Cynthia Rowley sold her first collection while still a student at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Although Rowley launched her clothing line in the early 1980s, she did not attract much attention for over a decade, until she received the Perry Ellis Award for New Fashion Talent in 1994 from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Rowley's clothes are often whimsical and flirty, and she is known for her party dresses. Rowley expanded into menswear in 1997. She has opened boutiques around the United States and the Orient. Rowley is designing the uniforms for all United Airlines employees, which will debut in 2011. She has served as a guest judge on the TV shows Project Runway and Design Star and has authored several books.