NEW YORK, United States — In a strategic shift more than a year in the making, New York-based label Misha Nonoo has terminated its wholesale relationships and will sell exclusively through Mishanonoo.com, which re-launches on August 23. Previously, direct-to-consumer sales made up less than a third of the company’s overall revenue.
To support the strategy, Nonoo is embracing Snapchat in lieu of a live presentation at New York Fashion Week — a similar approach to her Instagram-based “insta-show”, which took place one year ago. On September 7, 2016 at 10am EDT — her slot on the official calendar — the designer will release a “live lookbook” on Snapchat, hosted on the handle of a yet-to-be-named editorial outlet. The show, like every post on Snapchat, will only be viewable for 24 hours. Assets, however, will be saved and used for marketing on other platforms. “Snapchat is more raw and real life,” says the Bahrain-born, British-bred designer and chief executive, who founded her company in 2011. “The thing to expect is new uses of native Snapchat functions. It’s experimental, ephemeral and speaks to this girl where she is.”
For Spring/Summer 2016, consumers could pre-order designs. For Autumn/Winter 2016, the will be no lag time between purchase and delivery. “The insta-show was the starting point,” says Nonoo, who echoes the sentiments of other designers when explaining her decision to exit wholesale. “It was just too much,” she says. “Looking at the landscape, everything is constantly on sale, there is way too much choice and, as a consumer, I never want to go into a store.”
It’s very hard to stand out when you’re sitting on the 5th floor of Bergdorf Goodman and you’ve got two racks and so do 20 other designers.
What’s more, “I was producing four collections, which is way too much for a business my size. The adoption rate for collections was 50 to 60 percent on 80 different styles, 100 different SKUs,” she says. “I just felt that it was overly complicated. Looking deeper and deeper into the business, we starting thinking about, ‘How do we actually stand out? What’s the story being told?’ It’s very hard to stand out when you’re sitting on the fifth floor of Bergdorf Goodman and you’ve got two racks and so do 20 other designers.”
The new model aims to solve these issues. The collections, delivered on a rolling basis, will be divided into three categories: Evergreen Essentials, Fashion Essentials and Fashion Specialty. Evergreen pieces — which are expected to represent roughly 40 percent of the company’s revenue — will feature top-selling categories, including a selection of white shirting. Fashion Essentials will include items that emphasise the label’s “day to play” mantra: new, trend-driven designs expected to make up another 40 percent of sales. First-to-market styles include a pleated rugby striped skirt. Fashion Specialty items — such as a ribbon-tulle slip dress — will be limited in quantity and more similar to Nonoo’s past collections in terms of pricing, but are projected to comprise only 20 percent of the business. Indeed, while prices for Fashion Specialty items will begin at $450, the majority of the collection will have a starting price point of $150 with 80 percent of items priced below $400. There will be two annual sales in January and July, following a more traditional cycle.
To bolster the approach, Nonoo is boosting the digital content on her website, on which every page, from editorials to press mentions, is now shoppable. The stories aim to highlight the flexibility of the company’s product. “I leave the house before 9am and am often out at a dinner or work event until after 9pm,” Nonoo says. “I found over the course of time, I wanted to strip back my wardrobe to pieces that worked with how I’m spending my days.”
The designer has also notably upped her own social media presence over the past year, becoming the unofficial face of the brand. While Nonoo represents her own customer — a creative professional looking for interesting wardrobe solutions that go beyond the traditional work uniform — the designer acknowledges that it’s not her natural inclination to share so much. “To be completely honest with you, it was actually quite recent that I’ve begun to feel more comfortable with it,” she says. “I don’t know if it’s a British thing: you don’t put yourself out there, you’re not supposed to sell yourself.”
Looking at the landscape, everything is constantly on sale, there is way too much choice, and as a consumer, I never want to go into a store.
But a conversation with digital sales and marketing veteran Frank Weil, who starts as the company’s new president and chief operating officer on September 1, helped Nonoo better appreciate the power of her personal brand in driving sales.
Weil, who joins the company from e-commerce technology provider Acadaca and previously led e-commerce at Havaianas, will pull traditional digital marketing levers like search engine marketing, search engine optimisation and social media. Along with hiring an editorial director to help contextualise the site’s shoppable content, Nonoo will also do plenty of on-the-ground marketing, hosting trunk shows at key cities around the country. “It’s really about leveraging public relations, leveraging myself and introducing people to the brand,” Nonoo says. The company also hired digital marketing agency Deep Focus in April 2016 and creative agency Bondfire to revamp the site, with KCD Digital advising on overall strategy across platforms.
Of course, an overhaul of this magnitude requires significant investment. Along with reinvesting funds from her final wholesale collection, the designer has also raised a seed round of funding from friends and family, the financial details of which were not disclosed. But Nonoo seems confident that her focus and relatability will pay off. “We really looked at it from the top down and bottom up: where and how she’s shopping,” she explains. “If she has an extra hour, she’s not spending it going to a boutique or a department store.”