Over the course of the past three years, designer Maggie Hewitt has been a vanguard in New Zealand’s sustainable luxury industry. Her brand, Maggie Marilyn, exudes a casual yet opulent feel and is creative in its way of remodelling very classic silhouettes. The combination of these characteristics makes each piece by Maggie instantly recognisable. Aside from the design aspect, what truly makes Maggie Marilyn stand out from the crowd is their ultra-transparent approach to sustainability.
They make their goals and strategy public. They dedicate a lot of their digital site space to explaining their definitions of sustainability jargon -something that is often manipulated by fast fashion giants. Everything from their fabric to their packaging defies fashion industry norms and reflects a genuine and thought out effort to strive for sustainability. We had a chat with founder, Maggie Hewitt, about her brand, her inspirations and her goals.
Maggie Marilyn has a focus on crafting “livable luxury”, what do you envision the role of the clothing you design to be in the lives of your customers?
We want to break down the barriers of clothing for occasions. We believe clothing that makes your heart sing should be lived in, hence “liveable luxury”. Your favourite silk gown can be paired with sneakers and a chunky knit for any day of the week! We want MM clothing to empower our customers, for it to feel like a cloak of optimism which reminds them that they can go out there and change the world.
What does your design process look like and how has it evolved over the last three years of having your own brand?
My design process really starts by going up north, back home to the Bay of Islands. I do this every season. The calmness allows my mind to slow and for creative ideas to flow through.
What do you think sets Maggie Marilyn apart from other luxury clothing brands?
I believe our mission sets us apart. For us, it’s not just about putting more clothing out into the world, it’s about those garments being made in a way that supports our community and protects people and the planet.
Sustainability is one of the core principles of Maggie Marilyn. What was it that inspired you to go green in an industry in which the customer base is so fixated on fast fashion?
During my degree, I pulled back the very un-glamourous curtain of the fashion industry and saw the shocking effects the industry is having on both people working in the supply chain, as well as on the planet. I knew that if I started a brand, operating ethically and sustainably would be non-negotiable. I really encourage everyone to question their favourite brands about where and how their garments are made.
Your brand is refreshingly transparent about its sustainability and goals. What are some ways that consumers can support these values?
I think it starts with education. Our website is a great resource for information about how to make your clothes last longer, such as how to wash specific fabrics and mending your clothes. However, I also think it helps to research the effects that fast fashion is having on people in the supply chain and on the planet. Knowledge is power and you can vote with your money on the kind of fashion industry you want to support. Buying sustainable and ethical brands, only buying pieces you truly love, holding onto them forever and being mindful of how you care for them are all great ways to start.
What has the process of working towards sustainability goals looked like? Has implementing changes been difficult?
We have a wonderful sustainability consultant who helped us write our strategy and we have fortnightly meetings to assess our progress on each goal and to ensure we have manageable action plans in place. There are challenges, but where there is a will, there’s a way and our strategy is what powers us through everything we do. We are here to do things differently to make a difference.
As a designer in the fashion industry, how do you think both designers and consumers contribute to inclusivity?
Diversity is crucial. it is a key factor in every aspect of my business. At Maggie Marilyn we design for people of all ages, ethnicities and cultures. Inclusivity is at the core of our customer experience as fashion is for everyone. We have a great dialogue with our customers and their feedback is invaluable to ensure we are always doing all we can to be as inclusive as possible.
You’ve accomplished so much since the brand launched, having your first collection picked up by Net-a-Porter and being shortlisted for the LVMH awards, what is your next goal?
Our focus now is on growing our direct to consumer. We see direct to consumer as the only meaningful way forward to truly educate our customer on our mission to create change. We want to be able to speak to them directly, know what they want, what questions they have, and know how we can help them to live a more sustainable life.
What would be the best piece of advice you could give to aspiring designers?
Trust your intuition, it is the most important thing you have to navigate you through your journey. Have courage and conviction in everything that you do and lastly never forget that anything is possible!