YSE Women

Wide Awake with Carly Cushnie

Written by Elizabeth Gehl

It seems as though the term tastemaker was invented so the universe could define Carly Cushnie in one word. 

Her portfolio skims every area of creativity at the highest caliber possible – home interiors featured in Elle Magazine, a design project with American Girl Doll, a brand partnership with Target, and costume design for the American Ballet Theatre (to name a few). Denim, swimwear, bridal, jewelry… and if she hasn’t done it yet, she will.

Carly’s roar has echoed loudest thus far with the success of her luxury ready-to-wear brand CUSHNIE. Founded in 2008, CUSHNIE was Carly’s first personal project following the completion of her BA from Parsons. Her business expertise grew during her years interning at high end fashion houses such as Proenza Schouler, Oscar de la Renta and Donna Karan, priming her for the success she and her initial business partner, Michelle Ochs, would experience in the years to follow. 

The collection featured vibrant tones draped in ever-so-elegant construction, illustrious enough to end up in the closets of legends like Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Rihanna, and Zendaya. She quickly partnered with iconic retailers like Bergdorf, Neiman’s, and Saks, holding 100+ accounts worldwide. That was until COVID-19, when Carly humbly closed CUSHNIE to align her career positioning in the newly redefined world. 

That year, she paid homage to the brand with a designer collection at Target that brought iconic silhouettes back to life – at a price point for all. In 2021, she partnered with Summersalt to design her first swim collection, and was chosen by American Girl Doll to redesign six historic dolls with her modernized eye. And just two years ago, she made her comeback in bridal design with an exclusive collection at Anthropologie… all done before the age of 40. 

Carly stands as a paradigm for black women in fashion as the first African American female nominated for the CFDA Swarovski Award. She has Forbes mentions, Vogue nominations, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the CFDA. Now, you can catch her taking on design projects for home interiors, curating style edits on her platforms, and tossing in casual work for  J Crew, West Elm and Harpers Bazaar (!!!), all while also holding her other full time positions as wife and mother of two.

An average day starts as a busy morning spent with her girls. A matcha in one hand and two backpacks in the other, getting them dressed and ready for school has always been routine. Something new, however, is her American drivers license, as it’s not exactly a cake walk for a native Londoner to take on the right side of the road. This new asset to motherhood has saved her both time and tranquility – she also discovered its secondary purpose as a vanity on wheels.

And in her routine, Wide Awake has found its place. She’s not one to take too much time on morning makeup, so a brightening eye cream has been that ideal in between. “I pop it in my bag and use it for touch ups throughout the day,” Carly shared with the YSE team. It’s an anytime product, whether it’s tossed in her gym bag for a post spin class refresh or patted in on the go before a midday meeting. And, the ritual conveniently serves as something symbolic: a moment for her to take a breath and slow down. Because otherwise, that moment would be lost in the hustle and bustle of her multifaceted reality.

To balance such chaos, one must keep it real.  And this is how Carly Cushnie does just that.

Quick Q's

My morning nonnegotiable is... my green smoothie I make in my Beast Blender.

Signature weekday uniform? Jeans, black tee or turtleneck and a blazer

If I never had to sleep I would... sleeping is the most rejuvenating thing you can do for your body. I would probably still sleep.

Favorite step in your morning skincare routine? Sunscreen – it's the most important

Coffee shop order? Matcha latte with oat milk

My go to headphone listen is... The Diary of a CEO podcast.

My de-stressor of choice? Acupuncture

Something that lives rent free in my work bag is… a tinted lip oil.

Death row cocktail? Mezcal Negroni

My in-flight entertainment of choice is… whatever new movie I haven’t gotten around to watching. 

Something you don’t give a f**k about is... going to space.

Something you give a f**ck about is... the environment.

Career peak thus far? Dressing Michelle Obama and hearing her shout out my designs on stage during her book tour. 

Your theme song is... any song from the movie Encanto (I have two little girls).

What gets you out of bed in the morning? Exercise

How has Wide Awake made you rethink eye creams? I was genuinely shocked at how good it is

What being present means to you – Doing one thing at a time. 

Line to live by? Trust your gut