A full denim hoop skirt—almost 18th-century bustle level in volume—is displayed on a mannequin upon entering Christian Cowan’s Soho flagship store in New York. Paired with a cropped white tank top slashed just below the bust, it’s like a Y2K version of a ball gown—something Britney Spears would wear to the Oscars in 2001. For the designer, this fearless (and head-turning) spirit is exactly what he wanted to embody in his very first resort collection; he found inspiration in women who like to dress up and take risks—characters like Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw. “We [design] for those who want to be complimented, who aren’t afraid of being the main character and have fun with fashion,” Cowan said. “I feel that’s Carrie.”
This season, Cowan decided to expand upon his signature pieces, namely his playful eveningwear. As one of New York’s go-to party dressmakers, Cowan didn’t skimp on the gown offerings. There were floor-length dresses with giant feathered sleeves; strapless mini dresses with a holographic sheen (very Coachella); and for those inclined to show skin, revealing dresses with zippered slits all over. If the latter had a sci-fi feel, it wasn’t accidental, Cowan revealed he’d been inspired by the Wachoswki sisters, the directors behind The Matrix. “I’m a long-standing fan of all things escapism, and what does this better than beautifully executed sci-fi?” Although many frocks here lean towards the very young, his satiny full skirts could be worn by Upper East Side socialites too. “We try to have something for the mother and daughter,” he added.
Cowan also experimented with ramping up his daytime pieces. Colorful, gauzy silk-chiffon tops, cut with asymmetrical hems, were inspired by visions of fabulous women in Ibiza wearing them to the beach—glass of wine in hand. The designer adds that many of the playful details for resort were inspired by his own Spanish family. “I grew up surrounded by a predominantly female Spanish family—strong, independent women who taught me to follow my passions,” Cowan said. “They love to play with fashion, wearing tops as skirts, adding ruffles and pins, and creating all kinds of details.” Also included in this more casual assortment were denim pieces, including a pair of denim chaps. “Chaps do really well for us,” Cowan said with a laugh, recognizing it’s a statement few can make.
That’s the beauty of Cowan’s work—while it’s not for everyone, it’s certainly not safe, and it always makes an impression. He’s excited to expand his sense of exuberance to all areas of one’s wardrobe. “We’re known best for our evening,” Cowan explained, “and now it’s time to show the day, dawn, dusk, and middle of the night!”