Once upon a time, in a land far far away called Kerikeri, there lived a girl Maggie Hewitt, a fashion designer.
Maggie founded Maggie Marilyn and made her debut in 2016 with the first few seasons featuring massive ruffles, dramatic sleeves, flared pants and bold shoulders (okay, not all at once but you get the gist!), at times showcased on luxurious silk, other times paired with sneakers and trackpants. The early adopters that stocked her designs were of the likes of the leading luxury retailers such as net-a-porter, Saks on 5th Avenue…allowing trendsetters around the world discover and gain access to her designs. When the Jenners sport your clothes, you might be in the trends, but when the Obama and Markle sports them, you represent your country.
As a new talent from New Zealand, there couldn’t be a better fairytale. Despite all the fashion drama, her brand has been one that focused on the sustainability of the production since the beginning. In this interview with Vogue in 2017, she summarized the key focuses of her brand:
1. Using organic, ethically produced, and recycled materials that aren’t harmful to the environment
2. The majority of the production resided locally, with few exceptions
3. The brand adopted a four-drops-a-year model (instead of eight) to streamline production and allow for more time to design and create
When you are doing something properly you expect people to challenge you so that you could proudly answer to all the questions, right? In 2018 Hewitt (Founder and Designer) realized that no accreditation on a designer’s claim in sustainability and social consciousness were ever questioned in the industry, so she took a proactive approach at their presentation and confronted the audience by narrating throughout the whole show with exceptional details in each piece, from her visit to the fabric factory to who, how and where each piece was made. (Check out the podcast from the Wardrobe Crisis – episode 81)
Then in 2019 she launched a permanent collection called “Somewhere” that provided quality, wardrobe essential pieces at a more affordable price point.
Was it enough? Hell no.
Last week we saw an announcement on their instagram titled – Now it’s time to be brave, announcing that this season would be their last one selling through retailers and other changes on the way. So, what exactly is going on? The Maggie Marilyn team told us that their strategy has been reviewed to take control on the customer experience and accelerate the reduction of the brand’s impact on the climate, working towards circularity. For that, they needed changes that is faster, stronger and bolder.
The strategy strives to achieve the following vision
“Our purpose is to use fashion to create a better world. 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.”
Maggie Hewitt, Founder & Designer
So I decided to match each of their planned action against the three principles to create changes faster, stronger and bolder and here is what I discovered:
Stronger control over the sales model by pulling out from resellers and only selling direct-to-customer. This includes the recent opening of a physical shop in addition to their existing online presence.
✱ This means that the brand no longer has to be pushed to follow suit in markdown strategies of various wholesale partners, because Hewitt strongly disagrees with the pervasive and damaging discounting of quality goods based only on seasonality, stressing that clothing does not devalue over time or season to season, to shift the customer mindset away from frenzied sale shopping that devalues clothing, towards mindful, considered purchases.
✱ Education is a key part of Hewitts mission and wholesale was always a barrier to this. Communication with and education of the people purchasing Maggie Mailryn was left up to the discretion of the stockist – most of whom despite persuasion from Hewitt, took no action. Hewitt is excited to have this direct contact with and ability to educate people around making more conscious ethical and environmental choices.
✱ Moving forward, all Hewitts fabrics will be sea freighted in order to significantly decrease carbon emissions. Historically, the majority of fabrics used in seasonal collections were air freighted due to tight wholesale timelines – another clear example that direct-to-customer is essential in shifting the fashion industry to one that has a lighter impact on our planet.
Fast tracking the circularity journey and providing the customer experience that matches their value.
✱ The brand has launched a repairs scheme through which customers can return pieces that have developed ‘love marks’ to be repaired free of charge. Launching initially within New Zealand and Australia, Hewitt hopes to extend this to her global community next year.
✱ In 2021 they will also launch a collection programme for the recycling of ‘Somewhere’ (their permanent collection) garments that have reached the end of their life. Clothing will be produced in an expanded range of sizes.
✱ As for their first physical storefront: Hewitts vision for a sanctuary in the city – a place to disconnect from the outside world and slow down the shopping experience was brought to life by feted Kiwi Interior Designer, Katie Lockhart. The clothing is housed with wardrobes with sliding doors, revealing only capsules of clothing at a time. Encouraging Hewitt’s ‘guests’ to shop slower and more mindfully. It is with gratitude that Hewitt looks back and with confidence she looks forward. She has always believed that everyone has the power to change the world – now Maggie Marilyn truly has the freedom to change theirs.
Bold movement in realigning the inventory model, moving for 80% seasonal and 20% permanent collection, to 95% permanent and 5% resembles a seasonal collection but the designs will be tightly edited and with limited runs.
✱ Decisions will no longer be dictated by seasons or ‘traditional’ rules. It grants the luxury of time – to design slowly and mindfully. Putting all resources into creating seasonless offerings that are traceable, organic, recycled or repurposed. Hewitt sees this value-based decision as the only answer to furthering progress around transparency, circularity, inclusivity and a regenerative industry.
✱ The primary reason for this inventory reversal is that for Hewitt, the Maggie Marilyn brand requires greater scale to help influence the growers behind each textile source to transition to regenerative agriculture. Simply put – for the brand’s partners to feel supported in investing in the transition, the brand needed to buy more from their growers, guaranteeing them a large enough portion of business. The price accessibility and resulting growth of Somewhere offers this scale.
✱ The scale would also push forward towards other goals such as transparency and circularity, for which one of the plans that required large investments is to implement block chain technology.
We’re raising our glasses to the bravery of this brand, to take on the world on their own and take back the control on how they wish to manage their production, educate their customers, liberating themselves from the traditional reselling market. The brand started off making clothes with integrity and demonstrated that it is always possible to keep pushing the limits and achieve more with a clear strategy and amazing collaboration across the supply chain.
Maggie Marilyn’s story has truly inspired us as a brand that is not scared to share their strategy with the world and be ready for all of us to inspect them and keep them on their toes. Hopefully sometime down the line we’ll check in with the team to see how their strategy has worked for them so far and learn more about the process!