Misha Nonoo’s new store in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District is as much about community as it is about product.
Gleaning what she learned from a Greene Street pop-up store last year, the designer wanted to put that marketing know-how, customer acquisition and community-building to good use. “We thought it would be a real shame to let go of the momentum we had built,” she said.
Opening her first permanent store at 654 Hudson Street is the latest event in what is proving to be a memorable year. Earlier this year she teamed with the maternity retailer Hatch to develop a capsule collection, which is among the looks shoppers can try on in the boutique. Nonoo and her husband, Michael Hess, whom she married last fall in Rome, are expecting their first child. While their home life is about to change drastically, the designer has been busy creating the store’s welcoming and easy-to-understand environment. The sunlit cozy space is set up to encourage drop-ins from locals who live in the West Village, Greenwich Village and Chelsea, as well as tourists staying in the area’s three hotels.
Acknowledging how “experiential retail” has become such an overused term, Nonoo said, “But I do think you have to think about the ongoing store atmosphere and experience. We don’t call our sales associates ‘sales associates.’ We call them ‘stylists.’ [It’s not only] what the stylists are bringing to it, but that idea of being very comfortable in a space is really important. Design for the sake of design is extraordinary. When you go into some of the very big brands’ flagship stores, you see beautiful spaces, beautiful architecture and I really appreciate all of that. But for us, this is kind of our home where people can come and visit us — the only one in the world.”
Not interested in rolling out stores, Nonoo takes a more selective approach to business. She said, “This year will be a lot about partnerships, driving growth in an organic way. We are not really doing a lot of paid digital media at all. We’re turning away from that at this point. So partnerships are the way forward for us. We’re looking at physically partnering with other brands that have a very strong foothold in other categories. So we can lend our design expertise and they can manufacture a product that really speaks to the category. That’s what we have coming up for the rest of this year. Accessories is coming within the next few months.”
Many know Nonoo’s name through her friendship with Meghan Markle, who helped introduce the “Husband Shirt” to millions by wearing it to the Invictus Games with Prince Harry in August 2018. And when Markle developed a capsule collection to benefit the nonprofit Smart Works, Nonoo was among her collaborators. But how Markle’s support has affected business was not something the designer was eager to address. “It’s just well-known that she affects businesses in a positive way. There’s a halo effect, particularly when values are aligned.”
During a walk-through of the new store, Nonoo described the Husband Shirt as the lynchpin of the collection and shirting as the collection’s core. She said, “We find that people will come in buy one piece, our stylist will explain how the rest of the collection works — it’s a wardrobe building process — so you come in and buy a shirt and that goes back to a pair of trousers and a jacket and everything can be worn together in tandem. That’s one of the things that has been incredible in driving a repeat customer. They might come in for one piece, leave with a couple and come back for more, because they understand how they can all be worn in tandem.”
Nonoo considers the permanent space “an inventory-less showroom. Our manufacturing position is on demand. We’re a sustainable fashion brand in that way. So every single piece here we have in a different color and size for you to come in, try on, and then order to have delivered direct to your home.”
Having eliminated single-use plastic from the brand’s packaging, Nonoo said a new sustainable fabric — viscose blend — will be introduced next month and will become a core fabric. Customers had requested sustainable fabrics, she said, but “it’s difficult to buy into them in small ways. It’s difficult to test them.”
New York, Los Angeles, the U.K. and Canada are key customer bases and interestingly they often style things similarly regardless of where they live, the climate or their lifestyle. “We speak more to the idea of psychographics than demographics. It’s this woman who is constantly traveling, needs pieces in her wardrobe in different ways. That versatility of the collection is what she’s really excited by,” Nonoo said.