At-home with Maggie Marilyn: Remix chat to the designer in isolation

Remix NZ Editor Amber Baker caught up with the sustainability trailblazer, Maggie Marilyn, to talk all things isolation...

Hey Maggie! How are you and your amazing team doing while in lockdown?

We're good! It's a strange time, that's for sure. We’ve been at a standstill with production but it sounds like we can get back to manufacturing soon and our factories can open at level 3, so we are really happy about that. We’ve been at a standstill with production, so I'm really happy they can start that back up again. 


What have you been missing the most?

I'm never going to take for granted things like going out to dinner and seeing my friends. It seems so trivial but you know, they're things you really miss. I'm sick of cooking and doing the dishes, sick of my own voice!


How are you keeping yourself entertained without venturing out of home?

Well, during the week I've been keeping myself busy with work to be honest. Like there is still quite a bit that we can do remotely and we've obviously been working on our strategy update and a few things for Earth week. To be honest the weeks have actually been going quite quickly which is a blessing.

I’m up in the Bay of Islands with my family in isolation at the moment, so I'm blessed to be able to go outside and easily get fresh air. Sometimes if I don't check my phone or tune into the news, it almost seems like it's all not happening... it's a nice escape.

I've been trying to watch movies and to be honest when I'm in the state of anxiety I almost feel like I can't do that sort of thing... 5'o'clock rolls around on a Friday and you're like OK cool...[laughs]. It doesn't really feel like you can take that time, because it doesn't feel like a weekend, it's very bizarre. 


You're so right - you know it's the weekend but it doesn't really feel any different. What are your five at-home isolation essentials helping get you through?

Good question! My dachshund Honey, she's been a blessing. I think she's loved isolation, not having to go into the office. She loves it. 

I've recently really gotten into reading poetry books. I love Poets like Cleo Wade and Rupi Kaur. I feel like I've been treating them like my Bible. I think depending on what mood you're in, a poetry book can really speak to the mood you're in and like to put those feelings into words, when you can’t always  articulate how you're feeling. I think it's really awesome. 

Also, I've been living in our new Somewhere line. I just haven't felt like getting dressed up at all. I don't even look at my makeup draw! The Somewhere line has felt really comforting with its merino layers and organic cotton hoodies. 

Also, I'm loving face masks and hair masks - they're quite therapeutic. I think when you feel like you had a blah sort of day, things like this can make you feel better.

Something else I've been doing is having baths with epsom salts and lavender oil - it is life changing. Sometimes I go through bouts of bad insomnia and the magnesium in the epsom salt literally puts me to sleep.


Everyone seems to have become whizzes in the kitchen. What's a favourite dish you've cooked?

[Laughs] I definitely don't fit into that category - I don't think I’ve learned to cook anything new. I'm really lucky to be isolating with my family and my sister is an incredible cook, so I've been enjoying lots of her delicious food! However, I have found a new love affair with Cosmopolitans and I'm really into these now. 


So Carrie Bradshaw of you! Are they easy to make? 

They're so easy, it's just cranberry juice, lots of fresh lime and vodka. 


What have you enjoyed the most about lockdown?

I don’t think I would've said this to myself weeks ago but I've been isolating with my family, and it's actually been one of those moments of reflection, where you think 'wow we probably wont ever have time like this together in our lives'. We've literally spent a month together in the same house. That's something i’m actually really grateful for. It's funny how the first week I think we all fought and squabbled so much and now it's very chill! I think you kinda get into a groove again.

Time is so valuable and I think it's really allowed me to slow down and think. I travelled so much last year which I loved doing but it meant that I didn't get to see my family that much and yeah I think I've really enjoyed this moment in time. 


As a designer how are you keeping the creative energy flowing at home?

I feel like something that's quite new to me is trying not to put too much pressure on myself to perform. It's one of these things where I've always been so ambitious so I've always put so much pressure on myself. This has been a time where I'm like you know what, if I have a day where I'm not that productive it doesn't matter because it's just one of those unbelievable times in our lives.

Some days I feel filled with fear and anxiety about the future and I have no capacity to feel creative. And then other days, it could be 11'o'clock at night and I feel a creative flow so I'll turn my music up really loud and start designing. I'm just letting it come in waves and allowing it to flow through me. 

I'm intrigued to know what this pause will do for us all. I think sometimes in order for creativity to flow you have to just pause and stop. You have to let your mind be freed I guess, and I haven't given myself this opportunity since I founded Maggie Marilyn. I never gave myself time to just be. 


You just released your updated report on the Maggie Marilyn sustainability strategy... in my eyes your brand is the benchmark for sustainable and transparent practice in NZ and possible worldwide, you must be very proud of what you're achieving?

I'm really proud of the team that I have! I pinch myself sometimes that I've been able to cultivate and attract like minded people that really push forward our mission.

With sustainability, there's just so much to be done. I think we've come a long way even in a year but we've still got a long way to go. The reason why we share the challenges on our website and through our strategy update is because we really want to hold ourselves accountable. We truly believe in having transparency across all levels of our business and I think it's important to share with our community that it's not always rainbows and sunshine. 

It's challenging to be a small business and have these sustainability goals because sustainability and profitability don't always intersect. So it's been a journey over the last year and I think we've really learnt the importance of having a strategy to guide us. Having started MM straight out of university, I had no business plan or no roadmap, so having a roadmap for our sustainability goals has been really helpful.

There's so much information that's constantly conflicting, and we realise how complex it is for our customer to understand. This is why we work so hard to educate our community and we try to simplify it where possible. 


I've heard you have some great tips for garment care... 

Yes, it's something we talk about a lot!

How to care for your clothes is part of our sustainability strategy - it's not just how we manufacture our garments but how we educate our customers to care for the garments once they leave MM. A huge part of the environmental impact of a garment is done post the consumer purchasing from the brand, so educating customers on how they can care for their clothing in a way that can reduce this impact is really important.

We really discourage our customers to dry clean their clothes and on our website describe how to wash each different fabrication. So many horrible chemicals go into dry cleaning and you can really damage the fabric, especially silk. 

There are some really easy tips like hand washing your silk garments in your sink at home - just gently soaking it in cold water with a little tiny bit of soap, rinse it with clean water, put it on the line to dry somewhere where it gets natural light and then steam it. It'll literally be as good as new.

Another great tip is that the sun is a beautiful natural detergent! You don't always need to wash your clothes - if they smell but don't have a stain on them, turn them inside out and put them in the sun and they will usually be as good as new. It's amazing! 

Get rid of your tumble dryer! It's not great on energy and it ruins your clothes without you realising it. Nothing should ever go in the tumble dryer - not even your pajamas, bras and underwear - they won't last. The heat from the tumble dryer is really erosive to the fabric so we definitely encourage people to never use the tumble dryer.

Also don't hot wash your special garments. I understand you need to hot wash your active wear and your bras and underwear but any of your special pieces should never go on a hot wash. Not only will the fabrics run but the heat is really damaging for the fabric. 

I think nature just has it all figured out, Mother Nature has given us everything we could ever need.