She’s behind some of The Duchess of Sussex’s most famous looks. Now, with a store in London, Misha Nonoo sets her sights on you: Shop Meghan’s closet (thanks to her best friend)
- Misha Nonoo, 33, is launching her first UK pop-up store in London’s Marylebone
- She’s best known for Meghan’s white ‘Husband Shirt’ worn to the Invictus Games
- New York-based fashion expert has been friends with Duchess for a few years
- She told how her passion for empowering women has influenced her designs
- Misha who is engaged to Michael Hess, revealed the importance of sustainability
The Duchess of Sussex’s dearest friend, Misha Nonoo, is feeling broody. ‘It would be such a privilege to be a mother and to have a family. God willing, it will happen soon,’ she says.
The New York-based fashion designer became engaged to entrepreneur and oil heir Michael Hess four months ago, shortly before she joined Meghan for her baby shower.
Now, she’s sitting here in London with a ring the size of a small handbag on her finger and a face that sparkles, well, rather like that huge diamond.
Has she met Prince Harry and Meghan’s little newborn Archie?
Misha Nonoo (pictured), 33, who is best known for the white ‘Husband Shirt’ Meghan wore for her first public appearance with Prince Harry, revealed the inspiration behind her curated collection coming to London’s Marylebone
‘The magic of life is those moments that aren’t disclosed or discussed,’ she says, diplomatically. ‘My friends really are my extended family. I keep them close to my heart.’
Given how gooey-eyed she’s gone, I presume that’s how she felt when she held Archie.
We’re here because Misha, 33, is launching her first UK pop-up store in London’s Marylebone, with a focus on sustainable fashion. For the month of June, it will offer shoppers the chance to browse a curated collection from her own eponymous label.
The pop-up, styled inside by Oka — the luxury interiors brand co-founded by Samantha Cameron’s mother Lady Astor — will also host a range of workshops and events, such as a ‘sound healing’ session (a form of meditation using gongs and bells) and a calligraphy masterclass.
An accomplished designer, Misha is best known for the white ‘Husband Shirt’ Meghan wore for her first public appearance with Prince Harry at the Invictus Games in 2017.
A year later, when Meghan married Prince Harry at Windsor Castle, the cotton ‘lynchpin’ of Misha’s collection became known as the ‘shirt that seals the deal’. Misha, with her now-fiance Hess, was among those who attended.
She has been a close friend of Meghan’s for a few years, after a mutual acquaintance sat them next to each other at a Miami lunch. At the time, she was married to Prince Harry’s close friend from Eton, Alexander Gilkes, leading to speculation that Misha was the one who set up the royal couple on a blind date in the summer of 2016. Did she?
Misha revealed that she’s always loved the idea of borrowing from boys style, the Husband Shirt (pictured), £175, takes pride of place in her shop’s collection
She laughs. ‘No comment.’ But the Husband Shirt, £175, notably takes pride of place in the shop’s collection.
‘I always love the idea of borrowing from the boys,’ says Misha. ‘It’s probably the sexiest thing — how you reinterpret something your boyfriend or your husband wears. There’s a cheeky, playful side to the brand and business. The Husband Shirt was a riff on that.’
There’s a certain cheeky playfulness about Misha, too. She launched her label eight years ago, but truly made her name when she appeared as a finalist in the 2013 Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund, in which Vogue’s formidable Anna Wintour was a judge.
‘That was one of the most horrifying moments of my life, when I had to walk into that room,’ says Misha. ‘Anna was someone I’d revered and been so intrigued by without even knowing her.
‘You’ve got 15 minutes and you have to walk through five of your looks, then talk about your business and the numbers.
‘I must have been 26 years old or so, and I was petrified. This was year two of my business. I was so naive. I even get emotional now thinking about it.’
Misha says she has a group of friends who share her core set of values and beliefs on empowerment, pictured: The Duchess of Sussex in Misha Nonoo’s Saturday Skirt, £236,
She continues: ‘I was talking about creating a uniform for everyday women — for real women — and about creating things for women of all sizes for their everyday life. Anna said: “So you don’t believe in the big dream of fashion?”
‘I was so taken off-guard by that particular question. I was like: “Of course I do, but I think it should be for everyone.”
‘She was like: “Hmm, OK. That’s all.” I thought: “Did I completely mess that up?” She’s thinking about her enormous ballgown shoots in Vogue and I’m not subscribing to that. I’ve lost the whole competition.’
Misha didn’t win, but the event was televised — and soon, interview requests started flying in.
‘People thought I had a different perspective. I started giving talks saying it doesn’t matter what shape or size you are. That’s something I feel so strongly about. I get choked up thinking about it.’
