Longtime friends Misha Nonoo and Deborah Lyons (who is also an arty shoe designer for Mechante) know the importance of a well-honed craft. The British duo, who are now based in New York recently launched a collaborative collection, Nonoo Lyons, which focuses solely on the ever-important jacket. JC Report recently chatted with the two talented women about how they teamed up, the inspiration for their designs and the most essential virtue a designer can have.
JC Report: How did the label come about?
Deborah Lyons: Misha and I have been friends for years so one day in November I just called her and said: “Let’s do something.”
Misha Nonoo: I had this idea about doing a collection of jackets for a while and once Debs and I spoke about doing something together we almost immediately and started sketching the jackets. Within a couple of weeks we were already draping.
JCR: Are you daunted by this difficult market condition?
MN: Henri Bendel is now changing its business model to an accessories and cosmetics-only store, but the buyer is so enthusiatic about our collection that they still bought our cape, Marple, as a key accessory. The market is certainly different now compared to how it was last year, and I don’t think it will ever be the same again. But if the product is of good quality and priced fairly, then we believe consumers will still buy.
DL: It’s difficult to pinpoint everything that’s daunting about starting a line. The economy is a major added challenge to us without a doubt, but it’s also presenting major opportunities and a shifting perspective towards more educated purchasing, demands for higher quality and, most importantly, integrity of design. For new designers it encourages new forms of creativity and also buys us time to build our brand.
JCR: Most fashion editorial outlets have declared that the boyfriend jacket is back. Was this a contributing factor to launch a brand with just a range of jackets?
DL: A jacket is a staple and a necessity not just a trend piece. We’ve both felt a major gap in our wardrobes for great, timeless jackets. We see them as the backbone of any wardrobe, but also as an accessory.
JCR: What are the advantages in just focusing on one item? What are the disadvantages?
DL: It gives us definition in the market and also gives us a huge amount of room to grow. Being item- rather than collection-driven means that we are still finding our place though this isn’t necessarily a disadvantage either.
MN: I think that if and when we do diversify into other things, it will mean that there is more interest than if we had done it in the first place. It’s a different approach and one that we’re very excited about for the future.
JCR: How do you two divvy up the necessary tasks to run a company?
DL: The jackets are all made in Manhattan, but so much of what we do involves Europe as well. It’s not often we get to be in the same place at the same time for too long. When we are, we do almost everything together. Otherwise we harass each other constantly—I don’t know what we’d do without our Blackberry’s!
MN: We are both very involved in every element and share responsibility enormously. The great thing about having a partner is that when it all gets to be too much, there is someone to discuss it all with.
JCR: What kind of women are you designing for?
DL: The jackets are designed for style-conscious women to take through work to the weekend, day to night. They are classically elegant but extremely feminine and all with a high fashion twist—that’s the kind of customer we aspire to attract.
MN: As the collection is so item-driven, we truly feel there is something for everyone. Our ideal customer has no particular age but is elegant with an edge and an appreciation for design and quality—the same way we view our jackets.
JCR: What is the Nonoo Lyons signature aesthetic?
DL: Luxury European fabrications and the highest quality tailoring./p>
MN: The super soft silk linings with their personalized illustrations are fast becoming our signature too!
JCR: How long are you sticking to this one category approach? Any plans on diversifying your offerings soon?
DL: Misha and I are discussing all sorts of possibilities at the moment. We think a denim collaboration could be a great option in the future as all the jackets look so fabulous with jeans. For now, though, it’s just jackets.
MN: Everyone seems to want us to branch out already, but we’re taking our time before moving on to something else. We are, however, very excited to possibly do a menswear collection in the not too distant future too.
JCR: The brand is obviously taking its time to grow. Why is patience such a virtue?
DL: Even in brighter economic times, nothing enduring was ever built overnight. We have time to grow and have even expanded our collection for s/s ’10, but our preeminent focus is on the quality, the aesthetic and the purpose of what we produce—rushing that would mean compromising that.
MN: We are encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve had to the label, which makes being patient a little easier.
This interview was conducted by Robert Cordero