Cynthia Rowley mixes ballet dancers, colorful fashion and Dr. Seuss inspirations for L.A. show
New York-based fashion designer Cynthia Rowley heeded the uplifting message from Dr. Seuss’ children’s book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” and traveled to downtown Los Angeles for a one-of-a-kind experience that combined fashion, dance, shopping and art.
“Doesn’t everyone love Dr. Seuss?” Rowley asked Wednesday night as a crowd of about 300 people started trickling into a downtown warehouse that had been converted into a creative compound at Melet Mercantile. The space included a vintage store selling clothing and movie memorabilia.
As proof of her fondness for the author’s colorful aesthetics, the designer drew inspiration from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” to create $225 pastel sweatshirts printed with big white clouds; $85 striped bucket hats; $105 floral pins with Technicolor-style petals; and $225 black silk scarves that billow to reveal green balloons. These items are exclusively available at her pop-up shop at Melet, along with $595 silk floral dresses and other pieces from Rowley’s fall and winter 2019 collection.
Melet also set up a gallery selling Dr. Seuss’ artwork, including a $10,000 hand-painted resin sculpture of a green-lidded deer with real antlers. “It’s all never-seen-before art,” said Melet Mercantile founder Bob Melet.
For her runway show, Rowley couldn’t have picked a better crew than the dancers from the Los Angeles-based American Contemporary Ballet to model her clothes. After the DJ switched from boogie-licious beats by Sofi Tukker and Prince to classical music, ballerinas strutted in high heels and easy-breezy styles from Rowley’s spring and summer 2020 collection, which had premiered last month at New York Fashion Week.
With one dancer wearing a purple maxi dress and another dressed in a slouchy suit that appeared pixelated with shimmering paillettes, the duo did leg holds while hugging each other. Another dancer, donning a silver metallic dress from the current fall collection, led a trio down the runway en pointe.
One after one, they exemplified grace and playfulness in Rowley’s designs, prompting one guest standing at the end of the long black platform to ask a friend, “Why isn’t every fashion show like this?” Five dancers in sunglasses, ombre wetsuits and ballet shoes closed the show by tiptoeing backwards in formation.
“These women are amazing, beautiful athletes,” said Rowley, who herself is an avid surfer. The animated way they move reminded her of the illustrations by Theodor Seuss Geisel. “There’s, like, a whimsy to Dr. Seuss that I feel dance sort of has — like a freedom,” she said. “When you look at his art, it’s total freedom. And so to see [the dancers] just kind of having that expressive moment, it feels like the spirit of Dr. Seuss.”
Open through Sunday, the pop-up shop is the first fashion collaboration that Melet Mercantile is hosting in its 32,000-square-foot West Coast outpost, which launched in downtown L.A. in late September. This past summer, it collaborated with Gucci at its Montauk, N.Y., location. “There’s a new energy here,” said Melet, who’s joined the exodus of New Yorkers migrating to Los Angeles.
With Southern California stores in Newport Beach, Pacific Palisades and Malibu, downtown L.A. “is kind of like the heart” of the city, Rowley said. “I love it here.”