It really is no surprise to hear that one half of the duo behind cult label Sea NY is a mum, given how effortlessly the brand combines feminine polish with easy-wear basics. In fact, if we were going to point out any label that works brilliantly for every type of mum - working, stay-at-home, creative - we’d be hard pressed to find a more elegant yet cool aesthetic that seems to tick all the right boxes for every mum-on-the-run occasion…
Monica Paolini juggles her creative role at Sea with the demands of her baby boy Luca with a fierce amount of optimism and organisation. By always focusing on the task at hand, the line between work-life and home-life stays in razor-sharp focus. “I try to be super present wherever I am. Since becoming a mother I’ve gained incredible focus that allows me to get so much more done than ever before. I’m not spending hours pondering a colour story or a dress design. I immediately follow my instinct so I can get home to Luca and keep things moving for Sea.” We quizzed Monica on how her approach towards career and business has changed since becoming a mum, how she handles social media for both work and play, and what a typical day looks like in the Gramercy Park home she shares with her husband and son… Go to www.sea-ny.com
How do you tackle running a business and designing with the demands of your son, Luca?
I am so lucky to have an amazing nanny, Mercedes, who helps me during the week while I’m at work. Also, my partner, Eric, is an amazing father who helps so much when I am at my busiest. When I am working late nights and weekends, deep into finishing up a collection, Luca will come to work with me at the studio. The entire team at Sea is so great about taking turns entertaining him- it’s like we’re all one big family.
When you run your own business, the lines between work and home inevitably become blurred - how do you switch off?
Whether it is at work or at home, I try to be super present wherever I am. Since becoming a mother I’ve gained incredible focus that allows me to get so much more done than ever before. I’m not spending hours pondering a colour story or a dress design. I immediately follow my instinct so I can get home to Luca and keep things moving for Sea.
What does a typical day look like for you at home and at work?
My typical day starts at around 6 am. Mornings are my favourite time with Luca. We lay in bed, watch a few minutes of TV (mostly his shows, like Sesame Street or parts of his favourite movies like Sing or Boss Baby), with a cup of tea and his morning milk before moving into the kitchen to make him and Eric oatmeal and lunch for the day. Then it’s off to work, usually via Citibike or Juno, depending on the weather. Work is typically a whirlwind of design and production realities. We are small enough that I make sure I am on top of pretty much everything. Luckily we have been able to grow a little more each year, so not every single thing is my job anymore and there is usually always someone to help. At night the three of us (Luca, Eric and I) always sit down for a small dinner and unwind before Luca is off to bed. I might catch a few minutes of TV or browse the internet after but usually, I just can’t stay awake anymore!
Was there any change to your creativity or career after having Luca - did you have to adjust or remove any aspects of your old-world to accommodate motherhood?
Luca has become such a great inspiration. That’s the biggest change! Before him, I only thought about work and what we were going to do for the next collection, which was far more stressful. Now I am more focused and can’t wait to come home from work each day to be with him. We have made an effort to make sure we don’t sacrifice too much of ourselves raising him, so we end up taking Luca out with us to restaurants and on all of my business trips to Europe. We are so lucky to be able to expose him to so much at a young age and he is such a good boy in public places… so far.
Can you take us through your career and some highlights, including working for Jill Stuart and Betsey Johnson?
Right out of college at the Fashion Institute of Technology, I worked for Jill Stuart. Luckily enough, Jill saw something in me and gave me an amazing opportunity. She really taught me what it takes to succeed in this business- hard work! I was the Design Director of Betsey Johnson before transitioning to Sea about ten years ago. Betsey is a wonderful lady. She made coming to work every day dynamic and really enjoyable. We had so much fun and I learned so much. However, I always felt I needed to do something that was closer to my own design aesthetic. As soon as I found out that my best friend, Sean, was starting Sea, I saw that opportunity and joined him pretty early on.
What’s your attitude towards social media - do you have trouble switching off? Do you use it for work and play?
I personally manage and post for Sea’s Instagram account and feel it has been really helpful for our brand exposure. It seems so important these days to have content for our fans to see into our inspirations and day to day process. Sometimes it’s very hard to manage and turn off. I have an Instagram for Luca too, that is more play and a little photo album to share with loved ones. It’s crazy how fast kids grow and change. It makes me so happy to look at when I need a little Luca fix!
SEA NY has such a distinct design aesthetic that combines femininity with everyday basics, who do you think the typical customer is?
We always envision the Sea woman as someone who wants to dress like herself. She has a sense of freedom and creativity while not looking like she’s trying too hard. She is elegant, cool and sophisticated but definitely fun!
Has your personal style changed since having Luca? What are some of your go-to outfit combos?
I think about what I’m wearing much less. I rely on Sea jumpsuits and dresses or a vintage Victorian blouse paired with high-waisted jeans so that I can get dressed super-fast and spend more time with Luca.
What has been the most surprising thing about motherhood?
For years, I struggled to figure out when the right time in my career would be to start a family. I knew it was going to be hard to be a mom and balance my own business, but never imagined it would be half as amazing as it is each and every day. You just figure out how to make it work – being a mum gives you amazing multi-tasking powers to conquer all that life brings you. I always have Luca’s little face in my mind, whatever I am doing, and that is the most inspired I have ever been!
Finish this sentence, Motherhood is….
Everything, the greatest creative achievement possible.