People

Agreed values

Fashion designer Maggie Hewitt believes style and sustainability can coexist, we’ve just got to get on board.

Fashion label Maggie Marilyn was established with a simple mission: to make a difference in an industry that’s ready for change. For founder Maggie Hewitt, this has meant building a brand that prioritieses transparency, empowers everyone in the supply chain and ensures the health of the planet is paramount in every decision she makes. 

Maggie, you’ve now got seven seasons under your belt — is this where you imagined your business heading when you started out? I always had a very firm idea of where I wanted to take Maggie Marilyn, but I couldn’t have predicted all the twists and turns involved in getting there. So far I’m most proud of our amazing team, our wonderful community of makers and our customers who inspire and challenge us. 

Maggie Marilyn was partly created as a response to the fashion industry’s wasteful behaviour — what makes your brand more sustainable than most? The core of all design is problem-solving, and fashion is no exception.
We believe it’s time to problem-solve our way to an industry that we’re proud to be part of, an industry in which fair working conditions, legitimate living wages, and eco and ethical production are all the norm. We believe these shouldn’t be championed values, but values that all businesses are built on. We’re endlessly optimistic about the future and fiercely determined to create change. 

How do you keep up with consumers’ demand for more while maintaining a sustainable stance? We encourage our customers to shop slowly and only buy pieces that make their heart sing. We want their Maggie Marilyn garments to be in their wardrobe forever and offer a free-of-charge mending service to all our customers to truly ensure their purchases can be loved long-term. 

Can you talk us through how your collections take shape? Colour is a very important inspiration point for every collection and really sets the tone of the season. The palette usually comes from my moodboard. At the beginning of the season, I start by pinning pictures on Pinterest or looking through art books and magazines, and this subconsciously builds the tones and textures for the season. From there, silhouettes evolve from the colours and textures of the fabrics. I also design to my mood. If I’m feeling more vulnerable, I might feel inspired to design a military- style blazer; if I’m feeling more free and optimistic, I’ll design the perfect resort-getaway dress. 

How do you turn an idea into a piece of clothing? It’s such an organic process. It could be a fabric that really designs the whole garment — the perfect wool suiting destined to become a beautiful blazer or a lightweight silk that inspires an easy summer slip dress. Sometimes it’s just about playing around with a piece of fabric to explore a new manipulation, like the knot detail on the shoulder of some of our season-seven dresses. 

Maggie Marilyn has an international following, yet you’re a Bay of Islands girl at heart. How do you juggle work and life between here and there? Being based in New Zealand is so important to me. I feel having a degree of separation from the industry is both healthy for the mind and my creative process. Being surrounded by nature is crucial. If I ever feel myself being swept up in the world of fashion, walking barefoot along the beach is all I need to reset and put everything back in perspective. 

ABOVE Eleven staff work in the Auckland head office full-time — pictured from left are design and sampling manager Olive Cashmore, head of retail development Ella Jones, production manager Georgia Lloyd, PR and digital manager Alisha Wheeler, in-house sales manager George Carey, in-house sample machinist Megan Bucklee, production coordinator Noelene Slaughter, Maggie Marilyn Hewitt with Honey the office dachshund, logistics and online manager Charissa McGrath and studio assistant Sarah Hewitt. Wonderfully talented patternmaker Rod Leong does not like photographs.

How else do you like to relax outside of work? For me, disconnecting is essential. I love taking my miniature dachshund Honey for walks, spending time with my friends and family, and snuggling up with a good book and a cup of tea. 

What’s in your diary that you’re looking forward to? I’m really excited about showing at New Zealand Fashion Week in August. It’ll be our debut show globally, so it feels right for us to do it in New Zealand. This is our home and we wouldn’t be where we are without the constant support of our incredible local makers, customers, media, friends and family. It’s important for us to share this special moment in our journey with them, our MM family.
maggiemarilyn.com

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Kirsty Dawn