• Fashion

Changing the Face of Fashion with Maggie Marilyn

Why protecting people and the planet is wholeheartedly possible

By Felicity Bonello 

Maggie Hewitt, founder of the globally recognised Maggie Marilyn brand is the real deal. With an enthusiasm towards sustainability that’s infectious, there’s an undeniable authenticity to her that, on speaking for the first time, makes you instantly understand her ground-breaking success within a sometimes-complex industry. Maggie launched Maggie Marilyn in 2016 armed with an activist streak and an inability to turn a blind eye to the social and environmental transgressions of the global clothing manufacturing industry. She’s since aligned her business strategy with 12 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and created an ethical fashion empire from walking the sustainable talk. It’s been no easy feat. But for this trailblazer, there was no other way to create a business.

“Being purpose led has always been so intrinsically ingrained into all my decision-making processes; and I don’t see our values as being obstacles or hurdles because it’s the only way I want to build a business. I think in terms of trying to challenge industry norms when you’re small and you’re starting out, it is definitely difficult,” she says. “But the brand itself is purpose led to use fashion to create a better world, and the vision is to build a business where people and the environment are truly able to thrive. I think what really pushes me forward every day is to actualise those dreams and goals to show that it’s possible.”

Image: Maggie Marilyn
Image: Maggie Marilyn

Environmental consciousness has been at the heart of this label since the beginning; by creating a supply-chain-first business with sustainability and ethics at its core, Maggie Marilyn checks nearly every box in the sustainable brand criteria. “I think one of the biggest things that we don’t do, because we live in a time of convenience, is question and challenge where things come from. Questioning who’s involved in your supply chain; demanding transparency and challenging the organisations that we all choose to support is really important. But you have to see it as a journey. The road to building a responsible brand that deserves to be here in the future is never ending, it’s not really a destination.”

Her supply chain first formula is the brand’s point of difference, but it’s not one Maggie wants to own exclusively. Being a conduit for connection as a brand and cultivating a community of like-minded individuals is important; while openness in terms of shared resources, transparency and collaboration is key. She explains, “No one brand or individual can solve the challenges that our society is going to face in years to come with the environmental crisis. We need collaboration and at Maggie Marilyn we’re only as strong as the brands around us. As much as we can share our resources and learnings and challenges that we face, I think that’s a really important part of the process.”

Image: Maggie Marilyn
Image: Maggie Marilyn

Wary of existing within a bubble of thinking that the conversation is being amplified to the masses, Maggie believes in the power of education and the refinement of the narrative around sustainability.

“You don’t know, what you don’t know,” explains Maggie. “So how can we expect customers to make more informed decisions if we’re not informing them. We absolutely believe that a sustainable future in our industry is possible – you can never aim to achieve anything unless you truly believe it’s possible, so I feel incredibly optimistic about the future but we really have to be transparent with our customer along that journey and share with them, the challenges that we face because by no means have we figured it all out but we have a really clear road map of how we want to build Maggie Marilyn in the future, and treating customers moving forward as key stakeholders in the business is really vital.”

And while sustainability is a wonderful goal, for the team behind Maggie Marilyn, a regenerative business is an even better ambition to strive for. “We’ve just learnt so much over the last five years to now realise that if we ever want to hope to be a sustainable business, we have to look at the entire lifecycle of how a garment is produced and sold and then what happens to it when a customer no longer has a use for it. It’s clarity but it’s adopting circular design philosophies and transitioning our business to one that’s circular has been incredibly important and then I think taking that one step further and looking to be a regenerative business that not only can sustain ourselves on this planet but can actually give back and regenerate rather than just extract.”

Image: Maggie Marilyn
Image: Maggie Marilyn

Relatable and void of any high and mighty approach to the conversation, Maggie suggests that it doesn’t matter where you start as a fashion brand; that you can simply start by getting to know the first person in your supply chain better and building stronger relationships with them; or for consumers it’s deciding to support local or it’s simply questioning where the clothes that you buy are manufactured. All these changes will ensure that a societal shift will eventually occur. “I really believe in the power of small incremental changes and consciousness to see those changes that we need long term.”

And what of the future she hopes for?

“I would be proud if Maggie Marilyn was part of a future where people and the planet are really able to thrive. I think you can’t have one without the other, as you know we’re so intrinsically linked to the health and well-being of the environment. We all want to live a life where we thrive and I think that’s wholeheartedly possible if we look at it through a lens of transparency, inclusivity and transitioning to a circular model that’s restorative and regenerative – that’s the future I feel excited by.”

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