And so here we are at the last interview of the year. I take stock of the various guests of this intense 2018 and I see not only a great international ‘parterre’ but also a good assortment that goes from journalists and activists to designers, writers and teachers, all committed to making this world a little more ethical and sustainable.
Last but not the least, closing the year, there is Maggie Marilyn Hewitt, the New Zealander designer who owns the Maggie Marilyn brand. I’m very curious to know her and her label that dear Clare Press introduced me in the November interview.
You are very young Maggie, in Italy you would be considered an infant prodigy;-) How was your passion for fashion and in particular for sustainability born? and how did you arrive to found your brand?
I really can’t remember a time where I didn’t see myself being in the fashion industry. The way fashion transports you to a dream world I was always enamoured by. I grew up in a small coastal town at the top of the North Island in New Zealand, the beautiful environment that I was privileged enough to be surrounded by I think grew a subconscious protective instinct to look after and preserve it.
However, it was not until I went to university that I started to uncover the horrific truths the fashion industry so desperately tries to conceal. I have been spending my entire graduate year searching for ways in which the fashion industry could do better. How could I have a brand that was beautiful but yet didn’t have a negative effect on the environment and its people? So as soon as I graduated I set out to change this industry for the better!
What are the distinctive characteristics of your brand, both in general and with regard to the responsibility towards consumers and the environment?
There is a strong sense of optimism and femininity within Maggie Marilyn. One of our leading values is our commitment to manufacturing in New Zealand, growing, building and fostering a community of incredible people has been an extremely rewarding part of growing Maggie Marilyn. Knowing the people and the families, the lives of the people who make our clothes, is so much more important than a thicker bottom line to manufacturer offshore. People are really at the core of everything we do so understanding our supply chain is extremely important, building strong relationships with our fabric merchants and mills is imperative to ensuring our ethics are upheld at every stage from the manufacturing of our zips, to our fabrics then ultimately the finished garment.
I read on your site that New Zealand was a flourishing industry in the clothing industry until the 1980s/1990’s. It’s an interesting story that I think few outside your country know. Would you like to tell me and tell me how the consumer approach has been changing over the decades with the arrival of fast fashion?
It has been a really interesting time for New Zealand over the past 30 years, with the rise of globalization and in particular fast fashion. As international fashion imports grew within New Zealand, local brands were no longer able to compete on price so they were essentially priced out of the market. This had a huge effect on our local manufacturing industry which was really the backbone of small rural towns in New Zealand. We still today have these incredible people, a lot have gone out of business but there are a few still here. At Maggie Marilyn, we are committed to investing in new technologies and apprenticeships to reignite the flame of a once-booming industry.
You are a young brand but you showcase already in New York and so many VIPs wear your clothes. How you manage to combine luxury and sustainability, I think it’s a great challenge!
It is definitely a challenge, fabrics of course are far more limited so you really have to be innovative with how you look at a design. Competing on price is difficult too, we are definitely seeing a rise in the conscious consumer but there are not enough customers out there yet I believe who will choose a beautiful, ethically produced garment over something that looks similar for a cheaper price point. I feel confident that this is very quickly going to change though!
And just about the pret-à-porter, at what point do you think it’s about social responsibility? For example, many luxury brands have banned fur and begin to use techniques like upcycled and/or sustainable materials; do you think it’s just a trend or something ‘long-lived’?
I think regardless of if it is a trend, at least the conversation right now is being amplified. The future of our planet and humanity however truly resides with people changing how they consume, change will happen it has too, we live on a planet with finite resources. I just hope we can wake up to this truth before it’s too late.
Would you like to make a sustainable wish for 2019?
At Maggie Marilyn we are working on how we can make our garments and our fabrics become more circular, to rely less on the production of new raw materials. We are working will our fabric mills to figure out how we can turn old garments or excess fabrics into new fabrics. So my wish is that we make huge strides with this, it is something I feel really excited and passionate about. Turning fashion into a circular economy really is the future.
Ok, Maggie, we are at the end of our interview; would you like to ‘nominate’ my next guest? Who will be?
I would love to nominate Gosia, she is the founder of one of New Zealand’s most pioneering sustainable brands, Kowtow.
Ok, thank you so much Maggie! My best wishes for a more and more sustainable fashion.
So the first ‘Monthly Interview’ of the new year will be with another new Zealander pioneering ethical brand…see you in January🤗