Design Is In Fashion with Cynthia Rowley

Saxon Henry Interviews Cynthia Rowley

This image I took of Cynthia Rowley at #HPMkt illustrates the fashion designer’s kicky style. Image © Saxon Henry.

What do a nearly-century-old furniture manufacturer and a fashion designer with one of the most youthful vibes hitting the catwalks today have in common? The Cynthia Rowley for Hooker Collection, launched by Hooker Furniture during High Point Market last October.

Cynthia Rowley Designs Furniture

The line holds 167 pieces within three distinctive themes—Curious, Sporty and Pretty. There were bedroom and living room furnishings, as well as accent pieces for any room. Price-points range from $399 to $3,499, the latter for the major signature pieces in the collection.

Cynthia Rowley's Fleur de Glee desk with the Curiosity metal side chair.

The Fleur de Glee desk with the Curiosity metal side chair.

Rowley has made a name for herself by producing adventurous clothing, whether the style is splashed with flirtatious patterns, carries a new take on a classic idea or is packed with a demure punch. Her furniture is equally buoyant to the spirit, as you can see in the image above in which her Fleur de Glee writing desk is uplifting by its very demeanor.

Cynthia Rowley is an avid surfer

Cynthia is an avid surfer, a passion she brings to fashion and design.

Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that she spends many a free moment wafting across water. The avid surfer designs a line of surf-attire and swimwear, her passion for immersion in saltwater the thing that likely makes her Sporty pieces so resonant.

Cynthia Rowley's Parker striped bachelor's chest and Balthazar upholstered bed.

The Parker striped bachelor’s chest and Balthazar upholstered bed.

But she does lovely just as dexterously, as is illustrated in the photo of the Pretty upholstered bed and dresser below. The elegant lines and sophisticatedly soft color palette are juxtaposed against the soft petals of the larger-than-life roses in the wallpaper—just enough drama without any requisite overwhelm.

Cynthia Rowley's Antoinette gilded upholstered upholstered bed and dresser in the Pretty Collection.

The Antoinette gilded upholstered upholstered bed and dresser in the Pretty Collection.

Cynthia Rowley Brings Fashion to Furniture

I had the opportunity to interview Rowley during #HPMkt and I marveled at how I could suddenly see the pieces in each vignette strutting down a runway—the arcing legs of the Pretty dresser prancing its way along, the flouncing sheepskin seat of the Curious side chair bobbing to the kicky music, the smart stripes on the Sporty chest swaying from side to side as its fleet-footed version hit its stride. Carmen Natschke was visiting the showroom at the same time and she agreed that each piece was resolutely “in fashion.”

Cynthia Rowley's Curious metal side chair with a sheepskin flounce on the seat with the Harlequin four-drawer accent chest.

The Curious metal side chair with a sheepskin flounce on the seat with the Harlequin four-drawer accent chest.

So it’s no surprise that Rowley describes the design process as similar when she’s envisioning fashion introductions and furnishing debuts, each effort beginning with the development of narrative through little chapters. Equally important early on, she notes, are the color palette and how the pieces in a collection are organized into stories.

Cynthia Rowley's Curiosity credenza

The Curiosity credenza.

“Hooker has been so amazing and open,” she remarked. “They were so excited about the idea for what this could be and they made it a very easy process.” It took her a bit less than a year to progress from the first design to the debut, a speed for which she credits the furniture manufacturer’s motivation to launch the collaborative collection.

Cynthia Rowley's Coco Daybed.

The Coco Daybed.

Rowley created boards for each theme just as she would a new season of fashion debuts. And she says she now wants to envision fashion designs inspired by the furniture: “The gold on the sofa turned out so beautifully that I want to make a dress like that!”

Cynthia Rowley's The Twiggy mirror hangs above the Bewitch nine-drawer mirrored dresser.

The Twiggy mirror hangs above the Bewitch nine-drawer mirrored dresser.

A Childlike Sense of Wonder in Design

She describes her household as child-friendly, filled with amusements like a bannister made to be a slide—the inclination toward playfulness informing her design sensibilities, or, as she puts it, “a childlike sense of wonder.” It is this piece of her personality that sparked the Curious line, a series of products that only someone with a deep personal effervescence could achieve.

Cynthia Rowley's Curious Venetian Bed

The Venetian upholstered bed in the Curious collection.

“I wanted something further afield that would be more eclectic—pieces that would express a sense of adventure and things that are more magical,” she explained. “To be curious in life is an important thing: that’s where inspiration comes from.”

Cynthia Rowley's Gigi settee

The Gigi settee. Image © Saxon Henry.

I couldn’t agree more and her inspired curiosity shows in this new furniture line. As a writer who has covered the beat for many years, I’d like to welcome her to the design industry. It’s collections like hers that make what I do so much fun. Congratulations to both Cynthia and Hooker Furniture for a job well done!

Portrait of fashion designer Cynthia Rowley.

Cynthia Rowley fashionably draped!

We’re just about a month away from the kickoff of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, a frenetic time that Rowley knows all too well. It will be fascinating to watch her debuts in the near future and see which furniture details show up in her fashions. I will also look forward to hearing her speak at the Design Bloggers Conference in Atlanta in March.

Cynthia Rowley Debuts at Hooker Furniture

The name says it all! Image © Saxon Henry.

Text of Design Is In Fashion with Cynthia Rowley © design blogger Saxon Henry, all rights reserved. Saxon Henry is an author, poet and journalist based in New York City. Books include Anywhere But Here, Stranded on the Road to Promise and Four Florida Moderns. She also maintains The Diary of an Improvateur as a platform for her literary travel and design adventuring, and is a columnist on Architizer. Saxon will be leading a workshop at the Design Bloggers Conference in March titled “How to Make Your Writing Sing.”