Cynthia Rowley's Furniture Design
The famed fashion designer brings her unique spin to home decor
Having made her first dress at the age of 7, Cynthia Rowley was destined to become a design force. Since the launch of her capsule collection in 1988, she has grown her brand into a multipronged business that spans well beyond fashion. Her collections include everything from wet suits to office supplies, each carefully crafted in the designer’s distinctive aesthetic. Rowley spoke with us from her West Village office about what inspires her life and about her latest pursuit: furniture.
What inspired you to design furniture?
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Like clothes, home furnishings say so much about a person. Just as clothes are an extension of someone’s personality, home furnishings can say the same thing.
Rowley’s collection includes pieces that marry well or stand alone in any space.
You wanted to become a painter, but a chance meeting changed everything. Tell us the story.
I was studying at the Art Institute of Chicago with the intention of being an artist. It was a chance encounter on a train with a woman who asked who designed the jacket I was wearing. I told her the design was mine. As it turns out, the woman was a buyer for a large department store. She gave me her card and instructed me to bring my full collection to her office the following Monday morning. I frantically sewed all weekend to prepare. When asked for the style number of one of the pieces, I had a deer-in-headlights moment but quickly responded, “Style number . . . 1.” Knowing she might have been on to me, I confessed that I hadn’t had time to properly number the line. She placed an order anyway, and the rest is history.
Rowley sets out for a cruise, looking fabulously chic.
The New York Times has described your work as “flirty, vibrantly colored… in wispy materials.” Does the same aesthetic apply to your furniture?
Hmm. I like the idea of a flirty room. I think everything we do as a company incorporates the same attributes: pretty, sporty, artistic and a great sense of adventure.
Amorous lines and bold details ring true in every piece of Rowley’s collection.
What is your first consideration when designing a piece?
For me, designing has the same creative process no matter what it is. Whether it’s our fitness collection, tech accessories or a piece of furniture, I start with an interesting material, a color story, then layer in fabric, finishes and hardware.
Her luxurious choice of fabrics in both soft and vibrant hues distinguishes each piece.
Tell us about your favorite piece of furniture at home?
Aside from my Cynthia Rowley furniture, I have a handmade banister in my house—it’s also a slide.
What are your must-haves at home?
Love, family and a good bottle of wine. OK, and maybe a beautiful bed to fall into at night.