With a name inspired by the designer’s obsession with grey marle, the label is dedicated to producing knitwear basics that are “timeless but also are slightly different”
Juliet Bates has always had an obsession with grey marle. So when it came to naming the knitwear label she’d long dreamed of, she drew on what she loved – clothes in grey marle. Bates, 28, has worked in the New Zealand fashion industry for years. As soon as she left school she studied fashion design at AUT where she majored in knitwear. She soon realised starting her own brand was going to be harder than she thought, so decided to get into the industry to get some experience. She worked at Showroom 22, one of New Zealand’s leading fashion marketing and PR companies, for MAC Cosmetics and then for Glassons as a globe-trotting buyer. It wasn’t until she was pregnant with her daughter, now almost two, that she had the time to really plan Marle. It also helped that her fiance Justin Souter was the sales rep for brands Rusty, Huffer and Commoners for many years.
Souter now has his own agency called The Market Ltd, which sells and distributes brands Cheap Monday, Rains and Happy Socks. He’s also selling Marle and has already picked up an impressive number of stockists throughout New Zealand for the label’s first season.Bates’ vision for Marle was to establish a line of knitwear basics and winter essentials “that are timeless but also are slightly different”. She recognises there are many New Zealand brands with knitwear, but Marle is entirely devoted to it. “We needed something with a modern range of knitwear, a company that’s completely dedicated,” she says. Bates says when it came to naming the brand, she wanted to avoid anything too gimmicky. “I wanted something that reflected knitwear without being too obvious and grey marle is my tone. I could live in marle head to toe.” She means any marle – charcoal, oatmeal… the list goes on. So obsessed is she, during our charcoal-infused grey marle-coloured smoothies custom-made for her by a friend.
There has been a lot of interest in the fledgling brand, which has been encouraging. People have been stopping Bates in the street to find out where they can get her knits. The collection is a succinct range of garments made from 100 per cent merino, cashmere or angora-alpaca wool blends. “People are always interested in a new thing, especially when they can see there’s a gap. I think that has been a huge help for us in that people actually need it,” she says. Marle’s first autumn/winter collection will be in stores this month.
Words: Rosie Kelway
Photography: Heather Liddell