This conversation between husband and wife Bill Powers and Cynthia Rowley was moderated by yours truly for Interview
This fall, designer Cynthia Rowley launched Mr. Powers, a menswear line inspired by Bill Powers: owner of Half Gallery, judge on Bravo's Work of Art, and her husband. Set to debut around the same time that the second season began in October, this new waist-up only collection of blazers and jackets has been modeled by none other than Mr. Powers every week on Work of Art, which will air its final episode at the end of this month. Interview moderated a conversation between the Rowley and Powers to find out more about the impetus for the project, art vs. fashion, and what it's like for the couple to work as a couple.
YASHA WALLIN: How did the idea of the menswear line Mr. Powers come about?
CYNTHIA ROWLEY: I guess it was sort of by popular demand. Last year when Bill was on Work of Art he was wearing all this stuff that we had made and everybody kept asking about it. We decided we should go full speed ahead with menswear. So, this year, as the show was taping—we actually planned ahead and figured out that he should wear certain things available in the store and online, so when you're watching the show you can actually buy what he's wearing.
BILL POWERS: You used to make more men's stuff, and you were nominated for a CFDA award [for it]. Then when we started dating, I started to discourage you from making a lot more men's clothes because I'd be wearing something and...
ROWLEY: ...three other people would be wearing the same thing. POWERS: We'd go to something and Alan Cumming would have the same jacket on, which is fine but...
ROWLEY: He's wearing it without a shirt.
POWERS: Anyway, why are we doing [Mr. Powers] only "from the waist up?" At one point, you were going to call it "From the Waist Up," right?
ROWLEY: Right. I just think that no guy buys an entire outfit, and no guy says, "I'm going to buy these bottoms and this top." You know, guys don't shop like that. They buy a shirt they like; they buy a T-shirt they like; they might buy a sweater or a jacket, but they never buy a "look." And guys always wear jeans, which I think looks best anyways.
POWERS: There's a pink jacket in the Mr. Powers collection—do you think that could be harder for a guy to pull off?
ROWLEY: The whole point is that colors that are harder to wear, less expected, or maybe not as commercial; if they're used in the right way, they can make a design way more compelling, especially in menswear where color isn't often used. I think it's really exciting to have a lot of color in men's stuff.
POWERS: I always liked the Glenn O'Brien line, "I used to be in fashion, but then I made bail." Do you ever feel like that? Or are you still in a holding area?
ROWLEY: I feel like maybe I'm just on parole? Good behavior maybe? Maybe bad behavior is better?
WALLIN: Bill, how has your style changed since the two of you have been together?
POWERS: Not that much. I have to wear glasses now, which I didn't 10 years ago. I always like to be able to wake up in the morning and know that what I'm wearing can flow through the day to where I'm going and where I'll end up. Most guys have a default uniform, and so as you get older you kind of figure out what your version of a uniform is, and I think for guys—at least for me—it's wanting to find something that I can wear until it disintegrates. I try to find those pieces... it's usually a jacket I wear with a t-shirt or a dress shirt. I have this jacket that you made that I like to wear that when you open it up it's kind of singed from that go-kart accident. It's cool that it has a secret history and like a sympathetic magic to it, it has a little of the real world in it.
ROWLEY: I always think clothing is like a scrapbook: you remember all the good memories and the past times. I know the jacket you're talking about: we have a friend in the Dominican Republic that says "I'll never forget the first time I laid eyes on Bill; he was walking down the beach wearing a swimsuit and a sport jacket and nothing else!" It's that jacket.
POWERS: I had a shirt underneath!
ROWLEY: No you didn't!
POWERS: Yes I did!