Meet Maggie Hewitt - Founder of sustainable fashion brand Maggie Marilyn
Let’s talk beginnings. How has your upbringing in small town KeriKeri informed your creative practice and outlook on the world of fashion?
I had such a special childhood in the Bay of Islands. My most vivid memories of growing up in a rural coastal town are of climbing trees and swimming in the ocean with my three sisters. But running alongside that was always this love for fashion, design, and beautiful clothes. And so there was this funny juxtaposition between a childhood spent in old woollen shackets, togs and ripped denim, and the part of me that dreamed of designing dresses and travelling the world. I think that’s why MM embodies what I consider “liveable luxury”; those pieces you reach for day in and day out - like the perfect white tee or denim - mixed in with the special pieces you bring out for life’s most important moments.
Have you always been interested in sustainability, and was there a defining moment that inspired you to establish a business fully committed to taking a conscious approach?
I’ve always felt a deep connection to Mother Nature– but I think that’s true for most Kiwis. No matter where you live in New Zealand and what kind of nature you’re surrounded by; the glistening lakes and snow-capped mountains of the South Island or the white sand beaches up North, the beauty and fragility of nature is right on your doorstep. But I hadn’t considered the relationship between Mother Nature and fashion until I went to fashion school in Auckland as a naïve 19 year-old and discovered how broken it was. The industry was having a devastating impact on Mother Nature, and I realised I couldn’t move forward with my ambitions if I didn’t bring my values with me. So I launched Maggie Marilyn in 2016 with the mission to Use Fashion to Create A Better World.
Despite any setback that you have come up against in the fashion industry, what inspires you to persevere and remain positive about the future?
My team and I are so passionate about being instigators of change in the fashion industry and that ambition keeps us moving forward on the days where we come up against challenges. Receiving our B. Corp certification in 2022 was an important vote of confidence that we are on the right track; B. Corp acknowledges those using business as a force for good and measures a business’s impact across areas like governance, workers and the environment. I’m also constantly inspired by Mother Nature’s perfect system; a system based on reciprocity and the sharing of gifts between all living things: The ocean’s devotion to the shoreline, the shoreline’s devotion to the sand, the sand’s devotion to the hermit crab, the crab’s devotion to its shell…All living things need each other, but sometimes humans forget this and so we take from the Earth while failing to consider what gifts we have to give. Knowing that this interdependence exists, and that it’s possible to live in harmony with Mother Nature motivates me to keep pushing.
Is there anything/anyone in or outside of the industry that truly excites or inspires you at the moment that we should know about?
I’m really excited about the future of regenerative agriculture and the role it could play in transforming the fashion industry when it comes to the fibres that brands work with! Regenerative agriculture represents a way of growing food and fibre that goes beyond sustainability and instead restores, repairs, and regenerates the environment. It’s a way of farming that is modelled on operating in harmony with how the natural world is designed, and for MM, regenerative fibres represented an exciting opportunity for our garment fibres to not only do no harm - like organic fibres, which we still think are amazing! - but actually have a positive impact on things like soil health and carbon sequestration.
How do you imagine the fashion industry will be in 10 years from now?
I have such a fire in my belly that, if we keep going, we will see a fashion industry that is transparent, circular, regenerative and inclusive. An industry in which our people and planet thrive. With transparent supply chains, workers who are paid fairly and treated with dignity and respect, and with clothing that is repaired, repurposed or recycled - not tossed away or discarded. An industry where decreasing atmospheric carbon and increasing biodiversity through regenerative farming is not only possible, but commonplace. That vision is my Northern Star, it’s why I came to work this morning, and it’s the reason I’ll do it all again tomorrow no matter what life serves up.
Anew Way Forward is an interview series exploring the past, present, and in particular, the future.