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Meet Malyneath Vong of Global Fashion Mission in Long Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Malyneath Vong.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
All my life, I believed in working hard and giving back. And while I worked hard in the corporate world and found some measure of success, I found the work ultimately unfulfilling. My work was having a minimal impact on making the world a better place, and thought of devoting my life to it was disheartening. Although I participated in charity work when I could, I always felt like I could do more.

In 2012, while on a trip to Cambodia, I happened to come across some handbags handmade by the locals from discarded industrial cement bags and was struck with how different and beautiful they were. Unlike the industrial bags found in the US, these bags had elaborate graphics and colors. It was a brilliant use of upcycling, which would not only give these materials a new life, but also keep them out of landfills where they would simply lay there for up to a century, since they were made from woven industrial plastics.

It wasn’t until I started reading about the complexities of the human trafficking problems in Cambodia, that I had an epiphany about how I could make a difference. Cambodians are known for being renowned seamstresses. However, many of the women in Cambodia live in rural villages, far from the factories where they could find work. Compounding the problem was that even those who could find work had to leave their families behind for prolonged periods of time, leaving their children to fend for themselves and vulnerable to traffickers.

In 2016, after doing some research, I flew back to Cambodia and worked with the individuals who made the original handbag that caught my attention all those years back. Together we worked on redesigning the handbag and expanding the product line to appeal to an international audience. By expanding their market, we were also able to discuss bringing on additional workers without resorting to a factory model and forcing women to move away from their families. We would have the women come to a central distribution facility where they would be trained on how each of our products were made. Then these women would be given enough materials so that they could make these bags from home. This would ensure that these women could work, while still being able to look after their children and homes.

Has it been a smooth road?
It hasn’t been an easy road. In addition to all the hard work it takes to start a new business while keeping yourself alive, you have to consider all the international logistics it takes to work with companies overseas. It truly becomes a 24 hour/7 day work week. Not only does communication become non-stop, but there are always miscommunications due to language and cultural differences. Shipping itself becomes another hurdle since there are now international logistics, freight, and customs agencies on both ends of the distribution line to track and monitor. By adding an international component, I basically haven’t had a consistent sleeping schedule since the business started.

Pricing is always a struggle as well. Ensuring that our pricing model could cover materials, manufacturing costs, and wages ensuring that we can pay a fair living wage to our workers wasn’t enough. I am fervently dedicated to combatting human trafficking on all fronts. This passion has also lead me to be involved with local and international organizations as well including the Long Beach Human Trafficking Task Force, Fair Trade Long Beach, Project Missionary Position, The River of Life Church in Cambodia and Women for Women Foundation. Our pricing models also ensure that we can contribute to these organizations as well.

Please tell us about Global Fashion Mission.
In the last three years, not only have we been able to employ over 80 women on a consistent basis, but we’ve also been able to expand and collaborate with other neglected groups, such as the handicapped and physically disabled. Our sales volume has also been growing organically allowing us to divert over 5000 lbs. of industrial plastics from landfills.

Additionally, we’ve also been able to locate and work with local artisans and bring their work to a larger international audience as well. Recently, we’ve been working with a local artist in Cambodia who specializes in turning bullet and bomb casings into beautiful jewelry, which we are promoting with our “Bombs to Bracelets” product line.

Having this kind of direct impact on the world and being able to meet the people whose lives are being changed for the better is so much more satisfying than working as part of a corporate office could ever be.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I especially love working in Los Angeles. The level of cultural diversity and social consciousness that is found here cannot be matched anywhere else. People here really share in my passion in wanting to bring about change in the world.

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

2 Comments

  1. Kate Clark

    July 22, 2019 at 19:46

    Terrific article! I love what Malyneath is doing and it is so empowering to hear her story.

  2. Darlene

    July 26, 2019 at 02:05

    Love love your mission to minister to the Cambodian women…God Bless your humanitarian efforts… you are pretty amazing!

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