I’m always on the hunt for the kind of summer coverups and hot weather clothes that are devoid of frills and ruffles. It’s not easy. Now I know where to go: Two New York is a line of clean, modernist summer ready pieces that are cut from beautiful Indian sari fabrics, many handcrafted by artisans the founder Monica Patel-Cohn has sought out on her travels. Whether your travels take you abroad this summer, you are beach bound somewhere in the States or are just trying to figure out what you can wear when it’s 90 degrees in the city–these are the easy lightweight pieces that you can rely on. Plus, they are crafted in a slow fashion method, with attention paid to how and where they are made, so you can feel good about what you buy. They are as thoughtful as the woman behind them. (Note: There are two trunk shows coming up–first, at Two’s Dumbo Brooklyn studio, July 2nd and then at Turpan in East Hampton on July 18th.)
In brief, what was your career path to creating Two New York? My mother was always in fashion. She is originally from Milan and opened a store in a small town in Northern California selling high-end clothing in the 70’s so I was always surrounded by gorgeous things from Michelle Llamy to Jean Paul Gaultier to Byblos–all those hot brands from the 70’s to 80’s. At 14 she gifted me a matching outfit including stirrup leggings from Jean Paul Gaultier with a sweater that had sharp protruding shoulder pads. I didn’t know what to do with them. So her discerning taste rubbed off on me!
After university I moved to New York and worked at Barneys for Simon Doonan, as well as for a few magazines. As a college grad my dream was to live in NY, Milan, London or Paris, and in 2001 I received my Italian citizenship and moved to Italy, where I worked for a knitwear line and later for Prada. When I came back to New York, I switched gears and focused on graphic design, art direction, and working with an architects.
In 2008 I got married in Italy. My family came wearing saris and that made such an impact for me. and inspired me to do something with Indian textiles. I started researching Indian textiles with my life long friend and we introduced our caftans in 2010. We drove to the Hamptons and presented our pieces to a store, they sold well and requested more. Then Tomas Maier called to see them–that was a motivating moment!
When we started, many of the fabrics we used I had hand selected on my travels so they were truly one off pieces.
Why caftans made from sari fabric? What was the genesis of your designs? After having travelled to India at the age of 12 I could not forget all the gorgeous colors and fabrics I saw. I started to daydream about making something from saris that everyone would and could wear. Something that could be elegant and transcend cultures. The fabrics have beautiful workmanship and culture in them, it excites me to find fabrics from all the talented artisans and designers I work with as well as see a client appreciate them.
What inspires you? Your work? I’m inspired by my travels, all the research that goes into it, and all the people I meet. As an ex editor at a magazine I love the search of finding talent. Interiors, architecture and art inspire me as well.
What came easiest for you in the beginning? Our photoshoot was probably the easiest thing as I did that pulled everything together, although nothing comes easy when it’s your product and you have high standards.
Hardest part of starting out that no one warned you about? The production, finding your place in the garment district. Learning the ropes to getting your product made.
One of your attributes that helps you succeed: My parents both had small businesses, so they were well rounded in various aspects of the business and I grew up in that environment. You have to be a problem solver and if the answer is no, you need to figure out a way that does work. You have to make it happen.
Three words that describe Two New York: Modern lines , chic and handmade, imperfectly perfect.
Three words that describe you: Curious, loyal, and a global citizen.
Best career advice you received or would share to someone starting out: You need to have a strategy and stay the course. The hardest part is starting and then keeping it consistent. You need tenacity.
What is your signature item? How has it evolved? We started in 2010 with the caftan which was our top seller for years.
As that started to trend we moved into shirts and pants which have also done really well for us. We have clients who write to us about how they love their pieces. I couldn’t ask for more.
What has been your biggest success? My biggest success has been my children, my 8 and 10 year olds and being able to find the balance between being there for the kids and my work.
My parents worked day and night as immigrants in this country and I didn’t have the opportunity to spend as much time with them, so it really is a priority for me to make sure I am with my children as often as possible.
What has been your biggest dud? What did you learn from it? I think it’s when the business evolves. the growing pains and learning how to manage a small business. Becoming a manager. I’m always looking to learn great techniques and strategy.
What motivates you? Textiles and textures, traveling the corners of the world, my research & development conversations I have along the way, my kids meeting new people in unexpected moments, connecting with the world….Our children go to the UN School in the city and they are constantly learning the global citizen approach to doing their part in this world, I find that completely inspiring.
What’s next for Two? Two is my third child and we are learning as we go. We are slow fashion. The fabulous thing is I can follow my heart with Two. We are planning to show in Sept in NY and Paris. Before, I hope to get some time to rest up a bit and then perhaps spend more time on research and development.
Women you admire….I admire the grace and finesse of Audrey Hepburn, the personal style of Giovanna Battaglia, the smart and cunning edge of Nancy Pelosi, the exoticness of Frida Kahlo, and Amy Schumer for standing up for her beliefs. Even some of my neighbors for taking the time out to dedicate to a cause they believe in like Gun Control and Habitat for Humanity.
You never feel dressed without….My Laura Mercier Tinted Foundation, which I have been using for over 10 years, and my rose-cut ring from India (which I lost on a trip and found).
Three writers/books that opened up a new world for you….I am reading a lot of self help books right now, How to Raise an Adult from The Dean of Stanford, Julie Lythcott-Haims. But my favorite bios have been on Frida Kahlo and Maria Callas. And on my booklist to purchase, The Eye: How the World’s Most Influential Creative Directors Develop Their Vision and Indigo, The Colour That Changed the World.
A perfect evening is….Heading out to Pilot, the boat docked behind my apartment that serves drinks and light fare. It’s the perfect spot to relax when no one else is there..and maybe bump into a neighbor for some fun conversation.
Favorite artists: Cy Twombly and Donald Judd.
Five things you can’t live without: Nature, my family, avocados, parmesan cheese, and sunshine.
Always on your bedside table: Ceramic trays from Henriette Paris, a few books and my Kartell lamp I received as a wedding gift.
Always in your handbag: Nothing too exciting….lip gloss, a bag of pens and a Muji notepad and lots of little zip bags to organize all these things.
Do you collect anything? I collect textiles and have closets full of them. I also collect pens to draw with; it’s a thing I do with my dad. I am just starting to collect ceramics especially those from Cym Warkov.
Travel wish list destination: All the islands off of Italy and Spain! Currently planning trips to Copenhagen and Sardegna. Possibly Sweden and London. And perhaps next year the Philippines, southern India and Portugal. I’m very excited.
Daily rituals: Morning coffee and news catch up–it’s my only time to myself.
Favorite small indulgence: Buying flowers for the apartment or getting a mani/pedi.
Album currently on repeat: Amy Winehouse, The Artic Monkeys. My kids take over the music these days and we listen to things like Baby Shark.
Scent that brings back memories: The scent you get from walking through a small Italian town, a bit of cold marble floor mixed with laundry and pasta. It gives me so much comfort!
Lucky charm: My husband.
Favorite hour of the day: Four pm when my kids get dropped off by the bus and I’m home to meet them. I help them with homework and make them their favorite snacks.
Sunday morning means….Now that it’s summer and classes are done, we can finally sleep in and do brunch.
Follow Two New York: Instagram.