Behind the scenes at Maru: An interview with our very own Jill Thorpe
It’s a new year and everyone at Maru is loving how beautiful the spring/summer costumes have turned out. But do you ever wonder what it takes for the Maru team to bring these designs to life? As a garment and technical specialist at Maru, Jill Thorpe was able to give us all the juicy details about what goes on behind the scenes in a Q&A. Here is what she had to say.
Hi Jill, can you tell us a little bit about your role here at Maru? How long have you been working here?
I’ve worked at Maru as a sample machinist for 14 and a half years, but I’ve known the brand for around 27 years. I’ve worked with the brand for most of its life considering it’s Maru’s 30th Birthday this year! My actual job title is a ‘garment and technical specialist’, but I often refer to myself as a sample machinist because that’s what I’ve always been since I left school. The largest part of my job is making the sample garments for each new line and design of the Maru swimming costumes.
I’m from an area in Nottinghamshire where manufacturing used to be the main form of employment for women, so I learnt to sew professionally straight out of school. But now, manufacturing isn’t so big in the UK, the skills needed to be a sample machinist are becoming a rarity.
You’ve been a sample machinist for most of your life. Do we have your expertise to thank for Maru’s amazing spring/summer line at the moment?
The way we work at Maru is very collaborative. We encourage everyone to get involved in the development of the new designs, whether it’s coming up with names or finding inspiration for fabric patterns that fit with Maru’s classic bright and bold costumes. Sometimes we’ll see patterns when we’re out and take a picture to send to the team. I work a lot with Lisa. She’s the product marketing and merchandising director, and also, Charlie who is a product and marketing coordinator.
We often work together alongside the finance and sales teams to share our ideas for new designs and to discuss which samples we love. Sometimes, a fabric that looks amazing looks a lot different when made into a costume, and other times, a fabric which we weren’t so keen on looks beautiful made up into a costume. Seeing how the complete samples look is quite an interesting part of the job for me as it’s always full of surprises.
If you had to choose, which costume from this season would you say is your favourite?
I’d definitely have to say all of them, but I love each one for different reasons. There is such a wide range of designs and they’re all eye-catching in their own way. If I had to narrow it down though, I would say I’m really liking the strappy garments for the ladies and girls. The thin straps allow us to really play around with colour because we can use the straps to contrast the design or become the best part of it. You can really chop and change.
I also love sewing the ladies’ legsuits because they’re challenging. Even though I’ve been a sample machinist for over 40 years, I still love sewing so I always rise to a challenge.
You can’t choose a favourite, but maybe you can tell us, in your opinion, what is the one thing every Maru swimming costume needs to have?
If they left it to me and Lisa, every single costume would HAVE to have sparkles. But at heart, Maru is a swimwear brand for every type of swimmer. Every costume has to be practical, which means different things depending on the line. For example, the ladies seem to want more strappy designs, which I love doing, but they also want to feel secure. So we came up with strappy designs with extra straps so every costume feels secure.
The girl’s range is bright and vibrant but we make sure all the designs are ones we wouldn’t mind seeing on our own children. At Maru, we like to mix fun with practicality across all lines. The boy’s and men’s lines also seem to love a lot of sparkle in their designs.
OK, so as we come to the end of our Q&A session, we’re wondering about the rest of the Maru team. What does everyone do in their spare time and what would you say is the best thing about Maru?
There is quite a large age gap between the team members so our hobbies can be wildly different. There are some swimmers in the team, and even someone who was a pro synchronised swimmer, so the insight really helps. Maru has changed a lot since I’ve worked there. Looking back, the first designs were quite plain and built for different body shapes than they are today, but times change and people change which is exciting. In fact, I think the way Maru has changed over the years has led to one of the best things about Maru: our sustainability range.
We’re using more sustainable materials now because that’s what many of our customers are looking for. But it’s brilliant for me because these materials work fantastically under the sewing machine. They’re a dream to sew. What I found surprising at first is that there is no difference in the quality of the regenerated fabrics than the others we use. Sometimes people think it won’t last as long, or they won’t hold the same colourful prints. But these regenerated fabrics perform just like non-recycled materials do which is great for Maru and great for the environment too.
We would agree that our sustainable approach is one of the things we’re most proud of, as well as our partnership with The SEA LIFE Trust. Thank you for sitting down with us Jill, we can’t wait to see what you come up with for the autumn/winter collection!
To see the designs Jill and the team have dreamed up for spring/summer, hop onto the Maru website and take a look at the range. We think there’s something for everyone so why not take a look?