New York City fashion icon and designer Cynthia Rowley, a Barrington High School alum, brought the beach to Barrington on June 2.
The Thursday evening event, titled “Beach Soirée: Cynthia Rowley Brings the Beach To Barrington,” was a fundraiser for and at Barrington’s White House.
Village President Karen Darch calls Rowley “one of Barrington’s own.
“We’re really thankful to Cynthia for coming back and doing this,” Darch said.
“The White House is just such a special place, it’s our community and cultural center. It encapsulates the history of Barrington as a building that stood the test of time, and it represents people’s desire for the uplifting things in life,” Darch said.
Rowley’s designs were featured in a pop-up shop and boutique inside the historic local venue.
Approximately 120 people attended the fundraiser, said Beth Raseman, Barrington’s White House manager.
“This is really a kick off to the community to publicize the capital reserve fund,” Raseman said.
“We have a goal to raise $2.5 million to create a long term fund to care for the house, and we’ve already raised $1.7 million. So we’re really just letting people know that we want to try to get money to support that effort.”
Lobster sandwiches were served outdoors at the soiree as attendees mingled – some wearing bright designs by Rowley.
After two years of COVID-19, the use of color has brightened people’s lives, Rowley said.
“Color is dopamine,” the fashion designer said. “People are loving getting dressed up. … I think people are really happy to be able to have color, and shine and have fun with their clothes and really kind of feel like a joyous celebration of life now. It’s very gratifying.”
The Hamptons-inspired party was held in Rowley’s honor with a portion of sales proceeds benefiting Barrington’s White House.
Rowley attended Barrington schools, including Hough Street Elementary School, before leaving the northwest suburb at age 18.
“I went to every school in this town,” said Rowley, who said she returns often, including at Christmas time, to spend time with family.
“I love everything about Barrington, nothing has changed,” Rowley said. “I love this small town community.
Rowley went to New York City with $3,000 to start a fashion career and has gone on to create a lifestyle brand of ready-to-wear, swim and surf, and fitness fashions, as well as accessories, home decor and a men’s collection.
She has shops in such cities as New York, Malibu, Palm Beach, Aspen and Chicago.
Dave Nelson of Barrington has known Rowley for years.
“She is a local celebrity,” Nelson said.
Rasemen described Barrington’s White House as a local icon. She explained that it was originally built in 1898 and “it’s really been a centerpiece of the town.”
“When we restored it in 2015, we just wanted to make sure that it was always cared for the way that it was restored and we get over 10,000 people a year here for cultural events, community events, nonprofit and private and it’s great to have something special and historic and unique to our town,” Raseman said.
Bette Bilton, of Barrington Hills, shopped at Rowley’s boutique.
“I love it because it’s funky and fun,” Bilton said of Rowley’s ready-to-wear line.
Kelly Speichinger, of Barrington, a 2020 Barrington High School graduate, wore a Cynthia Rowley dress to the fundraiser event.
“I actually wore this (dress) to my prom … when I was a junior,” she said. “I graduated in 2020, COVID canceled my prom, but otherwise, I probably would have bought another Cynthia for prom because I just love her work,” Speichinger said.
Renata Sanfilippo, of Barrington Hills, wore looks by Cynthia Rowley, arriving in a purple swing skirt, chunky lavender high heels, rows of pastel bows on her shirt, long golden gloves and carrying a metallic clutch.
Sanfilippo said people need color in their lives.
“Yes, we do,” Sanfilippo said. “Even during the pandemic, I was dressing up at home. … Colors can definitely cheer us up.”
Raseman said she was grateful for Rowley visiting, “this being her hometown, and helping us with our efforts.”
Karie Angell Luc is a freelancer.