This evening in New York, designer Christian Cowan chose The Harmonie Club—a private social club on 60th Street, just off Central Park—as the fancy setting to stage his fall presentation. Swathed in chandeliers and plush carpeting, you could practically taste the Old Money in the grand ballroom—and it was no coincidence that the clothes also served as an homage to uptown. “I wanted to celebrate the Upper East Side ladies who have supported my career since day one,” said Cowan. “I also wanted to focus more on the clothing this season, and to keep it clean.”
It was a dramatic shift for Cowan, who’s better known for being a raucous party wear designer dressing girls downtown. He wanted to take his signature assortment of cocktail dresses and sexy suits, and make them feel a little more sophisticated for fall—though he didn’t skimp on any of the usual fun, either. After all, uptown women, he said, are classy but powerful—and totally unafraid to take risks. “These are women that run their shit,” he said. “They remind me of my mom, Mercedes—she’s an icon.”
The collection was all about adding a dash of youthfulness to that ladies-who-lunch look (some of the models even held wine glasses or cheeky cigarettes). Silky, one-shouldered gowns—perfect for an uptown gala—were trimmed with Mongolian lamb accents, while a hefty two-tone Mongolian lamb coat—cinched at the waist—was Cowan’s take on the Dior New Look. His woven-silk suits also had cut-outs at the hips and back. The juxtaposition between elegant and wild worked especially well on a simple, yet totally sheer gray chiffon dress—which struck the right notes of sexy, yet was somehow classic. “I actually turned it inside-out during our fitting, reworked the draping, and frayed all of the seams,” said Cowan.
Some of Cowan’s signature motifs also creeped back into the offering. Mainly his use of stars—which appeared on almost every single look in some way. Some of the whimsical sequin party dresses were trimmed with big, bold stars along the hemline, all made out of recycled plastic. Some of his suits were also pinstriped with tinier stars, or embellished with golden star-shaped studs. One might think it was overkill, but it turns out there was a more poignant inspiration behind all of the celestial elements: They served as an homage to his late father. “[As a kid] he would get me under the telescope, and we’d look at these little white twinkles in the night sky,” said Cowan. “You’d imagine these infinite possibilities and galaxies, and I think I’ve now found that joy in fashion. You can take a sewing machine, some fabric, and some thread—and there can be endless opportunities and outcomes.”