Cynthia Rowley Reveals her Top 5 Career-Defining Moments

Lauren Powell
by Lauren Powell

Cynthia Rowley

Cynthia Rowley needs no introduction. The famed American fashion designer, who is renowned for her quirky, yet classic and feminine styles, has been dressing fashion girls around the globe since 1988. In what is very exciting new for the Australia fashion industry, the New York City-based designer landed in Sydney yesterday to present her Resort 17 collection at Australian Fashion Week. To celebrate her first-ever MBFWA show last night, Rowley reflected on the defining moments which are the reason she is a household name today. Read on to find our Rowley’s top inspiring career-defining moments and the stories that built her success.

Getting discovered by a department store buyer on the subway

I was approached by a woman when I was a student on the subway who loved my jacket. I told her I was a designer and it was my own design. She asked me to come to her office the next day with my collection. I didn't have a collection so I stayed up all night and produced five samples for the meeting. She ended up placing an order right there on the pieces I had created and I guess the brand was essentially born there. It was a real lesson in fake it until you make it and it's something I still do to this day!   

Collaborating with Target

When I was approached many years ago to do a designer collaboration with a chain store like Target, it was the first time any designer brand had done it. Obviously now it has become commonplace but back then it was an extremely risky move for a designer and I was advised against it by many people. I decided to go ahead with it anyway and it turned out to be a great turning point for my brand. It was terrifying at the time but I've always been a risk taker and taught me to trust my gut and that it's ok to jump when others are telling you not to.

Expanding my product offering

After my collaboration with Target and the exposure it received, it really opened me up to the possibility of designing more than just fashion collections. I expanded into homewares, bedding, tabletop accessories, and stationary. As a designer, it was amazing to be open to the possibilities of extending my creative vision into these new categories. Since then, I've really embraced having no boundaries to all my projects and a "just say yes" mantra. I think that attitude has served me well and opened up many new opportunities within my business.


When I become a mother, obviously it was one of the enriching parts of my personal life but what I didn't expect was the great impact it had on my career. My desire to spend time with my kids made me so much more focused, efficient ,and decisive in my business life. Yes I became so much busier, but it also taught me that there is always time for everything if you don't make excuses. It made me a better businesswoman that then strengthened my business.

Winning a CFDA award

It was a real "pinch me" moment!

What do you believe is your top career-defining moment? Share with us below and shop Rowley’s beautiful collection.

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