BEYOND THE BRAND: EDWINA WALSH FROM BAMBOO MONKEY

What began as a sock company has now expanded to a multitude of high quality basics as a result of the mastermind Edwina Walsh. A few days back I introduced you to Bamboo Monkey, a company I am well and truly in love with. Their focus is on breaking the cycle of fast fashion by creating high quality peices that don’t compromise on style.

As with all Beyond the Brand interviews my goal is to help bridge the gap between the brand and the people that made it happen. This interview with Edwina is much more than that. She’s gone into depth about why she chose bamboo, where the clothes are made and much, much more. If there’s ever been an interview that i’d recommend reading to help you gain a better understanding of why a company has decided to use the resources they did, this would be it.

Enjoy Changemakers, this one’s a goodie x


WHAT MADE YOU START BAMBOO MONKEY?
To be honest, it started as a side project. A mate of mine nagging me to create some really great quality men’s socks, a product I had zero experience in being from the fast fashion world. But, I approached it from a females perspective, what do I hate about men’s socks.

My sons socks can almost walk on their own – smelly, sweaty feet, and I have a basket of odd socks which drives me insane. So the first challenge was to find a fibre that could possibly minimise sweat and neutralise odour. A lot of socks are made from nylon, and cotton/polyester, which don’t breathe well. So the colours will be bright and fun, but their wearability -not so great.

I discovered Bamboo, which minimises sweat, kills odour and is silky soft and created a range of black socks with colour coded heels for easy pairing. The more I researched Bamboo the more impressed and amazed by it I was. Especially compared to the toxic requirements of growing conventional cotton. It’s use as a fibre is only fairly recent. So I really wanted to pursue this concept.

I launched a crowdfunding project on pozible to research and develop the new brand bamboomonkey. To my surprise, my project was independently selected at the time by an International PR firm for a competition they were running to choose and support 3 pozible projects they felt were creating positive change. I then had to present my project to a room of Industry experts and members of the public who voted for the winners. Amazingly I was selected as a winner, they supported my project with some PR and we were able to raise the funds to research and launch apparel and an expanded range of socks.

WHAT IS SOMETHING OTHERS WOULDN’T KNOW ABOUT USING BAMBOO AS A FABRIC THAT YOU THINK THEY SHOULD?

I am a climate change realist. I believe wholeheartedly we are changing the environment due to our excessive overconsumption, especially in the western world. The number one issue of climate change is the increasing levels of CO2 in the earths atmosphere trapping heat and raising the earths temps. So my focus is on how we can work to absorb and reduce these harmful gases in the atmosphere while we also educate people on consumption and pollution minimisation and a move towards conscious consumerism.
Bamboo as a crop absorbs 5 times the amount of greenhouse gases, and releases 35% more oxygen into the environment than an equivalent stand of trees. However unlike trees it reaches maturity in 2-5 years, versus 10-30 years. Bamboo is a self regenerating grass, so it grows naturally, requiring no chemicals, in beautiful naturally occurring forests. Unlike trees or cotton crops you don’t cut down the whole forest leaving barren tracts of land, and destroying fragile habitats. The root systems of the plants remain intact, as the plant is cut at its base, thus rejuvenating soils left barren from over grazing and the devastation of deforestation.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING THING YOU HAVE UNCOVERED SINCE BEGINNING?
The reality of starting a business is hard, once the romance gives way to reality. So at the end of the day you have to really back yourself, as you will be your harshest critic. You have to really believe in what you are doing because there will be a thousand reasons on a daily basis why you are the craziest person on the planet!
WITHIN THE ETHICAL FASHION COMMUNITY, THERE’S A BIG QUESTION THAT WE ASK WHICH IS ‘WHO MADE MY CLOTHES?’. IN THE SCOPE OF BAMBOO MONKEY, WHO MADE YOUR CLOTHING? CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT THEM?
Due to my professional background in retail buying, my first range was sourced in China. I travelled to China to find a mill to partner with, as I needed to ensure their environmental credentials. To transform bamboo pulp into fibre form requires a similar process to making paper, so you need to ensure the Mill has water treatment facilities to effectively eliminate the chemical residue and recycle the water back through the plant. Thus first range was a mix some made in China, and some in Australia.
China has a well established manufacturing base so it is easy to ensure you are using clean safe modern facilities, that pay decent wages. Australias manufacturing base is very small, with apparel teams often working out of people backyards. I would really love to see Australia reemerge as a thriving industry and am currently brainstorming with some colleagues ways we can get more involved in this. However this journey has also opened my eyes to some amazing social enterprises, closer to my heart , fair trade operations, where women suffering huge disadvantage are being taught new skills and rebuilding their lives and gaining financial independence. Our latest collaboration saw our beautiful Beanies hand knitted in Nepal by women who have escaped the slave industry. We are really proud to have worked with such an amazing group of people.

BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
Be the master of your own destiny. Once you look at life like that it will set you free from doing what you think you have to do.
ONE TIP YOU’D GIVE TO OTHERS WHO ARE WANTING TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
As boring as it is, have a plan. And it can be scribbled on a piece of paper, it doesn’t have to be perfectly presented, you just have to have an idea of where you are heading and how you are going to get there. And research, I spend 80% of my time researching and reading.
WHERE DO YOU ENVISION BAMBOO MONKEY IN THE FUTURE?
The aim of BM is always to provide great quality solutions for everyday items commonly made from cotton, synthetics or plastics. We are not a fast fashion operation, rather wardrobe staples, eg/ a really great track pant, socks that last more than one wash, an Eco Keep Cup, items that reduce consumption, and carbon foot prints.
WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU TO DO WHAT YOU DO ON A DAILY BASIS?
Interestingly it’s my brother. Like all brothers I am a source of great amusement to him, but he has always been a steadfast sounding board, and incredible cheer leader for any crazy idea I have. He is a man of few words, I might call him up with an issue just to vent, he will listen, and few days later I will receive a newspaper article in the post relevant to the issue I was struggling with, or about someone pursuing a great new concept. He has always wanted me to pursue my own brand, and occasionally especially if I was struggling with the stifling nature of corporate environments I would receive postcards in the mail with a single motivational quote – you know…. “fortune favours the brave” kind of thing.
DO YOU HAVE A MORNING ROUTINE? IF SO, WHAT IS IT YOU DO TO SET YOURSELF UP FOR THE DAY AHEAD?
Yoga yoga yoga yoga! And then a quick walk with the dog for my morning Chai from Koch Lane in St Kilda before heading to the office.
ONE BOOK EVERYONE SHOULD READ? WHY?
For business It’s a crazy title – but it’s “think and grow rich” by Napoleon Hill. It’s nothing like the title sounds – it was written in 1937 and still stands as one of the best business books of all time.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER MOVERS & SHAKERS OUT THERE IN YOUR WORLD THAT YOU THINK PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT?
There are so many people doing amazing things at the moment, check out “who gives a crap” for bamboo toilet paper. Check out “the local branch” for a really cool brand, a young US couple who simplified their life, bought an airstream and traversed America while hand printing t-shirts, and making beautiful jewellery and leather products
On a sustainable level, checkout plastics for change.org. This is an amazing mobile platform, giving urban waste pickers access to fair market prices for collecting plastic, and connects to corporations recycling plastic to create a circular economy, and fight to reduce plastic pollution especially in third world countries.

& there we go legends, another Beyond the Brand interview done with an incredible woman who is dedicated to changing the way we view our basics. I don’t know about you but I’ve left reading this interview more inspired than ever to keep searching and keep learning. Just a PS. This is the second time ‘Think and Grow Rich’ has been answered as a book we should all read so if you are struggling to find something to read, i’d suggest that be it.

If you want to invest in your own wardrobe basics with Bamboo Monkey (I mean, I haven’t taken off my sweatpants this whole week, the level of comfort is actually unreal so you’d be silly not to) then you can do so here. Or you can follow them on their socials on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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