Cynthia Rowley has always been ahead of the curve. For one, while most 7-year-olds spend their time playing house, Cynthia was busy constructing her first dress. Fast forward a few years, and Cynthia enrolled in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for painting, but graduated in fashion design (surprise, surprise). She also sold her first full collection while still in school.
When Cynthia made the move from the Midwest to the Big Apple, she held her first fashion show in her walk-up apartment and invited everyone who’s everyone, from movie stars to fashion editors. No one showed. Not easily discouraged, she was soon showing off her talent at New York Fashion Week. Today her designs, which appeal to both girly and sporty tastes, are spotted on buzzy and stylish ladies from Julia Roberts to Scarlett Johansson.
Knowing these tidbits of Cynthia’s past, we just had to take the time to sit down with her to talk details. What did we find? A wife, devoted mother of two, and passionate surfer (she started twelve years ago). In fact, surfing served as the inspiration for her recent capsule collection, most of which is XO exclusively ours at Barneys New York.
Below, we chat about the collection, surfing and her perfect summer afternoon.
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What inspired the prints on your clothes?
We liked the idea of lush botanical florals, but wanted to make them modern and sporty, so we manipulated them. We took what we were classic, somewhat photo-real botanical bouquets and messed with them—we liquefied a floral, made one forced perspective, and mapped one out with a zigzag pattern.
Are you a fan of mixing prints in your own wardrobe?
I think it’s fun to wear prints, especially on leggings or pants. People really notice it, which a print is all about and I love that.
What kind of woman do you see wearing these pieces?
Even though it’s these pretty florals, they’re in sporty silhouettes, shapes and fabrics. Taking elements from surf gear, we bonded and cover-stitched everything, then applied these pretty florals to them. Some women might wear it in a pretty, girly kind of way and then others will be more badass.
What’s your favorite piece in the collection?
If you love wearing black leggings, this pair is the new, way more improved version of that. It’s bonded, with a heavy zipper and a cool print. I also love the bonded dress. It hugs your whole body and has a beautiful bonded fabric that hides and enhances everything at the same time.
What was the last thing that inspired you?
Contemporary art—we had our Exhibition A pop-up gallery at Barneys last month. And sporty surf gear, but I think art always runs throughout everything I do.
What’s your scariest surfing memory?
I was surfing in the Dominican Republic when my leash broke. I was very far, there was a strong riptide and I was screaming for help, but nobody could hear me. I saw a surfer really far away, and started yelling. He paddled like a maniac over to me and basically saved my life. I was joking later because when we got to the shore, he was like this really cute Dominican surfer dude and my friends were accusing me of faking it just so I could get saved by him.
What’s your favorite place to go surfing?
You never tell your surf spots!
How can we find you spending a perfect summer afternoon?
Generally it’s a day at the beach with a bunch of friends, my kids and husband with some good lunch, nice waves, games and fun. We’re not the sit-in-the-beach-chair-and-read-a-good-book type.
1. Sleeveless dress; 2. Colorblock skirt (XO exclusively ours); 3. Zig-zag legging; 4. Quarter sleeve shirt (XO exclusively ours); 5. Sport legging (XO exclusively ours); 6. Spectral tank; 7. Printed quarter sleeve shirt (XO exclusively ours)
Image of Cynthia Rowley courtesy of The Glow.