Megan Stewart, footwear designer at Mi Piaci and founder of Megan Stewart Shirts. Photo / Babiche Martens

Meet The Maker: Visiting Megan Stewart, The Designer Fashioning Extremely Dreamy, One-Off Shirts

She cut her teeth at Proenza Schouler and Tory Burch. Now she makes shirts and shoes everyone wants

Sometimes a shirt can beguile the fashion world. Megan Stewart’s versions of this staple, which regularly, feverishly sell-out, are one such example.

They’re crisp and painterly, with embroidery blooming over each, as though inviting themselves to be hung on a wall rather than a body. Flowers appear in beautiful, intricate bunches, like sewn remora; pairs of swans mirror each other in a minimalist tapestry of craning necks and wings.

They’re all made from textiles Megan finds locally and abroad, and all are one-off. “I love the hunt of finding rare and interesting pieces, which is why my collections are small and come out slowly,” she says of her fledgling namesake label.

“When I dress, I love an oversized shirt. It’s been the foundation of my wardrobe for years. I think a forever piece like this works well for displaying these found textiles.”

Tom So and Binh Minh Ha don Megan Stewart's new shirt collection. Photo / Luke Foley-Martin

Megan is always a designer, often a collector, regularly a freewheeling thinker. “I thrive in the moment of creation when you have a million ideas whirling around your head like a hurricane,” she says. “I flourish in the process of making, embracing all the mistakes along the way.”

It’s difficult, she admits, to remember a time when she didn’t. “Playing with Barbie clothes my nana made me when I was younger, I guess you can say it’s always been in my blood.”

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After a brief flirtation with the idea of becoming an architect or a product developer, she turned to a joint degree in fashion design and business at Massey University. “I couldn’t get apparel design out of my head,” she says.

Megan has since risen steadily in the workrooms of some of New Zealand’s leading labels, including Kate Sylvester and Karen Walker, and New York’s Proenza Schouler and Tory Burch, where she “accidentally started working in accessories and footwear” and “fell in love with the other side of fashion”.

“I thrive in the moment of creation when you have a million ideas whirling around your head like a hurricane,” says Megan. Photo / Luke Foley-Martin

When Covid hit, she returned to New Zealand, landing the coveted position of footwear designer at Mi Piaci. It’s a job she now balances by turns with freelance work and her hobby-turned-brand, which she describes as a kind of outlet, a way to have total oversight for every element.

It is perhaps this devotion to style and the controlled sprawl of collections, the way that she can navigate these granular pictures, that has imbued her work with its particular magnetism. We hunger for authenticity, and Megan works tirelessly for it.

“I am forever searching for inspiration,” she says, explaining that good inspiration often comes from everyday life. “For me, it comes from a mood and a feeling, not just an image.”

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