September 24, 2014, Updated September 23, 2014
ABC shirt photo by Max Hochstein.
ABC shirt photo by Max Hochstein.

Mompreneurs Tali Milchberg and Iris Adler never claimed to invent the skull pattern, ABC lettering or star imprints. But they saw the potential of featuring these simple and modern graphics on high-quality cotton fabric that has made their edgy design label, NUNUNU, a fashion must-have.

Tali Milchberg and Iris Adler. Photo by Uma Hochstein
Tali Milchberg and Iris Adler. Photo by Uma Hochstein

Just take a look at what celeb-babies are wearing. Samuel and Seraphina Affleck (Ben Affleck & Jennifer Garner), Flynn Bloom (Orlando Bloom & Miranda Kerr), Georgia Dane (Eric Dane & Rebecca Gayheart), Luca Comrie (Mike Comrie & Hillary Duff), Penelope and Mason Disick (Kourtney Kardashian & Scott Disick), Blue Ivy Carter (Beyonce & Jay-Z), Xander Jones (January Jones), Zuma Rossdale (Gwen Stefani & Gavin Rossdale) have all been seen decked out in the funky Israeli designs.

“We created a language that didn’t exist before, a unique design context,” Milchberg tells ISRAEL21c. “I didn’t invent the skull or the color black but [we made it our] agenda, as a company. Six years ago, people told us we were crazy, saying things like ‘Who would buy baby clothing with skulls’ or in black or deconstructed? And now I see GAP and H&M making knockoffs of our models. Our gut feeling was right.”

Star dress photo by Max Hochstein.
Star dress photo by Max Hochstein.

So right, in fact, that People magazine predicted there’s “no doubt we’ll see more mini Hollywood trendsetters wearing NUNUNU more and more.”

The Israeli design team is not just focused on the uber wealthy.

Milchberg, a mother of four, and Adler, mom to two, were tired of dressing their own kids in babywear clichés. They wanted something comfortable but with attitude.

And judging by their Facebook page and baby fashion blogs, a whole lot of parents share their view.

“If you’re looking for cute teddy bears or magical fairies, you’ve come to the wrong place. BUT! If you appreciate a kick ass cocktail of attitude, style and sense of humor you are without a doubt a member of the NUNUNU family!” declares the Toddlers and Tees fashion blog  in Holland.

Bestselling black

Adler and Milchberg’s studio in Kiryat Shaul, an affluent neighborhood of Tel Aviv, has a staff workroom and a retail showroom.

The friends and business partners have often been quoted as saying they steer clear of fads and trends. The basic colors of each new fashion line are always black, gray and white. Every season they add two new colors. Last season, for instance, included neon pink and neon yellow.

“Black is always the bestseller. It’s so rare and hard to find in children’s clothes. It’s so basic and while people were afraid of black six years ago when we started, now it’s more common,” says Milchberg. “Once they see how practical black is, that it hides the dirt, and how it looks good, they get it and want more and more.”

The trendsetting clothes feature the alphabet, stars and skulls or big bolded kid vocab like “NO!” and “WHATEVER.”

Heart shirt photo by Max Hochstein.
Heart shirt photo by Max Hochstein.

“We work with our heart,” Milchberg tells ISRAEL21c. “We don’t read websites that say what will be the next trend; we don’t look at magazines. We’re really working from our small point of view and our gut feeling and stuff we like.”

The two also take inspiration from their travels, adult fashion, architectural design, illustration and art. “We’re inspired from the world we’re living in,” says Milchberg.

Sold around the world

The company founded in 2009 is growing all the time. “We’re not a small company anymore,” says Milchberg. “We sell in 400 points around the world. Also we have a public-relations team in Los Angeles now, so it’s much more professional.”

It’s not unusual to find Milchberg and Adler at the Istanbul airport. The two fly in and out on the same day and use Turkey as a mid-way spot for business meetings with European and North American associates.

Adler, a fashion stylist, and Milchberg, a creative director, left their successful careers to give birth to NUNUNU.

At first, they called their baby Black Sheep. Two years later, when they wanted to trademark the company name, a lawyer told them Black Sheep was already taken. Milchberg remembered a friend had suggested NUNUNU – the Hebrew term parents in Israel use as a gentle, finger-wagging way of saying “No, no, no, don’t do that.”

NUNUNU’s items are unisex. Photo by Max Hochstein
NUNUNU’s items are unisex. Photo by Max Hochstein

Demand for their clothes has seen NUNUNU grow with the children wearing them, and the line now includes bigger sizes. And everything is unisex save for the dresses.

NUNUNU uses unique dying and washing techniques. It took Adler and Milchberg by surprise when they started getting phone calls from the assistants of celebrities asking for the “secret fragrance” in the clothes.

“People are obsessed with the smell. We prewash all our clothes so they get a deconstructed vintage feeling. And in this process they [gain] a smell,” says Milchberg.

NUNUNU recently showed its spring-summer 2015 collection in Paris and New York. Production takes six months, and it’s an Israeli process from start to finish. Manufacturing is done in the Druze villages of Julis and Yarka.

“When people hear ‘Made in Israel’ they know it’s of high quality,” says Milchberg.

Plans for the future include NUNUNU concept stores. Milchberg says they hope to open in Israel first and then franchise out if it’s successful.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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