Christian Cowan Knows No Limits

Christian Cowan Knows No Limits

V spoke with the rhinestone mastermind himself to get all the details on his life as a fashion designer.

V spoke with the rhinestone mastermind himself to get all the details on his life as a fashion designer.

Text: Dylan Kelly

In a world of glitz, glam, and glitter, luxury womenswear designer Christian Cowan is forging a new frontier for fashion--one of glowing iridescence and unparalleled abstract. At 23 years old, the colorful creative has proven his natural design abilities superior with a number of dazzling runway shows, exquisite red carpet pieces, and one-of-a-kind partnerships. As he discovered his passion for fashion design at an incredibly early age, Cowan's professional career began much earlier than expected. 

“When I was 12, I first discovered Alexander McQueen online and I asked, ‘What is this?’”, he explained of his early beginnings in design. “I knew this was something I needed to be more interested in.” Growing up in a small town near London, Cowan lacked exposure to fashion figures and avant-garde creatives that ultimately sculpted his prodigious sense of aesthetic. Two years into the young Cowan’s British courtier discoveries, Lady Gaga arrived on the music scene with a distinctly grandiloquent style that found deep roots in his initial inspirations. “I was so obsessed with her and she exposed me to Gareth Pugh and all these amazing designers and that just made me realize that this was what I needed to do,” Cowan recounted. “From that point onwards, I was like I have to be a fashion designer.” 

With his eyes on the prize, the young creative swiftly honed in on his craft as he experimented with new textiles, polished his sketching abilities, and learned the intricacies of design on a junky sewing machine that his mother bought for him. “I just started making pieces and doing shoots with my friends, and then my first year of university was when it first started getting actual momentum in the real world,” Cowan explained. The ambitious visionary first attended Central Saint Martins where he learned valuable foundational skills and later transferred to the artistry hub of London to pursue a degree in fashion design at the London College of Fashion. 

Watch Mask by Christian Cowan (photo: Augusto Silva Alliegro)

While Cowan did further his design proficiency at the university level, it did not take long for school to start getting in the way of his career. Lady Gaga’s team quickly took notice of Cowan’s gorgeously glowing designs and instantly purchased the collection for the pop superstar to wear while performing. Garnering major traction and making his younger, Gaga-obsessed self proud, Cowan’s brand rapidly skyrocketed. 

Soon enough, he was flying to Los Angeles to dress Miley Cyrus on tour in glittering one-of-a-kind pieces instead of sitting in classrooms finishing term projects. “I got in trouble in university the whole time for not getting my work done and there would be times at deadlines when they would ask, ‘Where is the work?’ and I'd be like, ‘I lent it to Miley Cyrus,’” he told us. Although the administration was not impressed with Cowan’s conduct, he didn’t look back as he accepted each of these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. 

Among the dense competition of aspiring designers, Cowan managed to stand out with his unique statement pieces and diligent work ethic. On remaining focused and inspired, the established designer shared with us some valuable advice: “If you're in a race, don't look at people next you, just do you.” Keeping those words in mind throughout his creative process, Cowan realized there was no point in attempting to create pieces that other brands have already coined as their own. “I started off with crazy giant glitter sombreros and glitter tuxedos and all this wild stuff because no one else was doing that,” he told us. “It's what I love to do.” As he consistently breaks boundaries on fashion, it’s evident that Cowan’s tunnel vision is paramount in the success of his glimmering designs. 

Christian Cowan

“Optimistic, friendly, tired, and introverted,” Cowan assuredly responded when asked to describe himself. As each of his collections document a diary of his life, his personal qualities translate into the essence of his company. In comparing himself to his label, Cowan noted one difference: “My brand is definitely an extrovert so it does all the talking for you.” As each exorbitantly shining piece makes its way down the runway, the contemporary designer’s personal stories exquisitely speak for themselves.  

The star-studded visionary debuted his first collection at New York Fashion Week in 2017 where his colorful collection was highly anticipated. “It was nerve wracking, and it was such a learning curve because it was just me and one intern that did the whole thing,” he shared with us of his inaugural experience on the official roster.  Since then, Cowan has been able to expand his team to accommodate for his increasing visibility and multitude of special projects.

Among those distinguished affairs, a unique partnership flourished between Christian Cowan and The Powerpuff Girls, resulting in a flamboyantly vivid runway show on International Women’s Day with a crowd full of celebrity fans. Spurring from his childhood love for the Cartoon Network series, Cowan directly contacted the showrunners to pitch his idea for a collaborative collection, and the final presentation was nothing short of superpower-ful. The inspiration for the Powerpuff range continues the dialogue of Cowan’s life story as he recalls watching the show while he was in and out of the hospital as a child. “[The hospital] always had The Powerpuff Girls playing. It was my favorite thing. I'd sit down with all the girls and watch it. We had a great time,” he told us. “The Powerpuff Girls needed absolutely no saving. They were just doing the damn thing themselves and saving everyone else.” As a brand dedicated to the celebration of women, the Powerpuff partnership is a perfect marriage of Cowan’s personal diary and the label’s mission of female empowerment.

Christian Cowan

Known for putting the glitter in glitterati, Cowan is constantly expanding his roster of celebrity clients sporting his shimmering designs. From dressing Heidi Klum in a powerful pink number to working with Cardi B on her iconic album covers, the renowned designer has certainly established himself as a leading creator in pop culture. Most recently, Cowan stepped outside of his comfort zone and dressed his first man, Lil Nas X, for the VMA’s just last week. As a red carpet frequent, Cowan wanted to be sure he chose the right first man to dress, and the “Old Town Road” singer was the perfect candidate. “I think he's so important because not only does he break records with his amazing music and his fusing of two genres, but he’s also the first openly gay rapper of that scale of fame,” Cowan told us. Glowing on the carpet in a glittering tuxedo, Lil Nas X stunningly represented the Christian Cowan brand and successfully gave way to a completely new avenue for the forward-thinking designer to pursue. 

With fashion week upon us, the shimmering glamour of Christian Cowan’s personal saga is about to continue. On what we’ll see coming down the runway this season, Cowan shared that his latest designs hit very close to home--in Spain, to be specific. “You can expect to see my usual glitter and feathers and all that, but it's definitely a much softer season. It reflects my home village in Spain where my family's from and it's more of an ode to my childhood and my family of predominantly women,” he disclosed. With a Spanish influence and the designer’s sparkling touch, this next collection will surely leave us speechless yet again. 

“I want to be remembered for just spreading happiness and joy into people's lives,” Cowan revealed fondly. Through each of his impeccably produced shows, buoyantly identifiable custom pieces, and relentless dedication to his craft, Christian Cowan's legacy of superlative self-expression will unequivocally continue to inspire. 

Credits: Headshot via Katie Levine

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