Tuesday, August 4, 2009

NEW YORK — Cynthia Rowley, the mother of two, says she had on-the-job training for her newest gig, designing a new line of infant and toddler clothes and gear. Too bad her own daughters are now too old to wear any of it.

“I can try to squeeze Gigi into some of it — maybe the largest size. She’s 4, the other is a 10-year-old, so that’s not going to happen,” Ms. Rowley said with a laugh.

Consider it more rompers, cardigans and smock tops for the real babies out there.

Ms. Rowley begins selling the Hooray-label collection exclusively at Babies “R” Us on Wednesday. Products, intended for newborns through 4-year-olds, will be available in 150 select stores and have their own miniboutique on the retailer’s Web site. The focus is on apparel, diaper bags, bibs and blankets first, with plans to expand into room decor.

“I couldn’t have done this if I weren’t a mother,” she says. “We’re trying to address that practical side that parents know. There’s a whole lifestyle that goes along with experiencing it.”

From the Babies “R” Us perspective, it’s Ms. Rowley’s experience as a formidable designer with a celebratory touch that made her an attractive partner, says Maureen Watson, chief merchandising officer. Ms. Watson loves Ms. Rowley’s use of color, beyond the delicate pink and light blue that are so often used for infant items.

“I would describe her collection as on trend, not trendy. It’s fashion-aware, but everything is a nod to the classics, with a little twist to make it exciting.”

Ms. Rowley did borrow a few looks from her women’s wear collection, including painterly prints and bows and even a bubble-hem skirt. One of her favorite items is a tuxedo-style bib, adapted from a T-shirt a few seasons ago.

Her girls, though, like the beret with a gold embroidered pin. “They’re pretty tuned in from being around fashion all the time,” Ms. Rowley says. “Kids are younger and younger when they form their identity and their idea about style… . It’s fun to have my own focus group.”

The label Hooray is intended as a celebration of children and childhood, she adds. “It’s all ‘Hip, hip, hooray!’ when you have kids. That should be in your daily vocabulary.”

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