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At her spring runway show finale, Cynthia Rowley and some of her models came down the runway on bicycles. The novel notion could be seen as a metaphor for the designer’s plans to get the wheels rolling and journey to new territories next year, building both her licensing and retail divisions.
Rowley recently signed a licensing deal with Accessory Network to develop new tiers for accessories to complement the existing Collection accessories, including handbags licensed to Franchi.
On the retail front, Rowley, who is opening her second Chicago boutique at 1653 North Damen Avenue in trendy Bucktown this month, plans to open stores in Savannah, Ga., and Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood in the first quarter. According to president Peter Arnold, there are plans to add three units next year, which would bring the total number of freestanding Cynthia Rowley stores to 10. That’s in addition to a growing wholesale network that includes such retail channels as Bergdorf Goodman, neimanmarcus.com and Shopbop.com.
“We work so hard to put a collection together and it is on the runway for 11 to 12 minutes before it gets dispersed [at wholesale],” Rowley said. “In our own stores, you can really replicate the complete idea of the runway.”
Rowley, who opened a flagship in Japan last February and has 50 in-store shops there, is also expanding her relationship with Itochu, her Japanese partner, opening some six in-store shops in Taiwan.
“Because of Cynthia’s success, [Itochu] wants to explore a secondary line in Japan,” Arnold disclosed, adding the collection could be launched by spring 2009.
Rowley also hopes to make waves in Hong Kong and Mainland China. To that end, she recently signed a deal with Golife, which also distributes Anya Hindmarch and Paule Ka. Arnold said the plan is to open a freestanding store in Beijing in the second quarter, followed by Shanghai and Hong Kong shops in the third quarter.
“I am a real Asia-phile,” Rowley said. “It’s such an exciting turning point there and there is such a hunger for brands. For me, it’s an exciting time to be growing there at this point.”
To further support the activity, Rowley formed a strategic and creative partnership with Poke, which specializes in creative and marketing solutions in all forms of digital and interactive media. Rowley hopes to step up her new media presence, with Web-based films and blogs and on social networking platforms. The plans include a relaunch of the designer’s Web site to bring such elements together.
“You have to tell a story,” Rowley said.