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Brooklyn's Monica Patel-Cohn

Monica Patel-Cohn started her caftan collection, TWO, as a way to mesh her Indian heritage and her contemporary Brooklyn life.We asked Monica, a long time Brooklyn resident (13 years), to share her favorite local haunts and to tell us what makes Brooklyn the place she loves to call home.
Monica Patel-Cohn started her caftan collection TWO as a way to mesh her Indian heritage and her contemporary Brooklyn life. We asked Monica, a long time Brooklyn resident (13 years), to share her favorite local haunts and to tell us what makes Brooklyn the place she loves to call home. 

What inspired you to venture into the realm of design and start the TWO brand?
My father is Indian and my Italian mother was in fashion, so ever since I was little I always envisioned an Indian line with a modern sensibility and color palette. I wanted to create something that allowed me to mesh these two backgrounds and make something wearable. 
 
 
Describe TWO in 3 words. And then tell us why you chose those words.
1. Repurpose - Because it's exciting to make a sari wearable.
2. Detail - I am in awe of the quality and workmanship that goes into the caftans.
3. Color - The gamut of color is beyond!
 
 
 Snapshots of Monica Patel-Cohn's life
 
You chose to base your business in Brooklyn, NY but you use handwoven textiles and saris from India. Why did you feel Brooklyn was a better choice than India?
When I started, I was pregnant with my second child and I was not traveling so it all happened in the USA. I prefer to do everything locally; I live in the area and have two small children so in order to do it right, I have to have everything at arm's length. This helps me attain a proper balance and be there for the constant changes.
 
 
What makes Brooklyn the best place to run your business? 
Booklyn has been my home for 13 years. One reason would be efficiency. It's doable because it's all within my neighborhood and it feels very old-school. As a 7-year-old, I loved riding my bike in a small town outside Milan. Now I get to ride my bike to work and back -- it really awakens all these amazing memories I have of living in Italy as a child.
 
 
 
 
How does Brooklyn influence your brand and why do you love living there? 
I love to have the city nearby, but I need my space. I originally moved to Dumbo 13 years ago; it's a nice community where we have friends and family, and it has a cool artistic vibe. It is an incredible feeling to ride my bike to my studio every morning. It's not uncommon that I am shuttling fabric in my bike basket from my home to my studio.
 
Do you prefer high-end designer stores or vintage local shops? 
I prefer mostly small designer stores and some high-end shops
 
 
How do you keep TWO feeling global and local at the same time? 
I just follow my instincts and I do a lot of research.
 
What is your favorite local hole-in-the-wall  for a quick bite?
I like Littleneck in Gowanus and Hillside is a good new spot in Vinegar Hill.
 
 
Littleneck:  288 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215. Hillside: 70 Hudson Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11201.
 
 
Littleneck Restaurant in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of Eater NY.
 
 
Hillside Restaurant in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of W Magazine.
 
Where are the best restaurants for the Brooklyn globetrotter to eat for lunch and dinner?
For dinner I love Colonieand Vinegar Hill House. For lunch I frequent Isa, Franny's (it's the ultimate pizza!), and on the weekends I love going toBrooklyn Fea. It's amazing and fun for lunch -- Sundays, when it's in Dumbo, is an open roof warehouse on the park/water. Beautiful!
 
Colonie: 127 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Vinegar Hill House: 72 Hudson Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Isa: 348 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211. Franny's: 348 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217. Brooklyn Flea: 176 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238.
 
 
Clockwise from top left: Colonie, Isa, Vinegar Hill House, Brooklyn Flea Market.
 
What are your favorite places in Brooklyn for coffee and drinks?
For drinks, Colonie, Henry's Pub (my nickname for Henry's Public), and Gran Electrica in Dumbo are all great. When I need a good cup of coffee, I'll go to Brooklyn Roasting Company on Jay Street because it's delicious and in front of my studio. I also love Smith Canteen on Smith Street, La Colombe on Washington Street (it's the hidden coffee shop in the West Elm Market!).
 
Colonie: 127 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Henry's Public: 329 Henry St, Brooklyn, NY 11201. 
Gran Electrica: 5 Front St, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Brooklyn Roasting Company: 25 Jay St, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Smith Canteen: 343 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY 11231. La Colombe/West Elm Market: 50 Washington St, Brooklyn, NY 11201.
 
Main image: Gran Electrica. Clockwise from top left: Henry's Public, Brooklyn Roasting Company, Smith Canteen, La Colombe/West Elm.
 
 
How do you feel about Brooklyn becoming one of the trendiest places to live in New York City?
Brooklyn has definitely become a trendy place to live. I think it's been a great alternative to living in the city. We first moved in 2000 and it quickly became my home. I loved the brick buildings, cobblestones, and being on the water. Seeing that gorgeous view of Manhattan at night is unbeatable. Brooklyn has changed and grown so much since then, I love having community and a neighborhood feel.
 
How do you balance TWO and motherhood? 
After I drop off the kids in the morning I walk into Dumbo. I call my husband to join me for a morning cup of coffee and then I head to my studio. I wanted to ease into the full-time schedule so I could be with my 3 and 4 year old children. They'll never be that age again, and I am totally in love with them! Sometimes hearing my daughter chatter makes my day. The things she comes up with!
 
 Photo courtesy of The Sartorialist
 
You've worked for Prada, Barneys, and other impressive brand names. How did this influence your current work at TWO?
I realized that after several years of being in fashion, I still love the same things -- even years later. I felt there was a void in the industry that I could fill. When I first started at Barneys, the company sold special items that were not easy to find. Now that the internet has changed things, I wanted to create pieces that still feel special and that few other people have. I wanted to make something that reminds you of something you find on a faraway trip.
 
What makes the caftan style so popular - why do women love it?
Women love it because they fit many shapes and sizes, and people appreciate the textiles.
 
How would you describe your travel style?
I like to be uber organized, but somehow there's always one thing I forget. I consider myself lucky if it's not one of my kids? items...