New Yorker and fashion designer Cynthia Rowley didn't dream of designing pretty dresses as a little girl.
"I didn't really think about being a fashion designer [growing up]," Rowley told The Huffington Post Australia ahead of her visit to Melbourne this March to launch a capsule collection within Harrolds.
"I was making art, my grandparents were artists and my mum draws and paints, so I think I just grew up with that as a way of life. And then later I sort of fell into fashion when I was in school at The Art Institute, thinking that it would be a much easier way to make a living because I figured it was more commercial. Little did I know, it's really hard! Or, it was really hard. Now it's definitely easier for me but at the time I figured it would be an easier way to pay my rent."
Rowley believes that entering the fashion industry through the art side of things as opposed the the commerce side gave her the right amount of naivety to succeed. As for when she thought she'd 'made it', she told herself that everyday.
"I thought I had made it all the way along! I mean, everyday you get a little win and think 'This is it! This is the big one!' and I look back now and realise that that was a way of pushing myself to go forward when in reality I could have been really discouraged. Because I had absolutely nothing to base that on, it was just my own sense of optimism around wanting to be successful and wanting to be a designer."
"I had to keep telling myself that "this is it, I am going to make it!" and it would be some little thing, but by setting small goals that were more achievable it was easier for me to feel like I was getting there, bit by bit, rather than looking at the whole thing. Because you know, at that stage I didn't even know what the whole thing was," Rowley said.
"Not being from the fashion industry, I didn't know what my end goal was supposed to look like, which worked out in the end. A little naivety is healthy in some cases in entrepreneurial ventures. It helps you evolve as you go as opposed to setting a far reaching goal."
Fast forward to now and Rowley makes more ranges than you can count -- on both hands. She has menswear, jewellery, eyewear, home accessories, beauty and fragrance and of course, women's collections. One of her latest offerings, a collection of chic wetsuits, could not be more perfect for the Australian climate.
"My designs are a combination of sporty and pretty. I always try to look at each design to make sure it is either sporty or pretty. Often the sporty items are more about the functionality. For example we make wetsuits for the surf as well as some boards -- I am a maniacal surfer. That doesn't mean I am great, but I love it. I am a much better designer than I am surfer, but I really love surfing.
"I spend hours in the water, and so I just thought I'd design a wetsuit that looked cute and was a functional piece for surfing -- they need to keep you warm and protect you from the sun. I know sun protection is really important in Australia. Our fitness leggings are also SPF 50 and can be worn in the water, too," Rowley said.
Not satisfied with designing fashion alone, Rowley has also written and co-written a collection of books. Writing is something she admits she had to work on at first.
"Writing is really hard. At first I found it really difficult, though more and more it goes hand in hand with our daily lives. I have always been a visual person so whenever I'd have to write something for the business I found it to be torture. But then something clicked and I started to realise I can just write down how I'd talk about my designs, because I love to talk about what I do. Now I don't overthink writing, and more and more as we are creating content everyday [for social media] so I am getting used to telling my brand's story."
Cynthia Rowley will showcase a capsule collection from her ranges within the newly refurbished Harrolds women's store in Melbourne in mid-March. She will also be as well as speaking at the business breakfast series at VAMFF.
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