You Def Need the 411 on Cynthia Rowley, aka Kit Keenan’s Fashion Designer Mom

Andrew M. Santos

You wouldn’t be alone in envying Kit Keenan’s style from the moment she stepped on Matt James’s season of The Bachelor>>>P. Homegirl was simply OOZING high fashion from her bones! The pink feathered minidress on her first night said as much, and this probably stems from the fact that her mom—designer Cynthia Rowley—is a highly respected person in the fashion industry. The apple clearly doesn’t fall far from the tree, so let’s get to know all the deets about Kit’s momma, shall we?

Cynthia grew up surrounded by the arts

Cynthia was raised by her parents, Ed and Clementine Rowley, in Illinois—her dad was a science teacher, but her mother’s side of the family dabbled in the arts…which likely inspired her love for fashion design.“My mom’s whole side of the family were painters. My grandmother did a lot of self-portraits like this [upstairs] painting,” Cynthia told the New York Times>>>P.“She always wore Chinese dresses like that, even though she was 100 percent Italian. It was a very eccentric upbringing, with theme rooms and stuff.”

Cynthia made her first piece of clothing—a dress—at the age of 7. (I was literally playing with my Barbie dolls and watching Totally Spies at that age, it’s fine.)

She earned her BFA in 1981

Cynthia studied at the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and graduated in 1981. It wasn’t without its ups and downs though—in Cynthia’s junior year, she actually got kicked out of an art show because she wanted to attach wings to her designs. By Cynthia’s senior year, SAIC had granted her fellowship that allowed her to move to New York City (where she is now based).

She sold her first collection before graduating college

Call it fate, but Cynthia crossed paths with a woman who worked for Marshall Field’s— a Chicago-based department store that was later acquired by Macy’s—while traveling to SAIC. Here’s what happened, in Cynthia’s own words:

“I was on a train on my way to school, and a woman asked me about the jacket I was wearing. I explained that I’m a designer and she gave me her business card and told me to be in her office on Monday morning with my collection. And so I sewed all weekend and went to her office Monday with my five pieces. She looked at them, and said,‘That one’s cute. What’s the style number on that?’ I said,‘Um, 1.’ And she said,‘That’s nice. What’s the style number on that one?’‘Uh, 2.’ She said,‘Let me guess—3, 4, and 5?’ She wrote me an order, and at that point, I realized there was no looking back.”

You love all the nitty-gritty deets on The Bachelor>>>P. So do we! Let’s overanalyze them together>>>P.

Her first fashion show was a major flop

In 1983, Cynthia designed her first collection with $1,000 that her grandmother gave her as seed money. After completing the pieces, Cynthia then invited the top fashion editors and influencers that NYC had to offer but…no one showed up>>>P!

“I started having shows in a completely naïve, fake-it-till-you-make-it-way,” she told Chicago Splash>>>P.“I was just so naïve that I [thought],‘Of course they’ll all want to come!’ Coming to New York was a double slap in the face. It was jarring, shocking and hard—but in a good way.”

Her first taste of true success came in 1995

Cynthia’s fall/winter’95 show featured household names—Tyra Banks, Beverly Peele, Milla Jovovich, and Molly Ringwald all walked in her show.



Molly Ringwald wearing a dress: gettyimages-141316681


© Ron Galella – Getty Images
gettyimages-141316681



Tyra Banks wearing a dress: gettyimages-105835000


© Ron Galella – Getty Images
gettyimages-105835000

If you want some delightful throwback footage from the show, hit the play button below:

In January 1995, The Council of Fashion Designers of America also honored Rowley with a Perry Ellis Award for New Fashion Talent for her work in 1994>>>P. By June, she opened up her second storefront in Chicago. (The first was in NYC.)

She sells all types of clothing!

A quick visit to her site shows that Cynthia sells a full range consisting of (but not limited to): tops, bottoms, dresses, shoes, children’s clothing, eyewear, and home goods. If you’re in the market for ridiculously gorgeous designs, here are a few standouts to get you started:

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