“You have to be original and genuine and work hard…what else do you need?” I’m sitting with renowned fashion designer, author, TV star, interior designer, and candy store maker Cynthia Rowley. She is relaxed and looking stunningly fresh in her CYNTHIA Cynthia Rowley printed pants, part of her collaborative effort with BELK, the South’s department store giant.
I start off by stating I am speaking on behalf of the ‘dreamers and do-ers’ out there. As you can imagine, she had some great words to live by.
Q: Throughout your highly accomplished career, what has been the biggest challenge for you?
A: Changes – it’s changed all along the way. Part of that may be the challenge to stay relevant and always evolve and sort of reinvent yourself over and over every day…..but to realize that you can do something that you thought you couldn’t do is very liberating.
Q: Very true! And you’re a mom of 2 (girls)!
A: Being a working mom, you ask yourself, how do I balance all of this? How do I spend time with family AND work a million hours and do all that. There’s just challenges every step of the way. That’s what I think can drive us….if it’s not challenging, you wouldn’t want to keep forging ahead.
Q: I read that you started your business with $3000 from your Grandmother. How did you leverage that to get to the next level?
A: (laughing) Well it hasn’t been an over night success….its taken a long time. I think it’s a combination of naivete and “don’t take ‘no’ for an answer”. It’s some sort of combination of that. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, I just keep setting short term goals; (for example) when I don’t have be a bartender anymore that will be awesome. Then when I don’t have to sew for myself, that will be a great step….setting short term goals and feeling like you can have success on each level so that you’re not setting yourself up for defeat.
Q: That makes sense.
A: You can’t have these grandiose goals. You want to have direction of where you’re heading but without that being the end result. Its daily goals and benchmarks and sort of being a pathological optimist – always think like everything is fine and it’s going to be great. The most important thing is just to do it. Whatever it is, just do it. You’ll never regret doing something you’ll only regret not doing it. So do it, any idea you have do it as fast as you can bc somebody else is having the same idea, you just gotta go for it. What’s the worst that can happen?
Q: I also read that you invited Editors from major New York publications (Vogue, The New Yorker, etc) and even Andy Warhol to your first showing at your NYC apt.
A: The very first one. I had just moved to New York right out of college and nobody came…..I went and told everyone I invited Andy Warhol.
Q: That’s awesome! How did you eventually get your name out there?
A: In the sort of, ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ school of business….you just keep going. It’s really, really, really hard work. I still work till 8 o’clock every night I work a lot on weekends….you have to be fully committed.
A: I just kept going. The number one thing, if you don’t know something ask someone and ask them if they know someone and if they know someone…it’s how i’ve gotten through everything in life; whether it’s real estate or anything in fashion you just ask a question. What’s the worst that could happen? They could just say they don’t know.
Q: With social media, what’s the best way for you to connect with your audience?
A: Besides our own social media (www.cynthiarowley.com), I go out. I do a lot. I try to go see as much as I can. I try to meet people and spend time in our stores. We have an art website, so I meet a lot of art people. We just opened a candy store, so it’s candy moms and kids. Just all these seemingly different things that somehow all kind of inform and speak to a bigger and broader audience. If you don’t go outside what you’re doing, you don’t know what the possibilities can be. There’s so many ways you can take it to reach a broader audience.
A: That’s why it’s such a great time now. You can do anything and you can tell your story and get the word out….none of that existed when I started. That was maybe the the first 10 years of my growth. And now you can make something and put it out there and people know what it is in a minute. You just have to be original, and genuine, and work hard.
“Just keep going”. You hear those words often, but it rings a little louder coming from Cynthia Rowley. Hearing her story and what she’s done to over come challenges makes it more believable and achievable to us all. Yep, that’s just what I’m going to do. Won’t you join me?