The Untold Truth Of Cynthia Rowley

When Kit Keenan stepped out of the limo on Matt James' season of The Bachelor, we all took notice of her unique pale pink feather dress, and we knew she was a little different. So just who is she? It turns out that Keenan has quite a famous mother: legendary fashion designer Cynthia Rowley. We all found ourselves nodding to ourselves as if to say, "Now it makes sense."

Rowley is not new to the fashion scene in any sense of the word. Her line of women's clothing has expanded over the years to become a full-blown global lifestyle brand that includes jewelry, handbags, eyewear, activewear, and fragrance, available online and in Cynthia Rowley stores around the country — in cities such as New York and Los Angeles — as well as in upscale department stores and specialty boutiques in cities around the world. 

However, with the fashion designer's daughter becoming famous on The Bachelor, our interest is piqued. So, just who is Cynthia Rowley? Follow along as we share the untold truth of this fashion icon.

Cynthia Rowley comes from an artsy family

Cynthia Rowley was born on July 29, 1958 in Barrington, Illinois, where she was raised by her science teacher dad, Ed Rowley, and her artist mom, Clementine Rowley (via IMDb). In fact, everyone on Cynthia's mother's side seemed to have the arts in their genes. "My mom's whole side of the family were painters," Cynthia shared with The New York Times, explaining that her grandmother painted self-portraits, some of which now decorate the walls of Cynthia's West Village, New York townhouse that she shares with her husband, art dealer Bill Powers. "[My grandmother] always wore Chinese dresses like that, even though she was 100 percent Italian. It was a very eccentric upbringing, with theme rooms and stuff."

While her upbringing may have been a bit "eccentric," Cynthia has quite fond memories. "[It was an] idyllic childhood," she told Splash. "Everything was dreamy." It makes sense that Cynthia was surrounded by the arts as a child — especially since the budding fashion designer was only 7 years old when she sewed her first dress, as noted by the Chicago Tribune. Now that's pretty impressive!

Cynthia Rowley originally planned to become a painter instead of a designer

Despite the fact that Cynthia Rowley had made her first piece of clothing when she was only 7 years old, she admitted to Forbes that painting was her first love. To that end, after high school, Rowley enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she studied painting. However, life had a different plan for her. "All I ever wanted to do was make things. My whole life has been a constant evolution on that theme," Rowley told USA Today.

A chance encounter with a department store buyer on a train while she was in college was the moment when Rowley's future path became clear (via the Chicago Tribune). The buyer loved her jacket and asked to schedule a meeting with her. The next thing Rowley knew, the buyer had just ordered her first pieces! From there, it was full speed ahead.

A young Cynthia Rowley once approached this legendary artist

Cynthia Rowley won a fellowship award during her senior year of art school — after getting kicked out of her junior year art show, no less. However, instead of using the money to take an internship abroad in Italy after graduation, she decided to rent a U-Haul and move to New York to begin selling her collection (via the Chicago Tribune).

Rowley began hosting fashion shows in her loft, and shared with The Cut that her optimistic (but naïve) younger self would invite all the big names. One day, she spotted renowned artist Andy Warhol in a coffee shop and decided to make her move. "I walked up to his table and I was like, 'Excuse me. I'm a fashion designer and I'm having a show and I wanted to invite you,'" she revealed. "I handed him the invitation. He looked up and he didn't take it out of my hand. So I just neatly and carefully set it on the table next to his coffee and he said, 'Thanks.' And then I ran away." She later told everyone that Warhol was "definitely coming." You go, Girl!

Cynthia Rowley is just as business savvy as she is talented

In 1988, Cynthia Rowley established her first collection, but it wasn't until 1995 that she experienced her first real taste of success after winning a fashion award for young designers. "At the time, it was a pretty big deal," she explained in an interview with Splash. "Being recognized by your peers, that was a turning point."

Rowley's clothing line became known for its "whimsical" feel: think bright colors and fun prints. But Rowley was not only a talented creator — she was also a smart businesswoman, who decided that licensing was the way to go.

Rowley attributes part of her success to her ability to think outside the box and to constantly be innovating to adjust to the times. "The only way to get ahead of the noise is to be completely original in as many ways as you can," she continued. "You have to constantly be re-inventing, reimagining, rethinking, evolving and growing. Whatever you're doing now you should be doing more or different the next day, and always trying to forge ahead."

