Misha Nonoo’s Moment

by Paige Reddinger

Born in Bahrain, raised in London, and now living in New York, designer Misha Nonoo has been building a buzz since her collection debut in Fall 2011. This season is shaping up to be a dynamic one, thanks to new collaborations and an enlightened perspective, courtesy of the CFDA Incubator program.

What influenced your love of fashion?
I was born in the Middle East, and when I was 12, we moved to London. I was educated there and very quickly became obsessed with the transformative nature of fashion. As a teenager, I started to see a wave of contemporary designers from Phillip Lim to Alexander Wang starting to come out of America, and I was really fascinated by clothes at that price point with that level of design integrity. But there was nothing that really represented my aesthetic, which is a little bit more soft and feminine. I decided then that I really wanted to work in fashion and that I’d love my own label. I didn’t really know what that meant, though, so I went to business school in London and Paris.

How did you end up in New York?
I wanted to move here because there is a garment district! I got an apprenticeship with Saul Maslavi, which is a small business, but it was a really nice place to learn. I had on-the-job training in every department of design. While I was there, I dipped my toe in the water and created a collection of eight jackets and coats. I thought, “Oh, I’ll just put it out there.” A friend knew the buyer of Intermix, and before I knew it, I was trudging up a staircase with a suitcase of samples. They bought the collection. For three seasons, I did the jackets only and then it got to a point where buyers were like, “You really need to do a full collection.”

What did it feel like to launch your label here?
The wonderful thing about creating a collection in America is that you’re around like-minded people who are very entrepreneurial. There’s a sense of experimentation that I don’t think exists as much elsewhere.

Has your business degree proven useful?
Nothing ever really prepares you for having your own business. Business school is great, but going through the Vogue Fashion Fund is a huge learning experience, too.

Who are your CFDA Incubator mentors?
Malcolm Carfrae, who is head of global communications for Ralph Lauren; Kyle Andrew, the brand director at Kate Spade, Kate Spade Saturday, and Jack Spade; Lisa Metcalfe of Launch-USA, who specializes in production; and April Uchitel, who is the chief brand officer for Spring, the shopping app that launched last week.

What sorts of seminars are part of the Incubator program?
Marketing, financial, digital, and social media. We also have events like an evening with the Calvin Klein team—we went to the studios and met Francisco Costa and several other design directors. They talked about their lives, as well as the business and how it’s changed.

How did you end up collaborating with Dustin Yellin?
I had met Dustin a few years ago at ArtCRUSH in Aspen. I really liked him from the beginning—he was a real character. Contemporary art has been a great inspiration for the collection for several seasons, and I decided that I’d like to collaborate with an artist, and Dustin was my first choice. He was like, “Yeah! This will be sick!”

What should we expect from your collaboration with Aldo Rise?
We’re offering our woman the head-to-toe look, including bags. I’d absolutely love to do home décor one day, too!

What’s the vibe of your office?
I always bring my dog, Thatcher—named after Margaret Thatcher. She’s a sweet little munchkin! I’m also a freak about the color of the flowers in the office. I don’t like colorful flowers. Only white! And we usually have Cadbury chocolate, because my mum brings packets and packets of it when she visits.

In your free time…
I love to have friends over, travel, and read. I realized that there are all these classics that you’re meant to read when you are 15, but you can’t appreciate them then. I read the Cliff Notes! So this time I’m actually reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast right now, and I just finished For Whom the Bell Tolls. Also, I’m a Libra, so I’m constantly seeking to find balance in my life.

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