On Friday, out in Los Angeles, designer Christian Cowan closed out the Fashion Month circuit with a pink, blue, and green bang. If that combination sounds like a science experiment gone wrong, you’re not too far off. The New York-based creative collaborated with Cartoon Network on a Powerpuff Girls-inspired capsule collection to fête International Women’s Day. The West Coast event, which may not have been top-of-mind for Cowan loyalists, resulted in an unexpected chance for the ready-to-wear designer to flex his haute couture muscles. And, social media impressions et al, it worked.
But really, the fusing of Cowan’s revved up interpretations of ‘sexy’ with a feminist-forward cartoon beloved by millennials is a genius marketing move. It’s still unclear whether or not millennials are buying couture, demi-couture or even ready-to-wear, but they’re politically and fashionably savvy. Which means they're definitely tuned in to what’s happening on the runway, and this fashion show's positioning on IWD only amped that up.
“I reached out to Cartoon Network about the Powerpuff Girls about three years ago, when I was new to America and I hadn’t done any shows,” Cowan (who hails from the UK) told Refinery29 at the Downtown L.A. show space. “I said, ‘I’ve watched the show since I was really young and I love the message behind it.” The discussions continued, and the camps eventually agreed on an IWD-timed show in L.A. To carry that message through, Cowan and the network partnered with She’s The First, a non-profit organization that fights gender inequality with education and supports young girls who will be the first in their families to graduate high school.
The collection itself, which drew such pop singers as Carly Rae Jepsen, Kim Petras, and Betty Who in the front row, was Cowan at his best: full of his trademark, tulle-made BDE (Big Dress Energy), feathers (this time not just in lavender, but pink, green, and blue), rhinestones (at this point, who isn’t wearing that T-shirt dress?) and Paris Hilton to close out the show. Cowan’s commitment to diversity, too, with models of all ages, sizes, and races walking a well-balanced runway, proved that he spent his extra pennies wisely. Like any other capsule collection, which tends to serve as a flexing opportunity for emerging designers, these dresses weren’t made with wearability in mind. But, come time for them to be seen on red carpets and in Cardi B’s music videos, it will all make sense.
“I think it’s very important within creative arts that you keep people guessing; that you keep surprising them,” Cowan explains. “When it came to this collaboration, I really wanted to keep it as genuine to a true creative collaboration as possible. In the past, we’ve seen collaborations where it feels like the face of the cartoon is just put on top of a sweatshirt and they’re done. But the goal was to bring the characters to life with high-fashion. To have such a large company support such a young designer is really special and it’s this kind of support that can keep young houses going.” Cowan’s other collaborations include Moshiqa and Giuseppe Zanotti.
But which Powerpuff Girl is Cowan’s favorite? Well, that part’s not so obvious. “I shouldn’t say this, but I love HIM. I know he’s an evil character, but he’s just so fabulous and he’s been wearing heels and a skirt for a long time — and I love that — and they never mention it. But it’s totally normal. Otherwise, I’d say I am a mixture of Buttercup and Bubbles.” (For the record, in this writer’s opinion, Cowan’s more of a Blossom.) Without further ado, click through the slideshow ahead to see Cowan’s pop cultural girl-power masterpiece. Now, if only there was a live-version of Powerpuff Girls so we could see the clothes in action…