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'I feel like Calamity Jane' — Sam Smith attends partner Christian Cowan’s NYFW show

Sam Smith at the Christian Cowan show in New York  (Getty Images)
Sam Smith at the Christian Cowan show in New York (Getty Images)

British designer Christian Cowan offered pure camp pageantry as an antidote to Super Bowl fever which had taken over New York on Sunday night, the third evening of the city’s fashion week.

Some guests arrived at the Harmonie private members’ club with NFL shirts worn under their suits, and the waft of chicken wings gave away the halftime party goers celebrating one floor above.

Take a bow: Christian Cowan after his show at New York Fashion Week (Getty Images)
Take a bow: Christian Cowan after his show at New York Fashion Week (Getty Images)

The 27-year-old designer is perhaps best known for dating singer Sam Smith, who made a spectacular entrance wearing a black taffeta full skirt and star-printed blouse from Cowan's new collection. “I feel like Calamity Jane,” they said, before sitting front row alongside their mother, Kate Cassidy and American singer Becky G.

Pre-show, the designer, who grew up on the sprawling Elizabethan Longstowe Hall estate (a humble 1,000 hectares) outside Cambridge, said he wanted to strip it all back for a collection “about the clothes.” As you might imagine from someone raised eating their tea under 16th-century Flemish carved ceilings, this remained a far, far cry from sober viewing.

Christian Cowan autumn winter 2024 (Getty Images)
Christian Cowan autumn winter 2024 (Getty Images)

Spoof Upper East Side types sauntered around a chandelier-strewn ballroom wearing asymmetric, black satin or blood red ball gowns complete with a mongolian lamb trim. There was an homage to Dior’s New Look with cinched waist skirts and, in very 2024 update to the 1947 classic, breast exposing sheer shirts.

Tailoring, which came star printed, was slashed to reveal slithers of skin on the back, while leather biker jackets came cleverly corseted. Less convincing were plastic, mirrored stars which acted as low rent fringes on sequin micro mini skirts, as well as the unnecessary bouffant wigs.

Christian Cowan autumn winter 2024 (Getty Images)
Christian Cowan autumn winter 2024 (Getty Images)

The finale dress, made in partnership with Adobe, was pioneering, colour changing gown - a version of which the tech company showed off last October. “I think we will be wearing computers in the future,” Cowan said. Anything but those mini skirts, you could feel women in the audience sigh.

More sex, next, at French designer Ludovic de Saint Sernin’s New York debut in a concrete, 18th floor room of the Starrett-Lehigh building by Hudson Yards. Famous for his rope strung leather speedos evidently popular amongst the New York gays — “America is my biggest market,” the designer said backstage — guests arrived wondering how he could build on this staple. Cut them even smaller was his response.

Ludovic De Saint Sernin autumn winter 2024 (Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)
Ludovic De Saint Sernin autumn winter 2024 (Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)

Bumster briefs (sliced at the back to reveal top of the buttocks, à la Alexander McQueen) were worn with matching leather skull caps and six packs. The offering for women included office pencil skirts made sheer and worn with bras and Louboutins, as well as sparkling red, chainmail strappy gowns — all delicious on the eye, but entirely made from a man’s perspective. Sabrina Dhowre Elba, wife of Idris, who flew in from Dubai earlier that day, was not put off. “I’m going to be buying as much as I can,” she said, giddily.

Ludovic De Saint Sernin autumn winter 2024 (Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)
Ludovic De Saint Sernin autumn winter 2024 (Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)

It well summarised the hyper energy of a room who relished in watching reams of New York’s slim crop of attractive youngsters stomp around, oiled and naked. They squealed all the way to the Boom Boom Room of The Standard Hotel, to dance the night away. Sex still sells — in New York, anyway.