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Surf’s up for Cynthia Rowley.
This story first appeared in the October 22, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The designer, who is an avid surfer, has teamed up with the Los Angeles-based young women’s surf label Roxy, owned by Quiksilver Inc., to create a new brand called Cynthia Rowley for Roxy. The first collection will launch exclusively at Barneys New York in the U.S. and at Colette in Paris in March.
“My family and I surf a lot. Just about every weekend in the summer, we go to Montauk, and in the winter we go to the Dominican Republic for long weekends,” she said. “But don’t get me wrong: I am no pro; I just love to surf. My husband is really good at it and now my 10-year-old daughter, Kit, is getting into it. I love that we have this family activity that we all really enjoy.”
One day in summer 2008, while surfing in Montauk, N.Y., Rowley was introduced to Randy Hild, executive vice president of marketing at Roxy, who was there catching some waves of his own. A women’s swimwear industry veteran, Hild has been at Roxy since 1993 and has been a diehard surfer for about 40 years.
“It was like meeting my idol,” she said. “We started talking and pretty much came up with ideas right there on the beach.”
Hild said he knew right away upon meeting Rowley that a collaboration would soon be in the works.
“Our mission at Roxy has always been to have one foot in the surf world and another foot in the fashion world,” Hild said. “It’s important for us to be relevant to what’s happening in New York fashion, and I have to say, it’s been nice to see that there are a great number of people in the fashion community who are getting involved in surfing.”
The Cynthia Rowley for Roxy partnership will initially work as a three-year deal. If it takes off, there is the potential to renew. Besides launching in Barneys and Colette, the brand will be available in Roxy stores and in Cynthia Rowley boutiques worldwide. The first collection consists of everything someone would need for a casual weekend getaway. While there are plenty of surf-friendly options found throughout the line, it’s not limited to only surfers. There are functional but fashionable wet suits and board shorts, as well as neoprene ballet flats. The collection includes a mix of 40 pieces of sportswear including shorts, T-shirts and dresses, swimwear and accessories such as a wide neoprene headband, printed scarf, bucket hat, sandals and a weekend-appropriate duffle bag. Other highlights include a neoprene pencil skirt; oversize, double knit hoodie, and leather sandals with giant silk tassels. The collection wholesales from $18 for a printed scarf to $89 for a long-sleeve bodysuit.
“My whole idea for this collection was to take all of the great functionality found in these surf clothes and bring some fashion into the function,” Rowley explained. “But I also did some of the opposite too — brought some of the function into fashion such as with the neoprene ballet flats, which you certainly wouldn’t wear to surf.”
While this is the first time Roxy has partnered with an outside designer to create an apparel collection, Hild said he is confident Rowley is the right match for the brand — especially since she is “living the surf lifestyle,” he said. In addition, the collaboration opens both brands to a new area of distribution — Rowley doesn’t sell her main collection to Barneys, and Roxy has yet to set foot outside of the junior sportswear arena.
“This is particularly exciting for us since this is our chance to step outside of the junior world and introduce our brand to a new, contemporary customer,” Hild said.
Julie Gilhart, senior vice president and fashion director of Barneys, also happens to be a dedicated surfer and believes the collection will do well at the store.
“We love the idea of taking a fashion designer’s aesthetic and applying it to what one needs for a fashionable surf lifestyle,” she said. “Cynthia Rowley, herself a surfer, understands both the practical needs as well as the stylish ones.”
Both Hild and Rowley declined to give annual sales volume projections.