MAGGIE HEWITT, DESIGNER MAGGIE MARILYN
CATEGORY: CLEAN LUXURY
TITLE: DESIGNER, MAGGIE HEWITT
The New Zealand-based sustainable fashion designer Maggie Hewitt of Maggie Marilyn is currently one to watch. Fresh from being shortlisted for the LVMH Prize, and with an exclusive with Net-a-Porter already under her belt, we chatted to the designer about building a brand on the other side of the world, being a conscious consumer, and where she finds her inspiration.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE JOURNEY OF LAUNCHING THE BRAND, FROM YOUR PERSONAL BACKGROUND AND DREAMS, TO THE INVALUABLE LESSONS YOU’VE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY?
I graduated university in Auckland, New Zealand in December 2015 and started my label straight away. I always knew throughout uni that I wanted to have my own brand. At the beginning of 2016 I started building my first collection, it was wonderful doing what I loved everyday. However, after I shot my first look book the heavy burden started to weigh! How was I actually going to sell this first collection, and get it out into the world?
In May 2016 I was introduced to Jo Knight. She had been the Managing Director of Richard Nicoll for 10 years in London and had moved back to New Zealand. Jo had a wealth of experience, including how to get a brand to market, and getting the collection in front of the right people. At Sydney Fashion Week we met with Lisa Aiken, the Fashion Director of Net- a-Porter. She loved the collection and has been an amazing support ever since. We launched exclusively with Net-a-Porter in September of 2016 and the response has been a dream come true. It was one thing to be picked up by one of the largest luxury retailers in my first season, but the clothes also sold out in 72 hours!
I’m very blessed to have an amazing support system including my parents, my partner Isaac, as well as Jo and George MacPherson, our PR consultant based in New York. I really do have the dream team behind me.
THE NET-A-PORTER PICK UP WAS INCREDIBLY EXCITING, AND YOU WERE ALSO SHORTLISTED FOR THE LVMH PRIZE…
Being picked up by Net-a-Porter in my first season allowed Maggie Marilyn to be a global brand straight away, which has just been incredible. We are now in our third season and have just returned from Paris where we secured some amazing new stockists!
Being shortlisted for the LVMH Prize was such a dream come true. I was privileged enough to meet people I had looked up to my whole life. It still feels quite surreal actually. It was an amazing platform to raise awareness for the brand and show that we can be based in New Zealand and still be relevant in the fashion world.
IS THERE ANYTHING UNIQUE ABOUT NEW ZEALAND THAT HAS HELPED FOSTER YOUR CREATIVITY?
The beautiful environment has had a huge effect on both the aesthetic of the brand, and its ethically conscious ethos. New Zealanders typically have a laid back lifestyle so that translates to how I design. There is a focus on livable luxury and being able to wear pieces from the Maggie Marilyn collections everyday. That kind of luxury means beautiful fabrics and garment execution, but ensuring that it’s still attainable and something people can afford.
HOW DOES MAGGIE MARILYN FUSE SUSTAINABILITY AND LUXURY?
Luxury to me means having a brand that is transparent and making the right choices. We all live in this world and have the power to impact it in a positive way.
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR LATEST COLLECTION AND CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE JOURNEY FROM CONCEPT AND PRODUCTION TO MARKETING?
The inspiration really started with a nod to the romance, wildness, and female protagonism of Austen’s England. The interplay of horsemanship is also present and its provocation of loyalty and freedom. A musing on the work of distortionist photographer Andre Kertesz also runs through the collection, examining the power of his imagery which showed the vulnerability and the strength of the female body. This duality plays deeply at the young heart of this collection: The oversize, often workwear or sports fabrics and silhouettes retain the function of armor and protection, while flourishes that enhance and soften reveal a subtle vulnerability.
Our knitwear is produced in Italy but everything else is manufactured in New Zealand. It’s very important to me to have a close relationship with our makers to really know where each garment has come from: who has touched it and ensuring they were paid a fair living wage and that all working conditions were bright, warm, and genuinely a nice place to work. It is so important to me that the Maggie Marilyn garments are made with love. I feel I owe this to our makers and our customers.
Marketing is something that is very important as we are based in New Zealand. Sometimes it can feel like we are a bit isolated from the rest of the world but we have George in New York who has been incredible! I also travel alot! I am so lucky to have him and as we expand into new regions. It’s really important to have the right marketing plans in place to ensure it is a success where ever the brand is sold and distributed.
DO YOU HAVE ANY KEY ITEMS IN YOUR WARDROBE YOU WILL NEVER THROW AWAY?
A blazer from season 2 called the ‘You Give Me Strength Blazer’ is my all time favorite piece. I wear it almost every day, even in the summer. It is lined in silk so it feels amazing and it really says everything in the name – I feel a little bit stronger when I wear it.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A CONSUMER TRYING TO NAVIGATE THE CLEAN LUXURY JOURNEY? WHAT ABOUT A YOUNG DESIGNER TRYING TO GET THEIR START IN THE INDUSTRY?
I truly believe that buying a few special pieces every season does bring more satisfaction and joy. It’s important to have pieces in your wardrobe that will stand the test of time, and that every time you put on the garment you’ll feel the very best version of yourself. From a perfectly tailored blazer, to a bias cut silk dress that hugs in all the right places. Throwaway fashion can never compete with the feeling you get from a garment you’ve fallen in love with. That is what I want Maggie Marilyn to be, a brand that our girls have a total love affair with.
As for advice for a young designer wanting to start out, I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I do believe if you have a strong passion and truly love what you do, adding drive and dedication, the sky is the limit. I am a true believer that with the right attitude anyone can accomplish their dreams. Have no fear, take a leap of faith, be a risk taker, and don’t always play it safe!
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF FASHION GOING, AND WHAT’S AHEAD FOR MAGGIE MARILYN?
I hope in the future we see an even stronger awareness of the importance of embracing ethical and sustainable practices. At Maggie Marilyn we are always pushing to be better, to do as much as we can to be ethically conscious and have as small of a negative impact on our environment as possible.
There are so many exciting things ahead for Maggie Marilyn. I’m excited to start exploring accessories, handbags, and footwear to create a modern, liveable luxury wardrobe for our customer.
FOR MORE VISIT: MAGGIE MARILYN
All images courtesy Maggie Marilyn.