Just before the world gradually began to close everything because of COVID-19, designer Christian Cowan presented an exuberant fashion show on the occasion of World Women’s Day at the Neuehouse Los Angeles, trendy location. It is the second year that Cowan and his business partner Natthias Mitchinson collaborate with the beloved The Powerpuff Girls by Cartoon Network for a collection full of sugar and panache.
The cardboard The Powerpuff Girls, adored by American children, is focused on the adventures of the trio Buttercup, Bubbles is Blossom who together fight crime. The collection, flashy and exuberant, is all exaggerated volumes, feathers and glitters. A pair of limited edition Giuseppe Zanotti x Christian Cowan shoes went on sale with a silent auction, and 100% of the proceeds went to InHerShoes Movement, a Los Angeles nonprofit organization that fights for women’s rights to express themselves, to help them feel more courageous thanks to resources and opportunities. Helping and supporting women is extremely important for Cowan: it is thanks to some very special women in his life that he has become what he is today.
Cowan and Mitchinson are not even 25 years old, and it goes without saying that their brand takes hold of a crowd of eccentric Gen Z and Millennial fans, and at their fashion shows you can spot influencers and beauty vloggers like Patrick Starrr or the singer Carly Rae Jepsen. Singer Meghan Trainor, the entrepreneur Nikita Dragun, and the model Kellee Moran instead they were chosen by Cowan to play the three protagonists, Buttercup, Bubbles and Blossom.
Cowan and Mitchinson, both British, met online. Three years ago, Mitchinson followed Cowan to the United States to launch the Christian Cowan brand. Mitchinson, with a year of university behind him, in the role of Head of Business led the brand to considerable success in a short time (the brand was a finalist of the CFDA / FashionTrends Fashion Fund in 2018), the dream of many emerging stylists. In the era of Instagram, in which success seems to come overnight, we met Natthias Mitchinson for an accelerated course in corporate know-how. It is important for those who want to become a stylist to also know the commercial side of the brand, and not only the creative one. It is a powerful combination of design and entrepreneurial skills that give a brand success and longevity. Read Natthias Mitchinson’s advice below, and what Cowan thinks about International Women’s Day.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Christian Cowan: “International Women’s Day is obviously the perfect time to pay homage to the incredibly strong women who have supported me throughout my life, professional and private. We celebrate women every day at Christian Cowan & Powerpuff Girls, but celebrating them on Women’s Day is a very special thing. I was a queer teenager and it was women who educated me and supported me in life. Today I am honored to create for women, to make them feel like stars when they wear my creations “.
Who are the most important women in your life?
CC: “My mother is my beacon, she is the strongest person I know, she is incredibly motivated and committed. And then my clients, who inspire me every day, for their way of always being positive in everything they do. They inspire me to do more and better for them. “
Tell us about the partnership with Cartoon Network and the Powerpuff Girls.
CC: “As a child, but even now that I am an adult, I loved the Powerpuff Girls. I really like the fact that in a time when women in cartoons were often painted as fragile and needy beings, the Powerpuff Girls were independent, indeed they were the ones to save everyone, including the father. I like the idea that this message is reflected throughout the brand’s corporate structure. A message that perfectly aligns with what we believe in has come naturally to collaborate “.
Can you also tell us about the important role of InHerShoes?
CC: “It is important, in moments of celebration like this, to be consistent with what is said. InHerShoes is a movement that helps women to emancipate and be more courageous. Their mission always starts and ends with the same question: What would you do if you were 1% braver? Organizations like InHerShoes are very important, because through their work and their collaborations they help to sensitize people about their mission, that is the emancipation of women, and because they manage to involve women from the most varied backgrounds “.
What would you like women to feel when they wear your creations?
CC: “I want them to feel strong and beautiful. Ready to do whatever they want to do. My clothes are made for those who want to get noticed. The greatest satisfaction as a stylist is to see the women with my creations posing, smiling, to see that they feel super fabulous “.
Tell us about the entrepreneurial side of Christian Cowan. What was your contribution to the brand launch when you started?
Natthias Mitchinson: “At the beginning we put on fashion shows without having a penny. They told us they understood us, they said: “we work with a lot of young designers”, but then they asked us: “what budget do you have?” – and we: “maybe it’s not clear, we have no budget”. But we still managed to do crazy things. In a way, we learned the biggest lesson in business: it’s all a scam. “
As for sales, what is your strategy?
NM: “Our current strategy is not to use a traditional business model because it doesn’t work for us. Wholesale and resale activities are very complicated to start, and retailing right now is a disaster. The shops are closed and with the emergency (Covid-19, ed.) Nobody goes shopping. “
You are on sale from a few, but prestigious boutiques. In this case, what kind of strategy have you adopted?
NM: “Small boutiques understand well which payment conditions work best for a young brand. They pay you right away, and it’s over there. But if you receive an order through Nordstrom you will see the money 90 days after delivery, and this when they are on time. Working with small boutiques is better for us, they know their customers well. And it is also good from the point of view of brand positioning, because they are more exclusive “.
Tell us about your DTC approach, direct sales to the consumer.
NM: “Our main focus is always DTC, but through different channels. 80% of our business is based on a loyal clientele of wealthy and incredibly fabulous women who love fashion. “
How did you manage to collaborate immediately with Giuseppe Zanotti?
NM: “Our stylist for the show at the time was Patti Wilson, who collaborates with FashionTrends Italia, we love it. It went like this, he phoned Giuseppe, and he didn’t stop calling him until we succeeded in our intent. When he finally agreed to meet us, it was perfect, because luckily Giuseppe was there, and he and Christian talked about the project, and since they met directly, we skipped all the formal / corporate part. Already at our first meeting we immediately clarified what we wanted to do. I think it is also useful for already started brands to work with emerging young people. Not many brands would have let us do what we did anyway, but for them the more it was, the better. It’s a serious fashion that doesn’t take itself too seriously. ”
What does the future hold for Christian Cowan?
NM: “As far as we are concerned, there are still many unexplored territories where we still sell very little, but we know that we can grow a lot. We have private clients in the Middle East who continually ask us to go there and organize trunk shows with them. There are five or six markets where we would like to enter. We want to expand globally. The advantage of the DTC model is that the income is immediate, just swipe the credit card and the money is there immediately. “
Personalized events seem to be the ideal family for your brand. Tell us more.
NM: “We invest in events to create something really special. We don’t want anyone who comes to our events to feel obligated to buy. Sometimes we organize events where you can’t even buy the garments, we don’t do it for this, we do it to create a community. And much more than money, this type of connection brings more results. “
What advice would you give to those who, like you, want to deal with the commercial side of a fashion brand?
NM: “You have to be aware that you don’t know everything, and that you will never know everything. For those who have just finished university, you learn certain things in class, but what I learned on the field is more valuable than anything else, and I see it every day. I think we should keep an open mind, and know-how to invest money, and have a sense of what happens in everyday life “.
© Courtesy of Christian Cowan & BFA