Maggie Marilyn on making clothes and wearing makeup that’s real world-ready (and sustainable)


There’s a dress called ‘Looks like we made it’, a pair of pants called ‘Nothing stopping me’ and a coat called ‘You give me strength’. “When it’s a blazer or coat, we have powerful names because if you put on something like the ‘Made for greatness blazer’, there’s something about manifesting that throughout the day that helps you a little bit,” explains Maggie Hewitt, the 25-year-old designer behind Maggie Marilyn.

It's the day before Hewitt’s first-ever runway show at New Zealand Fashion Week, but the Auckland-based designer is calm. Organised. Unflustered. This is not the norm for most designers before their own show. But neither is filling the front row of her show with her makers and suppliers. “We manufacture here in New Zealand and I really wanted to do an event to give back to everyone who helped us to get to this stage,” she explains. “We work with them so intimately but they never really get to see where the clothes end up, on a runway, and I guess we want them to feel proud that they were a part of making them as well.”

Starting the label three years ago and selling her first collection to Net-A-Porter, Hewitt is now internationally regarded as one of the most promising young designers. Her clothes are worn by Cleo Wade (who has also become a close friend), Zosia Mamet, Meghan Markle and more—they’re the kind of women known for what they say and stand for just as much as what they wear. Appropriately then, the label’s styles have names that convey that same kind of positive energy; Markle’s dress was a customised version of the ‘Leap of Faith’ dress. (An apt name too, if seen as a coded message to royal watchers.) These women are drawn to the label’s colour, its mix of the pretty with the cool, but also its sustainably-minded approach.

“We’re all about beautiful clothing made with love,” says Hewitt, who after studying fashion design, felt disillusioned with the industry. “I was burnt out, and felt fashion was a pretty awful industry, to be honest,” she admits, mentioning her internships. “I’d seen a lot of things that I wasn’t proud of. Fashion is one of the most polluting industries and doesn’t treat people very nicely, and that didn’t align with my ethics.” But she still loved being creative and creating clothes. “I thought, ‘I have to dress myself, and there’s no clothing out there that I want to buy because I don’t know where it comes from, and there’s nothing that is an accessible price point.’”

Environmental consciousness has been at the heart of the label since the beginning. Each year, she and her team endeavour to do more; “Progress, not perfection,” is Hewitt’s mantra. “Growing up in New Zealand, we have this slightly protective bent to protect the environment,” says the young designer who grew up in a small rural town at the top of the North Island. “I’m a country girl at heart, and spent most of my upbringing outside.” This practical streak informs her collections too. While she would love to design with sequins (“It’s the magpie inside of me!”) she avoids it “because it’s made of plastic and not recyclable”. Instead, Hewitt’s fabrics are predominantly made from recycled natural fibres and repurposed materials, including recycled polyester repurposed from plastic bottles, or a lightweight textile that feels like silk-cotton but is made from the 100 percent rose petals (truly).

Her approach to beauty takes a similar approach. Experiencing bad skin as a teenager fuelled her interest in skincare. “I’m obsessed with skincare! If you’ve had bad skin, you’re obsessed with making it better. It’s the one thing that I’m like, ‘If you have good skin, you can go anywhere!’ It’s so important,” she says. For her daily routine, it’s Eve Lom’s cleanser and Drunk Elephant’s Lala Retro Whipped Cream, which she loves for winter and when she’s travelling, as well as Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum. “I feel like it’s the only thing that gives you just this incredible glow.” When travelling, she restricts herself to carry-on. “I hate check-in, it just makes everything longer!” So, she stocks up on travel-sized essentials. “I recently was in London for three days and it was just carry-on. The travel sounds glamorous but it’s gruelling. You get off a plane and straight away I’m in an appointment or a meeting. It’s not a holiday.”

Keeping her makeup pared back, her daily routine consists of concealer, RMS blush and Hourglass’ bronzer and mascara. “I love the packaging, I’m such a packaging junkie. If the packaging is good, I’ll buy it!” Red lipstick is another favourite. “If I’m tired and the bags under my eyes are growing, red lipstick does the trick! I have an orange-y red one that goes with everything.”

There’s that pretty/street, dressed up/dressed down blend that’s always evident in her designs. She describes her label as “liveable luxury—it comes back to me being from New Zealand and wanting to create pieces that you can live in, and that don’t feel precious,” she says. “I’m a tomboy at heart, so I love wearing a dress with chunky sneakers, and I want to design pieces that you can wear every day.”

Her recent collections have been dominated by bright pops of colour—emblematic of her current mood. “I find colour so uplifting, and it has such an emotive quality to it. That’s what fashion is supposed to be, right? It’s supposed to inspire. And so even though we talk about serious issues like the climate crisis and sustainability, we still want to be a feel-good brand and empower our customer, so that she can buy beautiful clothes and feel good about the purchase because we’ve done the work for her and ensure that it all comes from a beautiful supply chain.”


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