Manhattan’s Garment District doesn’t seem like a particularly inspiring spot. The architecture pales in comparison to its wedding-cake neighbors uptown, its energy to the fashionable scene 30-or-so blocks south. But it’s here, at the island’s physical center and the fashion industry’s symbolic one, that you’ll find some of the most exciting young designers working. Many of the buzziest are tucked inside the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Incubator, a shared workspace for up-and-coming talents that are hand selected by the formidable organization.
One such tenant: Bahrain-born, London-raised, and CFDA-anointed Misha Nonoo, whose petite studio offers an incredibly stylish respite from the delivery trucks and bodegas below. Warm and welcoming, formal yet cool, the space feels more like a Tribeca loft or Greenwich Village townhouse than a Midtown cubbyhole. The location has been her eponymous brand's home for the past two years—they move out in the spring, when their incubation period is complete—and reflects not just the the fashions created there, but also the lifestyle of its founder and the women she's dressing. (Think Gwyneth Paltrow and Emma Watson, for starters.) "It's a small space so [my aesthetic] is represented in bits and pieces—photographs, my art books, an old Turkish tobacco tin that I picked up at a flea market in Paris," explains Nonoo. Stacks of personal mementos and myriad treasures—boxes, vases, and brass objets, which she migrated from the enviable downtown home she and husband Alexander Gilkes picked up from interiors powerhouse Nate Berkus—lend the space the feeling of a luxe, yet laid-back atelier.
Such worldly yet intimate items set the stage for residential-style furniture pieces, including a curvaceous console and an artfully distressed mirror, while dramatic floor-to-ceiling curtains divide behind-the-scenes components from the public space. At the center of it all sits a markedly rustic desk, a beloved antique Nonoo sourced in the upstate hamlet of Hudson, New York, and accented with some of her favorite items: an antique letter opener and a magnifying glass, a framed editorial photo, and desk accessories from the new line of her go-to stationer Mrs. John L. Strong. "They've been making our [Fashion Week] invitations for two years now," she says of the storied New York brand, who has famously created goods for everyone from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Jacqueline Kennedy. "I think it’s really beautiful, and there’s so much integrity in the quality."
Nonoo's love for the brand even managed to inspire a new introduction. When Mrs. John L. Strong's owner Jacqueline Kotts spotted fashion editors jotting their notes on the back of her invites during one of the designer's runway shows, she decided to start making notepads for the style-setting crowd. One of the resulting tablets—a crisp owl-adorned pad in a croc-embossed leather holder—now takes pride of place on Nonoo's desk. "I can get really excited about things like fonts and stationery and card stock, and I become a bit of a stationery geek," she says. Not surprisingly, the piece embodies many of the same enviable traits as her collections: Timeless yet of-the-moment, refined yet modish. It's a fashionable convergence that could only have been made in Manhattan.