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Introducing Racked National's newest feature, The Breakfast Club, wherein we convince all sorts of people in the fashion industry to eat breakfast with us and, totally beknownst to them, we plonk a tape recorder in the middle of the table while they eat.
Today's Breakfast Club victims are Misha Nonoo and Deborah Lyons, the New York-based British design duo behind jacket-only label Nonoo Lyons.
In the last two years, Deborah Lyons (right) and Misha Nonoo (left) have graduated from college and leapt head-first into the fashion industry. Lyons, who previously launched the ultra-successful cult shoe label Mechante of London—it's sold at Harrod's and Dover Street Market—teamed up with business-school grad Nonoo, another Brit living in New York City to create Nonoo Lyons, a jacket- and coat-only label.
We breakfasted with the designing duo to find out how this all went down in NYC, what it was like launching a new business in the middle of a major recession, and what the label's all about.
Nonoo: Nonoo Lyons is a jacket and coat only label. We produce everything in Manhattan on 36th Street. Quality is really important to us, and we try to keep our prices to within contemporary to bridge price point—so it's a jacket for between $600 and, at the top end, $1,200. We even make our furs and our leathers in New York—with our furs, we make sure we're always using existing fur.
Lyons: We try and work as much as possible with local ateliers. This way, we're really involved with the product, so we really can watch the quality control. There really is so much talent here, it's really nice for us to be here and to feel like we're working locally and supporting that.
N: It feels more artisanal. The garment center certainly isn't what it used to be, but we still want to support that because we want it to perpetuate.
L: Some of those people have been there for so long, they have so much expertise. There's so much we can learn from them.
N: We have a guy who does our pleating who's been in the same factory for the last 35 years, and he took over his father's business.
L: He's about 85 or something.
N: You meet so many characters, good and bad and everyday is a different kind of journey, a different kind of experience. So it's fun and at the same time, educational.
L: There's literally nothing that goes out without us seeing it, which means we do have that true tailoring quality, which is hard to come by.
N: The first season we had eight pieces, so it was really a capsule collection, we were just testing things, since we started at the height of the recession. To be honest, we kind of feel it was a blessing in disguise—because it's given us a year, and now in our third season, we're starting to get proper orders and really good numbers and stuff like that. And we feel as if we've had time to sort out our production, make sure everything runs smoothly.
L: If we'd suddenly been faced with hundreds in our first season, we wouldn't have known what to do with it. And to be honest, I'm not sure that our experience with this has been that much different than any designer starting out at any time.
N: You have to make a name for yourself, and people have to test you.
L: People need to learn about you and learn who you are and a lot of buyers want to see you one season and make sure you're still there next season.
N: We were quite lucky in that there were quite a few early adopters in New York. So from the beginning we had Henri Bendel, Takashimaya, and Intermix. And then we have other accounts around the country. For us it's been an amazing learning curve. We only do a presentation, we don't do a runway show. Because fabrics are such a big part of our story—to be able to actually see the detail is important. Fall-winter was the first season we started doing leather and fur because we found the factories here that could produce. We took our time. As with everything, we took our time and made sure that everything was of the highest standard before actually going full steam.
L: We did 8, then we did 12, then we did 18-20 styles, but we do what we want. If we want to do 15 pieces that we really love, and if we want to do 30 that we really love, we'll do that. We go in, we design what we really love, and then that's what we make.
N: It's not like a fashion show where you have to design a certain number of looks to actually go for it.
L: We're both quite stubborn and headstrong, and we don't really think before we jump, so fortunately we found that quality in each other. We'd been friends for a long time. Basically, the label came up much because we were just talking about what we were missing. It was very organic—it was basically us talking one day over lunch about what it is we want in a wardrobe.
N: Where do you really find, and at a reasonable price, a great jacket that has design focus and is also quality?
L: And it's on-trend without being trend-driven.
N: That's kind of how it all kicked off.
L: And the idea that it defines your outfit, which is really, in the lifestyle that we live. Ninety percent of the year, our jackets define our outfit. It's the first thing that people see, and it's the last thing that we put on, that's what we finish our look with.
· Nonoo Lyons [Official Site]