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Q&A with Sean Monahan and Monica Paolini of Sea New York

How very extremely exciting is this? Sea New York makes its much heralded Hambledon debut this week and we were lucky enough to sit down (sadly virtually, no trip to NYC for us) with the founders Sean Monahan and Monica Paolini and chat about their approach to beautiful fashion.

Shop Sea New York ►

A black and white photograph of Sean and Monica, the founders of Sea New York.

We are extremely excited about the prospect of Sea New York at The Hambledon. Can you introduce the brand to our customers?

We started Sea with the intention of creating a company and that we could build and work on together - it’s a natural extension of our friendship.

 

You have been friends for years. How did you meet? And how did you remeet and come to work together?

Monica: Sean and I grew up in Newburgh, NY, about 100 kilometers north of New York City. Our families are very close, and we have been the best of friends from childhood.

Why Sea?

Monica: Transparently, it’s the first 3 letters of Sean’s name but we love the more apparent meaning of Sea and where it transports the mind.

 

Pre Spring and Spring 22 will be our first season with you. Would you like to talk a bit about the inspiration.

Monica: During Covid, I’ve had to let my mind travel and really visualize the women around me in NYC as well as the women I’ve come to be inspired by around the world. I really turned towards home crafts – and worked with quilting and a lot of handwork.

A collage image made by Sea NY of the season inspiration.

The collection is incredibly beautiful, wearable and also of the moment. How do you manage to achieve this difficult balance?

The customer continues to be our compass and helps to guide our direction and stay focused. We want to be a resource our customers can depend on. And make clothes that are easy to wear but at the same time make you feel special.

 

Do you design with a particular person in mind?

NY inspires the brand. It is our home and a major point of reference for us. The women in NY express a freedom and strength in the way they dress and carry themselves. We see that every day and it influences the way we work. We try to develop pieces that women can use as tools to express themselves rather than overwhelm who they are.

You work together. What is the division of labour?

Sean: Monica is the brand. She’s the visionary as well as the nuts and bolts of the company. She does 95% of the work.


Monica: Sean is my sounding board, and if I have a problem he helps me figure out the solution. He’s also a wonderful babysitter to my son Luca
.

 

How has your design process evolved over the years?

Monica: Once you’ve established your customer base you push yourself to evolve the newness. This becomes the biggest challenge each season… to keep the collection moving forward while preserving the bread & butter of the brand.

Who were you most thrilled to see wearing Sea?

Monica: It still makes my day when I walk down a random street (especially when I’m traveling) on any given day and see someone wearing Sea.

 

The fabrics and colours are beautiful. How do you go about sourcing?

Monica: Each season I start out with a shopping trip to the flea markets and vintage shops (or Etsy during Covid) to find random treasures to be inspired by. From there we work with our wonderful factories to help develop these inspirations into something distinctly Sea.

Which pieces from this collection have found their way into your own wardrobe?

The Bette crochet puffer and Heidi heart quilted sleeve combo dress! I love an outwear piece that makes a statement and I always need a comfy, easy dress.

Is there anyone you would love to dress?

Jane Birken.

 

How does the typical day go?

Dropping my son Luca off at school. Riding a Citi bike down to the studio. Design meetings and fittings all day. And then the best hours of the day back home with my son Luca and a glass of wine.

Sea NY lookbook image of a model wearing Sea NY Clothing.
Sea NY lookbook image of a model wearing Sea NY Clothing.
Sea NY lookbook image of a model wearing Sea NY Clothing.
Sea NY lookbook image of a model wearing Sea NY Clothing.

We loved our Zoom buying appointments with you (perfectly organised and very calm). Can you tell us a bit about your beautiful showroom? And the lovely people you work with.

Sean: We’ve worked in the same building (originally the 5th floor which is now my home) for the past 15 years but a few years ago we were able to take over the ground floor that is now Sea’s home base. Our first shop is positioned in the front side of our studio space - it’s a personal, direct window into our world.

 

Monica: The team is everything! We have so many people who are instrumental to where we are today and have been loyal to the brand. My son Luca turns 6 this month and his beloved nanny is an integral part of the collection coming to life each season. She’s an expert knitter and her crafty hands are behind the making of many of our hand-knit and crochet pieces.

We’re quite nosy. What is a guilty pleasure in the Sea New York HQ?

Wine!

If we were going to New York for a lightning 24 hour trip, what should we do?

Please come by the Sea shop! It’s our home and would welcome anyone. And then you can walk over to Frenchette to have the best fries in the city.

 

Why do you think Sea New York and The Hambledon will be firm friends?

It’s our first home in Winchester. And I think our approaches are similar… designing things we love, in a space we love, to curious stores we can grow to love!