Miami Living Magazine

Gwen Stefani

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Cynthia, who participated in a pop-up Pilates class presented by her daughter Kit Keenen + Equinox a couple of hours earlier, walks in wearing a long, white dress flecked with tiny flowers and grey polka dots. Her dark-brown hair is swept into her standard low ponytail and her sunglasses rest atop her head like a headband. "Here, let's just sit," she says as she positions two chairs next to one another near the showroom's entrance. So, which piece is your favorite? She scans the shop then proceeds to the back of the room. I follow her and watch as she sifts through a rack of swimsuits. Then, she finds it: a black one- piece swimsuit made of lace and neoprene, a fabrication commonly used in the wetsuits worn by surfers. It is beautiful. One thing you should know about Cynthia is that she is a surfer and a Manhattanite, so if you're familiar with her work, you'll notice both lifestyles reflected in her renowned designs. It doesn't matter if the designer is hanging out on the beach or in the West Village, this is a woman who takes pleasure in dressing up and showing off her style. Which is why it was so hard for the avid surfer (she spends hours upon hours surfing all over the world) to sacrifice her style while enjoying her beloved hobby. Fortunately, a fateful encounter would change that. "About eight years ago, I was surfing in Montauk and I was in the water with a guy from Quicksilver and he was like, 'Wait, you're a designer and you surf? We have surfers that are designing, but it really makes more sense to do the opposite.' I always say, 'I'm a much better designer than I am a surfer, but I love it," she says with a smile. Before Cynthia came along, there weren't any attractive wetsuit options. The market was fraught with "black wetsuits that stopped right above the knee, and made your knees look like muffins… Not attractive at all." A collaboration between a surfwear brand and an award-winning fashion designer was long overdue. Cynthia and Quicksilver teamed up on her first six collections, and once their collaboration ended, she continued building from there, creating vibrant, feminine, and flattering wetsuits. The New York resident often dons one of her wetsuits when she's catching waves in Montauk. "That's kinda what my closet in Montauk looks like," she points to a rack full of wetsuits. "Neoprene is a magical fabrication because it makes everybody look great —it's SPF 50 and it just lasts forever." Today, Cynthia incorporates neoprene into her swimwear, and soon, her dresses. While designers have been using neoprene in fashion for some time now, she tells me, her brand has taken surf/swimwear to a new level by printing on it and mixing it with fabrics like lace, "reinventing what neoprene has been for an active surf and swim lifestyle." Next Cynthia gives me a peek of her fab fall collection, which she describes as "pretty urban-looking," and boasts sweaters, jackets, and layering pieces. The DNA of her brand is "pretty-sporty," she tells me (which also perfectly describes her, too), and is a fusion of opposing ideas that work nicely together, just like her Cali York collection. "That sort of started because I live in New York and my daughter [Kit] just started at USC, so I was thinking about California and New York and I was like, I wish they could just come together and they were closer, so that's how I came up with the idea Cali York. Sounded better than Newfornia," she laughs. "It's like two opposite things and where those meet is where the excitement is. California is so different than New York, but you kinda want both of those." Lately, the brand has been doing a lot of collaborations —about one per month. "We did the Greats sneakers that are out now. We also just launched a collaboration with Goop [Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle brand, Cynthia Rowley x Goop]: the wetsuit, the swimsuit, the towel, surf wax. We throw in some rolling papers for fun." She flashes a smile. I admit that I wasn't sure what the latter was when I saw them over there. I thought maybe they're facial blotting tissues. "That's the test. If you know what it is –alright." She nods knowingly. "GP likes those kinds of things so I thought that was sort of funny to do that, like a gift with purchase. Nobody has done rolling papers." Their most recent collab is with Bandier: #CRxBANDIER. With her flowy, floral frocks; pretty, paisley wetsuits; and casual yet chic sweatshirts, CR appeals to so many. To satiate the demand, they have been opening as many stores as they can, as fast as they can. They just opened stores in Boston and Georgetown, and are constantly adding more "nomadic retail" (aka pop-up stores) to the mix. "We swoop in and stay for like 6 months or in the case of Palm Beach, we opened in November and we were like, 'We'll just do it for 6 months,' and we just signed a long-term lease. We test the waters, and if it's good, we stay. If not, we move to another city. We've had a store for the last 6 months on 39th Street [in Miami] and that's about to finish…and then, who knows?" Because you gotta go where the waves are good, right? ML To shop Cynthia Rowley, visit

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