Nuu-Muu's print design process has been one of revolution, evolution and revival!
As we launch a gorgeous new season of prints (our first-ever revival season), I have been reminiscing about our print design process and its evolution over 12 years.
Decisions about prints and color-ways (a nifty word I learned after starting Nuu-Muu) and how to name our dresses have always been one of the extra fun - and more dramatic - parts of the company. The very first time that I got my hands on a program that would let me switch colors on a potential print pattern, I was like a 17-year old video game addict. It is SO MUCH FUN to play. (If this was still part of my job my dogs would never get walked, my kids would never get fed, and my bills would never get paid…as much fun as it was, it was a gigantic time suck.)
I remember a sweet moment I shared with Ashley and her husband one evening over dinner in Seattle, scribbling potential names for our black dress on a bar napkin.“X-Dress” came from that evening, after a ridiculously funny back and forth.One season, a few years ago, our team was fussing over a print design with an element that reminded Ashley of a chicken head. We talked, and teased, A LOT about the chicken head. I can’t remember what became of that chicken. Or its head.
One print (that I adored) Nikki kept referring to as “the cat puke print.”I think she got away with this because she doesn’t have cats. My own darling felines have never vomited anything nearly as lovely as this dress. But she definitely had a strong negative reaction to it. (Side note: we had a lot of fun getting folks to guess which print this was!! Thanks to all who played.)
Nuu-Muu is still small enough that our decisions are often group decisions. Choosing which prints to make, and what to name them, quickly reveals our personal preferences, passions and idiosyncrasies.Our dozens and dozens of bantering team calls comprise my favorite set of Nuu-Muu memories. Ashley and Molli both love bright. Nikki is all about approachable. Enid’s aesthetic is gorgeously edgy. I like subtle…you see where I’m going. And somehow, after several rounds, we end up with something great.
For Nuu-Muu, the print process has a purpose that is intrinsic to our company. I’ve broken it down into our Revolution, our Evolution and our [much anticipated] Revival.
Our Little Revolution
From the start, our goal has been to offer truly beautiful prints that surprise, delight and go beyond the norm. Ashley and I were always committed to offering the world that which wasn’t already there, not more of the same old boring nonsense. The entire premise behind starting an exercise dress company was to fill a gaping hole in the world of women’s athletic apparel. But then it gets juicy: ‘pretty’ to you might not be ‘pretty’ to me and vice versa. Turns out that Ashley and I, despite being dear and long-time friends, often have precisely opposing opinions on what looks good or right or whatever. So, we created a few guidelines over the years:
Let’s not make the same thing all the time just because people like it (this is hard);
Let’s keep trying new things to see if people like it (this is also hard);
Let’s not be afraid of color or being noticed or being bold (again, hard, but also super fun);
Let’s ask for opinions when we can’t agree and it just might help us agree (this is useful).
These days, because we are a larger team of women with an incredibly talented designer, our personal whims are somewhat less likely to be the breezes that blow Nuu-Muu in any given direction. But still, having an opinion and voicing that opinion is who we have always been and will continue to be. I will probably always cringe, and Ashley will always cheer, when we make a yellow or orange dress. And then every one of them will be sold to happy people and I will pretend to get it. Until the next time… (PS Thank you to the readers who emailed me for a chance at my (S)assy Zest - it is on it's way to a new home!)
A Bit of Evolution
In the very, very beginning (2007!), I bought overstock fabric from a shop in the outskirts of Portland to create our first line of dresses. I was one person with one opinion, picking out prints from a collection someone else had designed. Boom. From there, we “shopped” for prints in the myriad places that have catalogs of such things. This eventually evolved into finding prints we could customize by changing color schemes or scale. And now, in the current season of Nuu-Muu, we have the incredible good fortune (through the design brilliance of Enid) to create many our own prints and to fuss with and fawn until we are delighted and content. (At least most of us!)
These days, the process always starts with Enid. We’ve had the gift of her talent for more than 8 years. She keeps us in the know and in the now and dares us to try new things. We bring our ever-evolving (or not) biases. And honestly, we need the bias! If it were only up to me, Nuu-Muu might be pretty boring. It takes all of our hearts and voices and habits to create the dresses that end up appealing to a wide range of women of all ages and inclinations.
After Enid creates some print options, it's time to choose. Our decision-making relies heavily on a somewhat haphazard method of checks and balances, group discussions, and, occasionally, a tiny bit of hysteria. We often tease. We almost always laugh. We might even cry. We are ridiculous and we are brilliant, sometimes at the same time. The process is casual, and yet…we’ve each been known to get strong-willed on the topic of a certain color combination or a particularly clever name.
Thankfully, we balance one another. We remind one another. We stay rooted in love. Our team ranges in age from early 20’s to solid 60’s. Some of us are flashy. Some of us prefer a more subdued look. We are (sometimes brutally) honest, and while we may valiantly defend a given point of view, we love our sisters in the design process. In fact, there is a certain magic to it. The beauty of having a respectful and engaged group of strong feminine personalities who deeply respect each other’s diverse opinions and experiences is that we end up with a bold unified voice that represents our gorgeous feminine demographic in all of its glory.
We laugh and cajole while we make and name beautiful things together, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
This season, we broke tradition and looked backwards. For the first time ever, we revisited some favorites from the past few years and let ourselves play with them anew. We have thus far had a strong dedication to keeping each print a sweet moment in time. This year, as we have soaked up the joy over certain prints, it seemed like taking a little look behind us wasn’t a bad idea at all.
Summer 2019 is our Revival Summer – looking back at some of the most well-loved prints of the past few years and offering them in juicy new color combos. We love it. We hope you do too.
The Revival Summer
We have always loved the idea of limited editions. We get completely giddy over the Facebook and eBay posts with “vintage” Muus for sale. We treasure the zeal with which people chase down their favorite unicorn print. One of our very original prints was named “Fleur” and it has remained popular for 12 years. We did a nod to Fleur a few years back with “Fleurty” – a similar black background with fun colorful flowers, although on a smaller scale. But mostly, when people ask for a repeat, we politely decline. NOT THIS YEAR. Summer ’19 features 5 newish prints – born from 3 oldies-but-goodies. Have fun!!!!
From Spring ’16
Zen (black) and Jade (green) were two prints Enid designed that broke our golden rule. These elegant classics were so popular that we restocked them immediately – something we had never done except with our now-constant X-Dress. Summer ’19 brings two new versions of this line print: Waterfall (blue) and Dynamite (magenta). I will be the first to tell you: buy yours now. We are NOT remaking them!!! And they are stunning.
From Summer ’16
Hoopla was our very first summer release – and we sold out in a hot second. Our ode to Hoopla is two gorgeous new versions: Sundae and Float. (Yep, they are every bit as good as ice cream.) Sundae takes chocolate to a new level with rhubarb and cream. Float takes the summer sky and her puffy clouds and sprinkles them all over a super versatile background. Hoopla was a hit for her graphic lightheartedness – flattering, easy and modern. Get your ice cream NOW.
From Summer ’18
We were blown away by the success of a recent trio of paisley-ish dresses (Wave, Fern and Zest). This was only a year ago, but we couldn’t hep bring one back this summer. Welcome Ruubarb(!!!), a gorgeous rhubarb version of last summer’s popular prints. And not a single person on our staff grumbled when I wanted to spell Rhubarb the wrong way, so for me, this is a win-win-win. And it’s even better than pie.
We think really, really hard about what we put out in the world. We hope you love it.
With big love and fond memories,
Christine and everyone at NUU-MUU
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