Megan Bowe, from Fashion to Pho: Faces of Hoi An

To anyone looking from the outside in, Megan’s life prior to March 2015 looked picture perfect. She was climbing the career ladder in the industry of Fashion Recruitment, earning a large income, frequented trendy bars and restaurants and was in a long term relationship. But ultimately, despite being wildly successful, she felt that something was missing.

Megan explains “all the boxes were seemingly ticked and yet I felt really unfulfilled…from a young age, I knew I wouldn’t live a mediocre life…I always had an adventurous spirit and felt others had different value systems in terms of what defines a successful life. I never wanted to head down the path of a ‘corporate suit’ but one morning in early 2014 whilst ‘going through the motions’ on the tram into Melbourne’s CBD, I looked up from my phone at all the ’grey suits’ staring at their phones, looking miserable with headphones in and suddenly realised – oh God! I am one of these people!”…and in that precise moment Megan knew it was “time to shake things up”.

Her decision to quit her job and leave behind all that was secure and familiar may have seemed quite impulsive at the time but in fact Megan said the ‘sowing of the seed’ for a more fulfilling life was probably attributed to her mother’s sudden passing a few years earlier, “it wasn’t that easy to start thinking about doing something more for myself at this time (but) I realised life is too short…I knew that my mum would have supported this decision, we were so close and she would have wanted me to live my most authentic life”. Knowing this made it all the more easy for Megan to follow her heart all the way to Vietnam.

Megan Bowe of Weave the Wild

I personally met Megan during my two month stay in Hoi An and straight away we connected through our similar interests, passion for all things ‘Eastern’ and desire for an adventurous life-less-ordinary. I wanted to write this piece on Megan’s journey and accomplishments because I truly am so inspired, not only by her drive to create a life that is in line with her own heart, but also by the drive and desire she has to help the people of Vietnam create a better and more prosperous life for themselves.

Having been a ‘tourist’ in Vietnam twice before her big move, Megan already knew she could make the ‘home of Pho’ her new home. “Vietnam felt like a place more suited to me with a different pace of daily life and there was something about the Vietnamese people that really appealed [to me]” Megan says the people of Vietnam are “just so happy, generous and happy to help, always with big smiles on their faces” and all whilst living in a state of poverty, where any mother’s bonus income was more likely to be spent on extra milk for her baby rather than anything for herself. It was this reality that inspired Megan to want to ‘give back’ to a community that naturally gave her so much joy. “I really felt I had to help these people who had less than I did” and so in 2017, Megan started her most passion-led project to date: Weave The Wild.

“The best part about what I do, is knowing that I can introduce and share the exquisite craftsmanship and personal stories of these talented ladies to a whole new market,”

Weave The Wild (WTW) is a growing Home Decor enterprise that creates one-of-a-kind, locally designed and made furnishings and accessories. With designs inspired by artisan styles and techniques including Indigo dying and traditional tribal embroidery, each of their unique offerings are an aesthetically beautiful display of ‘East meets West’. Their flagship cushion covers are examples of the unique WTW style; a balanced blend of what you would expect to see in the latest ‘Home’ magazine and the artisan patterns and textures woven through traditional tribal textiles.

Weave the Wild pillow with tassels

In particular WTW uses hand-loomed fabrics made by the Red Dzao and H’mong Women of Ta Phin Village in Northern Vietnam, where despite this region’s popularity with tourists, poverty is still a reality for many of the local people. When Megan first visited the area to source fabrics, it ‘broke her heart’ to see these women offering to cut, unpick and essentially denature an exquisite handmade embroidered jacket that would have taken many weeks and a tremendous amount of talent to create, all in the desperate attempt to make even the smallest sale. “These women still struggle to afford schooling for their children” which as Megan explains is one of the biggest reasons behind her support of their work. Not only is her intention to protect a dying handicraft, but equally to foster a better life for the future generations of these local communities.

“The best part about what I do, is knowing that I can introduce and share the exquisite craftsmanship and personal stories of these talented ladies to a whole new market of people who have never visited Northern Vietnam. When I return to them I get to see first hand how the sales of WTW’s products can positively contribute to their livelihoods and that of their families and the wider community”. Weave The Wild’s intention, in addition to purchasing local and handmade fabrics, is to give back a percentage of sales to the very women whom without, Weave The Wild would not exist. By seeing the smiles on their faces and knowing they no longer have to pull beautiful garments to pieces just to get a sale means the world to Megan and she already feels that she is accomplishing the first goals of what she set out to achieve.

The future looks bright not only for Weave The Wild but also for the women of Ta Phin Village who supply their unique materials. Having started selling the cushion covers at local farmers markets, WTW now has permanent stockists in Hoi An including the March Gallery. Plans to expand the product range and move into the Australian and other Western markets are on the horizon – thinking big and planning for the future growth of the business is the best way Megan can ensure to keep giving back to the women of Vietnam which has given her so much happiness and fulfillment since leaving Australia three years ago.

Weave The Wild products are in my opinion ‘seriously gorgeous’ but don’t just take my word for it. You can check out the range of cushion covers on their Facebook and Instagram.

Weave the Wild pillow

There are thousands of ‘travelpreneurs’ (travelling entrepreneurs seeking a life of freedom, flexibility and authenticity) trotting around the globe right now. Last year I was blessed to meet a number of these inspiring individuals, each with a cool story and strong vision of how they intend to better the world through their work, but at the same time live the life that they design for themselves. It all seems very glamorous but I know from experience that those following their hearts down this path as Megan has, all have their share of questions and times of doubt relating to whether they are doing the right thing. It is a scary concept to step away from the norm, from the expectations of society and often family too, but I assure you when you expand your thinking and give time for your mind to catch up to your heart, nothing becomes easier or less scary than when you step into your most authentic life. For Megan, this meant leaving behind a busy ‘Western’ lifestyle, for others, being authentic may indeed be amidst the ‘rat-race’ of a corporate world, but the message here is to regularly ask yourself if you are happy and fulfilled and if not, have the courage to listen to your deep desires and step out of your comfort zone if that is what it takes to find the place where living becomes a joy and not a chore.

At the end of my interview I asked Megan if she could share some words of wisdom for any readers who may be questioning their place in the world right now, who may be feeling unhappy or unfulfilled; she offered the same advice that she was given years ago – “if ever you are unfulfilled in life, get out of yourself and serve others”. No doubt this is the core value that underpins the creation of ‘Weave The Wild’ as well as the journey ‘from fashion to the land of Pho’ which has lead Megan to live her most authentic and fulfilled life!

Photos by contributor Adam Kemp.