The Tastemaker - Cynthia O'Connor

Kooba 'Ryder' Tote O'Connor's showroom served as a launchpad for several of-the-moment handbag brands, including Kooba's line of glam carryalls. $595 at Neiman Marcus stores.
Kooba 'Ryder' Tote O'Connor's showroom served as a launchpad for several of-the-moment handbag brands, including Kooba's line of glam carryalls. $595 at Neiman Marcus stores.
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Sunday, December 14, 2008

CYNTHIA O'CONNOR: SHOWCASING STYLE

Cynthia O'Connor's career in fashion got off to a rocky start. She began as a couture buyer in her native Dallas, then made her way to New York, where she was hired by Bergdorf Goodman -- and then fired the same day. So O'Connor, now 50, struck out on her own. She started building a fashion and accessories showroom, one small designer at a time. Soon she was pulling in such names as Botkier, Kooba, Rebecca Minkoff and Me & Ro, and opening a second showroom in Los Angeles. These days, she resides with her husband and teenage daughter in McLean, commuting to New York at least once a week.

A key to her success? Her ability to assess a designer's style and brand, and immediately make a judgment call. Three months after launching her New York showroom, O'Connor signed on the then-fledgling brand Kate Spade after meeting the designer at a trade show. "A lot of people had seen Kate Spade and didn't like it, and a lot of people had seen Julie Haus and didn't like it," O'Connor says. "I've always found brands by the people: I interview them, and if I think they're talented, I take them in. You just have to pull the talent out of the people -- that's what I think I'm best at."

-- Holly E. Thomas

Here are a few of O'Connor's favorite things:

Kooba 'Ryder' Tote

O'Connor's showroom served as a launchpad for several of-the-moment handbag brands, including Kooba's line of glam carryalls. $595 at Neiman Marcus stores.

Williams-Sonoma Sprinkles

Cupcake Mixes

An avid baker, O'Connor snags these mixes to give as gifts. "These remind me of Magnolia Bakery in New York City," O'Connor says. "They're so easy to make, and when you make them for dinner parties, people think you've baked all day." $14 at Williams-Sonoma stores and http://www.williams-sonoma.com.

Moschino


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