Why Cynthia Rowley Went To SAIC

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Cynthia Rowley is not afraid of mixing art and fashion. In fact, she embraces it—as an alum of the School of the Art Institute, she has been trained in both design and visual arts, and it shows. Rowley has collaborated with SAIC designer/artist Nick Cave, painter Will Cotton and installation/video artist Olaf Breuning—and of course with her husband, gallery-owner Bill Powers, with whom she shared the 2012 SAIC Legend of Fashion Award.
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We talked with Rowley about her time at SAIC and what makes the school unique.
Why did you decide to go to school at SAIC, rather than in New York City?
"I had been a painting major for two years at another school, and I wasn't sure if fashion design would be my cup of tea. I wanted a school that was known for fine art."
When did you make the transition to fashion design?
"I have sewn all my life since I was seven years old. By my third year in art school, I fully committed to combining my hobby of sewing with my training in fine art. I also thought it would be easier to make a living as a designer than an artist. Ha!"
What was in style in Chicago when you were a student at SAIC?
"The rest of the world was irrelevant. It was kind of a vacuum. We were just making whatever we thought was artistic and cool. Looking back now, things were definitely over the top. I was going through a phase where I put little puffy quilted wings on everything!"
What makes SAIC fashion students stand out?
"What I loved most about seeing the work of the students is that it's completely original and of total independent thought. They're not influenced by what other designers are showing on the runway."
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Photographed by Francis Son for Chicago Social Magazine
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