Designer of the Year Cynthia Rowley Talks Style

Cynthia Rowley poses with NBC sports anchor Lindsay Czarniak, who was also at the Marymount fashion event. Image courtesy Marymount by Moshe B. Zuman.

We’ve long been besotted with multifaceted fashion designer Cynthia Rowley, who has lent her whimsical touch to everything from high fashion (with her own eponymous label) to cheap chic (she’s just released her second line for Target) and nearly everything in between—including baby-blue charcoal grills, books, and bicycles.

Rowley made a quick trip to Arlington Friday to receive Marymount’s 2008 Designer of the Year award, catch the school’s graduation fashion show, and spend some time personally reviewing each senior’s portfolio. In the midst of the flurry of activity, she took a moment to spill about what’s inspiring her now and why she needed to get back to New York as soon as possible.

So are you actually wearing Cynthia Rowley?
I am! My dress, shoes, sunglasses, and necklace are all my own design.

We understand your new line, Whim by Cynthia Rowley, is now being rolled out at Target. Give us the inside scoop on what to expect.
It’s a summer entertaining collection aimed at the fashionable family. There are a lot of kids’ toys, a madras-plaid inflatable pool, pink and blue garden hoses, cool beach towels, even a baby-blue Weber grill. It’s all about summer fun.

Is that your favorite season?
I definitely love summer. The hotter the better! We have a little beach house in the Hamptons where my family [including her husband and two daughters] spends time in the summer and does things like surf and play sports. I’m actually a wicked badminton player. My partner and I play all summer long.

I had no idea. Is there some sort of local badminton league?
Well, my partner and I always play against Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell every Fourth of July. It’s an annual event, and we always dress up in funny costumes for the game.

What’s inspiring you this spring?
Flowers! I love the idea of putting on a floral-print dress, getting on my floral-printed bicycle, filling the basket with fresh flowers, and riding all around the West Village.

It just so happens that you’re also offering a beach-cruiser bicycle this season.
We’ve sold out of them already! Bergdorf Goodman is planning on featuring them in the store next week, and we’ve been trying frantically to get more in stock. I don’t even have one myself yet.

What have you thought of today’s event so far?
It’s so humbling for me to be here—I was getting choked up watching [the runway show]. I can’t believe that I can be so lucky to do what I do. The odds [of success] are so slim, and I’m so thankful for it all.

What do you hope the students learn from you?
That you can come from anywhere and succeed—look at me, I was in Illinois [when I started out as a designer]. I hope, by coming here, the students see that there is no magical formula. Anyone can do it; you just have to carve out your own path.

I know you have to rush back to New York this evening. What are you up to?

I’m going to the premiere of my friend Hunter Hill’s movie, Lake City, at the Tribeca Film Festival. It stars Sissy Spacek, Rebecca Romijn, and Troy Garrity. It’s his first film, so I’m excited to support him.

Check out photos of some of our favorite outfits from folks at the Marymount fashion show, and take a look at some runway fashion here.

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