Misha Nonoo on Meghan Markle’s Favorite Button Design
For her first public appearance with Prince Harry in 2017, Meghan Markle showed her future by wearing a white button-down oversized called the “Husband” shirt. Designed by her close friend Misha Nonoo – who, coincidentally, allegedly created the couple – the shirt got the The “Markle Sparkle” shine, a much coveted phenomenon that occurs after Markle wears a particular designer. Nonoo’s husband’s shirt sold out almost immediately and has been one of his best-selling items ever since. The iconic basic is now available in a variety of colors, fabrics, sizes and is even part of her new maternity collection.
In ELLE’s Clothes of Our Lives series, we decode the clothing choices of powerful women and explore how fashion can be used as a communication tool. Below, in her own words, Nonoo (who recently launched a capsule swimwear collection with vitamin A and a maternity line for her eponymous brand) recalls how her life was turned upside down by a simple white shirt.
When a distinguished person – especially someone who is so closely associated with myself or with the brand like Meghan is, and it is well documented that we have a long, enduring and very close friendship – wears your design, there is an almost instantaneous change in interests and sales.
Its platform has given a great level of awareness to our brand and our mission. I think it’s just a natural phenomenon that happens when you’re lucky enough to have a like-minded person showcase your collection, like Meghan did with the Mari shirt. People buy the original in white and then come back for more in different colors because they love it so much.
The shirt took on a life of its own at this point, becoming a very important and meaningful piece not only for me, but in the lives of others.
The Mari shirt was born from the feeling that you always want to wear an item of a significant other to feel close to them. I love to wear things from my husband’s closet because there really is nothing sexier than borrowing from boys.
About five years ago, I went to the model and made a shirt from an existing collection to be oversized in places. It took at least a few weeks to complete – from my initial idea of draping it to creating a muslin – and part of what made the project extra special was the fact that it was an amalgam. of a few different parts. The studs on the prototype shirt were actually from a shoe I had designed for a collaboration a few years ago. It’s funny how the best things in life sometimes happen when you build on something that’s already there.
As a designer I always create new things, so it can be difficult to predict which pieces will gain popularity and when. The fact that I liked this concept of a ‘borrowed’ shirt so much (and identify with the woman who was going to wear it) should have been a clear sign that she would be popular. But looking back, I had no idea.
We launched the Husband shirt in September 2016 as part of a larger collection called The Easy Eight. All my friends and family love the idea and its ironic name. My then president and I made a bet on the most popular coin. I said something else, but he bet on the husband’s shirt. He was right, of course.
From the start it was one of our best selling items because everyone needs a good white button. The studs make it sexy, almost like a piece of jewelry, and the oversized cuffs allow it to be worn in multiple ways. Tuck it in or wear it with jeans. It’s very flexible.
The Mari shirt is now available in many colors, patterns and fabrics. We have organic cotton and linen. We have different stripes and solid colors. We made embroidered versions. You can even send it as a gift with someone else’s monogrammed initials on it. There are so many ways to personalize the shirt, and it will continue to be there for the people who have come to love it over the years.
I often say to myself: wWhat would I do if I didn’t have the Mari shirt on? It has become the backbone of my own collection. I personally wear it four to five times a week, whether it’s the blue and white striped version, or the olive green linen version. I love separate pieces, so I pair it with pants or a skirt. I also loved miniskirts, but now that I’m a mom, they’re harder to wear and less practical.
Not only do I love to wear it, the Mari shirt has also become a solid part of my business. We have been able to do so much with it, including working with different charities.
In 2019, Meghan and I teamed up to design a white shirt for a collaboration called The Smart Set. For every shirt sold, we donated the same shirt to a UK-based philanthropic organization called Smart Works, which helps women who have been out of the workforce for an extended period. Smart Works not only offers advice to women, from coaching to interview techniques, but they also help them dress for interviews. The Duchess of Sussex was the sponsor of the organization in the UK and she created a capsule wardrobe for them. We ended up contributing several thousand shirts, and it’s an incredible partnership.
More recently, my team and I found a way to use the Mari shirt to help restaurants affected by COVID-19. For every shirt sold (it costs $ 185), we donated $ 100 to a charity that supported restaurants affected by the pandemic.
It’s been four years since we launched the very first iteration of the Mari shirt, and I’m still very, very proud. We were able to dress women from all walks of life and all over the world. The shirt practically has its own personality at this point.
There is something really rewarding about creating a traditional garment, a classic garment, that people can wear in a very modern way because it means it has longevity. And it’s pretty amazing.
This interview has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity.
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