New York-based fashion designer Cynthia Rowley has been the go-to for colorful flirty dresses and sporty designs for three decades. Like her happy, playful pieces — which run the gamut from ready-to-wear to swim, surf, accessories, fitness, beauty, jewelry, fragrance, eyewear, and home furnishings — created to “bring a little joy to your life,” Rowley is fun, laidback, and loves nothing more than to spend a lazy summer at the beach, surfing the waves.
In our new series, “A Perfect Sunday,” we spotlight our favorite tastemakers and their ideal Sunday vibe, life advice, and beauty and style must-haves. Here, Cynthia Rowley kicks it off with her summer routine.
“My happy place is my beach house in Montauk, where I spend most weekends.”
“I live in New York, and even after twenty-something years, I’m still in awe of everything in this crazy city. But my happy place is my beach house in Montauk, where I spend most weekends. On Sundays, I wake up around 8 a.m., make my coffee, feed Ziggy, my 5-year-old Frenchie, and we walk together down the dirt path to go check the waves. Then I start a group text to all my friends to send them pictures of the waves, and we make a plan. Breakfast is usually an egg wrap and smoothie from Joni’s. My wardrobe consists of my Cynthia Rowley wetsuit, giant tie-dye raffia hat, sunnies, and mineral-based sunscreen, so I never have to leave the beach. I pretty much live in a wetsuit all day. I got on The Hamptons Jitney a couple of Sundays ago to head back to the city, still in my wet wetsuit.”
“Floating on the ocean on a surfboard anywhere between Amagansett and the Montauk Lighthouse is my idea of heaven. Whatmost people don’t realize that surfing is that you are at the mercy of Mother Nature. When the waves are good, you plan your day around them. I am not as picky as most surfers, though, and usually paddle out anyway or take my boogie board and body surf. I’m very optimistic, so I’ll catch some waves at some point. If there are no waves, I might rent a boat or go wakeboarding or tubing with my girls [daughters Kit, 23, and Gigi, 17]. Or I walk into town along the cliffs and hang out in my Montauk store to chat with people.”
“I hate to waste time lounging around, I’d prefer to be at the beach, but there are a few spots in Montauk where I know I can always go and run into my crew for lunch. Marram has a beautiful Uruguayan cafe with counter service, and I’ll sit there and watch the waves. And if I haven’t had Joni’s for breakfast, I’ll have it for lunch.”
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“Other than floating on my board all day, the Montauk sunsets are epic. I love The Surf Lodge for its gorgeous sunsets and cool vibes. The Montauk Beach House is also cool for a sundowner and the scenic overlook on 27 between Amagansett and Montauk is always epic. Again if the surf’s not great, I’ll hang out in town. I love going to my buddy Johan’s bookstore and gallery, Boo-Hooray, or other local galleries to check out some art. South Etna and The Ranch is so fun and has these great openings. Frank Stella has a show of amazing outdoor sculptures, and Jo Messer has an exhibition. I love her beautiful paintings. I have a deep emotional response to her work.”
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“When I drag myself from the beach, I shower, rehydrate my face with an oil, which is like a big glass of water or a cold beer for your face. I’m pretty low maintenance, so I’ll throw on a sheer kaftan, and shades, pull back my hair, while it’s still wet, and maybe put on some mascara and eyeliner. I barely wear shoes all weekend; at work, my team goes barefoot in the store, and we’re at the beach. At night I usually head to The Surf Lodge as they have cool DJs and bands and have dinner with friends — the lobster rolls, chicken fingers, and fries are the best anywhere. Or if I want a more low-key vibe, Crows Next is the place to go for kebabs, mezze platters, and cold rose. Sometimes there is a beach hang, a bonfire on the beach is always fun, or I’ll go to a friend’s house and we’ll play some games. We always do a summer pop-up out the back of the store, and this season, we created a beachy space with real sand and lights and host events. I love stand-up. We recently did a stand-up event with Seth Herzog and Heidi Gardner and a tie-dye pop-up with my friend Julianne Moore.”
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“By the time I get home, I’m wiped out after a big day. So I go to sleep between 12 and 2 a.m. I might try to read for a second, but usually, I am out cold.”
Cynthia’s Style Picks
Can’t Live Without Fashion and Beauty Picks?
“My fashion mantra is more is more and less is a bore. We’ve always been known for our colors and prints. I think color therapy is a real thing that elevates your mood, and this season, we have so many cute summer dresses, pretty prints to wear to weddings and cocktail parties, and airy kaftans to throw on at the beach. And of course our wetsuits, we have so many now I can’t choose a favorite. They are sexy, functional, sustainably made, and offer SPF 50 protection. My secret beauty weapons are sunglasses, sunscreen, face oil, and a big smile — to me, happiness comes from being outside and active and going on far-flung trips to do adventurous stuff.”
Share what you’re reading, watching, or listening to?
“I start every day listening to the New York Times The Daily podcast. I also listen to stand-up comedy, Rachel Feinstein and Jim Gaffigan are great but I also listen to lesser-known ones. I don’t want a lot of TV, but Love Island is usually on in my house because of the two girls, so I’ll do a 20-minute session. Beyonce’s new album is amazing, and I like a good party playlist on the weekend.”
Best Career and Life Advice?
“The best life advice I was ever given was never to pack more than you can carry yourself. Also, the secret to a happy, balanced life is when you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. If I wasn’t a designer, I would be bored to tears. Fashion is so much more than clothes; my longevity is down to perpetual innovation. So the best career advice I can offer is to say ‘yes.’ Your imagination is the only thing that can hold you back. I always tell my daughters to work hard, take chances, and be thankful for everything. This is something I could go on about forever.”
What most inspires you?
“Anything and everything. Invention, culture, humor. I try to soak up as many experiences as I can. I love our surf camps, where we take women who have never surfed before out for a wave and guarantee everyone gets a ride. My mission is to encourage every girl to get into the water even if it’s chilly. I also love meaningful collaborations. One of my favorite charities is Every Town for Gun Safety. Being a woman today means standing up for what you believe in. I love doing our Ageless podcasts which I host with Kit [Keenan], we get to chat with amazing women and I get to have meaningful conversations with my daughter. Creating our content inspires me; I’m always shooting the girls in the store and Kit, in the store, on the streets, and at the beach.”
What is your most treasured item?
“I love my vintage cars. I’m a bit of a gear head and like to tinker in the engine. Though I’d have to say my most prized possession is Ziggy. He ran away once, and I freaked out, driving around the neighborhood looking for him. A guy had found him on the beach, and he too was driving around holding him up in the window. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him. The guy came into the store the other day, and I gave him a big hug.”
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