Cynthia Rowley's love of adventure influences her work

Cynthia Rowley's fashion line has evolved over the years into a global brand that represents her sense of adventure. "I wanted to extend the brand into different categories to become a more holistic lifestyle brand," she shared with Splash. "That was a game changer."

The Cynthia Rowley brand has expanded since the '80s and '90s to include more than just clothing; it now has handbags, jewelry, fragrance, and activewear, to name a few. Then, in 2010, Rowley added a wetsuit line — a nod to her love of adventure and water sports — to her ever-expanding collection. This served as a sort of precursor to her activewear line, which she described to Splash as "a high-performance fitness collection" which "starts with the technology of the fabrics. We're thinking about function first and design afterward."

It's clear that anything that Rowley attaches her name to reflects her personality, her story, her brand — and when she describes herself as a "daredevil," she means it. "I've tried to explore extreme travel and adventure — scuba-diving in an arctic glacier and camping in the Himalayas," she told USA Today.

Bachelor star Kit Keenan's dad is not Cynthia Rowley's first or current husband

While Cynthia Rowley's professional life became a clear success, her personal life has not always followed such a linear path.

According to The Sun, Rowley's first husband, Tom Sullivan, passed away tragically from brain cancer at only 32 years old in 1994. Kit's father, William Keenan Jr., a sculptor and interior designer, was Rowley's second husband; Rowley gave birth to Kit in 1999. Following Rowley's divorce from Keenan, she married freelance journalist-turned-art gallery owner Bill Powers in 2005, as noted by The New York Times. That same year, Rowley gave birth to daughter, Gigi Powers, who is Kit's half-sister (via the Daily Mail).

In 2011, The Glow featured Rowley and her daughters in a gorgeous spread showcasing Rowley and Powers' New York home. What a beautiful family! From the looks of it, the designer leads quite the full life between motherhood and being the face behind her global lifestyle brand.

It's all work and little play for Cynthia Rowley

Cynthia Rowley is one hard-working woman. She starts her day in a "hit the ground running kind of shot-out-of-a-cannon style," as she shared with USA Today, making sure to drop her daughter off at school, get a quick workout in, walk the dog, and have one cup of "extra strong coffee." She works long days until 7 or 8 p.m., and sounding like a true creative, describes her work day as "a bombardment of stimulation... really hectic, but exciting." Additionally, "I've never felt like I was stuck at work," she revealed. "I'm excited to get things done." Okay, we're officially jealous!

That sense of excitement is probably why Rowley is such a risk-taker. A favorite quote of hers from one of her idols, Andy Warhol, is this: "Say yes to everything. If you say no, that's the end of the story. If you say yes, you never know what could happen."

So, what would Rowley tell newbie who'd like to follow in her footsteps? "Be thankful for all successes, lose your ego, take risks, fail fast, and if you don't absolutely love what you do, run," she added.

Cynthia Rowley and her family are quite the jetsetters

Though Cynthia Rowley spends the most time in New York City, where she lives with her husband, Bill Powers, and daughters Kit Keenan and Gigi Powers, she loves to get away. From Paris and Egypt to West Africa and Puerto Rico, she's taken her family all over the world (via PopSugar).

Where else might the family head next? Korea or Japan, where Rowley has several stores, if Kit has it her way. "We might be doing some work there, so hopefully we'll have a good excuse," Rowley said.

Yet, the family's favorite summer tradition is surfing along the shores of Montauk, New York. "As a family, we all four go out. It's so much fun, and our friends are all out in the water," Rowley continued. "You're not in control. Mother Nature's in control. And that's a nice feeling." One question: Can they pack us in their suitcase?

Cynthia Rowley has appeared on television and has authored several books

In addition to Cynthia Rowley's global fashion and lifestyle brand, she's made a number of television appearances as herself on shows such as Project Runway, America's Next Top Model, and Gossip Girl (via Life & Style). She's also an author, having published several books as part of her lifestyle brand: Slim: A Fantasy Memoir, Swell: A Girl's Guide to the Good Life, Home Swell Home, The Swell Dressed Party, and Swell Holiday: Turning Up the Twinkle.

It's hardly surprising, then, to learn that Rowley has amassed an estimated $100 million fortune (via Celebrity Net Worth). Not too shabby! Yet, Rowley isn't someone who's had everything handed to her; she's someone who's worked extremely hard and is grateful for everything she has. As she shared with Forbes, "Expect to work really hard. Be original, adamant, adventurous, resilient, and most of all grateful."

