Misha Nonoo is not baking bread, picking up needlepoint, or otherwise struggling to fill her newfound leisure time amid the pandemic. Misha Nonoo does not have any newfound leisure time.
The fashion designer—known to Town & Country readers at least as much for her friendship with Meghan Markle as for her eponymous brand—had her first baby in early March, and also has a label to run. Fortunately for the latter, Nonoo's business model is uniquely well-suited to weathering the current economic crisis and general coronavirus-caused disruption. Misha Nonoo left the fashion week calendar years ago, so she doesn't have to worry about devising a substitute for the standard runway show; since the brand's clothing is all made-to-order, there's no mound of unsold merchandise piling up.
While quarantining, first in East Hampton and then in Los Angeles, the New York-based designer has even managed to launch a new collaboration: an array of jewel-toned shirt studs for the brand's staple Husband Shirt, created with the help of Allison Fry's jewelry brand Fry Powers.
Below, Nonoo discusses what it's like to collaborate without meeting in person, the unexpected blessing of family time in quarantine, and the future of the fashion industry—but not the Duchess of Sussex. Any prodding in that direction is gently deflected by her equally polite, equally British publicist; Misha Nonoo is nothing if not gracious.
So, how did the collaboration with Fry Powers come about?
I have always thought of the stud on the Husband Shirt as a piece of jewelry and I love jewelry. And in today's moment and climate where people aren't really wearing a lot of jewelry, I was thinking about how we would look at the stud as being a piece of jewelry and an accessory.
We started with the studs on the Husband Shirt being silver, and then we launched gold, and then we launched gunmetal and then we've launched rose gold, in that order... and I'm thinking about the summer, and I thought, how fun would it be to have little pops of like jewel-colored enamel studs?
And as I was thinking about this, I was scrolling on Instagram and I saw an Allison Fry ring. And I thought that feels very timely, very fun, very poppy.
You also recently launched a collaboration with Hatch, remaking the Husband Shirt in a maternity cut. What is it about the collaboration model that excites you?
I love working with other people and I love working with other creatives. I think that there's something nice about working with people and leveraging each other's ecosystems, when you share values—and that's a really important piece of the puzzle to me, is sharing values with another company, another founder, and being able to come together and create something together. And I think that that's kind of something that, in this post-COVID world, is so fascinating. I could work with somebody and never actually physically meet them...
It's kind of interesting to see a collaboration come to life when normally it would take meetings and all of that travel time, and we've been able to do this without any of that. And I think that might be a bit of a model for the future potentially. It would mean that it would open up a whole world of opportunities, if this works.
Speaking of COVID-19, the pandemic has forced fashion companies to rethink a lot of things—in particular in-person shows. Your brand left fashion week years ago; do you feel like this is a turning point for the wider industry?
I do, I think so. I was speaking to an investor and advisor and an advisor of mine and what he said was really fascinating. He was like, "Coronavirus has just accelerated many of the trends that we were already seeing." So I was, I think, ahead of many of those trends in how I was approaching the business of fashion. I think there are a lot of brands are going to be forced to do the same things now.
Good to be ahead of the curve, right?
Yeah. I mean, it can sometimes be scary because you don't always know that what you're doing is right. I think it was five years ago that I showed my whole collection on Instagram. It was four years ago that I went fully direct-to-consumer. It was three years ago that I went on-demand in the manufacturing process.
All that time ago, I didn't know that I was doing the right thing. In a way it's validating now, but now I'm also looking for my next move. And I actually think that partnerships with like-minded individuals who share values are really important. Because it's just drilling down and hammering home the same message to your customer and their customer again and again.
How've you been passing the time while in quarantine?
Well, I have a four month old baby, so—
I don't feel like I ever have enough time, honestly. Yeah, I had my first baby on March 2nd, and so it's been very chaotic trying to organize time. I mean, it's been the best thing having a baby in all of this, because we've really been able to spend time as a family of three, which has been so special because normally my husband would have been back to the office very quickly, and would've been traveling and all that kind of stuff, and the fact that we've all been together has been wonderful.
But it's also been quite extraordinary because it feels like there aren't enough hours in the day and people are like, "Oh my God, I'm so bored. I can't see my friends." I'm like, "Boredom hasn't even registered for me." But I have to say that it's been a wonderful time. And for a lot of people coronavirus has been really, really hard and I empathize deeply, but I have had the greatest blessing come into my life. So I'm very, very lucky with the timing of things, I think.
Has becoming a mother changed at all what kind of clothes you want to make or how you think about your customer?
Yes. I definitely think that—I think now about accessibility. I've always thought about how you wear something from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and beyond. But now I think about creases; if you're carrying your baby, then your whole sleeve gets creased, so what fabrics are we using that have a preventative something that allows for you to not get all wrinkled?
I think a lot about laundering and care and all that kind of stuff, because what you're wearing all day will inevitably get something on it that needs to be laundered, and we're certainly not dry-cleaning anything right now. So everything has to be able to go into the wash on a delicate cycle and hung dry and all those kinds of things that become even more at the forefront of my mind. So it's like, you want to take the preciousness out of your clothes, and you've got to really be able to wear them day in, day out.
I read that after designing with a wider size range for Meghan's Smart Works capsule collection, you were inspired to expand the sizes offered at Misha Nonoo as well. Is that still something you're toying with?
One hundred percent. We actually were going to launch that this year in the fall, but because of COVID, things have been pushed back in terms of manufacturing. We've had some delays with factory partners. So we are pushing that to Q1 of next year, but 100% that's going forward.
Yeah, I can't imagine how difficult all the logistics must have gotten post-pandemic.
Totally. I mean, it's been like... There have been headaches all around, let's put it that way. Hence why I feel like there's never a dull moment. I'm like, "I don't even know what day it is, let alone what time of day it is."
You're not, say, powering through Netflix these days.
Oh, no, no, no. People are like, "What are you watching on Netflix?" I'm like, "Are you kidding me?" No. If I sat on a sofa, I'd fall asleep right now.
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