FOR EVERY MAN
Talking Shop With Store Owner SEAN CASSIDY
Style Watch by Eden Herbstman
It’s the perfect fashion fairy tale to say one’s business and career in fashion began by stumbling into a little shop in Paris. For Sean Cassidy, proprietor of men’s boutique Sean, it was just that. Cassidy’s friendship with french designer Emile Lafaurie turned into a business when over fifteen years ago the idea came to bring Lafaurie’s modern European aesthetic to the American market. Carrying Laufarie’s clothing exclusively, Cassidy has created a profitable business nationwide, while staying true to his passion and integrity of maintaining a small European-style boutique at an affordable price point.
The vibe of Cassidy’s store is simple and modern; it has the feel of a homely neighborhood store. Even though Cassidy is the one behind the business, and doesn’t design the clothing himself, he consults with Lafaurie on all the creations, staying in tune to the trends and what’s current in men’s fashion. The success of his business speaks for itself, with eight stores on the East and West coast, and four in Paris under Emile Lafaurie’s name. The store offers clothing ranging from sartorial sportswear, casual and dressy button-downs, basic shirts, colorful ties and linens, and much more. The best part is that the store offers a wide age range, where men in their teens or adulthood can wear the clothing. Not only is Cassidy’s motivation to be successful on the business end, but to help men better their wardrobe and style.
Eden Herbstman: How did you form your relationship with Emile Lafaurie?
Sean Cassidy: I used to be in publishing, the last publishing job I had was with Scholastic. I was there when they just signed Harry Potter and we had no idea it would become the phenomena it is today, so we were putting a lot of marketing muscle on it. During that time I used to go to Paris because I fell in love with the city, and I fell into this men’s clothing store. It was everything I wanted; it was a small boutique, just like this, with very accessible, modern clothes, but great fabrics and colors. It was a time when Banana Republic was becoming very mass market and not so interesting, and Barneys is and was very expensive, and I didn’t want to go through different floors to edit my wardrobe. This was exactly what I needed for my lifestyle. So I bought lots of stuff, and would go there three to four times a year just to buy clothes. I got to know the owner and the designer Emile Lafaurie. I used to joke with him saying, “You should come open a store in New York so I don’t have to come to Paris to buy clothes.” One time I walked into the store he didn’t say hello or anything else, he just said, “You should open a store in New York.” I sort of laughed at him and joked, “yeah right,” but at the same time I knew I wanted to get out of the corporate box. We met for a glass of wine and spoke, and when I got back to New York the wheels started turning, and I thought “lets try this.” I put a business plan together and set these hurdles in front of me and thought I’d give it a shot.
EH: You now have stores in New York and California, which was the first store you opened?
SC: SoHo was the first shop. The second shop was then on the Upper West Side, I live up there and thought there were no great shops, so we then opened there. We’ve been there since 1998 and have a nice clientele. My sister is a school teacher and lives in Oakland, California, and I would go out to visit her a lot. I thought it was such a great city, so we opened a shop in San Francisco. It was a strong market so we opened a second one there, and recently a third in February. Paris is my favorite store, the designer has four there, so he is well-established throughout France, and has a lot of wholesale clients in Europe. We’re not mass market, we are not high fashion, I hope we’re just a great store.
EH: Have you always been interested in fashion?
SC: Well, I did get best dressed in high school. [Laughs] I’ve always loved to dress, I grew up in Maine, and I wasn’t exactly Kurt from Glee. I always read magazines and was in tune with fashion. I think fashion is just looking your best and making you feel good. It wasn’t my dream to work in fashion, but I wanted to do my own thing, and didn’t want to work in a big corporate box. Sixteen years later, I love it and I’m so fortunate. I have a lot of fun.
EH: When you first started your business, did you feel there was a European aesthetic or influence missing in the American market for menswear?
SC: When we started, absolutely. Yes, you could certainly find that elsewhere, but you had to search hard for it. I don’t think there is a big European influence today. You can find it at places like H & M, Topshop, and Zara. That is European fashion, but it is more disposable in my opinion. It’s great and trendy, but not quite the same thing. Yes, you can certainly find that at Barneys, but we offer a very unique European product at a great public price points.
EH: How much of your personal style reflects the brand?
SC: A lot! It gives me great energy to go over there (to Paris) and participate. I like European, edited and clean lines. Fashion is fun because it is always changing, evolving, and new.
EH: How do you want men to feel wearing your clothing?
SC: I want men to feel up to date and trendy without being a fashion victim. I want them to display their own attitude wearing the clothes. We help a guy dress; men who aren’t fashion men and don’t know how to dress, they come to us for advice and help. I want them to stand proud and look their best, and give them the tools and outfit to be successful in their work life and play life. We strive for our clothes to be the foundation for a better wardrobe. Most men are not great shoppers, by and large, they don’t know what they should be wearing, that the pants are cut thinner, the jackets more narrower, and the arm holes a little bit higher. Our store is for a more urban, creative man, who isn’t a victim of phony elitist fashion and label conscious. Our commitment is to the relationship we have with the clients, and so we try to give the best services we can.
Sean Cassidy is owner of the nationwide boutique Sean. The store carries exclusively french designer Emile Lafaurie’s label. Sean is nationwide with locations in New York City, Sag Harbor, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, as well as Emile Lafaurie’s four locations in Europe.
Written by Eden Herbstman
Photography by Coco Alexander
Design by Marie Havens
Sean Cassidy, 2012, Photography by Coco Alexander