Cynthia Rowley also has a home design collection

Cynthia Rowley doesn't only believe in looking good — she also believes that one's personal space should be a reflection of their personality. So it seems fitting that the fashion icon has launched a home collection as well. Here you can find everything from candles and throws to colorful ombre glasses and fun, decorative placemats and dinner napkins — everything you'd need to host the ultimate dinner party.

Along with this, Rowley has even gotten in on the wallpaper trend, which if you weren't aware, has been back in style for a while now. According to Architectural Digest, Rowley has launched a collection of self-adhesive, removable wallpaper with Tempaper that's the perfect addition to her "chic, bohemian" brand. A variety of options are available for those who are interested, everything from bright and subtle florals to funky patterns and animal prints. Okay, we're officially drooling.

Cynthia Rowley dabbles in real estate investing

Cynthia Rowley has not only made her mark on the fashion and interior design world; she also loves real estate — especially New York real estate — which she surely fell in love with when she first moved to the city after college. In 2016, as noted by The Observer, Rowley purchased her fourth property in the West Village neighborhood (via Curbed). The three-story property on Bleeker Street, originally built in 1901, cost the designer a cool $8.9 million. Rowley's intention was to use the building's first floor for her company and rent out the other floors after completing a major renovation.

Rowley's other properties have included the townhouse on Perry Street that she and her family have called home since 2004, a three-story property that she uses for her offices, and a studio also located in West Village. We wonder what the studio is for... maybe her impressive shoe collection? A girl can dream, right?

Cynthia Rowley sold her former New York City townhouse in 2019 for $14 million

Cynthia Rowley sure does love investing in real estate. In 2019, she sold her 6,000-square-foot townhouse on Morton Street in New York's West Village for $14 million, after originally listing it for $17.5 million in 2018, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. Even though she sold the property for much less than originally listed, Rowley still made quite a profit on the place — since she originally purchased the historic space for nearly $11 million in 2014.

Rowley had been using the space — complete with large skylights and an open-concept glass loft area that overlooked the showroom — for her company's headquarters, while continuing to live in a nearby townhouse. Listing agent David Graff referred to the architectural space as "very Instagrammable." What we wouldn't do to take a #nofilter selfie in that building!

According to the Wall Street Journal, the new owner planned to use the space for the buyer's extensive luxury car collection. Well, of course.

Cynthia Rowley and her oldest daughter, Kit Keenan, are super close

It's clear that Cynthia Rowley and her daughter, Kit Keenan, have a pretty close relationship. In 2011, Rowley told The Glow just how much she loves motherhood. "When my first daughter, Kit, was a baby everyone kept telling me to cherish every moment because it goes by so fast and, although it is a bit of a cliché, it is so true and I believe it more and more every day," she gushed.

The mother-daughter pair travel together frequently, and they let PopSugar in on a few details of their close mother-daughter bond. When asked the question, "What's one thing you can't travel without?" Keenan's fashion icon mother replied, "Can I say each other?" To which her daughter quipped, "OMG you're so corny." Aww, that is too cute.

It's clear that Keenan looks up to her mother, as she told The Glow in 2011, "My mom is my favorite designer," while her mother told the publication, "Luckily, we all really enjoy the same types of activities that we can do together as a family." And one of those things happens to be night swims. So much fun!

Cynthia Rowley and her daughter, Kit Keenan, have a podcast together

Since Cynthia Rowley, a world-renowned fashion designer, and her oldest daughter, Kit Keenan, love spending time together, why shouldn't they start their own podcast?

And, so, they did. As shared with Forbes, Rowley and Keenan started their Apple podcast, Ageless, as a platform for the mother-daughter duo to share their thoughts on everything lifestyle and beauty, digging deep to show their perspectives as well as highlight their close relationship. The age gap between Rowley and Keenan helps them to resonate with women of all ages as they explore some of the challenges that women in fashion — and in all aspects of life — face.

Additionally, the podcast helps to highlight each of their individual personalities, along with their relationship as mother and daughter. Rowley has shared, among other things, how important it is to have a strong support system, while her daughter shared how important it is to know yourself and to find happiness outside of your work. Ain't that the truth!