For Irish expat Kate Monahan, style inspiration comes in many forms: but mainly from people watching in a diverse city like New York.
“I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint ‘my style’ per se,” Skerries-native Kate Monahan said. “I’m normally inspired by a mood or look. One of my favourite things about living in New York City is that fashion varies so much from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. It’s fun to be able to change your look from ladylike or luxe at an afternoon tea in the Upper East Side, to vintage chic for a day spent browsing a flea market in Brooklyn.”
Usually, she can be found behind the bar of her own elegant Upper East Side café and wine bar, Stella & Fly. Along with her co-owners, 28-year-old Monahan opened the neighbourhood favourite in 2018, after learning the ropes in the city’s lively hospitality scene for years.
Here she tells IMAGE about her thrifty shopping habits, how to nab a vintage bargain, and her favourite brands sourced straight from Instagram.
What’s your failsafe, go-to look for a day when you’re lacking inspiration?
A vintage band tee, Levi’s, and a pair of white platform Supergas: like the true 90’s baby I am at heart.
Do you have a general ‘uniform’ you default to for days at Stella & Fly?
Now that I serve cocktails on a Friday and Saturday night instead of drinking them, I transferred the trusty Irish failsafe option of ‘jeans and a nice top’ from one side of the bar to the other!
Last piece you bought?
A pair of white Princeton loafers by Gucci. Durable and comfortable footwear is a must in NYC. I’m a big fan of white leather footwear, so these should see me through a few spring/summer seasons.
First piece you saved all your pocket money for?
A pair of glittery silver cat eye sunglasses by Miu Miu – which I still have and love.
Where do you shop usually?
I’ll usually hit the high street once a month to see what’s in the stores; Zara and & Other Stories are my go-to’s. The issue of sustainability in fashion is making waves in the industry, and I’m more than happy to support this movement. My favourite sustainable store to visit in NYC is Reformation in the Lower East Side; it’s really pretty. Luckily, there’s no shortage of quirky thrift stores or luxury vintage boutiques in the city either, making it easier than ever to buy clothes second-hand regardless of your budget.
If you have something big coming up, where do you look for a killer outfit?
My favourite online store is Revolve; I can always be sure to find something killer here. I got a lace pink For Love & Lemons dress on their site for a wedding I was at recently. Their shoe and accessory offering is also amazing, a perfect one-stop-shop for a big event.
What do you do with your fashion purchases when you no longer need them?
& Other Stories accepts donated clothes to recycle as well as offering 10% off your purchase when you bring in your unwanted clothes. Winning! Buffalo Exchange stores in New York are also awesome thrift stores where you can exchange your old clothes for store credit or cash.
Favourite fashion memory?
I had been warned that the typical Parisian street style leans towards muted tones and Breton stripes and that anything extra would attract attention. But this only made me enjoy strutting around Paris in a pink power suit last spring even more!
Designer you’d wear all the time if you won the Lotto?
Presumably, I’d be living on an island somewhere warm for most of the year if this were the case, so I’d live in flowy dresses and huge sun hats from Jacquemus.
Where do you seek style inspiration?
Usually Instagram. I’ve found lots of clothing brands I buy from via Instagram, such as I Am Gia, Musier Paris, and Rèalisation Par. Also, sitting at a busy cafe window in the city is a great way to people watch and scope out what people are wearing.
Last outfit you’d wear on earth?
Pink is my ultimate favourite colour, so I think it would have to be something in that hue: glam and extra. I’d happily be laid to rest in killer heels, a floor-length sheer dressing gown and some bling. I blended my passion for mixology and fashion when I created a namesake cocktail ‘The Babydoll’ for Stella & Fly which is, of course, pink and fluffy. I feel at my most fab when I’ve spent the evening with friends getting ready to head out to a cocktail bar, so I was inspired to create a drink to capture this fun and glamorous vibe.
Best ever bargain purchase?
I bought a dark brown leather trench coat from a vintage shop a few summers ago in NYC. If you’re willing to try on winter coats on a sweltering hot day in July in NYC, you’re worthy of the bargain! The same stores charge a lot more for winter coats once it gets past October.
Trend you’d never be caught dead in?
Although I love the 1990’s, jelly sandals for grown-ups can stay away.
Trend you’d wear ‘til the cows come home?
Silk slip dresses.
One thing that’s been on your wishlist forever?
A Saint Laurent Kate tassel clutch.