siem Reap.
Her eponymous boutique, which opened on charming Hup Guan Street in 2013, is one of a handful of addresses that has helped put this town, often thought of exclusively as the gateway to the Angkor temple complex, on the map in its own right. The tiny store overflows with a vibrant mix of things to adorn body and home – many of them designed by Loubatieres herself. There are enticingly abundant displays of elegant lacquerware, from the tiny coconut-shell bowls (from $10, second picture) that are her signature, to a low-slung coffee table (from about $1,150) finished in a particular eggshell veneer – “a nod to the art deco era that I love,” she says.
Her textile designs also find their way into the medley as throws, pillows and scarves; Loubatieres is especially pleased with a knockout blue and white shibori pattern (from $30 for cushions) and the plain silk throw pillows (from $30) trimmed with antique Cambodian ikats and embroidered French remnants. An abstract flower pattern from a previous season has been recast in earthy colour combinations – from all-natural dyes, in saffron and cream, indigo and caffè-latte brown – and printed onto long, whisper-weight silk scarves ($35, second picture). And new this month is her monochrome collection of ceramic vases (from $20, second picture) in bold geometric shapes recalling 1920s and 1930s Czech cubism.
Jewellery, meanwhile, tends towards large statement pieces in natural materials. Sets of horn cuffs and bangles (from $15 each) are generously proportioned – all the better for appreciating the marbled tones of silver, grey, brown and black. Long chains of tricolour silk beads (from $10), their subtle gradation of shades achieved by careful hand-dying, can be doubled or even tripled round the neck.
How does it feel to make a style statement so far from home? “Siem Reap is growing bigger and more interesting by the minute. My clients really are from all walks of life: some are staying at Amansara; others are on a different budget. What I’ve noticed is that so many keep coming back to Cambodia – and those on their first visit leave talking about the next one.”