For her first public appearance with Prince Harry in 2017, Meghan Markle famously manifested her future by wearing an oversize white button down called the “Husband” shirt. Designed by her close friend Misha Nonoo—who, coincidentally, is rumored to have set the couple up—the shirt got the “Markle Sparkle” sheen, a highly coveted phenomenon that occurs after Markle wears a particular designer. Nonoo’s Husband shirt went on backorder almost immediately and has consistently been one of her best-selling items ever since. The iconic basic now comes in a variety of colors, fabrics, sizes, and is even part of her new maternity collection.
In ELLE’s series Clothes of Our Lives, we decode the sartorial choices made by powerful women, and explore how fashion can be used as a tool for communication. Below in her own words, Nonoo (who recently debuted a swimwear capsule collection with Vitamin A and a maternity line for her eponymous label) recalls how her life was turned upside down by a simple white shirt.
When a person of note—particularly someone that is so closely associated to myself or to the brand like Meghan is, and it’s well documented that we have a long, enduring, and very close friendship—wears your design, there’s an almost instant shift in interest and sales.
Her platform gave a great level of awareness to our brand and our mission. I think that’s just a natural phenomenon that occurs when you are fortunate enough to have a like-minded person publicize your collection, like Meghan has done with the Husband shirt. People buy the original in white, and then come back for more in different colors because they love it so much.
The shirt has taken on a life of its own at this point—becoming a very important and meaningful piece not just for me, but in other peoples’ lives.
The Husband shirt was borne from the sense that you always want to wear an item from a significant other to feel close to them. I love wearing stuff from my husband’s closet because there’s really nothing sexier than borrowing from the boys.
About five years ago, I went to the mannequin and tailored a shirt from an existing collection to be oversized in certain places. It took at least a couple of weeks to finish—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 amalgamation of a few different parts. The studs on the prototype shirt actually came from a piece of footwear that I designed for a collaboration a few years prior. It’s funny how sometimes the best things in life happen when you build upon something that’s already there.
As a designer, I’m always creating new things, so it can be hard to predict which pieces will gain traction and when. The fact that I loved this concept of a “borrowed” shirt so much (and that I identified with the woman who was going to wear it) should have been a dead giveaway that it would be popular. But in hindsight I had no idea.
We launched the Husband shirt in September of 2016 as part of a larger collection called The Easy Eight. All my friends and family loved the idea—and its tongue in cheek name. My president at the time and I had a bet as to what would be the most popular piece. I said something else, but he bet on the Husband shirt. He was right, of course.
From the start it was one of our most sold items, because everyone needs a good white button down. The studs make it sexy, almost like a piece of jewelry, and the oversize cuffs mean it can be worn in multiple ways. Tuck it in, or wear it with jeans. It’s very flexible.
The Husband shirt now comes in a lot of colors, patterns, and fabrics. We have organic cotton and linen. We have various stripes and solid colors. We’ve done embroidered versions. You can even send it as a gift with somebody else’s monogrammed initials on it. There’s so many ways to personalize the shirt, and it’ll continue to be there for people who have grown to love it over the years.
I often think to myself: what would I do if I didn’t have the Husband shirt? It’s become a backbone in my own collection. I personally wear it four to five times a week, whether it’s the blue and white stripe version, or the olive green linen version. I love separates, so I pair it with trousers or a skirt. I used to love miniskirts too, but now that I’m a mother they are harder to wear, and not quite as practical.
Not only do I love wearing it, but the Husband shirt has also become a solid part of my business. We have been able to do so much with it—including working with different charitable organizations.
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 philanthropic organization based in the U.K. called Smart Works, which helps women who have been out of the workforce for a prolonged period of time. Not only does Smart Works offer guidance to women anything from coaching to interview techniques, but they also help them dress for interviews. The Duchess of Sussex was a patron of the organization in the U.K., and she created a capsule wardrobe for them. We ended up contributing several thousand shirts, and it an amazing partnership.
More recently, my team and I found a way to use the Husband Shirt to help restaurants affected by COVID-19. For every shirt sold (they cost $185), we donated $100 to a charitable organization that supported restaurants battered by the pandemic.
It’s been four years since we launched the very first iteration of the Husband shirt, and I’m still very, very proud. We’ve been able to dress women from all walks of life and from all around the world. The shirt practically has its own personality at this point.
There’s something really gratifying about creating a traditional piece of clothing, a classic piece of clothing, that people can wear in a very modern way—because it means it has longevity. And that’s pretty amazing.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io