Bahrain born, raised in London, and now New York-based, Misha Nonoo’s namesake label has inherent global influences. Inspired by contemporary art, Nonoo debuted her line at New York Fashion Week in the Fall 2011 season and has garnered major industry support from the Fashion Group International, and the CFDA, among others. Rightfully so, Nonoo knows fit unlike most designers having apprenticed with an expert tailor to understand this distinguishing detail. Nonoo’s appreciation for high quality construction, exquisite fabrication, and giving her customers a consistent product season after season is what sets her apart in the retail market.
Was becoming a fashion designer always what you dreamed of?
My interest in fashion design began at a young age. I was born in Bahrain, where my parents routinely took me to the Arabian souks exposing me to a diverse collection of references and colour. I moved to London as a teenager and became fascinated with classic bespoke tailoring and the importance that Great Britain places on prestige quality and traditional expertise.
I found the bespoke tailoring process of Savile Row romantic. The idea of designing pieces that are intended to last an eternity has always left an impact and has inspired me.
I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer at the age of 11. My parents, aware of my desire to establish a fashion label, strongly advised me to attend business school before launching my collection. I was in business school during the time fast fashion was rapidly growing around the world. I recognized a niche in the U.S. advanced contemporary womenswear market for versatile yet feminine pieces. My pieces support women’s multifaceted lives, by seamlessly taking them from day to play, whilst still appropriate for a modern professional environment.
You describe your brand as “Refining classic silhouettes through contemporary art and culture.” Can you elaborate on this? What type of woman does this describe?
Contemporary art is a consistent source of inspiration for each collection. When I am not designing, I spend a lot of my time visiting artist studios, galleries and fairs around the globe. My woman is a boundless pioneer and is culturally curious – she is changing the world and not afraid to take a risk. Contemporary art inspires me to take risks in my design process, allowing me to create juxtaposition between two forces: classic crisp tailoring with sexy sheer touches.
Do you think your experience working alongside an expert tailor prior to launching gives the brand a leg up in the fit department?
To me, fit is the most important design detail, which is why I apprenticed at a local atelier in the garment district before I started my own label. Much of my tailoring employs the British “straight shoulder”, making a woman look strong and poised whilst exuding a faintly masculine essence that is juxtaposed by the feminine curve of a woman’s body. The thoughtful details behind each pocketing fabric, under collar interfacing, or seam placement are a study in the subtle distinguishable details that make all the difference to a woman in movement and ease.
Are your collections produced in New York?
The collection is designed and developed in New York. In my first few seasons, I manufactured all designs in the garment district. As volumes increased, I have started working with production facilities in Asia as well.
Besides the obvious, what advantages does a woman designing for women have?
I wear my designs to work every day. This allows me to master the nuances in fit and movement. For each top I design, I am always thinking how would I wear a bra with this. We did some really great cut-out back looks for Resort 2016.
The brand has loads of industry support (FGI award, CFDA nomination) – what does this mean to you personally?
It means everything to me. I am so fortunate to have started my company in New York. There is real camaraderie and support here for young designers. For my designs to be recognized by the industry’s esteemed leaders has been such a humbling experience. I am so thankful to the CFDA and the Fashion Group International. Being a part of the CFDA Incubator, I have been paired with incredible mentors who meet with me every other week to discuss different layers of the business. Because of them, I was able to launch e-commerce early this past year, which is very exciting.
What do you think people would be surprised to know about you?
My guilty pleasure is the reality TV show, “The Bachelorette.”
If I were not a fashion designer I would be a nutritionist.
Despite incorporating denim into my resort line, I do not wear denim myself (except for weekends).
Can you tell us any secrets about Spring 2016?
This season it is all about empowering the individual. We have a very different concept for Spring 2016 up our sleeves that celebrates the spirit of pioneering woman. It is really exciting!