Why Designer Misha Nonoo is Showing Her Spring 2016 Collection on Instagram

Britt Aboutaleb
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Designer Misha Nonoo will present her Spring 2016 collection on Instagram. Photo: Kelly Stuart

Fashion week can be monotonous. The same people gather twice yearly to visit the same venues, wait for 30 to 45 minutes, and watch a parade of women walk down a runway. The clothes, of course, are thrilling for any fashion lover. And the truly theatrical productions—Marc Jacobs in New York, Chanel in Paris—are pure magic. But if anyone were to calculate the time wasted between the miles logged by editors, buyers, and models traversing the world, well, as the world evolves at this most rapid pace, why hasn’t the way fashion presents its collections?

The short answer is that, despite being an industry that flips the world’s “must-have list” on its head every few months, it hates change. It’s time to shake things up, says newly-minted CFDA designer Misha Nonoo. The 29-year-old Brit by way of Bahrain is taking a major risk and showing her spring 2016 collection on Instagram. Inspired by a meeting with Sheryl Sandberg last year, as well as the way her recently-launched ecommerce has allowed her to interact with her global customer, Nonoo’s abandoning everything about the traditional runway show in favor of what she calls “this amazing visual storytelling platform.”

What does that mean? This week, Nonoo’s team will produce an original editorial shoot starring her spring collection at artist Dustin Yellin’s Pioneer Works in Brooklyn. Editors and buyers will receive an invitation to her show on the morning of Saturday, September 12th, but “the show” will be an unlocked Instagram account that, when your phone is flipped sideways, displays one long stream of outfits. Want to get a better feel for look #7? It will have its own Instagram account, to which you can click off and zoom in. The best part, of course, is that you don’t need an invitation—anyone can tune in. That, and you can do it from anywhere in the world. “I’ve spoken to so many editors and buyers who are like, ‘I missed this show by 5 minutes!’ I think they’ll appreciate the time saved—and we all go on Instagram to see the collections anyway,” Nonoo says.

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Designer Misha Nonoo in this month’s Elle magazine. Photo @mishanonoo/Instagram

Smartly, the designer is more concerned with the clothes, and how her customer reacts to each new collection, than with what the industry thinks of how she shows it. And yet she understands the risk she’s taking eschewing nearly 75 years of tradition. “Whenever you do something new and different there’s always a chance people won’t like it,” she says. “But all I know is I live with a man who has disrupted the art industry [her husband, Alexander Gilkes, founded Paddle8] and I think that’s a model that’s even more resistant to technology than fashion.”

There’s one other major risk: the social moment. Since Dolce & Gabbana put bloggers in the front row for their Spring 2010 collection, there’s been a daily battle for “buzziest show” during fashion month. A show hasn’t happened, really, if no one is talking about it on social media. And without a front row from which to snap pics, who’s going to talk about Nonoo’s? Plenty of very influential women.

“How can I actually capture people in Japan or in China or get someone in Australia to tune in and pay attention?” is the question Nonoo asked on her flight back from meeting with Sandberg, after deciding to do something different. “So I looked at the people who really capture the essence of the brand, that entrepreneurial spirit, women I know and admire.” And she asked them to style a look from her new collection in their own way and post it to their personal Instagram account on Saturday morning, driving back to the show’s account. Women like Audrey Gelman, political consultant and BFF to Lena Dunham, Linda Rodin, founder of Olio Lusso, Sara Mearns, a principal dancer at New York City Ballet. There’s Russian digital investor Nasiba Adilova, The New Potato’s Danielle & Laura Kosann, and a string of other influencers from Korea to Berlin to Los Angeles who, between them, have over 7 million followers on the social platform.

Is Nonoo taking a risk? Yes. But she’s already making headlines and her show is still two weeks away—a big deal for an emerging designer and, fingers crossed, enough motivation for the rest of fashion to think about trying something new.

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