The Assistant Files, Vol. 64: Grace Hwang, Misha Nonoo

by Dena Silver

Misha Nonoo has grown her brand plenty, both with her well-received eponymous line as well an Aldo collab and a coveted spot in the  CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund (and her appearance on the accompanying TV show, The Fashion Fund), but she’s still running a pretty small business. And every burgeoning label needs a little help, which is where Grace Hwang comes in. Starting off as a sales intern, this California native has transitioned to take over the e-commerce and e-marketing portion of the biz, in addition to functioning as Nonoo’s assistant and office manager of sorts. Sounds busy, right? We’ll let Hwang explain her day-to-day…

Where are you from and what’s your story?
I’m from L.A. and I graduated from UCLA in 2008 with a history degree. I decided to stay there to apply for dental school, but during that process I had a change of heart and decided I wanted to work in fashion instead. From there, I moved to Virginia to live with my sister and started applying for internships in New York.

What was the first internship you landed?
I interned at KCD; I worked the Marc by Marc Jacobs show at fashion week.

That’s a great start! Where did you end up after that?
I started applying everywhere and I ended up with a sales internship at Rag & Bone. I also interned for various stylists. I just really wanted to learn about all different areas of the industry.

How did you end up at Misha Nonoo?
I was watching old episodes of The Fashion Fund, and Misha’s in the second season. At the same time, I was looking on LinkedIn and the person I had interned for at Rag & Bone had just gotten a position here. I emailed her immediately. It was right before the Spring/Summer 2015 fashion show, so I started as a sales intern in August but I immediately jumped in and helped out with anything I could to make the show amazing. I ended up spending late nights at the office and got to know Misha and a ton of different team members through that. I think they saw I had a passion to be in the industry so they wanted to keep me on.

What was it like meeting Misha for the first time?
I have to be honest, I was a little shy because I had watched her on The Fashion Fund, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that she’s so down to earth. She’s very open, and very generous with her time. Back when I was an intern, I remember sitting down with Misha as she helped me map out what my goals were, looking to figure out how she could make a permanent space for me in the office. We both came to the conclusion that e-commerce was the best niche for me, and since then I’ve been hired full-time to manage e-commerce.

So what kind of e-commerce tasks do you tackle on a daily basis?
My daily duties include everything from customer service to refreshing content on the website. More recently, we’ve been strategizing e-marketing, newsletters, social media, and trying to align our entire digital base.

Aside from your digital focus, what kind of assistant duties do you take on for Misha?
When I get into the office, I look over Misha’s schedule, which typically includes about 10 meetings back-to-back, and so there’s very little room for unexpected things. For instance, before her recent trip to Beijing, she needed a visa to visit China, but that particular week was really busy because Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge were in town and she was being invited to a bunch of events for that. I had to keep her on schedule and also figure out some way that she could go on her trip! To this day, I still don’t know how I managed to do all that.

Does Misha ask you to get her lunch?
She’s pretty independent, but if I do get her food, she just asks for whatever’s nearby. Pret A Manger is a good one; she loves their brie tomato basil sandwiches, with a green juice.

And what’s her coffee order?
She’s more of a tea person, she loves peppermint tea.

Does she have any impressive visitors stop by?
Yeah definitely! There has been the guys from Rag & Bone, [David Neville and Marcus Wainwright] who stopped by the studio, and Andrew Rosen, too!

How often are you and Misha in contact?
There are no time restrictions on when we contact each other. I think we’re just so excited about e-commerce and analytics that we’re constantly texting back and forth every time there’s a new development. And Misha always sends me articles that she’s come across to give me new ideas for the site.

Tell us about your favorite day on the job!
It has to be when we launched our e-commerce site. There were so many late nights and I wasn’t sure it was going to amount to anything! So when I saw something come from that, it was just such an exciting moment for me. It was crazy trying to make the content look perfect and make sure we had all of the inventory, all while Misha was in Montreal working on her Aldo launch!

Wow. Were there any surprises on the day of the launch?
We were actually offering same-day delivery to our customers to celebrate the opening of our online store. We didn’t expect to get an order right away, but of course we did. And of course it was the one dress we didn’t have in inventory. So I had to take an Amtrak to New Jersey, pick up the dress from our warehouse, and drop it off at the customer’s apartment. I left the dress with her doorman and let her know the dress was waiting for her when she came back home. I think she was a satisfied customer.

Do you know how to code?
You’d think I’d know how, but we work with other teams that help with the coding. Hopefully in the future I’ll get to learn how to, because I’m really interested in that.

What’s the office dress code?
No one wears jeans around here, because that’s just not in Misha’s aesthetic. We try to be little brand ambassadors and take it upon ourselves to save our jeans for the weekend.

How many pieces of Misha Nonoo clothing do you own?
Well, we just had a sample sale, so I have a good amount now!

Misha’s really into art. Are there any artsy influences in the company culture?
If you look through Misha’s Instagram, you’ll see that we started going on trips to different artists’ studios. We’ve been to Roxy Paine studio in Maspeth, Queens, where we saw three-dimensional wooden sculptures. Misha also invited her husband [Alexander Gilkes] to a team meeting, and he spoke about his journey from the beginnings of Paddle8 to what it is now. So whether it’s books on artists, field trips, or people coming in talking about their work, there’s always this underlying theme of art and fashion in the office. One thing I love about Misha is that although fashion can be very serious, her love of art lightens things up a little bit.

Sounds fun! So, what’s your dream job?
I think it’s easiest to do my best work when I love the company I’m working for and the people I’m working with. Part of the reason why I like working here is because I get to learn so much about different aspects of the brand. And I love watching Misha do her job because she wears so many hats and she’s so involved in each department, including design, production, e-commerce, and PR. I would love to stay here to take part in the company growing and expanding. That’s what I see myself doing over the next five years.

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