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An Interview with Maggie Marilyn

Since launching her eponymous brand in 2016, New Zealand born and raised Maggie Marilyn has been taking the fashion world by storm. Originally stocked by Net-a-Porter and now by over seventy-five stockists worldwide, Maggie Marilyn has had an amazing amount of success in such a short amount of time. What drives this success however, is her genuine dedication to becoming a positive force in the fashion industry.
A close relationship with her father has instilled strong ethical foundations in Maggie, foundations that have helped built her love for community and environment even up to this day. At Maggie Marilyn, the goal is to create aspirational clothing, that’s both sustainable and ethically produced. A challenge faced by many brands as consumers clamour for transparency, but for Maggie she embraces the challenge with open arms. We sit down with Maggie Marilyn and talk about her inspirations, passions, and her vision for the future of the fashion industry. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background, what made you decide to start Maggie Marilyn? 
I come from a very small rural town at the top of the North Island in New Zealand. I started my label straight out of university when I was 21. I guess I'm a dreamer, as naive as it sounds I really want to make a positive difference in our industry. I knew there was a way to make beautiful aspirational clothing that was attainable, sustainable, and ethically conscious all at the same time. I just had to think outside of the box; and so this drive and passion gave me the determination to start my own label.

Back in 2016 your debut collection was launched exclusively in Net-a-Porter, and from then you now sell at seventy-five stores nationwide! What has this transition been like? 
It really has been a total whirlwind! I feel incredibly blessed for the support and belief that our buyers have shown for my brand. Thats not to say it doesn't take an extreme amount of hard work and dedication. It’s not always easy having a righteous objective; and it really takes a huge amount of dedication and research to be ethically and sustainably produced, manufactured in New Zealand, and still sit at an advanced contemporary price point.  Despite this, I have a burning optimism that Maggie Marilyn will be a positive vehicle for change in our industry. One that is long overdue.

Maggie Marilyn is all about clothes that aren’t just beautiful, but also strive to make a change in the industry. Talk us through your sustainability story and how this ethos came to be?
I feel incredibly blessed to live in a country like New Zealand. I think as kiwis, we naturally have this integrity to look after our beautiful environment. My dad is also a huge inspiration in my life. He is an amazing entrepreneur but also instilled extremely strong ethics in me. He taught me to give back to the community and to treasure and honour my team, and to lift them up. So I think this is where I got this relentless drive to be an ethically manufactured brand. 

When I first started Maggie Marilyn, I had huge dreams of becoming an international label; but it never felt right to not support or give back to my local economy and community. So everything at Maggie Marilyn is made in New Zealand, bar our knitwear, which is made in Milan. My passion for sustainability however, really grew throughout  my years in university. I was lucky to go to a school where this was a big part or our core curriculum. I spent my entire graduate year researching the negative effects the fashion industry has, not just on the environment but also on its people. I think the more I learned and uncovered, the more it became impossible to turn a blind eye — this I believe is where my journey really began. I am a true believer that knowledge gives us power. Through my extensive research on sustainability in fashion, this knowledge gave me the power to find my true calling. To hopefully be a leader, a shining light to a positive future ahead.

In what ways do your production processes minimise your environment impact? 
We try to minimise throughout all aspects of our design process. Our ruffle detailing allows some of our garments to have zero waste pattern techniques, such as our "One Sunny Day Dress" from the resort collection. We also use Organic cotton, Organic wool, recycled metal zippers, and recycled polyester made from recycled plastic bottles. I never want to claim that we are perfect as a brand in this respect, but we are on an exciting journey, and we will strive to get there. 

Today, sustainability is more important than ever, with brands becoming more and more concerned about their carbon footprint. What role does the fashion industry play in the effort to minimise our environmental impact as a species?
This is definitely a challenge. By producing more and more clothing every season, inherently, the fashion industry is just not sustainable. It would be more sustainable to say, “Ok we are all going to wear cotton sacks for the rest of our lives," but to me this is also not realistic. Fashion has the power to make us dream, to inspire us. A strong blazer can make you feel like you can conquer the world! It is easier to get overwhelmed by all that needs to be done, but for me it is simple. Start by just asking, “Where are my clothes made, who planted the cotton seed of the denim jeans I am wearing? Who dyed, spun, sewed, washed, folded and packaged them?” We have become so connected through technology and social media, however we have also become disconnected and detached from something as simple as who made my clothes?

As consumers, how can we make a difference in protecting the future of our planet? 
Start by asking more questions. I encourage you to continue to challenge my brand,  as well as challenge businesses and labels that you care about and that you buy from. Challenge your own organisation, the industry, your community, and continue to challenge yourselves. We all need to do better and we must do better! We all need to come together and realise that a dress or a pair of jeans will never ever be worth the cost of someone’s life or the future of our planet. 


Interview by 
Hannah Tan-Gillies