A few years ago, when fashion producer and creative director Cynthia Cervantes Gumbs was leaving her job at a New York luxury fashion retailer to go into business with her then-boyfriend, photographer and creative consultant Travis Gumbs, her boss tried to talk her out of it. As he reasoned, couples who work together rarely make it.
Cynthia laughs as she tells the story today, “He wanted me to stay. I was like, ‘I think we’ll be okay.’” Simply glowing beside her now-husband in a booth at Chinatown’s Dimes cafe, the Los Angeles native’s hunch would be correct, with the couple’s accumulating success over the years disproving her former boss altogether and setting a new benchmark for creative power couples in the age of social media to follow.
In 2016, to great success, they launched their creative agency-cum-zine, Maroon World, which aims to highlight and center the perspectives of people of color. With Travis as photographer and Cynthia as stylist, the magazine’s sprawling editorials sit at the intersection of fashion, race, culture, and identity politics.
Then, there was the couple’s internet-breaking nuptials last year that brought much of Instagram to a standstill. Celebrated at Cynthia’s family’s ranch in Michoacán, Mexico, the comely pair developed a trousseau of custom head-turning ensembles that stood as an homage to the their respective indigenous traditions and roots, with Cervantes hailing from Mexico and Gumbs from St. Kitts in the West Indies. Working with everyone from local artisans on Travis’s charro suit to Luar designer Raul Lopez on Cynthia’s thigh-splitting gown, the looks splashed across the pastoral and rolling landscape of Mexico’s campo.
And then there was, of course, the uprooting from their Bed Stuy, Brooklyn home this past winter to Mexico City, where they moved permanently—the pair joining a growing and nourishing creative scene in the Roma Norte district, which offers the young artists space to work, without the noise of New York to distract. The couple’s creative turnout is robust but meditative: there was the recent Pride campaign that profiled Mexico City natives, and the unveiling of 9 Mujeres/9 Meses, a years-long exploration of several women’s journeys through pregnancy. This work predated the couple’s greatest collaboration to date, though: their child, due November 2019.
“We have been able to step out of our comfort zone [in Mexico] and it’s pushing us to come back to intent. Like, ‘why are we doing this?’ Because I think when you are amongst your peers constantly, there is a pressure to perform, or a pressure to create that’s not necessarily giving you the time and space to really flesh out the ideas,” Cynthia explains, rubbing her growing belly. Travis agrees, adding, “What also inspired us to leave is that it just feels a lot heavier here [in New York]. You can minimize that down to just social media in general, the censorship, the way it forces people to think how to create—it’s just not as free and how we once imagined creating should be.”
Thriving in an artist’s paradise and making it look easy, the duo assures me that it took time to get to a place of professional synergy, a process that began with the couple first working on interiors, nearly six years ago. After friends visited their well-appointed Brooklyn home, Cynthia and Travis were enlisted to work their magic on other apartments. At the time, Travis was still collaborating with his partner Joshua Kissi from his Street Etiquette fashion blogging days and consulting for major brands like adidas; Cynthia was still working in non-profit education reform as a COO at a Bronx elementary school. From time to time, Travis would pull in Cynthia to style the womenswear on shoots he was producing. While she was always naturally drawn to fashion, taking to mood boarding her own closet, she still wasn’t ready to take the plunge into a creative lifestyle full time. Being the first person in her family to attend college and not having seen POCs represented in fashion or the creative industry growing up, it was hard to envision a career for herself in the field. But Travis helped her see how she could interweave her passions and activism through the work. “I was still doing things that I felt were really important. Supporting women of color, artists of color,” she says. “I had a long talk with [Travis] and he’s like, ‘You can do this.’ I did it: I quit my job, and never looked back.”
Maroon World sprung to life after the duo began consulting together on projects full time and experiencing the same microaggressions with white clients who were attempting to erase Cynthia and Travis’s perspective from campaigns or tokenize POCs that were cast. Nothing felt authentic. “That made us really realize in order for us to do something creatively that we want, from our shared perspective, we would have to do it on our own without a middle man,” Cynthia explains. Maroon World then became a “fighting call”: a way to push back on the seismic oppression so many of their peers were dealing with in today’s sociopolitical climate. The couple is working on the third issue now at their own pace, with no launch date as of yet: The baby is the pillar around which all creative content rotates now.
And just as their work has come into focus, so has their respective personal style, with Travis streamlining his look from his blogger heyday to align with his present-day artistry. “Style was my primary way of expressing myself, so I think back then it was super important to me to curate it as much as I possibly could. But then I found other ways to get that creative energy out.” At five months, Cynthia is ticking away at maternity style, embracing her newfound form and wanting to show it off with “sexy maternity” wares, which includes anything body-hugging like the black knit Ami dress looks she wore on set.
Of course, whatever she lands on, we know it will sync up perfectly with Travis.