The story of two women who walked the 3500km in the name of ethical fashion
Meet Megan and Gab. They’re two pretty cool chicks from Melbourne. Want to know why they are so cool? Because they’re walking for a cause—3,500 kilometres to be exact. Want to know what they are walking for? Fashion.
Megan and Gab have set out to uncover positive fashion stories in and around South East Asia. They’re not uncovering them using your usual modes of transportation though; these two have decided to walk the whole way. Some would call this crazy, but we call it a courageous showcase of dedication and passion.
Their blog, Walk Sew Good, covers beautiful fashion stories of the people they’ve met along their journey, and below you’ll learn more about what they’ve uncovered so far.
What made you start Walk Sew Good?
M: I read an article in Dumbo Feather about a man called Satish Kumar. He had walked across the world to promote peace and nuclear disarmament in the 1960s. Reading about what he had done lit a fire in my belly. I like walking and thought maybe I could do something similar for a cause I cared about, sustainability in fashion. I told my Dad and he said it was the worst idea he’d ever heard. That’s when I knew I had to do it.
G: Megan. She came to me with this crazy idea and I just knew I had to say yes. Fighting for positive change in the world is so important, and if we can help support people who are doing that, then why not?
What made you both decide to pack up life in Australia and walk through South East Asia?
M: Make no mistake, I loved my life before I left. I really enjoyed the work I was doing. It was really hard to leave it all behind and go hiking for a year. Especially as I’d only ever done one overnight hike ever! But I really believe in what we’re doing. There are so many people out there doing beautiful, clever and impactful work and too often their stories are overlooked. These people should be celebrated and supported and that’s what motivates me to keep going. I’m learning so much and it was definitely the right decision. This trip has given me a new appreciation for the incredible skills behind the clothing.
G: If you spend your life making easy choices then it’s not really much of a life. Both of us are privileged, we can afford to travel (and have the freedom too), we can network within the western world easily and we are well-educated. If you’re not sharing your privilege with others, you’re basically saying you agree with the status quo. Not many people have that leg up, we are in a place whereby we can promote the voices of people who aren’t so easily heard. This is by no means a “white saviour” pilgrimage, it’s a chance for us to connect with our Asian neighbours and to make their stories relatable to people in the west who may be disconnected from it all. We’re literally just a channel people can tune into, we aren’t the innovators, the people we are showcasing are. Too many people are inwardly focused, I think by broadening the scope to South East Asia (where Australia has a large majority of clothing made), we remind people of the global world we live in. Looking beyond nationalistic borders is key to fighting xenophobia and inequity.
Why did you choose to walk?
M: Well I can’t drive and I’m not very solid on a bicycle but we also thought it was a good way to get people to pay attention to our message and the stories we’re sharing.
I can’t recommend walking enough. We have had such an enriching experience. You have the opportunity to connect more with the people you meet and you learn such a great deal about a country from walking through the places most buses drive straight past.
G: All Megan’s idea, haha, as I love to remind her when we’re both in pain, over exhausted, with blister covered feet and little food. She often says “Whose idea was this again?” and I’m like “Well not mine. Some idiot asked me to join her, and I’m a bigger idiot for saying yes.” But in all honesty it has been a wonderful adventure. I love walking and I love being outdoors, I wish more people would do it. It really forces us to connect with the world around us, we find ourselves appreciating the smallest little things. We listen to crickets, we watch small spiders spinning their webs, we watch the sun and clouds for heat and shade. It is amazing how far removed the modern world is from nature. Maybe if people got out and walked a bit more we’d be more motivated to save the planet or at least more freaked out by how much we’ve stuffed it up!
How did you first come across conscious consumerism?
M: I was a shopaholic in a major way but had always been concerned about people and the environment. I just had never connected the dots. After I started my own online (now defunct) vintage boutique I had the opportunity to connect with people in the sustainable fashion industry and things started to fall into place. Around that time I also took a sustainability class at university (which is where I met Gab!) and this really helped solidify for me that the fashion industry in its current iteration is a pretty ugly monster and there has to be another, better way.
G: My mum and dad are not huge consumers. My mum is very anti-shopping and my dad is a huge believer in a pair of jeans lasting you 20 years. “They don’t make ‘em like they used too!” He grumbles all the time, classic dad. There was huge sweatshop scandals in the 90s and I was horrified that children my own age were making shoes and clothes, and more recently the Rana plaza collapse really made my ethical fashion choices solidify. Megan has shared so much knowledge with me, ethical fashion doesn’t just have to be buying second hand, there are so many different options out there.
