Have you ever picked up a piece of clothing and wondered how it was made? If so, maybe you’ve thought to yourself “woah, this probably took forever to sew,” or “hm, I wonder what this fabric is made out of” but we’re willing to bet you’ve never wondered where the print itself came from.
For example, if you scroll through Free People’s Instagram, you’re going to see a lot of prints and patterns on various fabrics. And before we can even ask how each garment was cut and sewn, we first have to wonder how the print or pattern itself was designed.
Meet Maggie Carlson, Print Designer for Free People and Founder of Maggie Mays. “For Free People, I start every design by hand, then I scan it into PhotoShop, where I work on it before it gets printed onto fabric,” Maggie explained of her 9-5, “But for my own brand, I stick to upcycling existing vintage fabrics and let the textile speak for itself,” she differentiated for her side hustle.
“I started by selling vintage,” Maggie said of her early Maggie Mays beginnings, “I would add little flairs to vintage pieces, like patchwork embellishments or embroidery.” And while she still upcycles existing pieces into new, one of a kind beauties, Maggie has also taught herself how to pattern-make and sew, “Now I’ll cut and sew recycled garments into one of a kind designs - like my patchwork daisy baby tees.”
Being one of a kind is key to the ethos behind Maggie Mays. “I enjoy making one off pieces because my customer loves having something that no one else is going to have,” Maggie remarked. And while she values sustainable practices, Maggie is far more focused on designing something special and beautiful, “I focus on how cute an item is, and try to create it in a sustainable way” she explained, “My customer can tell that what I’m creating is sustainable because it’s one of a kind and clearly made from recycled garments.”
Gone are the days where a brand can market itself as being sustainable and hope that it’s good enough to please a customer. Big and small brands alike are having to put their values to the test, because now customers are demanding earth friendly practices and cuteness. A balance that many mainstream brands have trouble achieving.
“There’s a market now for small brands who want to cater to customers that are staying up with trends, but don't want to shop fast fashion,” Maggie said of the mostly gen-z led movement to demand more of how our fashion is made. “Classic silhouettes will always be in trend, so while my fabric choice may be bright and girly, I try to stick to a simple silhouette,” Maggie explained of her choice to keep it simple, while making playful pieces. “Pieces with a unique touch and feel are always going to be special - even when the trends go away.”