Welcome to Into Labels, a Who What Wear column that profiles the designers behind the brands we can’t stop talking about.
Maggie Hewitt is on the verge of creating a cult-favorite fashion brand. She’s got a signature aesthetic (laid-back tailoring and non-precious frills), a strong fan base among some of the smartest and coolest women in fashion (including Net-a-Porter’s Lisa Aiken and former Teen Vogue Editor in Chief Elaine Welteroth), and at 23 years old, she says she’s fortunate to have time on her side as well. However, of all the major achievements in the last year and a half since launching her line, Maggie Marilyn (her first and middle names), one of the best was gaining a fan in her 90s.
“At the end of last year, one of our stores told us that a 91-year-old woman bought one of our skirts,” Hewitt shared with us. “I was like ‘I can die happy.’” While it’s not a generational audience specifically that the New Zealand–based brand caters to, Hewitt says that creating clothing for all ages is something that’s very important to her. “The ethos behind the brand is really that it has a sense of optimism and that our girl feels like she can really go out there and change the world.”
For Maggie Marilyn’s first few seasons, this has translated to sharp pantsuits (a trend often associated with women who change the world) with a relaxed fit, elevated athleisure, and an apologetic use of ruffles—a detail that makes the label easy to pick out in a crowd (or within a fashion week street style roundup). “That wasn’t planned,” she tells us about ruffles, assuring us its popularity is something that happened organically.
“For me, designing is such an extension of my own personal style and how I dress,” Hewitt explains about her collections. She calls her non-fussy-yet-statement-making line “livable luxury”—an approach that prioritizes things like beautiful fabrics while allowing a woman to live her life fully, less-luxurious moments included.
“I definitely feel like the lifestyle we have in New Zealand is very laid-back, and that’s where the sense of wearability in the clothes comes from,” adds the Kiwi designer. “It’s really important that our customer can wear a silk slip dress to work with a shirt paired underneath and she can wear it to a cocktail party in the same week.” Of all the defining factors of Hewitt’s brand—inclusivity, luxury, and versatility—there’s another non-negotiable.
“When I graduated university and I was thinking about starting my own label, for me, the only way I wanted to have my brand was with a completely transparent supply chain, from where we get our trims and our buttons to ultimately where it’s manufactured,” Hewitt explains. “That has been a passion of mine.”
In order to follow through, Hewitt says all her garments are made in New Zealand—no more than a 15-minute drive away from her, to be precise—with the exception of her knits, which are produced in Italy. Having total transparency across her brand is something that Hewitt says is especially difficult since so many New Zealand brands have gone offshore to produce. But despite the challenges, she prides herself on having a brand that can not only teach its consumers to understand where their clothing comes from but does right by those who create it. “It’s not a question that everyone in the supply chain should be treated with respect and paid a fair wage,” she says.
Five seasons into Maggie Marilyn, and it’s clear this fashion newcomer has had a promising start and, even better, has limitless momentum. "Missteps happen every day," Hewitt admits when we ask her about any hard-learned lessons. "Everything can seem like rainbows and sunshine to an outsider but being young, starting your own business—it's not for the faint-hearted, that’s for sure.” The good news? Perhaps like Maggie Marilyn's customers, the brand itself will only get better with age.