Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Breaking All The Rules – Kiwi Designer Maggie Marilyn Changing The Game & Trusting Her Gut In 2020

Maggie Marilyn burst onto New Zealand – and the world’s – fashion radar in 2016 as a 21 – yes, 21 – year old designer, fresh from design school and with a very clear mandate to turn Aotearoa’s fashion industry on its head.

In the short years since, her designs have been worn by no less than Michelle Obama – I mean, your dream client, right!? – and Meghan Markle.

But, like all of us, 2020 had the potential to disrupt it all. However, Maggie says it’s only galvanised her dreams to preside over her empire in a 100 ethical, sustainable and, of course, fashionable way. For the young woman from the Bay of Islands, it’s meant a new way forward – and she can’t wait. Maggie spoke to Capsule about her new approach, and it’s meant changing the game when it comes to capsule collections, seasonality and markdowns.

  1. Hey Maggie! So tell us, how has 2020 treated you, both professionally and personally?

Like a lot of people, 2020 has been a challenging but rewarding year. Professionally it’s given our business an opportunity to think about how we realign with our values. The changes we have announced around becoming a more transparent, circular, inclusive and regenerative business have brought me a lot of clarity and motivation to accelerate our mission to use fashion to create real impact.

Personally, although I’ve struggled not travelling it’s been a great opportunity to spend more time with family and friends. I’ve also become an Aunty for the first time which has been super special for me and my family.

2. Can you tell us a little about your new collection? You’re really trying to do things differently?

We are proud to be expanding our evergreen line ‘Somewhere’ to include Somewhere Sport and other everyday garments. Moving forward ‘Somewhere’ will be 95% of our offering. The collection will be fully circular, as we offer a new Repair Programme to care for your favourite clothing. It will also be made from traceable organic or repurposed fibres and we are working hard towards the line being made solely from regeneratively famed sources.

  1. You’re going against “everything you learnt” at fashion school – how have you come to realise that you needed to do things differently?

As part of our mission to use fashion to create a better world we are always interrogating the transparency of our supply chains, ensuring people are paid and treated fairly, reducing our carbon footprint and working with suppliers who have regenerative farming as baseline practices.

But there was one glaringly obvious element of the business that was unsustainable – playing by the traditional fashion industry’s rules of producing four seasons per year. Eighty per cent of our business was seasonal collections and a year ago we launched our season-less line ‘Somewhere’ which accounted for the remaining 20%.

From now on we will not let the traditional fashion industry dictate when we produce products and give ourselves the luxury of time to design mindfully and slowly. We will instead flip the investment of time and resources into creating more season-less offerings that are traceable, organic, recycled or repurposed – this will be 95% of our business and the remaining 5% of our business will be capsule Forever ranges (when we feel inspired) which we encourage our customers to keep and treasure forever.

3. How are you reducing your carbon emissions with your new approach to your collections?

Without the time pressure of producing to the seasonal fashion calendar, all our fabrics will be sea freighted in order to significantly decrease carbon emissions. Historically, the majority of fabrics used in seasonal collections were air-frighted due to tight wholesale timelines –  showing that shifting away from this model is essential in order for the fashion industry to have a lighter impact on our planet.

  1. You launched your label at such a young age and turned it into a Kiwi icon – what was the biggest lesson you learnt about starting a business, and what would you do differently?

There’s been a lot of learning and I’m sure there will continue to be. Most of all I wish I didn’t hesitate to do things differently earlier. The fashion industry by nature is creative and progressive but the way it creates and sells fashion is not. We can’t be afraid to innovate and look at things differently to overcome environmental and social issues facing the industry.

  1. What was the feeling like when you saw Michelle Obama wearing one of your designs? We can’t imagine the excitement!
First Lady Michelle Obama in a custom Maggie Marilyn suit

I get the same thrill out of walking past someone in the street wearing Maggie Marilyn as I do seeing someone like Michelle Obama wearing Maggie Marilyn. Our community wearing our garments is living breathing proof of our mission coming to life and motivates me to keep going.

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