Business

Bringing Business to Life: Maggie Marilyn

Maggie Marilyn's 25-year old founder Maggie Hewitt is a designer on a mission to problem-solve her way through the fashion industry and has already found fans in the Duchess of Sussex and Livia Firth. Here she discusses the challenges of navigating a sustainable business in an unsustainable industry.
By Lori Delaney
17.07.19

What inspired you to launch your brand, Maggie Marilyn?

For me there was no question - if I started a brand it would be one that placed people and planet at the forefront of every decision. I believed that the industry and its customers were ready for change so I wanted to build a brand that championed transparency and made a positive impact on everyone involved. I wanted to make beautiful clothes from an equally beautiful supply chain that would positively affect local communities and the planet. I strongly believe that style and sustainability can and should co-exist.

What are your sustainable priorities for the business?

This was a question we asked ourselves to seriously consider about a year ago. Our answer to this was our Sustainability Strategy for 2020. Maggie Marilyn has been a sustainable brand from the outset, but we felt we needed a really clear roadmap for our sustainability journey ahead. Something to hold us accountable and challenge us to keep powering forward and ticking off our goals!

How has your eco strategy developed as you have grown?

As we have grown I have learnt more every day. I feel like I have completed a masters in sustainability over the past 2 years! The more knowledge I gain, the more our eco strategy develops. Our Sustainability Strategy is our pathway to 2020 and, once we achieve these goals, we will reassess and reset. I don't believe sustainability is a destination, we will always strive to be better.

How challenging has it been to maintain your eco principles?

Maintaining our eco principles is essential; however, we have faced countless challenges in trying to do sustainable business in an industry that is inherently unsustainable. For decades the fashion industry has operated a 'make-take-dispose' model that is intrinsically flawed, operating without the fair treatment of people or planet at its core and with closed doors and secrecy being the status quo. My team at Maggie Marilyn and I are all eternal optimists and will continue to do everything in our power to transform our industry; however, I am also not naive to the fact that we can’t do this alone. We need to work together to create the scale of change our industry needs.

What have been your biggest milestones and triumphs until now?

Our first big eco milestone was our transition to using fully biodegradable bags for all our wholesale shipping. It was so upsetting to ethically and sustainably manufacture our clothing and then slap each individual garment in plastic to send to our wholesalers. We knew there had to be another way! Other big milestones were launching our Sustainability Strategy and our Sustainability microsite on the Maggie Marilyn website. On our microsite you can find in-depth information about our manufacturers, suppliers, fabrics, our challenges, goals and even a section on how to care for your clothes so that they can live a long and happy life!

What have been the main prohibitors to your progress in building a sustainable business?

From a design perspective, sourcing beautiful sustainable fabrics can be a big challenge. Often the minimum fabric order is triple the amount that we would need for production so, despite finding incredible new, innovative materials, we just can’t afford to buy into them. This is a barrier to entry for all small sustainable businesses. As with everything, demand influences supply - so as more designers demand these fabrics, the more affordable they will become. I am an advocate for transparency across our entire business, which is why we have a section on our website called ‘Progress not Perfection’ where we speak openly and honestly about all the challenges we are facing and how we hope to overcome them.

Do you feel pressure from your customers to be more eco?

Yes - and I love it! We love that our customers are passionate and hold us accountable! It’s so important that they are on this journey beside us.

What advice would you give to anyone hoping to launch a sustainable business?

Keep your ‘why’ at the forefront of your mind as this will power you through any tough times and never stop believing that you can change the world.

 

Listen to Vogue's Clare Press as she chats all things fashion with Maggie Marilyn as part of her Wardrobe Crisis series.

Read how Maggie Marilyn fan Megan Markle became a sustainable fashion champion through her ethical wardrobe choices.

See Livia Firth's Maggie Marilyn dress, worn to the Mary Poppins premiere.

Learn more about Maggie Marilyn.

 

Bringing Business to Life: Maggie Marilyn