Many women love longboarding, but few regard it so reverently as Florence, Italy-born Amanda Chinchelli, the founder of California-based swimsuit and wetsuit maker Seea. Named for the way the Italian designer pronounces the word “sea” in her musical accent, her collection of surf and swimwear is directly inspired by the elegance and classic beauty of pioneering female longboarders. It's a category she can now consider herself a part of, along with her good friends Betta Dal Bello and Natalia Resmini—they're the subjects of the newly-released, full-length version of Onde Nostre's "Ritratti Di Surf: Girls Girls Girls," a film exploring the women’s friendship and passion for surfing. Here, Chinchelli remembers when she met her friends and how surfing continues to keep her sane.
How did you become such good friends with Betta and Natalia?
In Italy, there aren't many girls who surf to begin with, let along girls who surf and work in the fashion industry, so meeting Natalia and Betta was meant to be. The first job Natalie and I had together was in Florence digging through flea markets for inspiration and hidden treasures. Elisabetta I met through Natalia, and it was love at first sight! I felt I knew her already, so when she came to Los Angeles recently to style a shoot, we had an amazing time—we met some awesome Hollywood characters that night; it's easy to have fun with a partner in crime like her.
In the film you say surfing is an escape for you and gives you an excuse to let go of plans. How has your lifestyle changed since starting your own surfwear business—more or less time to surf?
It seems like I am working more than ever lately, but the importance of both work and surfing has changed dramatically since starting Seea. It can be difficult to set priorities, but surfing is still a must (at least a couple days a week) as it's pure joy, adrenaline, and relief, and it’s the only thing that truly clears my mind. I suppose that day-to-day life would be easier if we moved production overseas, but I am committed to manufacturing Seea here in the U.S. You just don't realize how much effort goes into making a single garment until you mess up one little step of the chain, but in the end it's worth it, as I love being hands on, knowing where things come from, and who is working on my product. I try to enjoy every single moment, although sometimes I scream and cry, [or am] stuck in a standstill on the 405.
Why do you prefer longboarding?
I think longboarding is more elegant, graceful, and suitable for ladies. For me, it’s about the posture, the steps, how you can float in the air while nose riding, just dancing on the wave. I also love the history behind longboarding, and the fact that you can surf any size wave and still have fun. I don’t need the challenge of surfing a 10-foot wave. I'm happy with surf half that size, and am content with two or three feet with 10 good friends.
Who are some women you look to as inspiration when you design your suits?
My mother and my grandmother always dressed impeccably; the essence of their style is not in the beauty of what they have to wear, but how beautifully they wear what they have. Sonya Delaunay has been influential as well—I love working with color and print, and her combinations are still amazing, now more than ever. I also love Margaret Kilgallen’s art and homage to all things handmade, and I kept this in mind when creating the original brand concept.
You moved to California for your husband—do you miss home? Does surfing help you cope with being so far away?
I miss my home and my family terribly. I have dreams about Florence all the time. I can surf the melancholy away, but things get tough sometimes.
What's next for Seea?
So much! I am currently working on new designs for next year, and am headed to Mexico to test out some of the new samples. For this collection, I'm focused on creating dual-purpose land and sea clothing that works awesomely for surfing, swimming, or sunburn-free beach relaxation.
Shop Amanda's designs at theseea.com.