What has been the most challenging part since you began travelling through South East Asia?
M: Gab’s face. Jokes.
Some days are harder than others. While Laos I think was the most beautiful country we’ve walked through it certainly has had its challenges. There were a few days there where we were living off one meal a day of rice and egg with a couple of snacks. The mountains were quite high and the roads were sometimes in a pretty bad state of disrepair. Staying in villages can be tricky because at the end of the day all you want to do is sleep but sometimes the villagers have other ideas. Curious people have come to talk to us after we’ve fallen asleep and have shone lights in our tent to wake us up on more than one occasion. I’m not a very nice person when someone wakes me up.
G: That’s funny! Megan’s least favourite was probably my favourite days, that’s not to say it wasn’t challenging, it definitely was! We are so different it’s crazy. The hardest for me was probably walking next to highways in Thailand, I’m terrified of traffic, the pollution was depressing and I just wanted to hide away.
What or who inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
M: I worked with a group of children before I left that were hell bent on changing the world for the better. They are the best example of human beings. I’m inspired to keep going by their energy and passion and the idea that maybe this will give them the courage to try and do something brave for a cause they care about in the future.
I’ve also named my backpack Jane, after the incredible Jane Goodall. I listened to her speak in Melbourne a few years back and she has been my hero ever since.
Oh and of course all the people we meet along the way doing amazing work to create beautiful products in positive ways. Every time we do an interview we come away reinvigorated to keep on keeping on.
G: All the women (and men, and non-binary folk) in the world who wake up every day to work in appalling conditions to make clothes and all the animals drinking from polluted rivers, this is for you and I’m sorry it’s ever come to this. Every day we walk is for you. You inspire us with your resilience, we really believe we can change things for the better.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
M: The best piece of advice I’ve received during this trip has been when a dog comes for you, crouch down and pretend to pick up a rock. I never throw my imaginary rock. But it makes the dog go away and ensures I don’t die of rabies.In life, my Nana always says only boring people get bored. I’ve kind of run with that.
G: Don’t get bitten by a dog and die of rabies. I did and now I’m getting like five million vaccinations and it sucks. Rural hospitals in Vietnam look like 1920s insane asylums, it’s terrifying.
Do you have a morning routine? If so, what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
M: On a normal walking day, I wake up about 10-20 minutes before Gab at 5:21am because I’m slow at getting organised. I check my phone, pack my bag, get the water sorted if we got lazy and didn’t do it the night before and then we set off walking at about 6am. Sounds pretty boring. I should have made something up like I do the Macarena whilst standing on my head and brushing my teeth. That would have been more interesting.
G: Sleep as long as possible. Dream of coffee. Remind myself there is no coffee. Get sad about coffee. Walk it off….for 8 hours.
How do you define success?
M: It’s different for everybody. At least it should be different for everybody. That word “success” is so wrapped up in what society tells you you should be doing. We’re all so concerned with the money and the house buying and the box ticking. I’m not into listening to the shoulds. For me, I think if you’re doing things that fulfil you, no matter what those things are, and you have splendid people in your life to support you then you’re in pretty good shape.
G: Success is…not pooping your pants. Let’s just say I’m not always successful. And you know what? It’s okay to fail.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to others starting out?
M: Research the heck out of what you want to do. Read books, talk to people, email people, arrange time to chat, watch documentaries, watch Youtube videos, just learn as much as you can about a subject. Listen. Be critical, don’t believe everything you read or hear. And keep learning. Always. The more informed your opinion is, the bigger the impact you can have.
G: There’s always going to be someone telling you that you can’t do it. Ignore them and do it anyway.
One book everyone should read? Why?
I know you said one. Sorry. Three is almost one. It’s not 16.
G: ‘The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared’ by Jonas Jonasson.
An utterly joyous read.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think we should all know about?
M: I don’t even know where to start. There are so many people out there doing amazing work. All of the people we’ve met along the walk are moving and shaking their little butts off. We’ve had so much support from clever ethical fashion type people like Sam from Ecomono, Katie from Sustainability In Style and Jen from Eco Warrior Princess. Then there’s the fabulous folks at Project JUST. That’s really the tip of the iceberg. I would need days to write up all the movers and shakers. Isn’t that an amazing and wonderful thing?!?