Why fashion’s elite have fallen for
I spoke to New Zealand designer Maggie Hewitt for David Jones, about style, creativity, and how she uses her voice as a vehicle for change in the current fashion climate.
There’s something about Maggie Hewitt that makes you think differently about fashion. As a creative who has always yearned for beautiful things, the New Zealand-based designer is driven by her desire to empower not only the women who wear her clothes, but also the individuals involved in creating the garment to begin with.
Her label, Maggie Marilyn, is a favourite among fashion’s elite, frequently seen on the likes of Teen Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth, Kate Hudson and supermodel Karlie Kloss. Take one look at her collections, and it’s easy to see why.
Reinventing the rules of modernity, Maggie Marilyn collections are feminine, contemporary and optimistic – the kinds of clothes that make you feel like anything is possible as long as you’re wearing the right shirt. Here, I talk to the designer about style, creativity, and how she is using her voice as a vehicle for change in the current fashion climate.
KATHRYN CARTER: How did you dress when you were a kid?
MAGGIE MARILYN: I wore bare feet to school, as I grew up in a small coastal town. So I would say very casual! But at the same time I always had this yearning for beautiful things. I think the fusion of these two things bought about the idea of Maggie Marilyn being a “liveable luxury” brand.
KC: You studied fine arts in Auckland and majored in fashion. Did you always know you wanted to be a fashion designer?
MM: I always knew I wanted to be creative and to follow a career path that I absolutely loved, [so] that going to work every day wouldn’t feel like work. I grew up in a beautiful but remote part of New Zealand called the Bay of Islands. It was very secluded from the rest of the world, but I always managed to get my hands on fashion magazines, which really started my love for fashion. It was a little teaser into an exciting life! Studying fashion grew my knowledge and skills in the construction and manufacturing side so I could make my sketches and designs into real garments.
KC: How would you love others to describe the Maggie Marilyn aesthetic?
MM: Feminine, modern and optimistic. I want my clothes to empower our girl, I want her to know her power, [and to know] that she can change her world.
KC: You launched your brand with the intention of making a change for good in the industry, in regards to its ethical and environmental footprint. What steps have you taken to remain ethically and sustainably conscious?
MM: This is something that really makes my heart sing, to be able to build a brand that empowers not only the wearer but everyone involved in the supply chain. We achieve a traceable supply chain by using organic cotton and wool, we use organic dyes to minimise our environmental impact and even our zips are made from recycled metal.
It was essential to me when I decided to start my label that I was going to use my voice as a vehicle for change in an industry that not only has a negative effect on our environment, but also people and the culture of our society. Our factories are less than a 10-minute drive from our studio. Our makers have become like family, our garments have heart and soul and I am really proud of that! However my job is never done, there is always MORE you can do and it is an exciting journey to be on.
KC: For each collection you hand-pick fabrics from all around the world. How do you go about sourcing these fabrics?
MM: I work really closely with a handful of fabric merchants who help me source our fabrics. We have been working on some really exciting new fabrics like recycled polyester that is made from recycled plastic bottles.
KC: How does each collection begin? With a fabric, a sketch, a hero piece, perhaps a daydream?
MM: It really depends on where I am at, my mood, what I am inspired by at that moment in time, sometimes it is an artist or a film. A lot of the time the inspiration really comes from envisioning who the Maggie Marilyn girl is. She is a dreamer; kind, yet never afraid to speak the truth. She is a feminist but is openly vulnerable. She is an optimist and believes in the power of possibility.
KC: Describe an average day in the life of Maggie Marilyn?
MM: I like to get a coffee and go to the studio at around 7am, while it’s still quiet. This is my favourite time of the day, I love it! I can get so much done without being interrupted. I work through my emails, then I like to set aside some creative time to look over the current collection that is being sampled – I love to just sit in front of the racks with a cup of coffee. Then the rest of the team start to arrive at around 9, we usually have morning work in progress meetings for me to track how everything is going from PR, sales, logistics to production. It’s a big job running a business!
KC: Do you have any style icons? Designers, celebrities, fictional characters from TV or film?
MM: I’d have to say Julia Roberts would be one of my all-time favourites. Hands down the best laugh, she is just so effortlessly beautiful. Plus she just seems like a great gal – someone I want to be friends with!
KC: Your clothing is incredibly luxurious, but still very wearable. How important is the comfort factor in your designs?
MM: It is so important, we call it liveable luxury, being able to really live in and wear MM pieces every day is integral to the brand’s aesthetic. It is all about the mood that is invoked through wearing Maggie Marilyn – effortless, playful, optimistic.
KC: When you’re designing, is there a particular sort of woman you have in mind?
MM: Definitely, I think it is a woman whom we can all resonate with, but also someone who inspires us. I design for the women I want to be, the girl we all want to be – strong and empowered.
KC: Three staple pieces all women should have in their wardrobe?
MM: A statement blazer, an oversized silk shirt, and vintage jeans.
This story was first published on David Jones's JONES blog.