Fashion with heart – an interview with Misha & Puff

Image credit: Susie Cushner

As consumers long for familiarity, warmth and compassion in today’s chaotic world, Misha & Puff show that there is a way to have all of these characteristics on top of ethical and sustainable practices whilst still retaining an edge of cool. How do they do it?!! Read on for our interview with Misha & Puff founder Anna Wallack…

Q: Tell us a bit about why you started Misha and Puff?

A: It started really organically. I had been working as a stylist and took time off when I had my first child. I was in nesting mode, and instead of buying clothes, I started knitting. This was it really. Knitting can be very addictive, and it has a beautiful meditative quality. Very soon, I was designing my own styles, and realised my perspective: yarn, patterns, styling was unique in the market. And Misha and Puff grew out of that.

Q: What are the three most important values of the brand?

A: Hand crafted is certainly at the core, it is how we started. It connects us to a larger narrative and keeps the work at a human scale. That’s really important too. Our goal is not to be a giant company. I love being able to send a swatch I personally knitted. Or show the knitters in person, and learn from them. The way we work – fair trade, is just as important to me as the work we produce. Knowing where our materials come from, and who makes the clothes.

Q: If you could only pick one thing that you thought really accelerated the success of your brand, what would it be?

A: I think images. I come from an image background. I have an art degree. I have worked with photographers for 15 years. I truly see how important it is to be able to speak in images about your product and your mission and really understand how a consumer responds to images. I was so lucky early on to collaborate with photographers and create my own style that works with my vision for the brand.

Q: Sustainable and fair trade practices seem very important to the brand’s ethos. Can you tell me about low impact dying and any surprise benefits that come from using this method?

A: The low-impact dyes are soft and gentle on the baby’s skin. In visiting the farm outside Lima where we do these dyes, our host put his hand into a dye bath and drank it, because it was just mango. Not something I recommend, but this illustrates just how gentle these dyes are. I love finding people who care about these practices. Working in low impact, ecological ways.

Q: What advice would you give other brands who wish to adopt more sustainable practices?

A: I don’t know if it is something you adopt, I think you have to start from the beginning. If you care about it, it’s at the centre of your business model. But certainly, I think everyone should care 😉 You cannot compare yourself to other brands not working in this way. It doesn’t work. It costs more and might be harder. For me, there is no other way, so it’s up to me to get the story across and to let customers understand what is attached to the price tag.

Q: The kidswear market is constantly changing and evolving. What is your current perception of it?

A: I think it’s really exciting. When I started out 5 years ago, wool was a HARD sell. Now it’s much more mainstream. Wool for babies is not new! But the idea had become lost in the states (northern Europe and Australia, never lost it). But in the states it was synthetic, or cotton, and maybe cashmere in the very high-end market. But wool is so good for babies and children. Now, 5 years in, customers get it, and love it, and really understand the quality and longevity of natural fibres.

Q: Have you noticed anything new or noteworthy in the way that consumers purchase from you? Are there colours or styles that always do better than others?

A: – Choosing the colour story for each season is a really important part of our process. We like working with colours that aren’t as common, and are maybe less expected for babies and kids. “Nutmeg” and “Charcoal” are always favorites, because they feel timeless and unisex. Our “Confetti Cake” this past fall was also a big hit – it’s a really fun neutral and ties together all of the other colours in the collection. I feel our colour choices are as much a part of the MP brand as the knits themselves. I really consider longevity in choosing the colour palette. I want the customer to know when they invest in a piece, it will last, through many hand-me-downs. The colours aren’t trendy, and we try to offer many gender neutral colours a season for just this reason.

Q: Is there anything exciting in the future pipeline for Misha and Puff that you’d like to share?

A: We’ve always had lots of customers asking for pieces in “adult sizes”, and in particular our popcorn sweater, so this past fall we created a grownup-take on the classic kids popcorn. We had a limited-run produced and they did really well! This fall, there might be some new adult knit styles added to the mix…And we may even have a few other secrets down the road too. Stay tuned!

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