Photography by Rita McNeill, interview by Ellen Tirant with Megan O'Malley
Our Everyday Advocates Series is dedicated to showcasing legends that both inspire us and help us to meet our potential. Working directly with businesses and individuals committed to creating a positive impact is important to us at Dorsu - allowing us to bring you along on our journey to drastically alter the nature of the fashion industry. Our Journal is a space to talk about how everyday people and businesses can, and are, doing great things by challenging the status quo.
In 2016, Megan O’Malley and Gab Murphy set out to WALK through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Northern Laos to learn about ethical, sustainable and local clothing production. Knowing that the majority of media coming out of the region featured the destructive social and environmental impact caused by the garment industry, they formed Walk Sew Good, a platform to share videos about the more positive, passionate and effective businesses and projects.
Walk Sew Good stopped by Kampot in late 2016 to learn more about what we do and why we do it. Watch the interview with the founders of Dorsu, Hanna and Kunthear, here.
Recently, almost two years later, we caught up with Megan to hear about her experience walking through South East Asia and what's she's up to now.
Since we caught up with Gab post-walk last December, what has Walk Sew Good been up to? What have you been up to with Walk Sew Good this year?
I’ve been busy editing videos and believe at this point I will still be editing said videos 50 years from now when I’m in a nursing home and my knees have given in from too much walking. We underestimated how long the editing process would take but I’m slowly making my way through the footage.
We’re really fortunate to have been given the opportunity to participate in a number of events this year. Honestly, speaking in front of a crowd is one of my least favourite things to do, I’m much more comfortable sitting at my desk and typing out an article. I recognise the importance of getting the Walk Sew Good story out there though so I’m working through it and it feels better every time.
At all of the events we’ve been a part of, the audiences have been really receptive and the conversations have been amazing. It just proves that people are hungry for a change. It was incredible to meet Clare Press. I had listened to her podcasts and read her book while we were walking. I remember having to pause one episode of Wardrobe Crisis when a man selling cooked toads on a stick by the roadside wanted to take a photo with me. So it was pretty unreal to be sitting on stage with Clare at WOMADelaide being interviewed for the very same podcast. We were really worried no one would show up and the only people in the audience would be Gab’s parents but it was a full house. Clare guided us through the questions like a pro and I didn’t feel like hiding under a table and crying afterwards so that was a win. We’ve had lots of people discover Walk Sew Good thanks to that interview so I’m really grateful to Clare for that.
How have audiences, old and new, been responding to your journey and abundance of stories?
Every time I post a new video I am always surprised by the positive reaction and engagement. It’s really wonderful! We’ve also had a number of opportunities to share our videos with new audiences. The interview with Dorsu founders, Hanna and Kunthear has been a crowd favourite. People always make beautiful noises when Hanna turns to Kunthear and tells her she’s her best friend. That’s lovely and helps remind me why I’m making these videos.
From your perspective, what impact do you believe Walk Sew Good has had within the industry for both fellow players and consumers?
It’s really hard to know with any certainty what impact Walk Sew Good has had. It’s a difficult thing to measure. I could talk about how many views, followers or likes we’ve had but they’re just vanity metrics and I don’t think they really speak to the impact of the project. What we’ve seen, and I hope will continue to see, is that our videos have taken on a life of their own. They’ve been used in lectures and classrooms, by the brands and makers themselves, people have tagged their friends in them and others have reached out to learn more. Walk Sew Good has created connections and conversations through these stories and that’s something that I am really proud of.
Our goal was never anything as ambitious as revolutionising the fashion industry, I don’t believe that can be done by a single person or organisation. I like to think we are one very small part of a much bigger movement that is working for change in the fashion industry. We wanted to plant seeds of hope with the stories we tell and help demonstrate that there is a better way to make fashion.
Being based in Melbourne now and a part of the local ethical fashion scene, where do you believe the industry is at and what do you think we can expect to see in the future?
I’ve noticed huge growth in the ethical fashion movement since I first became a part of it about five or six years ago and it shows no sign of slowing down. There are events all the time and the number of local brands prioritising sustainability has just exploded. Change is happening and I continue to be excited by the innovation that is going on in my very own backyard. What I am desperately hoping for though is more considered collaboration. There are so many people doing their own thing here in Melbourne and I believe we need to start working together a little bit more.
In terms of the mainstream fashion industry in Melbourne and Australia, change has been a bit slower but it is happening. A few years ago, none of the bigger brands were talking about sustainability but we’re beginning to see many more of these companies start to open up and take responsibility for their supply chains. Consumers are demanding more transparency so they have to start addressing it.
What’s next for you, Megan, in your journey as an Everyday Advocate?
I’m in the process of writing a book about our walk. We chose to share the stories of the people we met through short videos because we believed that was the best way to get people to pay attention. However, I found that there was so much more interesting content that didn’t fit into a 3 minute video. I am really grateful to all the people that took the time to speak with us and I want to share what I learnt over the ten and a half months we were in Southeast Asia in more detail. We interviewed over fifty different brands, suppliers and organisations so I have a whole lot of research ready to distil into a book that I think will challenge the way people engage with fashion. I’m in the process of trying to find a publisher or a literary agent at the moment which is equal parts terrifying and exciting. I keep telling myself that lots of books exist in the world so it is not a crazy pipe dream! I’m not sure I’ve convinced myself yet. Oh and did I mention I’ll be editing videos from the walk for the rest of my life?
Huge thanks to Megan for being an inspiration, an everyday advocate, a pioneer and an absolute dream to know.
Want to be a part of the Walk Sew Good Journey?
Follow them on Instagram @walksewgood, Facebook, Twitter or Youtube. If you’re up for more of a chat, feel free to get in touch via direct message or email, all details can be found at www.walksewgood.com