Sea Launches E-commerce With a Laid-Back Approach

After winning over customers on Net-a-Porter and Barneys.com, Sea is embarking on its own e-commerce venture.
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Dhani Mau
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After winning over customers on Net-a-Porter and Barneys.com, Sea is embarking on its own e-commerce venture.
Photo: Sea New York

Photo: Sea New York

"If Monica was on the phone she would have said the right time [to launch e-commerce] was a long time ago," Sean Monahan, one half of the bestie duo behind New York womenswear label Sea, says of his co-founder. Instead, the brand approached e-commerce "organically." It's an overused adverb, but feels accurate to describe Monahan and Monica Paolini's approach to growing their business.

Monahan and Paolini launched Sea eight years ago. The label is well regarded for its easy, wearable separates and dresses that are cool and feminine without being frilly nor prohibitively expensive. (A dress typically costs around $450.) The designers don't show during New York Fashion Week nor do they seek much press, choosing instead to focus on the product. They've built a great list of stockists to date, including Barneys, Net-a-Porter, Shopbop and, more recently, Nordstrom.

Screengrab: Sea New York

Screengrab: Sea New York

Sea has a great e-commerce presence already, but Monahan says the company was receiving so many e-mails from customers trying to find items in certain sizes or colorways that it was time to launch its own site. So as not to compete with its current wholesale partners, Sea's website will focus on styles and colors that aren't already being sold widely online.

The website is clean and simple, mirroring Sea's own approach to fashion. "I’m old now because when I look at a website, I just want it to be clean and straightforward, so I think that was the idea," says Monahan. The photos are shot in-house with Sea's full-time in-house model. "The lighting we shoot with kind of mimics daylight. It’s a very straightforward presentation; there’s nothing very tricky. It's not overly stylized, not too much makeup."

Photo: Sea New York

Photo: Sea New York

Surprisingly, Monahan hasn't made any new hires to support the launch. "The business is not large enough to justify someone full-time, it’s just someone here that we just added that to their [existing job]," he explains. 

The site has only been live for a week, but the team at Sea has already enjoyed some personal interaction with customers. "[Recently] one of the customers returned something, but we got back to her very quickly and then a conversation started and we ended up making a dress for her that wasn’t on the website that she had in mind," Monahan says. Talk about good customer service. 

While Sea likely won't be able to create a brand new item for every customer, it does intend to use the site as a platform to test new categories, like accessories, as well as collaborations. For its debut offering, Monahan and Paolini just took what they had in their warehouse for spring/summer, which includes a lot of denim, currently the brand's fastest-growing category.

Shop that, and other cute stuff, here.