Fashion Week

Worldly and Intimate: With Our Buyers in Sea NY’s Paris Showroom

As I chatted with Sea NY cofounder Sean Monahan, an almost-forgotten term from high school social studies came back to me: melting pot.

We were talking about handmade silk beads that come from India, a print from Liberty London and a blouse’s weighty, gorgeous lace—which he gets in Italy. And he was talking about how he and his partner, Monica Paolini, exist almost entirely outside of the Fashion Week schedule; they don’t have presentations or runway shows. Instead, they concentrate on really knowing what their customers in Korea, Australia and Vancouver BC wear. They make featherweight tops for the girls Down Under and ruffled hoodies for girls in the Pacific Northwest.

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All images by Jessa Carter

Sean told me all this with a soft but unmistakable New York accent—perfect in this analogy, because NYC has always been America’s symbol of multiculturalism. There in the heart of Paris, watching buyers Joyce Lin and Laura Janney select cool, chunky knits and sweet tie-waist dresses, Sea NY felt like a very real and very cool mix of traditions, crafts, communities and commonalities.

It felt like one of contemporary fashion’s prettiest melting pots.

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On the other hand, the line is a local gem. Sean and Monica are lifelong best friends from a small town in upstate New York; he started the line sort of randomly, and tells me it only really began to work once Monica joined in. She’s trained in fashion. He isn’t.

As Joyce and Laura made their collections, I asked him about inspirations and where fall 2017’s earthy houndstooths and casual Edwardian references come from, and Sean said he and Monica—who wasn’t able to be in the showroom with us today—tend to start with fabric. In this case, those fabrics were a fuzzy wool and a British-feeling floral print made in sporty nylon. From there it was a puzzle they kept working on, each idea occurring in due time and unfolding and refolding.

Fashion blogs love to profile the designers’ chic and cozy shared living space (here’s the feature from Coveteur), and it really does seem like a perfectly easygoing partnership: just a couple of pals sitting around draping jersey with crisp shirting and talking about the color ochre and the natural progression of the sweatshirt.

It’s no wonder we respond so well to the pieces—the tailored shirting with embellished flair, the neo–Annie Hall trousers and the girly eyelet smocks. They feel connected to so many different parts of this world, and to our individual lives as well.

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Our buyers in the showroom.

EXPLORE: current-season Sea NY | all via C brands

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—Laura Cassidy