All green hair and smiles, if Christian Cowan was nervous ahead of his SS19 runway show at New York Fashion Week this weekend, he didn’t show it. “I love London and I think it’s great, but New York is where real power houses are and so it’s really fun when you’re a young designer here, because you have a different perspective to the whole situation, whereas some of the larger, very commercial houses aren’t as open-minded as I can be,” the British-born and London-trained designer told COOLS, “And also, I think the culture of New York is really helpful to young designers now. There are less young designers here, and people are really used to all the bigger brands and partnerships, they’re just really excited to have a new perspective.” Despite a star-studded front row and a hefty fanbase, Cowan actually is a young designer, only having graduated from the University of Arts London in 2016.
His quick rise to fame spurred from the attention of Cardi B—the rapper saw Cowan’s talent and helped shed light on his gorgeous clothing through commissioning him to dress her. “I got the call from her team a long time ago, before ‘Bodak Yellow’ came out. I put her in a cropped sweatsuit and the reaction was insane. I’d never seen anything like it on my Instagram: I didn’t have mass production or sales setup yet, but I’d gotten 600 orders in two days,” Cowan told Refinery29. Cowan dressed Cardi for her the cover of her debut album earlier this year.
“Musicians are really what has raised my brand up,” Cowan said. “I listen to music the whole time I work, so I think it just infiltrates through my designs.” Like fashion, Cowan acknowledges that music is good for expressing individuality and personality, perhaps that connection is why Cowan finds such a balance between fashion and music.
Cowan listened to everything from Beethoven to Cardi B, Kylie Minogue, and everything in between while working on his SS19 designs. “There’s no rhyme or reason at all,” he said. “I never like to pick one style and design to that, I think it produces something a bit more flat. I like to design something that is more bound by vibes and aesthetics.”
That can be seen clearly within the collection, which was shown alongside a soundtrack done by Misshapes. A 1980s pop mix featuring Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and Michael Jacksons “Black and White” amongst others, it was the kind of beat that got models dancing backstage as they readied for the runway.
Cowan took a step back from designing especially for music stars with SS19, this time deciding to give back to his fellow music fans. Typically, designers will create a high-end line that celebs shop and a diffusion line of similar styles with a lower price point for the fans, but Cowan wanted to find an alternative. Enter the “inclusion” line. “It often implies that the diffusion line is less-than, but it’s not,” he explained. “The people who shop diffusion lines are the people that I’m really excited to dress.”
The runway was filled with just as much band merch-inspired pieces and sweatpants as it was feathers and high-end pieces, the two ends of the spectrum integrated together into single looks. “This way, when I dress the musician that everyone loves, if their fans can’t afford a $6,000 dress, they can still afford the pieces related to that for the runway. So it’s much more accessible for everyone.”
Another area to obsess over? Cowan unveiled two unbelievable collaborations alongside his SS19 line. Ensuring head-to-toe creativity, Cowan teamed with Giuseppe Zanotti for a line of footwear, and with Eugenia Kim for hats and a two-piece ensemble made to look like a wide-brimmed hat. The Zanotti shoes are highlighted by watch faces on gold-tone ankle straps or detailing that crosses the shoes, possibly offering an alternative to the timeless wristwatch. The Cowan X Kim hats combine Cowan’s genius whimsy with Kim’s superior craftsmanship, culminating in three-tier brimmed baseball hats that look like three hats worn on top of each other, as well as beautifully unconventional crystal head covers.