Founder and designer Maggie Hewitt from Maggie Marilyn. Image supplied.
From the beginning, successful local brand Maggie Marilyn has marched to the beat of their own drum and this week they’ve announced a bold new direction which sees the brand close down their international wholesale operation and focus on selling direct to consumer only. Maggie Marilyn have changed their business model in order to reduce carbon emissions, transition to regenerative agriculture, remove markdowns and step closer to their customers, and the brand is making some other big changes too.
“Our purpose is to use fashion to create a better world,” says founder and designer Maggie Hewitt. “Our mission is to help transition the fashion industry to one that is transparent, circular, regenerative and inclusive. Our vision is for a healthy planet, empowered people and an economy that puts these things first.”
Like many of us, Maggie Hewitt has been using this year as a time of reflection, and now she’s focusing on her vision for the future and how she can use fashion to create a better world. Maggie envisions a fashion industry where supply chains are transparent, people are paid and treated fairly and where clothing is repaired, repurposed or recycled. She wants the decreasing atmospheric carbon and increasing biodiversity through regenerative farming to be baseline practices. Ultimately, Maggie wants climate responsible fashion to be accessible to the majority not the minority, and for everyone to be included and accepted.
To achieve all of this change, Maggie realised that the fashion industry has to go bigger and bolder with decisions and the best place for her to start is in her own business. Maggie Marilyn has challenged industry norms and tried to influence change where they could from the beginning but the change to a direct to consumer model gives them much more control to implement much bigger changes, a lot faster too.
The first change is that customers will only be able to buy Maggie Marilyn garments from the brand’s online store or the brand new Maggie Marilyn store in Britomart which opens today at The Pavilions. It’s the first of what Maggie Hewitt intends to be many Maggie Marilyn stores around the world in coming years.
As they won’t be selling traditional seasonal collections anymore the brand’s decisions will no longer be dictated by those rules and timeframes that are set by major stockists like big department stores and high profile boutiques. Maggie will instead be able to design slowly and mindfully at her own pace, creating seasonless offerings that are traceable, organic, recycled or repurposed. She sees this values-based decision as the only answer to furthering progress around transparency, circularity, inclusivity and a regenerative industry.
New pieces from Maggie Marilyn’s ‘Somewhere’ collection including ‘Sport’ on the right.
Instead of focusing on seasonal collections, Maggie Marilyn will devote more time to the brand’s popular ‘Somewhere’ range of traceable, evergreen essentials that launched in late 2019. The sustainable collection of tees, hoodies, knitwear and denim is intended to become circular in time, and is designed with the ability to be recycled or composted at it’s end of life. Each piece is made from traceable organic or repurposed fibres and the brand aim to transition all fibres in this line to come from regeneratively farmed sources.
Maggie Marilyn’s formerly seasonal ranges will be a secondary focus and will be called ‘Forever’ capsules that will still aesthetically reflect the brand’s beloved signature style that initially garnered her loyal following. The pieces are designed to be worn seamlessly with ‘Somewhere’ and will be smaller ranges that are produced in very limited runs. Good news for fans who love her beautiful ruffled dresses and sophisticated suiting.
With more time for research and development Maggie Marilyn will make all fibres traceable and organic or recycled/repurposed in time. These special pieces from the ‘Forever’ collection are designed to last and be treasured forever as their name suggests, which is where the next step of the brand’s plan comes in.
As part of Maggie Marilyn’s circularity journey the brand is launching a repairs scheme through which customers can return pieces to be repaired free of charge, thereby extending the life of the garment. The repairs scheme will initially be available for New Zealand and Australia, and will hopefully be extended further next year. The collection programme for recycling of ‘Somewhere’ garments that have reached the end of their life will also begin in 2021.
Speaking of ‘Somewhere’, today Maggie Marilyn launches the second edition of the line, with ‘Sport’ which includes track pants and shorts, crewneck sweaters, one shoulder singlets, blue jeans and long sleeve t-shirts all in organic cotton. The easy to wear range also features loose organic linen shirts and trousers which are perfect for our current warming weather. In line with being more inclusive, both editions of ‘Somewhere’ now have an extended size range, with sizes available in UK 6 – 20.
To achieve Maggie Hewitt’s vision, the Maggie Marilyn brand requires greater scale in order to help influence the growers behind each textile source to transition to regenerative agriculture. By having more buying power the brand can help support their partners to do this. The success of ‘Somewhere’ to date has been impressive with a 140% revenue increase and 90% web traffic increase each quarter alongside a 95% increase in conversion rates year on year. That means that Maggie Marilyn can confidently expand ‘Somewhere’ and step closer to achieving that goal.
By moving to a new business model, Maggie Marilyn will also achieve another goal of having no markdowns. Maggie Hewitt strongly disagrees with the damaging discounting of quality goods based only on seasonality, and she stresses that clothing does not devalue over time or season to season. In a seasonal model markdowns are often dictated by wholesale partners, whose discounting will push a brand to also discount so customers aren’t disadvantaged by shopping from the brand. Maggie Hewitt is determined that Maggie Marilyn will never go on sale moving forward and wants to shift her customers’ mindsets away from frenzied sale shopping that devalues clothing, towards mindful, considered purchases that are worn season after season.
New pieces from Maggie Marilyn’s ‘Somewhere’ collection.
That customer education is something that Maggie Hewitt has felt wholesaling was a barrier too as without direct communication with customers she was reliant of stockists to do that for her and most didn’t. Now, she is excited to be able to educate and inspire people around making more conscious ethical and environmental choices.
In line with the brand’s own environmental choices, they’ve taken another step towards reducing Maggie Marilyn’s carbon emissions. From now on, all Maggie Marilyn fabrics will be sea freighted in order to significantly decrease carbon emissions. Previously fabrics were airfrighted due to tight wholesale timelines. Maggie Marilyn have worked with Toitū Envirocare to measure their carbon emissions including travel, freight, electricity and transportation to become Toitū carbonreduce certified in line with ISO 14064-1. That means that Maggie Marilyn have committed to a 30% absolute reduction in carbon emissions from their current (222.45 tCO2e per year). In 2021, having achieved this reduction they intend to offset the remainder to become Toitu carbonzero certified.
Maggie Marilyn’s elegant new Britomart store is an exciting first step in the brand’s transition to a direct to consumer model and opening her first store in Aotearoa, her home and Maggie Marilyn’s home, was important to Maggie Hewitt. Since the beginning, the brand has been proudly manufactured in New Zealand and while she still has global aspirations, she will always be grateful of the homegrown support the brand has received here.
Britomart was chosen as the location for the first store because Maggie felt that the values of authentic community building, stewardship and working with what is there through nurturing and evolving, not forcing – aligned with her own. The new Maggie Marilyn store was designed to be a sanctuary in the city – a place to disconnect from the outside world and slow down.
Maggie Hewitt’s vision for the store was brought to life by celebrated interior designer, Katie Lockhart. She designed a clever series of wardrobes with sliding doors for the clothing which reveal only capsules of clothing at a time. It’s the perfect way to reflect Maggie’s ethos and encourages customers to shop slower and more mindfully while enjoying the space.
In a time where we all need to be moving forward as consciously and sustainably as possible, Maggie Marilyn’s bold new direction couldn’t be more welcome and important. The fashion industry has been long overdue for a serious shakeup and hopefully other brands are inspired to make initiatives of their own for positive change.
For Maggie Hewitt, she’s grateful to now have the freedom to change Maggie Marilyn’s world and work towards a brighter future, for both people, and our planet.