Get To Know: Cynthia Power, VP of Brand Success
In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating some of the incredible female leaders on our team through our Get To Know series. At Recurate, female leadership is and always will be a priority, as maintaining a balanced and diverse team is core to who we are.
Cynthia Power has had a full career in sustainable fashion and resale, spending most of her time with Eileen Fisher, where she helped build out their beloved resale program, Renew. Now, as a mother and the head of Recurate’s Brand Success team, she reflects on how a career surrounded by strong women has influenced her own leadership style and passion for resale. In her own words, she’s “getting sh*t done” and empowering others along the way.
How do you see retail evolving? How will we be shopping in the future?
I feel like it’s anything and everything. It’s omni to the max. The way that it is now, where you can order anything online and in-store, plus the additional categories of used, refurbished, remanufactured, and recycled. All of these things will become part of your regular shopping experience. Also increased curation, both online and in-store, making it a more enjoyable experience. I’ve been enjoying shopping in person recently and just feeling relieved by going to a small store that has a curated selection of quality products. I don’t need 100 options.
How has the resale landscape changed? And who’s leading the charge?
When I started at Renew almost seven years ago, I felt like “resale” and “used” were these dirty words with a lot of stigma around them. Now, it’s so different in terms of people’s willingness to buy used. There’s a lot less hesitation, partly because of the rise of sustainability, but also it’s just become normal. Millennials and Gen Z actually enjoy shopping secondhand. There’s been a huge mindset shift. Now we’re waiting for the selling mindset shift to happen. We’re with selling now where we were with buying five years ago.
My favorite brands to work with are brands who see this as part of their business — they’re not intimidated by it. You made this great product, so why wouldn’t you want to sell it more than once? For me, it’s exciting working with brands that understand it’s not just about the margin; you need to look at resale differently and consider different KPIs, like engagement, rather than just dollars and cents. That’s my hope. That more and more brands will be moving in that direction. I think that’s the future. That’s the future that I would like to see.
Tell us about your path with Eileen Fisher and the Renew program.
I was at Eileen Fisher for 14 years. I feel like it’s relevant to say that I went to an all-women’s college. My major was French and Art History, but I wrote my senior year thesis on fashion, societal norms, women’s bodies in the first half of the 20th century. I went to Eileen Fisher because I felt like it was a really feminist company. It was run by women and owned by a woman, and that was really interesting to me.
I started as an assistant in communications, then I was Eileen’s personal assistant for many years, and then I ran the Renew take-back and resale program for the last six years. Being Eileen’s assistant was extremely formative, but working with Renew spoke to my own personal passion for reuse and resale. It was very much a unicorn job.
Who are some women that have inspired you in your career?
I feel like I have lived in this women-focused bubble for such a long time, which, honestly, I am really grateful for. Lori Wagner, who was the CMO at Eileen Fisher for a few years, comes to mind first because she’s authentically herself and very comfortable showing up in a totally new environment, being like, I’m here! She has a big personality, and to do that in a way that you own it and people are just drawn to you — I was really impressed by that. I also loved working for Eileen directly and seeing firsthand how one person with that kind of responsibility weaves it in and out of their life. Another woman at Eileen Fisher, Hilary Old, was always a mentor to me and really looked out for me the entire time I was there. And, of course, my mom! I’m a lot like my mom — I am my mom — sometimes I forget to tell her how much she inspires me. I know that she has imprinted on me hugely.
Any women of history who motivate you today?
The person on my mind is Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. She was largely responsible for making clothes something that women didn’t have to feel constricted by and could be themselves in, move in, and live their lives in, which was very similar to Eileen Fisher thematically. Clothes that are made for you to feel good in.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?
One piece of advice that I really liked was from Lori Wagner. I think I presented to the board, and she texted me after and said, “That was great! You need to celebrate the wins.” That was the advice: celebrate the wins. Go take yourself out or do whatever you need to do, but you really need to take time when you’ve been working on something, and it goes well, take time to really celebrate that. I think that was great advice that dings in my head a lot, and I tell other members of our team, when something goes well for them, that same advice.
What advice would you give to someone just starting their career?
My main piece of advice is to follow what’s interesting to you and be willing to try a bunch of things. Move toward the stuff you like. Move away from the stuff you don’t like. I think having a variety of experiences and not being overly focused is important unless you want to be a doctor, in which case you need to have that super tunnel vision from day one. Trying different things and not necessarily building a linear path can be really formative in a really positive way.
What are some qualities you try to embody as a leader?
Listening is really important, but my first thought was actually being decisive. I would say finding a balance. It’s important for people to feel heard and to consider what everyone thinks and then say, Okay, as the leader, this is what I’m deciding. I think that it’s helpful to not create confusion or uncertainty. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I want my team to feel. You can’t necessarily make everybody happy all the time, but I do want everybody to feel like they have clarity about their role and they’re excited about what they’re doing. I want to help them, not hinder them.
Is there something you’re most proud of at Recurate?
I’m just really proud of creating this team and trying to build it. It’s not perfect. Stuff happens all the time, but I really enjoy working with the people. I want to create an environment where we all feel supported, we can be honest with each other, and there’s just a lot of trust within the team. For me, the journey’s more important than the destination. It’s not that I don’t care what we’re doing, but I care way more about how we do it.
I’m also really proud of La Ligne’s International Women’s Day Auction that recently launched. There are a million learnings looking back, but I generally feel like we did a really good job staying organized, supporting the La Ligne team, and trying to keep it moving forward. Even though there was a very, very late night involved, I really enjoyed making it happen together.
Does being a mother fuel your passion for what you do?
It’s definitely shaped how I work. I feel like I’m a lot more efficient just because I have less time, and I really enjoy just getting sh*t done. Becoming a mother completely changed my life and how I see the world. I do feel like one of the superpowers of moms is just getting a lot of things done quickly. I think it also reinforces the sustainability aspect of why I’m doing this. I cared about sustainability before having a kid, but now I have even more of a reason… I certainly hope that my daughter gets to have some good experiences.
As a passionate secondhand shopper, what’s one of your all-time best finds?
During college, I was in southern California in the Inland Empire near LA, where there are so many thrift stores. I found a pair of Salvatore Ferragamos in my size that had never been worn, and they were like $8, so that was the best! I wore them to the ground. I will say that I would have never tried Ferragamos, ever, and now I would 100% pay $400 for a pair of their shoes because they were just amazing shoes. So, resale is really good for brands, I’m just sayin’!