Fashion label Maggie Marilyn has just launched their new global website, inspired in part by the beautiful flagship store at Britomart.
Melinda Williams: Last time we talked, when you were just about to transform Maggie Marilyn's business model, you said something you don’t hear a lot of people in business say, that you felt that with the wholesale model, you were “selling your soul”. Obviously over the last 18 months you’ve decided to buy it back, and as we know, souls don’t come cheap! How has that been for you as a business?
Maggie Hewitt: [laughs] Those who know me know that I’m not afraid to bare it all, wear my heart on my sleeve. That change in business model really was a values-based decision. I got into this industry because I knew it really needed to change and I believed that Maggie Marilyn could be a positive force for that change. I guess we pretty quickly got on that hamster wheel of selling to the global wholesale fashion calendar and the challenges that came with that. As much as I try to have clear boundaries for who I am personally and the business, they both really feel quite interconnected and I guess that’s why I felt I was selling my soul, because there’s so much integrity that goes into everything that we do at Maggie Marilyn. So it’s really exciting that 12 months on from that point, we’ve been able to align our values with a commercially successful model. Releasing our impact report a few months ago was great. We’ve managed to decrease our carbon impact by 73 percent, while seeing revenue growth, which is pretty exciting, in fact really unheard of in our industry.
MW: So you’ve learned that investing in sustainability really does have a good return on investment?
MH: It used to be that there had to be a trade-off. If you wanted to have a positive impact, you weren’t going to be as commercially successful, and maybe your product wasn’t going to look as beautiful either. At Maggie Marilyn we feel really passionate we can have it all. I think what we’re really trying to show is that if you want to be successful in the future, you have to combine these two goals. We feel excited that we’re not just showing how a fashion business can operate, but how all businesses can operate. From an operational perspective, our business has entirely changed.
MW: So, Amelia, as Commercial Manager, how did that transition work for you, what aspects of the business did you have to revise?
Amelia Meadowcroft: I joined the team just over a year ago. Maggie called me just before I began and said, “I just want to tell you, we’re entirely exiting wholesale. Do you still want to come on board?” [laughs] So my role was very channel-focused, onto driving the direct-to-customer business. First, that had to start with the team. Team members roles were changed, outlets were changed – we opened up our beautiful Britomart store – the way we talked to our customer changed, every single aspect of our business had to change. But we knew that what we had right at that point was the product, so that was a strong foundation.
MW: And now you've launched the new website, which you teased on your Instagram as a new "home" for the brand.
AM: I really see this next step as the window to the brand internationally. We like to speak of our Britomart space as a home. We worked with Katie Lockhart to bring elements of warmth and sanctuary into the space, elements that we think are really different to what other fashion brands offer. An immersive experience of who the Maggie Marilyn customer is, what they want, what we want them to learn. So when we embarked on this new stage of our global presence, we had the design agency One of One come to the store and look at every detail, the corrugated glass and how that separated the outside and inside worlds, the colours and warm tones, the rust-red carpet and think about how we could bring these elements onto an online platform. One aspect that was really important was the journal. We want this to be a place where our global customer can come to learn all sorts of things, about sustainability and wellness. So we’re really happy with the final product, it’s been a team effort. It’s so exciting that this platform will reach the homes of people all over the world, France, China, everywhere.
MW: With online shopping so ubiquitous now and people used to purchasing online, especially when you have such an intimate space as yours at Britomart, do you find people are still drawn to the retail experience?
AM: I think that comes down to the people in the store and I’m so proud of our team and their ability to read people and understand what they want. We do quite thorough training with all our team members and we spend a lot of time recruiting and making sure they’re the kind of change-makers we need. I honestly think you can build a beautiful store but those people in the store are what brings it to life.
MH: Something that’s always been apparent in the fashion industry is its sense of exclusivity. We are so excited about being inclusive as a brand, whether you buy one of our Somewhere 01 Singlets or one of our more expensive blazers from our Forever collection or just come and read a journal piece at our online home, Maggie Marilyn is a home for you, for everyone. Like Milly said, that comes down to the people in the store and the environment we’ve created in our Britomart home and in our online home. I hope that like what people feel at Britomart, what we’ve created online is grounded in a strong sense of connection and community.
MW: Can you share a few of the new features or details of the site?
AM: From an aesthetic perspective it’s very much a reflection of the store, but it’s a more grown-up version of ourselves that we’re showing. We’re moving away from our traditional pink into sky-blues and lemon-yellows. We really wanted to integrate who we are and what we want to do, so we’ve made it possible for customers to buy trees on the side, alongside their 01 Singlet, by partnering with Million Metres, which is a New Zealand restoration business. We just want to make it normal to think in a sustainable mindset while you’re shopping. We’ve also launched a larger-size inclusivity range, and we’ve spent a lot of time on a filtering process on the new site so you can filter by the size and colour you want. Having these extended sizes is quite rare in the fashion industry so we want to make that experience as seamless as possible. And the last thing is we had a lot of information on our old platform and a big challenge was making that all digestible. So the agency has created an amazing tab format that makes it so easy to navigate.
MH: I think that comes back to the idea of inclusivity. There’s so much we want to educate our customer on in terms of how our clothing is made and what we’re trying to do with our business, and I think sometimes that conversation can feel exclusive, like it’s only for a few. We really want people to feel like they can come here and know what it’s all about. Something I feel really proud of the team for achieving is that there are so many places on the site where we really hero beautiful landscape imagery that we’ve created with photographers and sometimes you can forget that you’re on a fashion platform and you can just fall into different places of education and the journal pieces, and think to yourself ‘This is a place where I can be part of a community, not just somewhere I come to buy clothes.’ At Maggie Marilyn, we’ll feel like we’ve done our jobs properly if that’s how people who come to the site feel.
Visit Maggie Marilyn's online home at www.maggiemarilyn.com