THE LOOK: Rag & Bone silk shirt, $325, Rag & Bone biker jean, $275, and Steve Madden sandals, $100, all @ Nordstrom. handmade necklace by Mona Nuñez. Styling by Jahna Peloquin. Photos by kelly gritzmacher. Hair and makeup by Margo Gordon.
“I swear I was a French woman in a past life,” says Mona Nuñez. The Minnesota-based designer calls Vogue Paris editor-in-chief Emmanuelle Alt her “style doppelganger,” describing her look as “a rock-tomboy version of Audrey Hepburn.”
She recently launched her namesake clothing label, Mona Nuñez, with a graphic t-shirt line that’s influenced by what she calls her “wild spirit” and role as a “citizen of the world.” Born and raised in Jamaica before moving to Minnesota, Nuñez says she inherited her rebellious nature from her parents—her grandparents disapproved of her parents’ relationship, because her mother was black and her father was Spanish. “They had to rebel in their own cause to be together,” she says.
The look: Helene Berman vest, $248, J Brand jeans, $178, and Jimmy Choo sandals, $625, all @ Nordstrom; Mona Nuñez t-shirt, $85 @ monanunez.com; Stephanie Lake Design necklace and bracelet, Nuñez’s own
Her family also passed on a creative spark. Nuñez was raised by a seamstress mother, a sculptor grandfather, and a father who spent his free time making “car art”—he’d cut the top off his car, she says, or cut different cars apart and put them together. “Creating is in my blood,” she explains.
Though her t-shirt line is U.S.-made—cut-and-sewn in L.A. out of sustainable, fair-labor Supima cotton—the inspiration for her brand is global. Nuñez and her husband, Joe, travel whenever possible, and she considers Paris, the south of France, and Thailand as her favorite locales. During a recent trip to Thailand, Nuñez visited a local art space and was inspired to collaborate with other artists for her t-shirts’ graphics. “The energy between the artists was incredible,” she says. “I loved the way they worked together.”
Mona Nuñez’s Home
Sunlight is plentiful in the duo’s Minne-tonka home, thanks to its large windows and high ceilings. Joe collaborated with an architect to design the home more than two decades ago, but the decor—imported antiques, gilded-framed artwork, Persian rugs, and Buddha statues—is pure Mona. (“The bones were there, but I brought the soul,” she says.) An animal theme runs throughout the décor, which includes a hand-carved teak chair with arms shaped like cheetahs and an etched water buffalo skull purchased during a trip to Bali. The home’s walls are covered in antique Asian artwork, Nuñez’s own paintings, and framed, large-scale illustrations by St. Paul artist Dan Wieken, whose imagery covers the first edition of her t-shirt line, called Scions of Sedition.
While the phrase Scions of Sedition technically means “offspring of dissent,” Nuñez says the rebellion she finds most important starts within oneself. “I want people to rebel as a way to discover who they are.”
Her designs, including a t-shirt featuring the perfect amount of drape, emphasize simplicity and luxury. “With my look, less is clearly more and not as distracting,” she says. “Design for me is stripping away everything that doesn’t count.”
T-Shirts by Mona Nuñez
Mona Nuñez’s Style Crib Sheet
On her skincare routine
“Natural skin is the most important to me,” she says, so she emphasizes eating right, hydrating, and exercising. She uses Douceur Foaming Mousse Cleanser, Phytomer Douceur Marine Soothing Cocoon Mask once a week, and Dermalogica Antioxidant HydraMist. If her skin is feeling a little dry, she applies Olivier Claire face lotion.
Nuñez rarely wears makeup, but if she feels like dressing up, she wears MAC eyeliner, Bobbi Brown mascara and eyeshadow, and Prescriptives lip liner in Gypsy Rose.
On her shopping habits
“I’m very value-oriented,” she says. “I want one great piece that I can wear for as long as I want. Longevity of fashion is good both for the planet and personal style.” Yves Saint Laurent, Balmain, and Phoebe Philo are among her favorite designers, though she also loves shopping vintage.