Cynthia Rowley is kind of over the idea of a runway presentation. This season, instead of bothering with all that, she shot her fall 2014 look book at the recently-renovated Diamond Horseshoe club in NYC a week before her “show date.” Then, in lieu of a show, she’s throwing a blow-out bash, featuring aerialists and knife-throwers, at the same venue.
Many designers this season are abandoning Lincoln Center for greener pastures, so we joined Rowley on her shoot to chat about her collection and why she’s so excited other labels are now leaving the tents behind as well.
She’s long been passionate about finding new and different ways of showing her own collections, so she’s never quite understood why others are so insistent on the old format. “We’re in a creative industry that’s supposed to be reinventing things and exciting and new, so why do they send a girl walking down a runway over and over? It seriously makes me mad!” Rowley says. “Does it make sense to you that you would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a venue, girls, hair and makeup, and then basically say, ‘Okay run past the photographers,’ and hope you get the shot?” (Erm, when you put it that way…)
Which is why the designer is so proud of her look book shoot and party. “This way, we’re styling, it’s a beautiful set, you’re going to be able to see the collection in the comfort and privacy of wherever you want,” Rowley explained with a smile. “Then, you can come next week and have a celebration with us and watch this cool video and socialize with friends, and P.S., here is a visual feast that is a photo op everywhere you look. It’s exciting! I don’t understand the white box.”
That “visual feast” she’s referring to is the interior of the Diamond Horseshoe — a pretty accurate description of the space. There are so many wonderful and crazy details, it’s hard to know where to start looking (or, for party-goers, where to start Instagramming). Rowley had to wait years for someone to bring the space — which she said was “really decrepit,” having last been used for Andy Warhol’s funeral in 1987 — up to code, but it was worth it. “This kind of patina and these details inspired the collection a little bit.”
Several of her fall pieces reflect that; there’s what she calls a “moonbow” pattern (a real natural phenomena) and a “Junk Dress,” a shift literally covered in whatever knick-knacks Rowley could get her hands on.
The rest of the collection is all about separates, from silky blouses to wide-cut culottes. “I was thinking about things that are counterintuitive to my own aesthetic,” Rowley explains. “I really love a pretty dress, and I’ve been thinking so much more about challenging my comfort zone, and this is really very sportswear.”
It might seem like a risk for any designer, but ultimately, Rowley only cares what her customers think of the collection. “Fashion is in the hands of the culture now, there is no more filter, you shouldn’t be critiqued by somebody,” she says. “You’re just making clothes, you know? You just want to make things that you love and put it out there and show people.”
Then she adds the three words that would make most designers cringe: “It’s not art!”