I just want people to be able to look at something and say "Oh, that's a Cynthia J. design."
She’s had a passion for fashion since she was small, making clothes for her paper dolls and later for her friends. Later she became a sample maker for Joyce Sportswear, a major manufacturing company of the 1970s. Today she is creating fabulous clothing for women from all walks of life. Cynthia J Design’s.
Cynthia J Design’s aesthetic is simple, classic, comfortable and chic. High-end quality fabrics, workmanship and one on one customer service are what she’s known for. Cynthia also has a passion for giving back by putting together charity fashion shows for community charities. She loves going to work every day to her dream job.
Could you tell me briefly about your beginning in the Fashion industry and what inspired you?
I started out as a young girl, like most young girls, cutting out paper dolls in the newspaper and magazine at about 7 or 8 years old. As I grew, I began to make things with needle and thread, not even a sowing machine. And then, when I was 13, I got a sowing machine for a birthday gift and I began to make clothes for my girlfriends in high school and myself. It kind of just intrigued me how you could put pieces of fabrics together and come up with a garment that somebody else would really like to wear so much. Later on, at 17, my first job was as an intern at a living manufacturing company in Indiana, I started out at the towel sowing machine as a seamstress and was later promoted to the sample department where I actually made samples for people who came from across the country to purchase our garments. It just went on from there, my degree is in business management and I didn’t really have any formal training in design or fashion; I am basically self-taught. I learned a lot from the manufacturing company that I worked for because they would bring us pictures and bunch of pieces or pieces of patterns and we had to put them together to make it look like the picture, so that really helped me in learning how to construct a garment. And later I just decided to do my own business, In 1999 I opened up a shop and I’ve been in business ever since.
At what moment did you come to understand that the fashion business was your path in life?
I think I always knew, I guess the moment that I really realized that it was my thing, was when I saw the faces of my clients when they picked their garments and how they just loved them. they would call back telling me about all the compliments they got and everybody wants to know where they got it. I started getting calls from other clients, who had seen them in my garments and wanting to have their garments custom made as well. Just seeing the looks on the faces of the women when they put my garment on and how it just seemed to change them; that really inspired me and I knew that this was what I was meant to do.
What kind of clothing are the bestsellers in your shops?
I guess my pencil skirts are really a big seller, I do signature trench coats, those are great sellers too. I even do some custom hats in the fall/winter season, which sell well through that season. And my wide leg slacks, they really love those; I do a lot of tunic tops that people really love because they are comfortable and you can dress them up or down. I also do basic jumpsuits that people like. I got to say that my garments are just on trend, so that means you can wear them from season to season, year to year and they’ll still be in style because they are just classic designs.
What are your creative business plans for the nearest future?
I would love to have other custom design studios like mine, where people can go and have things custom made. My clients always come back and tell me that they have the hardest time finding what they like on the rack, and once they come to me, they never even go into stores to shop anymore. They just need to come pick up a fabric and the design and they know it’s going to fit them perfectly and they know nobody is going to have that particular garment on. I would like to have a chain of custom design studios where we could get that one on one customer service and clients to leave happy and satisfied with their garments.
What are you going to showcase at the Black Fashion Week USA?
I’m going to do multiple things, I’m just going to try to let people see what Cynthia J. is all about and show some simple and complex designs. I just want people to be able to look at something and say “Oh, that’s a Cynthia J. design.”
What do you expect from the Black Fashion Week USA? How does it help designers to develop their business?
I always expect to pick up new clients. I’m in the process of really branding Cynthia J. designs, so I really want it to be a household name where if anybody sees something or hear my name, they are going to be like “Oh yeah, I know her and her designs are fabulous.” I’m really hoping that this will just take my business to another level because I don’t advertise at all, all my clients are “we’ve heard clients,” you know, word of mouth. To me, that’s a really good way to get clients because if someone has already been to me and other people see something that they like, they come to me wanting something similar or something in that particular style. We are looking to network, meet other designers, talk to them and be able to relate because we are all in the same business basically and meeting new people. As for how it helps to develop businesses, the exposure is phenomenal and I really take my hat off to Melanie Boykin, she’s awesome, this idea’s just genius because it is really hard in the fashion industry as it is for people to call us. It’s just going to open a lot of doors that otherwise would have taken a long way to open or maybe would have never been opened at all, had it not been for this event.
Do you know about the trend “Black 4 Black” or “Buy Black” which calls people to support black owned and developed businesses? Do you feel like you are a part of this trend?
Yes, I do.
What would be your advice to designers who are just starting up?
My advice would be to make sure that this is your passion. I’ve found that when you are passionate about something, you don’t give up till you get to where you want to get. I have been doing this for a long long time, I just had my 53rd birthday and I’ve been doing this since I was 17. So, it’s never too late for your dream to come true if you work hard at it. My advice would be to make sure it’s something you are passionate about because there would be ups and downs; if you stay focused and true to yourself, you can succeed and I am a living witness to that.
How do you think Black Fashion influences American Fashion?
I think it’s in the aspect that people see that we are really that different, we really are. We like beautiful clothing and lovely fabrics. We do have something that can be taken notice of; we have wonderful designs of all colors but we have something to contribute to the fashion world as well. So, with Black Fashion Week, I think it actually showcases that there are so many talented African-American designers and some of them probably would never get the chance to do what we are doing, so I think we are kind of like, forging a new territory that hopefully will open up for other designers to not be afraid to take on the fashion industry because we do have a lot of vital contributions to make to the fashion industry and I think this really helps to showcase that fact.