Monica Paolini, Designer, Sea


"At 19, I was a fashion school dropout. I went to FIT, but to me, it felt better to learn from being within the industry. So I worked with Jill Stuart, who loved vintage and had a great eye, and then I worked for Betsey Johnson for a bit. After the company was bought, the atmosphere became a little more corporate, and my partner Sean [Monahan] and I had been thinking about doing something a little closer to my aesthetic. Nine years later, we're growing slow and steady. But slow and steady wins the race. [Laughs]

Sea is feminine, but modern. I like everything to be easy—clothes that make you feel good without trying. The collection revolves around who the customer is. The Sea girl or guy is... I don't know. Me, for sure. I mean, I spent my career running around the garment district for so many years, so I'm not too fussy about my look. That's something I learned from working with Betsey, to never take yourself too seriously. I think in fashion, people tend to take themselves too seriously. Sea is about looking put-together and being comfortable. But not too fussy.

When I worked at Betsey, she and I were having a glass of wine and she cut my hair into bangs. When I woke up the next morning, I was mortified. Too much wine. [Laughs] From there I wore curly bangs for a long time. I liked it in a Flashdance kind of way, but after I had [my son] Luca, I decided I needed a change. I started getting blowouts once a week, just at Drybar. Curly hair is hard to manage sometimes so this makes it easier. I used to use Bumble and bumble Angel Curl [Ed. note: discontinued], but now I use Aesop Calming Shampoo because the blowouts tend to dry out my hair. I use the Aesop Scalp Treatment, too, since my scalp is especially dry.

I get my hair cut at Fabio Scalia near work. I've been going for three years now, just for trims. Because of the blowouts, I notice my split ends more. It feels nice to get them trimmed, and it makes my blowouts last longer. I also get these hereditary gray hairs, so I get it colored every three weeks. Drybar has this dry shampoo that you can put in your roots to cover up grays. I like that a lot, it looks natural and it's good to use between washes.

Sometimes I'll use a bit of the Nuxe mixed into my hair, but not too much because it can get too greasy. You can buy it in French pharmacies. It makes your luggage so heavy but it’s something that you have to do. And with Luca now, the French pharmacy baby products are so cute. When I was there two weeks ago, even in the hotels, they give you baby toiletries. They have baby perfumes! It's just so cute. It makes it even more precious. Whenever I'm in France, I pile up like crazy.

I cleanse my face with Darphin's Cleansing Milk with Chamomile, and I use that with the Clarisonic. It's nice because it feels really nourishing, and my skin feels supple. Then I'll go over that with Bioderma Créaline. It just makes your face feel so clean, and your pores just shut from it. I've also been using this La Prairie Anti-Aging Serum—I went to a spa and they were using their products, and they just felt so good on my skin. It feels like your skin is drinking up the products. The Skin Caviar Sleep Mask, I use once a week. Or I try to, at least... It's good to be consistent. By the morning it's sunk in and then I'll wash my face. It feels like you have a heavy cream on. My friends were telling me about using face oils, so I'm trying those, too. So, I've been alternating between a cream and an oil depending on my face feels. I'm in between the Rodin Olio Lusso and the Sulwhasoo Timetreasure Emulsion.

Once and a while I'll see Dr. Doris Day, who's my dermatologist. I've done fraxel with her before and it makes your face look so much better. It's a real treat, my friend recommended it. I asked her if there was anything else I could do, but she's very conservative. She would never push you to get something you didn’t need. The only thing she mentioned was trying that. I was red for maybe a day, it wasn't that bad. I'm turning 40 in December, so I'm going to do it again. When you're having a baby, the products you can use are limited and you can't see a dermatologist so much, but after I had Luca, I felt a little washed out and tired. The fraxel really helped.

Usually, because I'm not very good at makeup at all, I like to use a tinted moisturizer instead of putting concealer on. I've been using the La Mer one because it has SPF in it. I'll also use the Dr. Hauschka one, and if I'm trying to be fancy and do my makeup, that's especially good to hide redness.I blush a lot, and my skin is really red. A lot of times I'll try and use this Shu Uemura Cover Crayon in Light/Medium and I'll put it under my eyes in a triangle shape and then blend it in. Then I'll just put a bit of the Nars Mata Hari Blush on my cheek with my fingers. Just on the apple of my cheeks. I saw a girl using it at Colette in Paris. She just looked so sweet.

In the '90s, I overtweezed my eyebrows a lot. Givenchy Mister Brow in Brunette is good to fill them in. It's light and has a very natural brush. Sometimes I just use a little bit of mascara, and I've been using Maybelline Great Lash since high school. It's not too hard to take off and my eyes are a bit watery. I just put it on the top. I was using it on the bottom but then it gets smudgy.

A red lip always makes me look kind of put together, even if I have no makeup on and am just going to Pilates. I just bought the Chanel Rouge Coco Stylo in Message and it's really good because it's kind of sheer and feels really moisturizing. I got it a duty-free store. It's kind of like a rose—not too pink, not too red. As I get older, I like softer colors like that. For going out I love the Rouge Allure Velvet in La Sensuelle. It's a darker red, and it's a matte, so it makes you me a little more dressy. I don't really use eyeshadow, though. My mom was really natural and she never wore a lot of eye makeup, so I never got into it. I wish I knew more.

When I was pregnant I was crazy about using Now Sweet Almond Oil when I got out of the shower, which helps with stretch marks when you're pregnant. It doesn't smell great but it works really nicely and it doesn't make you too greasy either. I really love the geranium smells from Aesop, too, although I haven't been using any scrubs lately. For massage, I like to go to Soho Sanctuary after we show a collection. We'll work eight weekends in a row, and a massage and Soho Sanctuary is like a tradition afterwards. Also just visiting my family upstate is really nice. After being in the city, it's nice to get out."

—as told to ITG

Monica Paolini photographed by Tom Newton at her home in New York on October 6, 2016.