Hooker posters, cascading piallettes, crystals, feathers, puppies, electric LED eyebrows—Christian Cowan’s sophomore outing, which debuted at iconic downtown haunt Indochine on Saturday, was a love letter to New York. You see, the British-born designer recently received his U.S. visa, and his latest lineup was a celebration of sorts. “I just moved,” said the acid green-haired 23-year-old backstage after his Spring 2018 show. “When I was 10, I knew I wanted to live in New York—it just always resonated with me. It was very open and free and everyone in the world is here, and it’s where all the things that inspired me happened. It was essential that I got here." Well, considering the impressive turnout—Barney’s Daniella Vitale, Paper’s Mickey Boardman (a dedicated champion of the young talent), Vogue’s Hamish Bowles, and Hilldun Corporation CEO Gary Wassner all stopped by, while the Misshapes deejayed—he has arrived in more ways than one.
But first, let’s backtrack. Cowan, a London College of Fashion graduate, has been making a name for himself over the past few years, designing stage-ready wares for the likes of Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and Brooke Candy. He held his debut runway show in New York last season, enlisting Paris Hilton to walk (a questionable choice, perhaps, but one that got people talking), and introducing the Big Apple to his specific brand of sexed-up, club-kid kitsch.
This season, with the help of famed stylist Patti Wilson, who had previously enlisted Cowan to create show-stopping hats for her editorials, the designer furthered that vision, aiming to display a balance of theatricality and quasi-practicality through what he called a “survey of New York,” which essentially played on NYC archetypes like Upper East Side rich bitch or…downtown working girl. On the theatrical side, a giant crystal honeycomb hat paired with basically nothing but a crystal net; a white lace bodystocking printed with “New York <3’s Me” (aww); some pink tweed chaps with matching panties, bustier, bolero, and hat; a silver glitter tuxedo; and a fully sheer white flamenco gown with a corset bodice. It was some wild stuff, in the best way possible, but what struck me was how well-made it all was--the tailoring, the construction, the fabrication—this kid’s got skills. Then there were some slightly more sensible pieces—a beautifully cut suit printed with those flyers hookers used to post in phone booths; a wool plaid suit that was dripping with bright red paillettes from the bust down; a metallic neon green trench that matched Cowan’s hair; and a cropped faux fur coat all fell into that category.
“I like to think that there’s something for almost everyone,” mused Cowan, who said that attracting retailers is the next thing on his to-do list. “You know, for the person who’s not up for chaps, there’s an amazing trench or something. It’s always for someone who doesn’t want to blend into the background—that's for sure—but I want women to feel happy when they wear us,” he continued, adding that his confections are produced in New York, London, and L.A.
So is this up-and-comer ready for retail? Depends where—but honestly, I could see that green trench in Barney’s. And given that Vitale and the like took time out of their busy fashion week schedules to watch Cowan’s disco-fueled romp, landing some key stores in the not-so-distant future is certainly in the realm of possibility.