In a blaze of creativity and youthful flair, new label Maggie Marilyn has fast-tracked onto the fashion scene.
Ifeel really lucky,” designer Maggie Hewitt of Maggie Marilyn says over the phone. It’s an observation she’s making not because her label was picked up in its first-ever season by luxury retailer Net-A-Porter, or because pieces sold out on the site in 48 hours, but for growing up in a small town in far-north New Zealand. “To have had such a beautiful upbringing in a beautiful country … the environment and living by the ocean really had an effect on my creativity and my design,” she says. “I hope it gives me a point of difference being so far away from all the craziness.”
With her label now in only its second season, her brand is in its nascent stages. Her point of difference is percolating and growing out of Auckland away from the frenetic fashion capitals and where all of her pieces – wardrobe staples with an unmistakable flourish, like flounced skirts and flared sleeves – are made.
Having a label made entirely in New Zealand allows Hewitt to have a transparent supply chain and achieve her goal of producing everything ethically. It’s a priority that took root in her upbringing in Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands, where verdant farmland meets the Pacific Ocean. “I come from a rural town and I was brought up on a farm,” says Hewitt. “I learnt a deep appreciation of the environment and animals.”
Design-wise, deliberately raw finishes like loose threads on skirt tiers, frayed denim and a predilection for natural cottons and silks recall the relatively unspoilt natural world that encircles the region she grew up in. Peasant blouses have a pastoral hint, while white sheer sleeves call to mind cloudstreaked skies and sea mist that characterise New Zealand’s coastline.
A label that combined a love of art she fostered at fine arts college and a respect for her roots made sense. “I love the challenge of making beautiful garments that are ethical, sustainable and also accessible,” she says. Although her fabrics, except wool, are sourced overseas, she knows exactly where everything is from and how it’s treated, from cotton grown with recycled water to ethical-silk. Keeping production local means she can keep tabs on conditions in the supply chain. “[I like] the idea of making it in the street here in New Zealand and building up the path for other women in the country.”
Since university, art continues to inform her designs. For spring/ summer ’16/’17 she drew inspiration from sculptor Dillon Marsh as well as Michelangelo and his practice of leaving unfinished, or nonfinito, marble sculptures that left an impression of a figure trying to liberate itself from stone. “There are a lot of fabrics being cinched by ties, which gives the feeling of wanting to break free,” she explains.
With her efforts now focused on replenishing her sold-out designs, including responding to pleas for restocks on her Instagram, it seems Hewitt is going to have to think big. Stylist Ada Kokosar was seen in her designs at Paris fashion week and waitlists are growing. It’s a dream trajectory. “That is all you can hope for,” says Hewitt, “for people to fall in love with what you do.”
“I LOVE THE CHALLENGE OF MAKING BEAUTIFUL GARMENTS THAT ARE ETHICAL”
Pieces from the second Maggie Marilyn collection. New Zealand designer Maggie Hewitt. MAGGIE MARILYN TOP, $560, FROM WWW. NET-A-PORTER. COM. MAGGIE MARILYN SKIRT, $1,315, FROM WWW. NET-APORTER. COM.