How did you decide to design
ofce supplies for Staples?
A lot of my friends work from home.
I asked Staples what their top-selling
items were, and they said boxes of
copy paper. If you’re working from
home, the box is sitting out, and you
see it all the time. I said, “Let me
design the box. I’ll make it beautiful.”
If you give women the option to buy
a beautiful box, they will. We outsold
the Star Wars design.
What efect has e-commerce
had on people in your industry?
It’s so liberating. All the flters are
being removed. It’s so much easier to
put your work out there and create
an audience on your own terms. You
can be so much more creative in every
part of your business because of it.
What advice do you have for
entrepreneurs who are
fummoxed by social media?
It’s not just putting your stuf out
there. It’s also seeing what other
people are thinking about and doing,
and creating that conversation. You
need to make content that’s timely and
relevant and personal. That’s really key
to driving sales through e-commerce.
How do you create that
personal content? How
personal is too personal?
We’re not doing social media so I can
get a seat in a restaurant. We’re doing
it to drive trafc to our site and sell
product. What we make is completely
in sync with the lifestyle I’m leading.
Even though I say this content is
personal, it’s not really about me the
person. It’s more about the brand
created by me, which now has a life
of its own. You’ll never see a selfe of
me in the mirror, wearing a bathrobe
with a towel on my head.
Why did you launch Pretty
Penny, which invests in startups
founded by your employees?
I’ve always wanted to do things
outside of fashion. And starting a
company is not that hard. You can just
start small and build something. And
if someone has an idea that really has
cultural relevance, then I want to help.
It’s more about collaboration, and less
about me mentoring new entrepreneurs. It’s not like I know everything.
Though her name is synonymous
with fashion design, her work now
ranges from developing ofce supplies
to supporting new entrepreneurs
By KIMBERLY WEISUL Photograph by TAWNI BANNIS TER
In recent years,
Cynthia Rowley has
branched out to
product design and
“I’m most proud of
being just a tiny bit
ahead of the curve on
things,” she says.
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