The Maggie Marilyn brand has always kept sustainability at the forefront of its decisions. And with an enforced period of reflection as a result of covid-19, lead designer and founder Maggie Hewitt has taken brave and never-seen-before measures to re-engineer the way her entire brand operates.
The brand story so far is every fashion designer’s fairytale, with Maggie Marilyn becoming the first label ever to be picked up in its debut season by Net-a-Porter, and subsequently featured in Vogue.
Currently, Maggie Marilyn’s established and impressive list of stockists includes global luxury giants like Shopbop and Neiman Marcus. But, from now on, Maggie Marilyn will no longer offer wholesale to retailers. And the only place consumers will be able to purchase Maggie Marilyn garments is from the Maggie Marilyn online store or its new retail ‘Home’ in New Zealand.
There is a myriad of reasons behind this bold decision.
Firstly, withdrawing from wholesale means that Maggie Marilyn is no longer dictated or distracted by seasons or ‘traditional rules’ that go hand in hand when selling to retailers who follow the standard industry calendar which revolves around seasons and end-of-season sales.
This move is born from Hewitt’s strong disagreement with “the pervasive and damaging discounting of quality goods based on seasonality”; clothing should not “devalue over time or season to season”. To date, markdowns have been dictated by wholesale partners, pushing Maggie Marilyn to follow suit so not to disadvantage their direct to consumer sales.
In line with this, Maggie Marilyn garments will no longer go on sale. Hewitt is determined to shift the consumer mindset away from “frenzied sale shopping that devalues clothing, towards mindful, considered purchases”.
There are many benefits to this approach. An absence of seasons grants Maggie Marilyn the luxury of time: to design slowly and mindfully. With the ability to undertake research and development for unlimited periods, this will ensure that future fibres are traceable and organic or recycled/repurposed.
The direct to consumer approach also allows Maggie Marilyn to have control over the entire customer journey and experience. Education is a key part of Hewitt’s mission, and wholesale was always a barrier to this.
Despite persuasion from Hewitt, most stockists lacked communication with and education of the brand to consumers purchasing Maggie Marilyn. The brand is now able to directly contact and educate their community about the conscious, ethical and environmental choices they are making.
The direct to consumer model also enables Maggie Marilyn to reduce its carbon output further. All fabrics will now be sea freighted, whereas historically, fabrics were airfreighted due to tight wholesale timelines. It’s clear that Maggie Marilyn sees direct to consumer as essential in “shifting the fashion industry to one that has a lighter impact on our planet”.
And as global as Hewitt’s aspirations are, she is paying homage to the continued support of the local market by establishing her first brick and mortar ‘Home’ in Britomart, Auckland.
The clothing at the ‘Home’ store is housed with wardrobes with sliding doors, revealing only capsules of clothing at a time. Symbolically and physically, it encourages the Maggie Marilyn community to shop slower and more mindfully.
But that’s not all – a crucial part of Maggie Marilyn’s realignment is to change the brand’s inventory ratios from 80% seasonal collections & 20% ‘Somewhere’ to 5% ‘Forever’ capsules and 95% ‘Somewhere’.
Somewhere is Maggie Marilyn’s line of traceable and evergreen basics made from traceable organic and repurposed fibres that are accessibly priced, with the ability to be recycled or composted at the end of their lives.
Somewhere has also been extended with a second ‘Sport’ edition, and a size range is now extended to UK 6 – 20. Further, in 2021, Hewitt will be launching a collection programme for the recycling of Somewhere garments that have reached the end of their lives.
The primary reason for this inventory reversal is that the Maggie Marilyn brand requires a grander scale to help influence the growers behind each textile source to transition to regenerative fibres.
Hewitt needs to buy more from her growers to support them in transitioning to regenerative agriculture. The price accessibility and resulting growth of Somewhere offers this scale.
Hewitt also aims to implement blockchain technology which requires a much larger investment into raw fibres than would have been possible if Somewhere had continued as the minority.
And when the time comes to recycle Somewhere garments, the quantity of product needed is in the tens of thousands – although Hewitt sees industry collaboration as a key player here.
If you’re wondering if this is the commercially sensible thing to do, Maggie Marilyn’s healthy revenue and web traffic increase year on year since Somewhere’s launch in 2019 drove the confidence behind this move.
It’s clear that Maggie Marilyn has a vision: Hewitt has always believed that everyone has the power to change the world, and now, Maggie Marilyn truly has the freedom to change theirs.