“He was like one of those creepy guys,” Cynthia says, laughing. “But he asked for my number, and I gave it to him.”
They fell in love, married, and launched Cynthia Gale New York, a line of handcrafted sterling silver jewelry. Now, nearly 35 years after that first collision, they’re back at FIT. The couple recently traded their 2,500-square-foot showroom for a spot in FIT’s Design Entrepreneurs Collaborative, run by the FIT Design Entrepreneurs program to give emerging—or, as Cynthia puts it, “transitioning”— designers shared studio and showroom space at undermarket prices.
Christine Helm, who coordinates FIT Design Entrepreneurs, says of the collaborative, “It’s a collegial environment where designers can share resources and help each other cope with the ever-evolving world of fashion.”
“Our whole business is changing,” says Glenn, who is in charge of production and finance. (Cynthia handles design and sales.) “We’re not doing trade shows, and we don’t have reps anymore—we’re all online.”
It’s a far cry from the brand’s early days, in the early 1990s, when Cynthia would borrow her dad’s car and drive to boutiques to sell silver jewelry purchased in Indonesia. “I had gone to Jakarta for the first time for a modeling job, and I just remember getting off the plane and going, ‘Wow! Wow!’”
In 1995, Cynthia started developing her own New York City–inspired designs, using centuries-old silversmithing techniques, such as repoussé, in which parts of the metal are raised in relief by using a series of hammers and punches. “It gives the metal a tactile depth and a timeless quality,” she says.
A big part of their business is producing custom merchandise for museums like the Barnes Foundation, stores like Barnes & Noble, and even the Grateful Dead, for whom the jeweler produces high-end versions of the band’s iconic Steal Your Face and Dancing Bears motifs. Some fans have even commissioned her to design their funerary urns.
By moving the brand online and by taking advantage of FIT’s resources, Cynthia Gale New York hopes to expand its signature line.
“I’m doing more socially relevant jewelry and introducing individual pieces as opposed to very large collections,” Cynthia says. “People are buying differently now—they’re buying online, buying pieces that mean something to them.”
Image: The Gales at FIT circa 1984 (top of page) and at the Design Entrepreneurs Collaborative in 2019.