Since launching in 2016, fashion label Maggie Marilyn has quickly risen to success as a sustainable powerhouse that others are taking note of. With a desire to spark change in an industry that has often lacked transparency, New Zealand born founder Maggie Hewitt is committed to protecting the future of the planet with her label that has a mission to design aspirational clothing that is ethically and sustainably produced for every woman. Zara Overton caught up with designer Maggie Hewitt to find out more about the brand’s rise to success and its sustainable focus.
We’re so happy to have you here in Newmarket. Can you tell us how it all began for the brand?
When I finished my fashion degree at Whitecliffe, I was honestly very close to walking away from the industry altogether. When the curtain was pulled aside and I learnt of the huge negative impact that fashion has on both the people making clothing and on the planet, I wasn’t sure I could be a part of such a damaging industry. However, I also knew that I had an opportunity and responsibility to change it for the better. I knew from the outset that if I started a brand, it would be one that had the sustainability of people and planet at its core. And so Maggie Marilyn was born.
A major focal point for the brand has been sustainability. Can you tell us more about your stance on this and how you have interwoven ethically sourced materials and production processes which minimise the impact on the environment, into the story telling of the brand?
Ethically sourced materials and environmentally friendly production practices are not principles we have woven into our story but foundational values of our business. We aren’t perfect but we are constantly striving to be better than yesterday. Sustainability to us is a forever journey, it’s not a destination as there is always room for improvement and room to learn.
Have you seen a recent rise in other fashion brands championing this sustainable movement?
Yes I have and it really excites me! We truly believe that this industry can be changed to one that is kind to people and planet and for that to happen we need everyone on board.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in maintaining a sustainable business?
There are constant challenges. Nothing about running a sustainable business is easy but every single challenge is worth it. The biggest challenge we are tackling at the moment is our carbon emissions. Although we manufacture in New Zealand, our fabric comes from multiple countries and we ship our finished product all around the world. We are currently working with New Zealand company, Toitu, to measure our carbon emissions to then make an action plan as to how we can reduce these as much as possible before offsetting the remainder.
Your style names ‘Follow Your Heart Blazer’ and the ‘Keep it Together Dress’ are a very iconic part of the brand. What is the reason behind naming your styles like this and how do you come up with them?
We want our clothing to empower the women who wear them so giving garments names such as ‘You Can Change The World’ is just another aspect of this. We usually come up with the names as a team over wine and cheese!
A recent addition to the Maggie Marilyn brand is the collection, ‘Somewhere’, timeless wardrobe staples which are only available in black and white. Can you tell us a bit moreabout this extension and what made you decide to launch ‘Somewhere’?
Somewhere is a concept I had been dreaming and working on for a long time. I believe sustainable clothing is something that should be affordable to everyone. With our main line, there are multiple reasons why we can’t make it more affordable so Somewhere was born to solve this problem. Somewhere garments have also been consciously designed with the ability to be recycled. Meaning that if over the years your love for a garment ends, we can take it back and recycle it into something new, allowing materials to be kept within a closed loop system. Also as part of our commitment to transparency, Somewhere garments are traceable from farm to finished garment.
As well as debuting your first show at NZFW last year, you’ve also travelled to international fashion weeks for launches and events. What role do events and shows play in your wider brand strategy?
Events for us are an opportunity to invite people into the world of Maggie Marilyn. Until we opened our Newmarket store, we hadn’t had our own retail presence so events have allowed us to share what Maggie Marilyn is in the physical sense. Our NZFW show was a real brand highlight for this reason, we felt it was a beautiful representation of MM in the flesh. The MM world is a place you feel relaxed, creative, inspired and totally at home.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would you say?
Trust your gut. You always know deep down when something is right or wrong.
What has been your proudest career moment to date?
Honestly, nothing makes me prouder than seeing regular women on the street wearing their MM. And, as I always say, our success will forever be measured by the positive impact we make in our community and industry at large, so seeing these changes, however small is what makes me most proud.
Where do you gain inspiration from when designing?
My biggest influence season upon season is usually nature. When designing, I get out of the city and head up north to my family home in the Bay of Islands. There is something about being in nature and the peace and quiet that allows my mind to be creative.
What are your top five wardrobe essentials?
At the moment they are my Somewhere pieces! 01 blazer, 01 singlet, 01 t shirt, 01 jeans and 01 shirt. Easy!
What are you reading at the moment?
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.
What do you do in your downtime?
Relax with friends and family or take Honey, my miniature daschund for walks along the beach.
Maggie Marilyn’s social media presence has continued to grow and seems to be a way in which you document new arrivals, people wearing the brand and important messages. How has social media changed the way you work?
We launched in the Instagram age so social media has always been a part of Maggie Marilyn. It’s important to us that we use our platform to educate our community. We also find it plays a key role in our transparency as a business, we use it to share our challenges, successes and to answer any questions people have.
Do you have an all-time favourite piece from Maggie Marilyn?
My navy ‘I Lead from the Heart’ Blazer is my favourite piece. It is the one I pull for time and time again that always makes me feel empowered. Like I can change the world!
What’s next for Maggie Marilyn?
Lately I have been feeling really optimistic about the future, I wake up every day at 5am so excited to get to work! I definitely have not always felt like this though, we have had some extremely tough moments since launching Maggie Marilyn, but adversity builds resilience. I finally feel really confident in our direction. I am excited about what’s next for our Somewhere line and what growing our Direct to Consumer business will mean for the company. This is an exciting next chapter, and most of all I feel blessed to have the most incredible team by my side. Watch this space!