Kravan House was founded by Hok Thanan (in Cambodia surnames are written first) in 2003. As a young woman with a disability from birth she found it extremely frustrating to be discriminated against. She decided she wanted to make a difference for herself and other disabled people in Cambodia. She is deeply compassionate and very warm.
The many years of hardship and war (from 1970-1993) left the country’s economy and infrastructure in ruins and with a high proportion of disabled citizens due to landmines, polio epidemics, malnutrition and lack of health services. Thanan was born in 1979, the year the Khmer Rouge regime ended and her story is one of extraordinary resilience and strength of character.
Thanan was the first Cambodian person to establish an independent social enterprise for disabled artisans and she did it without any sponsorship or assistance from an international NGO (non-government organisation). It was a radical step at the time and is still unusual. She opened the shop in Riverside and it has been welcoming tourists, expatriates, textile aficionados, academics, international buyers and retailers for years. It is central and easy to find.
Thanan has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Cambodian traditional and contemporary textile crafts, a strong sense of color and a flair for design. She can spot a fake at 100 metres – and there are plenty on the market. Many handicrafts being promoted as Cambodian are not natural fibres or are imported. She has represented Kravan House and Cambodian artisans with grace and integrity around the world at Trade Fairs and events in New York, Chicago, Germany, Switzerland, France, Australia, Singapore and Vietnam.