By Sophin Zoe Pruong-McCreery
Santa Ana, CA — Those who have not met Manny Sok before would not think to look twice when passing him on the street. He has an unassuming nature, a humility of stature, and a quiet quality to his gait. When he speaks, his personable nature shines through, by way of his sparkling smile and earnest eyes. To listen to his story of resilience and persistence is to be inspired to share it.
Sok is the founder and owner of Angkor Clothing, a company his brothers and friends started from the garage of their modest home in Orange County, California. Angkor Clothing has a line of everyday casual wear and modern urban attire. His unique designs are emblazoned on T-shirts, mini-Ts, hats, bags, and bracelets. The style of his work is bold and unapologetic.
The story behind the name, Angkor, is derived from Sok’s heritage as a member of the so-called 1.5 generation of refugees from Cambodia and the ancient empire they are descendants of. In the early 1980s, his family escaped the war-torn country and resettled at a refugee camp on the border of Thailand. He remembers hearing stories from his mother about the conditions the family and others had to endure before immigrating to the United States.
“We were always hungry. There was little food. We had to build our own house out of what was available… dead branches and palm leaves,” said Sok. “Our kitchen was the jungle. To survive, the family ate bugs and wildlife. It was a struggle and we lived in fear.”
During the 1990s, Sok lived on South Minnie Street, a crime-ridden neighborhood of southeast Santa Ana. Many of his friends did not fare as well as he did. Some of his peers were involved in gangs or drugs, or dropped out of school. He recalls how difficult it was to live in such a violent environment.
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