On the messiest day of New York Fashion Week, a couple hundred people trekked through sleet and slushed streets to see British designer Christian Cowan’s latest show. Already, that’s a lot of love in one room. But once a giant, pink blob of feathers made its way from backstage to the runway, it felt like Mother Nature's vengeance against climate change was nothing but a squall.
But this was Cowan’s fall 2019 show. And like seasons past, he wants you to forego your traditional palette of warm jewel tones and swap them for neon pink, yellow, green, and orange. Because in Cowan’s corner, sequins are appropriate for all seasons, and skirts don’t have to follow the fingertip rule to be considered appropriate for chilly weather or the office. As his latest offering progressed — oversized hoodies were sliced in half, pantyhose replaced what we’re guessing was supposed to be leggings — it became apparent that Cowan is determined to reverse the conservative vibe of most fall collections.
There were larger-than-life ball gowns fit for Rihanna or Celine Dion, a re-edition of his once-sold out Giuseppe Zanotti collection, lots of leather, and more. The only thing that may not thrill Cowan loyalists is that it was a bit too much of the same. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but moving forward, Cowan must prove he knows his way around a sewing machine to continue standing out and create a thriving business.
Cowan, who dresses the likes of Cardi B and Lady Gaga, subverts fashion rules where he can: he embraces the short and shiny, he will send a hoodie and a ball gown down the same catwalk, and he knows that dressing for the modern woman doesn’t have to be practical. He’s mastered camp and glamour, without going so avant-garde that he can’t sell his clothes to the masses. And he's completely at ease with the idea that if it’s not for you, it’s for someone else.
Cowan’s fall 2019 collection was the perfect example of clothes that we need right now, and we don’t just mean toward the end of a week of humdrum fashions. His aesthetic reflects old and new New York, but Miami and Los Angeles, too. After all, isn’t escapism — to different coasts, scenes and states of mind — at the very heart of fashion?