One might say, the Cynthia L. boutique is where “ugly duckling” fashions go to be transformed into beautiful swans.
That’s because Cynthia Webb, the boutique’s owner, is fast developing a reputation for being one of the most talented “fashion innovators” on the peninsula.
Webb, just recently moved her flagship store from Menlo Park to Redwood City and opened for business on March 23. She's known for taking drab, lifeless clothing, fashion accessories, home décor and furniture and breathing new life into them.
In a nutshell, Webb can take virtually any item, break it down into its most basic elements, and rebuild and redesign it into something new, unique and hip.
In her capable hands, the “old” becomes “vintage,” and the uninteresting becomes on-trend and fabulous.
“My motto is, ‘anything old is new again,’” says Webb.
‘Recycled’ and ‘reloved’
The two Cynthia L. lines Webb is most widely known and loved for are her vintage slip dresses and recycled cashmere pieces.
Webb has a collection of original Vanity Fair full-length slips that she has transformed into dyed slip dresses.
“These are a stand-out for any fashionable woman,” says Webb. “These sleek and elegant dresses have been adorned with beautiful ornamentation and dyed in luscious subtle pastels. We have taken an artistic approach to layering each slip dress with the natural shades of spring and summer.”
Her “recycled cashmere” fashions are truly unique. Webb said she buys up old cashmere items from second-hand stores or collects them from donations, and cuts them apart, taking the pieces and sewing them into new fashions. Examples throughout the store include fingerless cashmere gloves, sweaters and cardigans, and vests.
Going against usual practice, Webb said she even puts the pieces of cashmere through the washer and dryer to recondition them and make them even softer than usual.
“When you throw them through the washer and dryer, they come out like a puffy cloud – so soft,” she said.
Similarly, Webb offers her design services to customers. Just bring in old items that you aren’t happy with anymore, and for a fee, Webb will take them apart and recreate them as new fashions for you.
Recently, she said, one customer brought in seven old cashmere sweaters she didn’t like anymore, and Webb designed them into three new, more fashionable pieces for her. Webb said the customer was delighted with the results.
Other pieces throughout the store include pillows, jewelry, and accessories like shoes and purses. Some were designed by other artists, some were pieced together from odds and ends Webb has found and then put together to create something new out of.
Even the furniture around the boutique is recycled, improved and “reloved.” Webb loves to tell the story of where her checkout counter came from – she was driving down the street one day in her hometown of San Mateo and saw a broken-down bathroom vanity lying by the side of the road for dump day. She immediately called her husband, and told him to get his truck and go pick it up for her.
Though the vanity was completely trashed and in pieces when she found it, she and her husband glued it back together, gave it a few fresh coats of paint, placed a bigger tabletop on it, and it now sits in the prime spot in her new store, on display.
Even her jewelry pieces sit on old tea cups that she has turned upside down, and glued the saucer on top of, making the perfect little display perch for a handful of pieces.
“I never throw anything away,” she says with a laugh. “I always say, ‘I can do something with this. Maybe not today, but tomorrow.’”
Customers are already commenting on what a fabulous new find the Cynthia L. boutique is.
Amy Chow, who was shopping in the store on her lunch break last Friday, was impressed with Webb’s talent and the wide variety of pieces in the store.
“Her things are so cute! And so unique,” she said, as she tried on cashmere neck warmers and other accessories. “I’ve never seen anything like them.”
Chow, who works around the corner from the store, said she’ll definitely be spending more lunch breaks at Cynthia L. in the near future.
A born creator
From an early age, it was clear that Webb had a talented eye; that she could see the potential in any piece of fashion or décor and know exactly how to transform it into something beautiful and useful again.
Most of what she knows, she says she picked up from her seamstress grandmother; she has never studied a day in a fashion classroom. At the age of 5, Webb designed her first fashion piece – a stylish dress pieced together from bits of vintage lace, for her Barbie doll.
By the fifth grade, Webb was designing and sewing fashionable halter tops and accessories and selling them to other kids at school.
Over the years, Webb has owned stores in San Carlos and Menlo Park before moving to Redwood City this year – and she said she couldn’t be happier here.
“Isn’t this the most adorable store ever?” she said, smiling, looking around and admiring her new space on Broadway Street, on the far corner past Courthouse Square, next to stores like Brick Monkey and the also-new Sandwich Spot. “This is such a cute corner, and the buildings’ owners really put a lot of work into the buildings, keeping them looking nice. And my neighbors are so great.”
Webb said she owes a lot to the City of Redwood City for helping her get her dream store up and running, and being so helpful through the whole process.
“This city is fabulous,” she said. “They’ve done so much to this city. There are so many great restaurants and shops now. Ten years ago, it was like, ‘Redwood City? Yuck!’ Now, I tell everybody – you’ve got to come check out Redwood City.”
“The best thing I ever did was move to this fabulous location,” she continued. “It is just a matter of time before more retailers come to Redwood City – because this is the place to shop.”
Cynthia L. boutique is located at 2400 Broadway St., Suite 110. The store is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call the store at 650-261-1500.