At 5 ft 8 in, Misha has the sort of willowy frame that would look good in a dustbin sack, but she is genuine in her philosophy. She is a sincere advocate for the empowerment of women.
Misha is, like Meghan (pictured), a ‘transplant’ – she was born in Bahrain but moved to Britain at age 11
So much so, that if we’re to be judged by the friends we keep, Meghan’s critics might be, let’s say, less critical, were they to spend time with Misha. ‘I believe empowerment is having a voice and having the freedom to act as you wish. I have a group of friends who share this core set of values and beliefs.
‘We grew up seeing competition between women in our mothers’ age group. I think we all realise we’ll be much stronger together, that our shared values will go much further, if we really share them with each other.
‘I truly believe there is no other way to behave. I always say yes of course I’m a feminist, because I believe in equality. That’s it.’
Misha is, like Meghan, a ‘transplant’ (her word) in the UK. Born in Bahrain, she moved here when she was 11. But she found Britain difficult to adapt to. ‘I had a really hard time adjusting to that,’ she says.
‘At first, I found it very lonely here. I went to Guildford High [in Surrey], an all-girls’ school where a lot of the girls had been at school together since they were four years old. They had a very deep community. It was hard to break in.’
Misha (pictured with Meghan in 2015) revealed that she found it lonely when she first moved to Britain as there was a deep community already established at her school
She spent her final four years at the ACS International School in Cobham, Surrey, where she says she found ‘a freedom in being around people who were also “transplants”.’
‘Freedom’ is a word that crops up time and again during this interview. ‘I suppose, growing up in the Middle East, I saw a very traditional style of life — I was brought up in a traditional family, in the sense that my father worked and my mother stayed home with me.
‘I always wanted to have autonomy in my life. I wanted to have freedom — the freedom to choose what I wanted to do.
‘If you rely a little bit too much on another person — whether a parent, a sibling or a partner — I just felt like life would be a little more limited.
‘I don’t think that was a reaction to my mother [being a stay-at-home mother]. I just felt if the way for me to have the life I wanted was to create my own life, then that was probably going to be through work. I didn’t see any other way.
‘When I talk about empowering women and all of that, it’s really about living life on your own terms, and I don’t mean that in a selfish way.
‘It’s about having the freedom to move through the day doing whatever it is you want to do from 9am to 9pm and beyond in an effortless and elegant way.’
Misha (pictured with Michael Hess at the Royal wedding) who became engaged to entrepreneur and oil heir Michael Hess four months ago, says sustainability is critical
Which is why she created this collection — a capsule ‘uniform’, if you like, of shirts, jumpers, skirts, blouses, trousers and jackets. Misha is influenced by the years she spent in Paris from the age of 19 to 21, before moving to New York in 2009. ‘French women understand what it’s like to have foundation pieces that are beautifully made,’ she explains.
‘Those pieces they may have in their wardrobe for five, ten years, and, from there, they’ll update with seasonal accessories. That’s something I believe in. I always say: “Buy better, wear longer.” That’s part of the idea of sustainability.’
This ethos also extends to the manufacturing, whereby an item of clothing is only made once a customer places an order and is then dispatched within a week.
‘Sustainability is a critical thing we all need to address,’ says Misha. ‘Even in small ways, I think about sustainability all the time.’
Misha was developing this clarity of vision when she first formed a friendship with Meghan. They bonded over their shared passions of gender equality and the empowerment of women and their love of dogs.
Her dog, a Cavapoo named Thatcher, is ‘the sweetest thing in the world’, she says. Thatcher remained with Misha at the apartment in Manhattan she shared with her first husband following their divorce in 2017.
Misha (pictured) revealed she genuinely feels upset when women won’t help each other, she spends much of her time mentoring
‘I’ve had many difficult times,’ she says. ‘I lost a friend — one of my best friends from school — when I was 25. That was extremely difficult.
‘I meditate every day. I started doing that almost four years ago. I was looking for stillness, a way of distancing myself from things that would often take over my mind.
‘When I first took it up and was told I had to meditate for 40 minutes a day, 20 minutes at a time, I thought: “How am I going to find 40 minutes?!” What you realise is by giving yourself that time, you get back so much more, because you create distance. You can stop your mind and control the way you think about something.
‘Now, I’m grateful every day. I think that’s part of meditation. I have worked hard for this moment in my life, so I feel it is a mixture of luck and really hard work.
‘But it genuinely upsets me when women won’t help each other. I’ll give all the time I possibly can to mentor people because I think there aren’t enough people who will speak willingly and freely to guide other women.’ Including Meghan?
‘No comment,’ she says again with that easy laugh.
Misha’s shop is open until June 30 at 70-72 Marylebone Lane — uk.mishanonoo.com
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