If you really think about it, it’s all her fault. If Misha Nonoo hadn’t introduced Meghan Markle to Prince Harry, as is widely rumored, the next-gen royals would have simply carried on with the business of maintaining a monarchy in a century that finds them quaint at best. But now, as the Duchess of Sussex plots out her next act as a beleaguered plebeian, she’ll likely try to get by with a little help from her friends.
And look—here’s Misha Nonoo. On a recent Sunday, the socialite fashion designer teased a “special collaboration” on her Instagram stories: “DM us with your guesses.” Any sentient being already had an inkling, given that Nonoo’s bestie status with the Duchess of Sussex is rivaled only by Meghan’s friendship with the self-promoting stylist Jessica Mulroney. Days prior, Nonoo announced dates and locations for her “styling tour,” the first in Toronto.
A Meghan-Misha hustle is not without precedent. In September, Markle launched a charity capsule collection, designed in collaboration with Nonoo. And when Harry and Meghan made their first public appearance together, at the 2017 Invictus Games, the Duchess wore a $185 white blouse, known as the “Husband Shirt,” designed by her friend. Nonoo has proclaimed that it’s “the shirt that seals the deal.” We’ll be seeing even more of her in the near future.
So, who is she?
Nonoo’s bestie status with the Duchess of Sussex is rivaled only by that of the self-promoting stylist Jessica Mulroney.
Well, Misha Nonoo wasn’t always a blonde. She arrived in New York in 2008 as a comely brunette with an entry-level job at a tailoring shop in the Garment District. At night, she went home to Alexander Gilkes, a charming auctioneer whom she’d met in London when she was 17. He was around eight years her senior and already very chummy with Prince Harry, whom he had befriended through Eton.
“I thought he was gay,” Nonoo told The New York Times. “He was so handsome and well-dressed.” Nonoo and Gilkes were chronically out and about, attending parties hosted by everyone from Avenue magazine to the Watermill Center (an arts center in the Hamptons), with a glassy high-rise in Tribeca as a crash pad.
A Brand Was Born
Nonoo was not long for the Garment District. She was wearing a self-made jacket while brunching in the Lower East Side when a stranger who happened to be an Intermix buyer interrupted her and, ultimately, placed an order. A brand, Nonoo Lyons, was born. It was co-designed by Nonoo and her close friend Deborah Lyons, a fellow Brit and a Parsons grad. The first Nonoo Lyons collection was sketched out in Nonoo’s apartment, and it debuted in 2009, accompanied by cheery articles in Vogue. Soon, the two were documenting their escapades at Coachella for elle.com.
But by 2011, Nonoo Lyons had dissolved and Misha Nonoo was born. (Lyons moved back to London, and now has her own eponymous collection.) Over the next few years, it grew in both ambition and execution, with smart Prince of Wales jackets shown alongside intarsia sweaters and a digital-print organza gown. Nonoo was awarded the Fashion Group International’s Rising Star Award and named a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. Simultaneously, Gilkes was busy building Paddle8, the digital auction house he had co-founded with great fanfare. He employed Princess Eugenie—or “Eug,” as he calls her.
Time to Be Married
Somehow, the two found the time to be married in Venice in May 2012. The affair was breathlessly described as “equal parts James Bond, Great Gatsby, and English-schoolboy high jinks” by W magazine. Gilkes’s brother, Charlie, an Etonian classmate of Prince William’s (and a onetime flame of Pippa Middleton’s), served as best man, and Lana Del Rey performed a set for guests such as Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice and James Middleton.
Around December 2014, Nonoo met a minor actress named Meghan Markle at Art Basel Miami Beach. As both women tell it, their connection was heady and immediate. “And by ‘met,’ I mean danced the night away and sipped cocktails with,’” Ms. Markle wrote on the Tig, her now defunct lifestyle Web site. Nonoo righteously described it to The New York Times as a more sober affair: “And we sat down and we started, actually, right from the get-go, talking about a shared passion for equality, women’s empowerment and our love of dogs.”
Meghan and Harry’s accelerated romance began with a blind date in the summer of 2016, but as one couple coalesced, another split. Several months later, Page Six announced that Nonoo and Gilkes had separated, blaming “wild ambition” on the part of both parties. Soon, Nonoo had a new boyfriend—and handsome date to a certain wedding at Windsor Castle—in Michael Hess: younger than Gilkes, known as Mikey, a Buckley-Deerfield-Harvard grad, Kushner intimate, and beneficiary of his family’s energy fortune, estimated at $1.9 billion.
“We sat down and we started, actually, right from the get-go, talking about a shared passion for equality, women’s empowerment and our love of dogs.”
He reportedly proposed to Nonoo during a Valentine’s Day getaway to Cabo San Lucas, and by September the masses were descending back upon Italy—Rome, this time—for their wedding. Held at the 17th-century Villa Aurelia, the Friday-night affair was attended by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Princess Eugenie, Princess Beatrice, Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom, and, naturally, Meghan and Harry. Meghan was reportedly the only one to give a reading during the ceremony. It is rumored that Gayle King sat at the head table, where she took in a musical performed by Hess, Paul McCartney, and James Corden. Adding to the theatricality, Nonoo announced her pregnancy during a toast. She is due in the spring.
The Fickle Winds of Public Opinion
Nonoo’s business remains a top priority. The collection has been dressed down and hews exclusively to unremarkable basics—T-shirts, button-ups, corporate trousers, and pencil skirts—in straightforward colors and mid-range prices. She even sells some shirts in “Packs,” like underwear or socks. In what Nonoo describes as a commitment to sustainability, each piece is produced “on-demand,” cut, and sewn at a factory in China within 10 business days, and then shipped directly to the consumer. (It’s not exactly carbon-neutral, but it’s a start?) And, always savvy, just this week she announced her pregnancy on Instagram alongside a maternity version of the “Husband Shirt.” She also opened the doors to her new boutique in New York’s Meatpacking District.
Meanwhile, the Sussexes are living in a borrowed home in Canada, where the high point of Markle’s day appears to be walking the dogs in her Lululemons. For now, thanks to Prince Charles, the Sussexes’ bank account is flush, but income-generating activity is imminent, as they mentioned in their announcement to “step back” from their roles as “senior” members of the royal family, and as evidenced by Harry’s cringey entreaties to Bob Iger at the London premiere of The Lion King. (“You know she does voice-overs?”) In a profound reversal of fortune, Markle has traded automatic fame, wealth, and purpose for a future that’s contingent on the fickle winds of public opinion. Meanwhile, her best friend has married into billions, socializes with aristocrats, and oversees a thriving fashion business. How’s that for a Cinderella story?
Ashley Baker is the Style Editor for AIR MAIL