In Conversation with Maggie Marilyn about Luxury and Sustainability.
Founder of Maggie Marilyn, Maggie Hewitt, talks to us about making garments that embody liveable luxury, producing everything in New Zealand, and becoming a positive force for responsibility in the fashion industry.
WHAT KIND OF DIFFERENCE DO YOU WANT TO MAKE IN THE WORLD OF FASHION?
I founded Maggie Marilyn with one simple mission: to make a difference in an industry that is ready for change. Making a difference meant building a brand that champions transparency, empowers all people in the supply chain and ensures the health of our beautiful planet is at the forefront of every decision we make. I believe that style and sustainability can co-exist.
You have to understand that everything and everyone is connected. From the people growing and making our fabrics to sewing the garments, to selling them, and every step in between. To make systemic change, we need to be looking at the whole picture.
I believe in the business model; collaboration not competition. I am not naive to the fact that as one brand, we can’t change the world, but as a collective, we have infinite power.
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
HOW DO YOU MAKE CLOTHING WHICH IS BEAUTIFUL ASPIRATIONAL, SUSTAINABLE, AND ETHICALLY CONSCIOUS?
It’s about keeping my ‘why’ at the forefront of my mind, to always know why I am in business. Our ‘why’ is to make a difference, to show that style and sustainability can co-exist and that together, we can change the world.
Making our clothing in New Zealand is a really a cornerstone to our business. We want to support our local industry and give back to our community. We are also acutely aware of the importance of ensuring the lifecycle of our garments is as long as possible and the environmental impact after the customer purchases it is as low as possible. We offer suggestions on our website about how to make your clothes last longer, including different washing techniques for different fabrics as well as offering a free of charge mending service.
We live in a culture where having something new for every occasion is the norm, currently a customer holds onto a garment for an average of 13 weeks. This is a mindset we need to change and the key to this is education. The world has a consumption addiction and our role as designers is to educate people on how to consume consciously, to slow down their shopping and to only invest in pieces that truly make their heart sing and will be in their wardrobe forever.
I know that we aren’t perfect and never will be, sustainability will always be a journey. Once we achieve one thing, there will be another to challenge to overcome, but this is what makes it exciting, we are constantly questioning how we can be better.
“Sustainability is an inbuilt mindset, culture and lifestyle, for us, is the heart of the company. The core of all design is problem solving and fashion is no exception.”
DO YOU THINK THAT WHEN PEOPLE ARE PROACTIVELTY HEALTHY THEY WANT TO PROTECT THE PLANET, DO THE RIGHT THING AND BUY ETHICALLY?
I definitely believe there is a link between caring for yourself and caring for the planet. When you empower yourself by making healthy decisions, these positive decisions tend to be reflected across the rest of your life as well, the two are intrinsically linked.
At Maggie Marilyn we are always looking for ways to bring our customers together to share unified experiences towards creating change and this starts with finding ways for them to empower themselves. We just did a charity yoga event which was about looking after oneself, about empowering oneself in order for them to be able to empower others.
HAVE YOU SEEN A REAL SHIFT IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY TO BE MORE ETHICAL?
Most definitely, in the last 6 months it has been amplified, I see it everywhere I look. It is becoming something that people can’t hide from, we need to change our outlook, change behaviours and change them fast.
I do believe for change to happen at the speed we need it to, in order to combat our climate crisis, change needs to be enforced at a governmental policy level. We are seeing some positive steps in this direction, for example at the Copenhagen Summit, France introduced huge tariffs on government from third parties. Hopefully other governments around the world will follow France’s lead.
YOU RECENTLY COMMENTED: “I ENCOURAGE YOU TO CONTINUE TO CHALLENGE MY BRAND, AS WELL AS CHALLENGE BUSINESSES AND LABELS THAT YOU CARE ABOUT AND THAT YOU BUY FROM”. HAS ANYONE EVER CHALLENGED YOU ON YOUR CLAIMS ABOUT BEING ETHICAL AND TRANSPARENT? DOES IT MAKE YOU ACCOUNTABLE TO YOUR FOLLOWERS AND AUDIENCE?
