Madeline Tait has been in the New Zealand Fashion Industry for many years. Tait Introduced an eco-friendly label Small Town Wild in 2020, that focused on luxury loungewear with a sustainable twist. Now, she’s taking her label, new name and all, into an even more eco-conscious mindset. Robecca Leyden spoke to the young designer about where she’s going with her new label, why she changed it to her namesake and her predictions for the future of New Zealand fashion.
What made you change the name of the brand so early on? Why do you feel like you’ve outgrown Small Town Wild?
Small Town Wild was put together as a family, designer and operations manager couple-duo with a new baby in tow. When our relationship ended not long before our son’s first birthday the brand came to a halt as I focused on myself and my son. After a few hazy months I came out the otherside with a loss of connection to Small Town Wild as a brand. I was in the process of finding my own identity and coincidentally decided my brand needed to have an identity that was intrinsically me. After some deep long discussions with my oldest friend and mentor I had an ‘aha’ moment in the middle of the night and realised the brand was me and my name and that I needed to get to this point to realise it was my confidence that needed to rise up.
Your background is in fashion, and you’ve been in this industry a long time. What do you love about the NZ fashion scene? What do you think makes it so unique?
I have been involved with many different brands over the past 15 years since graduating from Massey University. I’ve always loved fabric and creating, it runs through me. NZ fashion is diverse and considered and I feel there is always room for something new or a new designer to shine. We are a small country and an even smaller industry, but we have big ideas and are seen as world class.
Even as far back as 2016 you’ve released collections that are environmentally conscious. How important is this to you as a fashion designer?
How I live my life personally needs to translate into how I run a business, you know in my day to day life, I compost, I recycle, I re-use where possible, I try to make as much food from scratch to keep what we do conscious, reduce waste. These are all important factors on how I can sustainably run my business too. Look at what fabrics we buy, how we package and what we can do to re-use or upcycle previous season designs into something new. We will release re-worked collections throughout the year amongst our new collections that will be pieces completely reworked from existing styles or fabric, breathing new life into something that might not be appropriate for the current season. We try to practice a circular model where possible and the more our business has growth the more we will be able to dive into this.
Where do you see the industry headed when it comes to the climate crisis and the fashion industry’s notorious reputation for wastage?
You can see everywhere you go now there are all types of businesses doing a little bit or a lot, everyone is trying to do something to help, consumers are becoming more aware. Unfortunately there will always be consumers who just want cheap and easy which makes it hard for us little guys trying to do the right thing. Making small runs using ethical and sustainable practices isn’t cheap at all but hopefully the more and more it becomes available and a necessity the easier it will become to operate a business in this way.
Your upcoming collection under your name Maddy, will be ‘re-worked’. What does this mean?
I sort of mentioned this above, at the end of every season we review our leftover stock and look at how we can redesign these pieces into new designs. To create a circular process within our production and manufacturing. We hope this means nothing will go to waste as we strive to keep re-imagining our pieces into each re-worked collection.
What’s made you take your sustainability approach a step further?
I’m just trying to do every little bit I can and the more the business grows the more action I can take to do more and more.
How hard is it for a label to become circular and have a totally transparent supply chain model? How do you plan on managing this?
You have to be innovative, it’s also hard as it costs more which reduces the margin that we receive, but I feel better about reusing something or re-offering something rather than just creating something brand new every time. My clothing isn’t designed to only be worn for a couple of months, it’s designed to be a beautiful piece that lasts in your wardrobe.
As we grow over the next year we will be implementing more transparent supply chain info through our website and social channels, there are no secrets here and we want to share what we do and how we do it.
What’s the future for your label? What can we look forward to from you?
We are just focusing on each collection at a time, growing our brand awareness organically. We are hoping to branch out into the Australian market and even open a pop-up store towards the end of the year. We want to share our stories through our clothing. You can look forward to fun, pretty, beautiful and wonderful pieces from Maddy. You can view the new reworked collection online and follow their journey on Instagram.