Mollusk was one of the very first retailers to believe in Seea's vision, utilizing their signature ribbed fabric, combined with Seea’s retro design and functionality, we bring you the Hermosa Dusk.
Mollusk Rider Alanna Parra | Footage By Jack Coleman
This collaboration comes from two visionary Female surf founders, Amanda Chinchelli of Seea and Johanna St Clair of Mollusk Surf Shop.
Mollusk rider Alanna Parra dons the new Dusk Hermosa. Photo: Bella Glickman
Women sharing space in the surf industry is becoming increasingly common, but what Johanna and Amanda share is over a decade of friendship and history of pioneering unique visions of heartfelt surf community and culture. We caught up with them both to see how they balance business, motherhood, and what keeps them inspired.
Take us back to the mid 2000’s. You both lived in the Sunset a few blocks from each other. Amanda had just moved to SF from Italy, and Mollusk was founded around 2005. What are some fond memories from those days, as dusty as they may be?
Johanna: "Mollusk was a community effort, and when we opened, we were lucky to become a magnet for inspiring people like Amanda. Our employees were young artists, filmmakers, and musicians, and the shop was always a welcoming place for creatives. Jay Nelson worked for us and built amazing treehouse installations. Serena Mitnick-Miller was an employee until she started the General Store around the corner. The Mattson 2 and Kyle Field had informal "residencies" where they lived in our shop. It was quite a brew!"
Amanda: "As a 'fresh off the boat' immigrant, I felt embraced by the many facets and cultures of San Fransisco (especially the food!), and I felt right at home out in the Sunset, taking in the embryonic mix of surf, art, and music cultures emerging at Mollusk and throughout the city at the time. After we had moved down to Southern California and started Seea, I came back up to San Francisco to show Johanna our first collection. When she told me they wanted to bring in Seea to sell at Mollusk, I was beside myself... So happy! To this day, I'm still grateful that people like Johanna & John who I admired for carving out their own creative wonderlands in turn helped validate and support my own dreams."
Mollusk SF + Seea Design Studio
These business’s are both extensions of what you love. Mollusk the first real independent “alternative” surf shop, and Seea was (and is) essentially the only female owned, independent surf wear brand. Was there a greater goal or purpose at hand with the inception of this body of work you’ve both now dedicated a decade plus too?
Johanna: "Mollusk is unique, but there were independent and alternative surf shops that came before us. This is California, after all. We didn't invent the surf shop or the culture of craft and exploration that we celebrate at Mollusk. Our goal has always been to build things. We are focused on projects. Every sweater, every surfboard leash, every film, or party is a collaborative project."
Amanda: "My goal with Seea has always been to create something that truly needed to exist, and to make suits which are beautiful and practical for surfing, which is my passion. I love creating and dreaming about prints and colors, but they are created with respect and representation in mind for women and the environment. I like to believe that the finished products themselves are imbued with a small measure of intrinsic energy that comes from those who created them, constructed them, and from the materials we choose to construct them with. That is why we put so much effort into each of our garments and the relationship with our suppliers. I feel our customers can tell the difference when they wear our suits."
What’s the difference between maintaining and innovating? When things start to feel stale, how do you find inspiration to switch gears and move forward?
Johanna: "Seea and Mollusk are both family businesses, and Amanda and I both work with our husbands. My husband John and I design together, and he's the most intelligent person I know (except maybe our daughter). We find our downtime together really fuels our creativity, especially travel. I also maintain an art practice, constantly pushing my art forward, developing ideas in paint and ink. My art practice helps me keep Mollusk in perspective- it's just a project, not the whole world."
Amanda: "I never felt stuck in the creative process; in fact, my struggle is the opposite. With too many ideas, the discipline is to narrow them down. So much of that happens with feedback from our close knit group of employees, as well as love from our community of customers we've grown with over the years."
You both mothered a child while essentially mothering a business. Work and family life fully blended. Is it challenging to set boundaries and prioritize between the two?
Amanda: "This is the biggest challenge by far. So many circumstances of owning your own business and having a child are unexpected, which can complicate life and make it hard to plan, so I'm still unsure if there's a proper way to balance all the demands. As crazy as things can get, I'm proud to raise our daughter in a creative and dynamic environment. Overall, I'm grateful for the flexibility to create my own schedule and the many opportunities to travel. Having my family alongside me for the journey helps ground me in times of uncertainty."
Johanna: "We try not to talk about the nuts and bolts of the business right before bed. We don't always succeed."
What are the next frontiers for Seea & Mollusk, respectively? As the brands continually evolve and expand, is there anything you’d like to shy away from, or gravitate towards?
Amanda: "I would love to draw our path forward by surrounding myself with powerful and intelligent women. We are at a pivotal moment in our small business, and I would love to gather as much knowledge as possible to take Seea to the next chapter. These last ten years have built a beautiful community of incredible women. I want to connect with more of them. I believe they will inspire me to move forward. The beauty of Seea is this fluidity and the fact that we can migrate any direction we want. It keeps me excited about what is to come. So if any of you ladies out there want to connect or set up surf meet-ups, please reach out!”Johanna: "We just launched an amazing line of wetsuits, which was no easy task. And we opened our Santa Barbara shop during the pandemic. So for the next few months, I'm happy to be focusing on the clothing again, which is my comfort zone."
How has women’s surf wear evolved over the last ten years? What is the balance between crafting lines that meet the needs of long time customers, while staying relevant to someone who discovers your brand tomorrow?
Johanna: "Women today are really focused on sustainability and we've learned so much from our customers over the last few years. But the fundamentals of what women want from their clothing hasn't changed since we started- functionality, amazing fabric, and fit. We keep getting better, but it's within that same framework."
Amanda: "Listening has always been key to evolving. Our customers help curate what we put into production as well as the materials that become available. Innovation is synonymous with sustainability and circularity, and we are committed to the journey down that path."
Do you have any words of wisdom, or advice to share with other active or aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Johanna: "Keep it simple. You can't do everything, so it's OK to turn down opportunities so you can focus on what's most important. We add projects every year, but not too many."
Amanda: "Study, ask lots of questions and follow your dreams. Be ready to hustle. You will have to be hands-on in all the steps, so don't be afraid to get dirty and make mistakes."
Don't let the sun set on this suit, be sure to catch this special edition before it's gone!
Photos : Bella Glickman
Surfer: Alanna Parra