Yes they have and yes it does! We love it when people reach out and ask us questions, we want our community to hold us accountable and be part of our journey. Being transparent and accountable is about having a robust dialogue with our customers.
We have just re-launched our website with a comprehensive micro-site all about our sustainability journey, including our manufacturers, suppliers and sustainability strategy, our roadmap for change by the end of 2020. We aim to be carbon neutral in 2 years. Not just through off-setting our footprint but by significantly reducing it.
HOW DO YOU KEEP PROACTIVE IN YOUR BUSINESS DECISIONS?
We grew so quickly that the first year and a half we were catching up with demand. As we have grown it has become increasingly clear that for is to implement all the changes we wanted, we needed a robust road map to keep us on track which lead us to write our sustainability strategy for 2020. Having a clear path for change is what motivates me - making a positive impact is what keeps me going.
“We have the choice to use the gift of our life to make the world a better place”
HOW DO YOU THINK THE NOTION OF LUXURY COULD BE UPDATED FOR THE MODERN DAY?
Luxury will and should be redefined. Modern luxury should mean beautiful things, from an equally beautiful supply chain. Any item that harms people or the planet in its production, to me, is not a luxury, no matter how beautiful the garment.
HOW HAVE YOU MANAGED TO BE BASED IN NEW ZEALAND AND EXPORT OVERSEAS SUCCESSFULLY WHILST BEING SUSTAINABLE IN RELATION TO THE TRANSPORT CHALLENGE OF CARBON EMISSION?
As a global brand, selling in 15 countries, this is definitely a challenge. In 10 year’s time aeroplane's will be electric or sustainably powered by technology that is yet to exist! However in the meantime managing our carbon emissions is at the top of our list of challenges to overcome.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF THE BRAND?
When I am at the end of my career, I hope the brand has been a huge force for change. I hope to be a part of an industry that is collaborative and transparent and that the fashion world celebrates the supply chain.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LOOK FOR WHEN YOU FEEL AT YOUR BEST?
The heart of Maggie Marilyn is to design for different moods – hence the different names of our products in each collection. Our blazers are for empowerment – we love the blazer so much – it has the ability to transform you, to be brave, to take on the world. I believe that wearing clothing that has been made ethically has an impact on how you feel. Just like how organic vegetables from your mum’s garden taste so much better than those from the supermarket; clothes made from people who are respected and cared for feel so much better than those that aren’t.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE IN NEW ZEALAND? YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANT? YOUR FAVORITE PASSTIME? YOUR FAVORITE DESIGNER?
My favourite place is the Bay of Islands, it’s where I am from and it takes me back to nature. I go there to design as feeling grounded, connected and creative, helps me to work. My favourite restaurant is Coco’s Cantina in Auckland – I love Italian food and I love their philosophy about community and support.
My favourite pastime is walking my dog - I am dog obsessed! I also love reading books and being with my family, I am from a very close family. I also love shutting off from everything because I am an introvert at heart – I recharge and get energy from being on my own.
My favourite designer is hard to pin down. I love thrift shopping in vintage stores and finding anything from the 80s and 90s. Vintage Chanel - it makes my heart sing.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MOTTO?
I have so many mottos for when I feel different. Right now it is: “Trusting in your gut, your intuition.” I also believe a lot in the laws of attraction, everything is a mindset – you bring what your energy is to you. Life is so short, you have to celebrate all your wins and enjoy the process. I guess that’s a big one for me right now - appreciate the wins – celebrate everything.
Thank you so much Maggie for talking to me about doing the right thing in the world. It was a pleasure. There are many challenges to overcome to do the right thing as a person, as a business. To see people like you take the first step to create a positive change is very inspirational. We wish you the very best for the future and hope to chat again soon.
Lyzadie on behalf of LyZadie Design Studio. xx