If you’ve ever considered building a business with a best friend, let Sea New York’s co-founders serve as your example.
Childhood friends Monica Paolini and Sean Monahan joined forces in 2009 to create the ready-to-wear staple. With a fabric-first approach to design inspired by travel, the pair brings a sense of effortless romance to classic silhouettes that somehow feel nostalgic and new all at once.
Late last year, the duo opened a showroom at 324 Canal Street—a dreamy departure from the bustling energy of lower Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. High ceilings, white-washed walls, and wildflowers act as the canvas for the intricate designs of every fashion enthusiast’s go-to boho brand.
We recently stopped by to chat with creative director Paolini about her favorite pieces and what it’s like when a lifelong friendship evolves into a creative partnership.
Tell us about Sea New York and how it all began.
Sean and I grew up in Newburgh, New York, about 70 miles north of the city. We are best friends from childhood. Sean started Sea with the intention of creating a company that we could build and work on together—it’s a natural extension of our friendship.
What are the best and more challenging parts of working, creating, and building a brand with a childhood friend?
It’s challenging and wonderful working with Sean. He is fiercely supportive and encouraging, but at the same time, a nitpicker. Our design ethoses are different but align to form Sea, and we completely trust each other and can say anything to one another without hurting the other’s feelings. Most importantly, we laugh and have fun every day.
What’s the inspiration behind the most recent collections?
For Resort, I was inspired by a trip I took to Copenhagen earlier this year. The sense of color throughout the city resonates deeply, as well as the Danish approach to dressing—the layers of texture and integration of color. I try to make the collection youthful in feeling yet elegant and polished.
What are your must-rent pieces from the collections and why?
From Resort, the Pascale midi dress is an update to a style that has been working so well. Every day we see customers responding to this silhouette. It’s universally flattering, and it can be dressed up or dressed down.
From Fall, the tie-dye pieces have been such a hit. They’re hand-dyed in India by a community of women who are able to dye the fabric in the comfort of their home. In particular, I love the purple tunic dress. It’s fun, a bit of drama, but still easy to wear.
What’s your go-to work outfit?
A jumpsuit—one and done.
How do you get into the creative zone?
I think that exercising before I start work really helps me to feel fit, focused, and strong. If I feel healthier, it brightens my day and helps facilitate a positive and creative mindset.
Favorite part of your day?
Seeing my son Luca’s little face greet me when I get home from work.