May | Take 5
With Maggie Hewitt
The Maggie Marilyn founder on keep forever pieces and local makersEmma Sells
Maggie Hewitt has spent the past year falling back in love with her label. True, the New Zealand-based designer and driving force behind Maggie Marilyn has been at the helm of her growing and much-loved brand for five years, but she grew to hate the hamster wheel of the fashion industry and the way that working with huge retailers enforced a focus on commercial success, rather than building a community of like-minded women with shared values. But Covid, and the enforced pause that it brought, gave her the space and courage to make audacious changes. No more wholesalers – instead, she’s selling direct to consumers, giving her complete control of how she engages with and educates the women who buy and cherish her clothes, as well as the freedom to make the label as circular and responsible as possible. It’s been a liberating experience.
Maggie Marilyn is now split into two: there’s Somewhere – a collection of the evergreen staples you’ll always want in your wardrobe, from track pants and jeans to wear-forever blazers, and that acts as an incubator for the brand’s most radical innovations. And then there’s Forever – capsules of the beautiful, more fashion-focused extras that Hewitt designs on an ad hoc basis whenever she feels inspired. The collections are smaller, the runs are limited and pieces often sell out. They’re designed to last, too, and are soon to be bolstered by a take-back service for the Somewhere pieces, all of which are able to be recycled or composted, and a free repair service for the Forever capsules.
Unchanged in all this upheaval is Hewitt’s staunch belief in the power of close relationships with the people she works with – the vast majority of her pieces are made in New Zealand and all factories are within a 20-minute radius of her Auckland studio. The reset hasn’t dimmed her ambitions either; with plans to be carbon neutral, use natural fibres from regenerative farms and own the life cycle of every piece she creates, Hewitt is hoping that the bigger the label grows, the more people it will empower and uplift.