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Misha Nonoo

Misha Nonoo: Designing a Sustainable Model that’s Good for Business and Fashion

Designer Misha Nonoo launched her eponymous label in 2011, starting with a focus on outerwear before introducing a full line of womenswear. Nonoo quickly realized that the traditional fashion business model was far from ideal—both financially and in terms of sustainability.

Nonoo has since moved away from the typical fashion calendar and has transformed her brand into an on-demand label, subsequently eliminating 90 percent of the waste created from a bulk-production process. She’s taken steps like responsible packaging and working with an all-women-owned factory last year.

More recently, the designer put her brand to work in the fight against the global COVID-19 pandemic. As part of its efforts, the brand donated 10 percent of all proceeds from online sales to the Food Bank for New York City. Additionally, Nonoo offered $50 gift cards to healthcare personnel working on the frontlines of the virus.

To learn more about how Nonoo approaches ethical fashion, Whitewall spoke with the designer.

Misha Nonoo Courtesy of Misha Nonoo.

WHITEWALL: Tell us about the evolution of the brand since its start.

MISHA NONOO: Before 2017, Misha Nonoo was a traditional fashion house with seasonal collections distributed through wholesale accounts. Whilst it was a great experience, I was eager to reimagine what a modern label should look like. From there, we upended our supply chain and went fully direct-to-consumer with an on-demand production model.

Garments are cut and sewn as each order is placed, unburdening us from inventory overheads and subsequent waste from whatever isn’t sold. Everything, including the designs, is more streamlined and efficient.

WW: Tell us about the process of creating a new collection. Do you typically start with something like a material, an idea, or a color palette?

MN: At Misha Nonoo, we release just one piece, or a few pieces, at a time in “drops” as opposed to collections. This keeps our offerings edited and most up-to-date with the needs of the women we dress. When creating a new piece, we largely take into consideration the feedback from our customers and what would make their wardrobe a more complete and efficient space.

WW: Do you have a go-to place or source of inspiration?

MN: My main sources of inspiration are the powerful women I surround myself with. The modern woman wears many hats, and they have so much to juggle in a day. We want to provide these women with an elegant and versatile wardrobe equipped for high-pressure business meetings as well as an active weekend with their family.

WW: Two of your main focuses are female empowerment and sustainability. Why have those been such key focuses for you?

MN: Female empowerment was something I had a personal connection with, being a founder of a company. My business mentors were incredible women, and I want all women to feel confident in themselves in whatever they do. Knowing you look polished and elegant on the outside can really boost how you feel on the inside.

I’ve always been passionate about the environment, and when I started my own clothing brand, the sheer volume of waste at the end of a season was alarming. The traditional model was “broken” to me, and that’s when we worked out an on-demand manufacturing program, eliminating holding stock and decreasing inventory waste by 90 percent.

Misha Nonoo Courtesy of Misha Nonoo.

WW: What are some of the companies that you look to as examples in areas of sustainability?

MN: Stella McCartney is a stunning example of how their commitment to sustainability really defines who they are as a brand. They’re incredibly innovative in their materials and uncompromising in their design process, maintaining a high-fashion image whilst lessening their toll on the environment.

WW: You’re an on-demand-only business, you’ve eliminated plastic shipping materials, and you use natural, sustainable fabrications. What would you say is the next step in the brand’s sustainability journey?

MN: We’re continuing to expand our styles made with 100 percent natural fibers throughout the remainder of 2020. We’re also exploring zero waste cut-and-sew techniques for knits. Our Amelia Dress, named after Amelia Earhart, is produced in California with this new technology, using fibers that are 100 percent biodegradable.

WW: Do you have a number-one piece of advice for brands trying to make changes toward sustainability?

MN: Be confident your business has the resources to make steps in the right direction. There has been so much innovation and progression in this space recently, so assuming you can’t be environmentally friendly and financially sound is simply untrue. Never stop researching, because you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what’s possible with a little digging.

We encourage other brands to have the mindset of sustainability and profitability going hand-in-hand. It’s no longer a “selling point” to be green, but a necessity to maintain and improve the health of our planet.

Misha Nonoo Portrait courtesy of Misha Nonoo.




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