The making of MANA - Interview with Beau Walker

Starting a clothing label and community around a brand doesn’t just happen

When we started bringing MANA to life back in March, 2017 our small team was optimistic, full of ideas and a wee bit scared. It was happening. 

Personally, I was passionate about creating more than a brand. I was going to create my positive contribution to the world and I was lock-jawed on to making this (one of many business and project concepts over the years) idea become a tangible reality.

Fast forward 18 months to now and it’s looking good. Already we’ve seen some products hit the digital shelves and have seen a little community start to form naturally around the ethos of the company. MANA is now growing as a business and as a positive influence. The brand, our products, the face-to-face business connections, our blog and social posts are building a voice for conscious living, mindfulness and mental health awareness. That was the goal and we’re hitting it! Yeeeooww!

A few days ago I was trying to journal about my experience starting MANA. Where it’s at, what I’ve done to get it here and how all of that has felt. I soon realised it's really difficult, and kind of a weird process, to explain these things to yourself. So I got Jimmy from Ponderance Collective, our creative and brand gurus, to interview me about it…

Here’s what we found out:

So you got a brand, an online store, some products and a bit of community around it… Now that it’s up and running what have you learned from starting a clothing label so far? 

Nothing happens over night and there is no such thing as luck.

I’ve learnt just how amazing people really are. The encouragement to keep at it has kept me going when doubt started to creep in. I’ve learn’t to really just take it all in: the good, the bad and the what the f**k moments. Mana is heavily focused on living and being in the present moment so that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do during the process. Lead by example I guess.

Capturing MANA founder Beau Walker’s attitude based on this photo was part of the brief.

Capturing MANA founder Beau Walker’s attitude based on this photo was part of the brief.

So has there been any tears, tantrums or triumphant moments yet?

All of the above. 

The whole project (concept, cost, socials, designers, manufacturing, packaging, etc) really overwhelmed the hell out of me, this is why it was/is essential I do it. If it doesn’t scare you, then you’re not aiming high enough. That’s what I’ve been told and grown up with. I was telling a friend about how Mana was going the other day and I said “to be honest I’m on edge a little.” Followed by a bunch of “what if’s”. They replied “good. You’re defiantly heading in the right direction then." 

Being creative is something I love and its great getting that side of my life back into action. But that doesn’t mean I have just been spewing out awesome idea after awesome idea without any issues… There’s been some really annoying and confusing moments and I think that’s a vital part of the process.

I’ve changed a bit as a person I think. I’ve started to live the brand and it’s values around finding calm, empowerment and generally being a more positive person in everyday situations. I truly believe in my heart of hearts that MANA will help people do this too. That’s giving me a fire I’ve not felt before, it’s like a massive blast of energy every time I take a chance or put something out there in one moment and it comes back in the next and things move forward. It’s like it is all on a predetermined path and it feels good. That has been getting me through the sticking points.

Early branding concept sketches from The Ponderance Collective team…

Early branding concept sketches from The Ponderance Collective team…

So what about finding someone to manufacture MANA’s range, how would you describe that process?

The best way to give people (the readers) an idea is by saying it’s a little like moving to a new town with the goal of meeting a new best friend. Yes, sometimes you might strike it lucky and have this happen quite quickly, but generally, it takes time and effort to build up that sort of relationship. Finding a designer is similar. It takes work and you have to put yourself out there until you find someone with similar values, attractive qualities and then you start feeling a good vibe. It’s actually a lot like dating haha! Remember that?! 

I don’t… I don’t really want to if I’m honest.
So what is the key to finding a good production house?

Its all about the mind set… Knowing and believing you’ll find a good one is half the trick… It sends out positive and optimistic vibes that I strongly believe helps. You have to visualise that you will connect with the correct people. We are big on manifestation at MANA. 

So you’ve found the right people for the job? How did it all come together in the end?

We’ve only just found them, but yes. We did a lot of Googling first for our research on finding a good company / designer. We reached out to a lot of friends with existing apparel labels and also people who knew about ethical fashion to try and find the right place. We also got a freelance fashion designer to help us understand the process and develop a thing called a "Tech Pack”. It basically contains techical drawings and details about sizing and the cut of the clothes. We did a bit of shopping too so we could send sample garments that were similar to our vision in various ways with the Tech Pack to the chosen manufacturing houses so they could then quote us and make samples. We really had no idea what was involved in the process of getting clothes made… It’s pretty well spelt out but we definitely needed someone who’d done it before to spend a few days with us helping and teaching us how it all worked…

I mention the whole visualisation manifestation thing earlier… The production house we have ended up locking in with is called ‘Visionise’ I guess that is a coincidence, but I like it, it definitely makes sense.

Their goal is to be the first plastic-free apparel production factory ever. It’d be awesome if they eventually get there and we’d love to be associated with that.

The first product designed and made available for sale from MANA - Click to buy

The first product designed and made available for sale from MANA - Click to buy

So that sound like a pretty intense process. Was it made even more difficult by your desire to have MANA products be as ethical as possible? 

This was REALLY tricky to be honest. 

