Juliet Souter is the co-founder and creative director of Marle, a premium womenswear label grounded on the philosophy of everyday luxury.
Based out of the beautiful beach town of Mount Maunganui in New Zealand, each piece by Marle is made entirely from natural fabrics and fibres, with Juliet being committed to building a high-quality brand that leaves a lighter footprint on the planet.
Thoughtful, feminine and low-impact, Marle is a go-to for women worldwide, with its timeless, season-less pieces allowing the wearer to love them for a lifetime. Here, we chat with Juliet about what it means to own a business today, the positive impacts natural fibres have not only on our planet, but our skin too, and why she views jewellery as a tangible way to hold onto memories and emotions.
Your designs are so beautifully created, exclusively through the use of natural fibres and fabrics - what inspired you to create your label in such a way?
Thank you, that is so kind. I have always been drawn to natural fibres. As one of many who has somewhat sensitive skin I much prefer how natural feels when worn and the benefits to us, the wearer. I also love the inherent texture that comes with each fibre, each has a unique look and I enjoy translating those fabrics into modern pieces.
Owning a business for me, meant standing for something and not contributing to the global landfill problem by using synthetic fabrics that don’t break down for hundreds of years. What comes from the earth can return to it.
At NMJ, we design with timelessness in mind, something we think Marle exemplifies well. What do you think it is about your design style that makes Marle so distinguishable?
I think the simplicity each piece exemplifies makes it distinguishable but the fabric is what carries it further and makes it truly identifiable. Texture is a large part of the design process for me, I pull out all of our fabric swatches and start there at the beginning of each season then the silhouette comes second.
What do you personally love about wearing natural fibres and what are some of your favourites to wear?
I love that they have a fluidity to them, they follow the seasons perfectly in how they’re created and ultimately worn. I personally find synthetics a bit suffocating, they don’t breath or move with the body like natural fibres do.
Choosing a favourite is too hard, however, in the cooler months I love to wear Perino – this is ZQ certified merino, ethically sourced New Zealand Brushtail possum and Mulberry silk, it has an incredible lightness but is wonderfully warm and soft and has the added benefit of little to no piling due to the possum fibre (the structure of the fibre is hollow and doesn’t have scales so isn’t irritated when worn).
In summer its between linen and silk, again the lightness when worn, the breathable properties they harness but also the ability to conjure such beautiful texture.
We are passionate about creating mindfully. One way we do so is by only creating to order, by hand, in our Sydney studio. This was a conscious decision that allows us to minimise our footprint on the environment. We imagine that sourcing natural fibres and fabrics allows you to tread lightly, but we’d love to understand the process you embarked upon to set up a conscious production process for Marle. What came first? The process or the designs?
The design came first. When we launched we were a knitwear brand using mostly natural fibres. After the first season, it didn’t sit well with me to be producing garments that had even a touch of synthetic fibres in them and I made the decision to move to exclusively natural fibres in all that we do. Once that decision was made, it sort of set the brief with designing and gave us a clear business mission and standpoint. It has come with its challenges, there aren’t as many options available when sourcing and natural fibres are sometimes more delicate and are more expensive to use.
From that point, we also changed our production process and went direct so we had more control and transparency around who was making our clothing. I didn’t want to contribute to the dire situation our planet faces around the use of plastic so moved to all compostable packaging - our bags are TUV certified and we can confidently say they break down within a matter of weeks, tried and tested here in our office.
Sustainability is fast becoming a trending word - at NMJ, it’s been at the core of our brand since inception, and we know it’s been the same for Marle. What are your hopes for the fashion industry moving forward?
I hope that all the hard work we’re all putting in becomes mainstream, the norm and expected. Humans can’t keep producing the way we have in the past, it is having detrimental effects which we’re all aware of however, once these practises and fibres (such as coconut silk etc) are in the mainstream, it will make them more readily available to use, more cost-effective and will help alleviate the strain on our planet.
Jewellery to us is a form of storytelling, self-expression and individualism. What does jewellery mean to you?
I am a very sentimental person so mostly wear jewellery that has a special meaning to me. Jewellery helps to tell the story of who we are and is a tangible way of holding onto memories and emotions, I love the ritual of putting each of these precious moments on each and every day.
What does your NMJ piece mean to you?
I am drawn to beauty in imperfection and my Dali Ring exemplifies that notion. The soft undulating curves and twist of the fine string of gold with the heavier weight is such a beautiful contrast and makes it a unique piece to me. It’s more of a piece of art, which I love. I will treasure this ring forever.