Walk Sew Good, aka Megan O’Malley and Gab Murphy, are a passionate young duo who are currently travelling Asia by foot, in search of positive fashion stories. We had a chat to them before they left and got the full lowdown on their plans for the journey.
How did the idea of Walk Sew Good come about?
M: I read about Satish Kumar, a man that had walked across the world in the 1960s to promote peace and nuclear disarmament... I was so inspired by his journey and thought maybe I could do something similar for an issue I cared about - sustainability in the fashion industry. I quickly realised that I needed someone else to come along and help me with the hiking and the survival thing... Up until last week I had only done one overnight hike! Luckily my good friend Gab agreed to come with me.
We originally wanted to share the good and the bad stories coming out of the fashion industry in Southeast Asia. We quickly realised that not only would seeking out some of the negative stories be dangerous for us, it could also have unintended consequences on the people we’d be speaking to. Thinking about it, we also came to the conclusion that there’s already so much out there on the negative impacts of fashion. With Walk Sew Good we wanted to share great ethical alternatives that would empower people to support a more sustainable fashion industry.
G: Also I like puns.
Why did you choose South-East Asia?
G: They are one of the biggest powerhouses for clothing production in the world, and Southeast Asia is the closest sub-continental neighbour to Australia. A lot of our goods come from there. We think it’s important that the region is not overlooked, particularly as there is not an abundance of legislation relating to human and environmental rights. We want to ensure people have a voice.
You can read more here.
Why is it important to you both to document the positive changes in the fashion industry?
M: Everyday there are negative stories coming from the fashion industry. It can get really disheartening and overwhelming. People don’t go out there and deliberately buy from brands that exploit people and the environment - they just don’t know about the alternatives! We really want to empower anyone following our trip to engage with the good stories. There are so many people out there trying to do the right thing in creative and diverse ways and it’s important that we support them.
G: I kind of got sick of the answer “oh it’s all just too hard” or “it’s not our problem, it’s so and so’s”. I feel like Walk Sew Good can prove that sustainable fashion can work; it can be done, it’s not impossible. I also want to help my own friends change their shopping habits. It’s easy to make bad decisions when you’re removed from the situation of exploitation, but when positive alternatives are right in your face and popping up in your newsfeed everyday it can be a constant reminder to choose right.
And how are you hoping this project will impact the average consumer?
M: We want people to realise that there is a story behind everything they buy. That story can be hidden and opaque or it can be transparent and beautiful. We hope that people increasingly choose the transparent beautiful story.
G: We hope that people will think twice about what they buy, we hope that people will buy less stuff, but better quality. It’s all about the impact you have on the world, we hope people will ask themselves things like “Do I need this?” “How often will I wear it?” “Where does it come from and how was it made?”.
How did you go about getting industry attention and funding for Walk Sew Good?
G: We are still trying!!! If we knew the answer to this, we’d be laughing. Megan has been amazing though, she’s been networking like a menace. I mostly like going to events for the free food and wine.
Tell us a little bit about your crowdfunding campaign…
M: Crowdfunding is hard! Really hard! But the most amazing thing that came out of our campaign was the incredible support from family, friends and even strangers that were willing to help us make this happen.
G: It was very humbling to get such support from friends and family and strangers. Now we feel even more responsible, like we owe it to everyone that chipped in. If you do decide to crowdfund, be prepared to put in the work - it’s a huge effort. You constantly have to market yourself and spread the word, whilst engaging a following who will continue to support you once the target is met.
You guys got Patagonia on board – awesome! How did they respond to your initial contact?
M: We ran quite a full-on campaign on Facebook and got our followers to share, tag and harass Patagonia. We made a very dorky video asking them to help us out. In the end it was a quick Instagram post that got their attention! They were really, really lovely and supportive of what we were doing. We couldn’t quite believe it!
Have you received support from any other sustainable and ethical fashion pioneers?
M: The Australian sustainable fashion blogging community has been incredibly supportive. The likes of Katie Roberts from Sustainability In Style, Jen Nini from Eco Warrior Princess, Kendall Benton-Collins from Kindness By Design, Samantha Leigh from Ecomono and Lisa Heinze have all been generous enough to write about our trip. They are gold! Project JUST has been behind us all the way too which has been just lovely.
G: We also receive a lot of positive feedback from designers, artisans and founders who have been in the sustainable fashion industry for years. They are keen to promote ethical fashion as much as we are and have been very accommodating in allowing us to film and interview them.
4000km - that’s a trek and a half! How have you both prepared (physically and emotionally) for the journey?
M: I did a lot of hiking around my area in Melbourne. I would walk 7 or 8kms to the chocolate shop and then walk back. I would walk 7 or 8kms to the French bakery and then walk back. I weighed down my backpack with lots of textbooks. It was quite a sight! I also consulted a physio and got some exercises to strengthen my body.
G: I actually wish I’d physically prepared more, it takes me a lot to get motivated to train. I like swimming though and I ride my bike everywhere. In terms of mental health, I think this is where I am strongest, I go to this weird place where I just block out everything. Or else I think about the food I get to eat at the end of a hike haha. I actually put on a fair amount of weight for the trek, as I lost a bunch when I was travelling last year and I got too weak to hike, I don’t want that to happen again.
What are some challenges you think you might face? How will you overcome them?
M: I guess one of the big challenges will be dealing with problems as they arise. I’m pretty nervous about having access to water. I am terrified of large mammals. The language barrier is going to be a problem. The list goes on! But challenges help you learn about yourself and grow so I’m looking forward to facing a few.
G: There are plenty of challenges that come with just travelling for a year; sickness, language barriers, relationship breakdowns, homesickness….then you add hiking to that and the list just gets worse; aggressive dogs, elephants, injury and dehydration. I actually think our biggest challenge will be ensuring we continue to work together as a team. A whole year in each other’s pockets puts a lot of strain on a friendship. Megan and I are actually complete opposites in many ways, but we work really well together. We just need to recognise when we need to compromise and support one another, because a lot of the time we’ll literally only have each other.
What is your dream outcome from Walk Sew Good?
M: It would be enough just to complete the walk with all our bodily functions intact. But ideally it would be fantastic if we could inspire people to start talking about the fashion industry and demanding change. People have so much power, I’d love to see them use it for good!
G: That the entire fashion supply chain is revolutionised to recycle as much material as possible, to produce minimum waste and to take utmost care of the workers on every level. Basically a dream world Utopia where people actually give a crap and everyone gets along and lives in harmony whilst looking chic and trendy in their boss-arse ethical clothes. Isn’t that the dream for everyone?
What are you hoping to do with the stories and insights you gain at the close of your journey?
M: That is a long way off at this stage... At least it feels like a long way off! We’d love to keep sharing the stories and reach as many people as possible. And I guess after our trip has finished we can do it sans cargo pants...
G: Dude, I’m just trying to get through tomorrow... But we’d love to share our experience with the world!
Well, we sure can’t wait to hear all about it! Thanks for answering our questions girls - and good luck!
Follow these inspirational ladies on their journey across Asia:
Facebook: Walk Sew Good