For me, I’ve learnt that researching is actually a skill set that you’re either good at or pretty sucky at. I’m pretty sucky at it. Fortunately, after becoming fist-through-a-wall frustrated with the difficulty of finding an ethical producer my partner offered to give me a hand with the search. Being an ex-lawyer and generally super-smart legend she found an amazing apparel manufacturing company, which we are now working with in about 20 minutes. 

I must admit I was gob smacked as I’d been asking around and trying to find one for at least 6 months. I still feel by going thought the process and reading a ton of different opinions and shortlisting options learnt a lot about fashion production. I definitely knew what I wasn’t looking for thats for sure.

So going down the ‘ethical’ production route was really difficult? 

Definitely more difficult by a long shot… And expensive! 

Once you go for more ethical materials your costs go though the roof. But its super important to me and the MANA brand as well as the world in general that we make an effort. We’re a small fish but we want to lead by example and do things right from day one. We want to use the correct materials that aren’t going to vomit all over the environment for the sake of fashion, plus make sure the workers involved are safe and paid accordingly. 

So you had your idea, built a brand and have locked in manufacturing… How is it all going now, like right now, today, in your opinion?

So far so good. 

We’re hitting the right hurdles at the right speed and jumping high enough so I guess it’s going really well. There’s been little things like we want to make MANA hats and our manufacturer doesn’t do hats (yet) so it was kind of annoying but a great exercise to find another place, in China that meets our ethical production standards and makes hats. Little things like that pop up but otherwise it’s going really well.

YAY.. We found a place to do our hats 1 week after the interview!!! coming Oct! :)

YAY.. We found a place to do our hats 1 week after the interview!!! coming Oct! :)

So you’d say MANA is going well and heading towards success?

Momentum is definitely picking up. 

It really has been a lesson on where and how you focus your energy. Things really only move as quickly as you allow them to. As soon as you hit a hurdle, the trick is not to stop on it for to long, push on with other things while overcoming the challenge. If you don’t you’ll find yourself wasting more time then you need to. As long as we remember that, it will keep going well I think.

It’s definitely heading in the right direction.

Awesome… So where will MANA be in the next year or two? 

The main goal in the next 12-24 month is really just pushing out the MANA message to as many people as possible. That message being that we all, generally, go through a bit of a downer at some point in our lives or we at least know people that might be going though a rough trot. The goal is that MANA is worn, by as many people as possible, as a reminder to that good mental health and motivated state-of-mind is achievable and that you’re working towards it while trying to help others around you do it too. Wearing a necklace, t-shirt or hat is simple but it has a bigger meaning when it’s from MANA. It’s our gear that will help people remember they aren’t alone and they are activated in their community to have a positive impact. Every time the stone on a necklace touches your chest or you see the MANA dots / logo in the mirror on your shirt,  It's a quiet, little reminder to do good, be positive and pause for a little MANA moment and be present where you are. 

I know after talking to a lot of people that we are all trying to find purpose, happiness, good values and the list goes on. True connection is what makes us whole and knowing you’re part of a little tribe of mindful humans who also wear MANA has got to feel good. 

I know its ironic to be reading this on your phones, laptops, tablets etc but we are also all about limiting the time you have on these devices and getting out there and starting conversations with people. Conversations about positivity, motivation and de-stigmatising mental health issues. It’s amazing what a simple “hello" followed by a genuine smile can do for someone you do, or better yet don’t know.

That’s where I’d like to see the MANA brand and products in a year or two. Part of a movement of people activating happiness and community in their own worlds because they have been reminded by our products, the blog and social media and our resources we will be creating to give it a go.

So that’s all pretty businessy… What about your personal future with MANA, what does that look like in the next few years?

One of my biggest goals in life is to contribute to a society that truly values themselves and others. Sounds a bit ‘Miss Universe’ but there is an outrageous increase in anxiety and depression in our generation. It’s definitely a health epidemic and has been blowing up in Australia and ‘Westernised’ societies around the world since I can remember. 

People are constantly comparing their lives to millions of others across the planet and opening themselves up for strangers to judge their worth in the form of a ‘like’ or a comment. This is really starting to become a problem. The other thing is people exposing themselves to what we call “mind poison” - Essentially, the fabricated, posed photos and accounts of life that are completely believable but totally full of Crap! 

I’m starting a rant, but I guess I’m trying to say that MY goal through MANA and generally is to contribute to changing this trend… To put a positive message in social feeds and into the world myself and start waking people up to the huge problem our modern lives is becoming. It’s a serious health issue and I don’t want to be a victim or be someone who sits back because the problem is too big. 

MANA is a vehicle for that, it will hopefully help me feel like I’m getting a good message out there and helping people, as an individual, understand mental health and work on it.

That’s actually pretty epic dude, and so are you for doing this interview and making MANA happen. I’m stoked to be involved too. Before we wrap it up, is there any final thoughts you’d like to add?

I guess I just want to reiterate how important it is to me to build people up and encourage people to be positive and lean on each other for support and community.

As a soon to be new father myself I really would love my children to grow up in a world of good old fashion happiness and self values. 

So hopefully MANA helps make that happen, at least in our wider community I guess.

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COVER PHOTO CREDIT: The lens of Keagan Henman who’s work you can check out on Unsplash