Misha Nonoo Has Crafted a Fashion Brand for the Instagram-Generation
Forward-thinking creatives are integrating high-tech elements and innovative design into every industry. From the way we get around—like the all-new 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class—to what we wear, the affect is undeniable. See how designer Misha Nonoo's forward-thinking attitude is injecting a feel of the future into everything coming out of her studio.
A physical office space contains plenty of clues about the company it contains. It's worth noting, then, that designer Misha Nonoo doesn't count a lofty Soho studio or uptown manse as HQ, but a buzzing WeWork space where her stylish team rubs shoulders with startups and techies. The shared office space is a phenomenon most embraced by members of the tech community—which speaks volumes about how Nonoo is directing her namesake label.
Nonoo's career started traditionally, with a wholesale model that assigns success to being picked up by a well-known department store. "I was removed from it in a sense," she explained in an uncluttered conference space booked solely for this chat (and a prime example of the sort of renter's economy predicted by futurist Alvin Toffler). "I would design the product, deliver it to stores, and rely on them to give me feedback. You could ask different people on the same sales floor, 'How's it going? How does it fit?' and you'd get completely varied answers, which, more than anything, was just confusing."
The frustration led to a series of decisions that wrested control back into Nonoo's own hands. E-commerce was launched less than two years ago, and with it, data and insight into shopping behavior that fueled her ongoing intrigue with tech. She studies expected details about the shopper—where she lives and the age bracket she falls in—but is absorbed with more telling psychographics. "We can see how many times and ways people have come. The most fascinating is when it's taken someone 11 visits to push buy; obviously, they're educating themselves about the brand," she said smartly, clearly a master of her data. "Suddenly, we were able to really identify who this customer was. I put it all down to technology, otherwise it would have been a shot in the dark." While there's nothing revolutionary about a website examining the behavior of its visitors, there is something unique about a designer being so entrenched in the numbers. Classically, the creative head would assume more of a design-it-and-they-shall-come mentality (they decree cerulean blue is in, but someone from the IT department reports on who actually bought it).
The tech-savvy stance has led to an upcoming switch to a buy-now, wear-now model and a website redesign debuting soon. The latter is done with a focus on making the shopping experience easier and engaging customers, while the former means that while the next few weeks would traditionally see an uptick in frenzied fashion week preparations, it's a topic that leaves Nonoo nonplussed.
"We'll be doing something, but it's still in the early stages," she explained, revealing a strategy that's "not based on what is dictated to you. It's obviously very important that we have a presence, but it needs to be meaningful. There are so many ways of doing it, and we'd be mad not to try and employ the tools at our fingertips."
Bucking the regular runway is already something she's mastered, making a splash with an Instashowlast September that utilized influencers and a horizontally paneled Instagram account in lieu of a seated show.
"A lot of people told me not to do it. Tech people had no idea—they thought it sounded cool, but they didn't know what traditionally goes into a show. They didn't know what a gamble it was and that if it fell on its face, I was going to look like a complete fool." Fashion insiders were those cautioning Nonoo against stepping outside the typical format, though the decision to shake things up was clearly the right one: Reviews from traditional fashion outlets were supplemented by coverage from Tech Crunch andFast Company, a not-so-common occurrence (the latter declared the format "innovative").
The show—conceptualized after a meeting with Sheryl Sandberg at Instagram's California campus—is set to be an ongoing feature, though the loss of some of its debut sparkle has sent Nonoo looking for the next cool format. It was followed up in February not with a preview of her fall line, as the fashion week system would typically dictate, but a shoppable Instagram campaign featuring her spring range. Having mastered the social media outlets currently available and blending it into the brand's DNA (consider the recent subscriber email illustrated with a selfie of Misha that looks lifted straight from Instagram), it's onto what's next.
"I'm very excited about what the future of virtual reality will be. We're not there yet, from a fashion perspective, but I think what you're seeing in gaming is adapting so quickly that in 18 to 24 months we'll have things the consumer can engage with." What might the future of shopping hold? An animated Nonoo talks of avatars that will help make sure you never order something ill-fitting online and fully integrated Apple Pay-type options that allow us to leave home without any baggage whatsoever. The industry norm will be to receive orders at home to try on at your leisure before consenting to have your credit card charged, and more brands will opt for a direct-to-consumer model, cutting out middlemen to lower price tags. She predicts our social consciousness swelling, fueled by the constant news cycle made possible by social media and a permanent tether to the Internet, and more people rejecting fast-fashion in favor of sustainable brands with longer life spans.