He is only twenty-one and Christian Cowan SanLuis has achieved what most of his peers could only dream of, including a viral collaboration with Acer for the world’s first Selfie Hat and having Pop icons such as Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and Rihanna rocking his glitter-covered outfits anywhere from red carpet events to live performances. Despite finding success so soon, Christian remains as focused as ever, taking one step at a time while carefully planning ahead in order to overcome the many constraints imposed by the lack of resources and budget. We chose one fine Saturday morning to meet the young designer and discuss life and fashion, without any rose tinted glasses on. Here is what went down.
Fashion has been in your life for a while now. What pushed you in that direction and just how different do you find it to be from your original idea of it?
I’m not sure what triggered my interest in it but it was definitely from a young age, probably because it’s a great form of escapism. It’s wildly different than my romanticised view of what fashion was when I was younger. The main lesson which I had is the realisation that there is very little difference in being successful than there is in many other careers. It’s all well being creative but you have to have the business side down in order to create what you want.
Your brand is strongly associated with a rebellious lifestyle that pretty much screams ‘screw you’, as seen in SS13, to anyone who doesn’t take risks fashion wise. On a personal level, to what degree do you represent that?
I hope my work, rather than aggressive is more of a persuasion to push yourself to be you. I never want to make anyone uncomfortable, I want the opposite, I want people to be proud of their figures and their inner self. I look to empower women in my work.
Your fixation with the Western culture of the United States is quite evident in your designs. What do you find so intriguing about it and how do you find this theme to be relevant to your current works?
It really materialised naturally. I’ve always had a deep love for American pop culture- it’s incredibly rich and diverse. Strangely enough I am now planning my permanent move to the States. I’d imagine because I was a pop culture junkie as a child.
Budget, and in particular the lack of it, has stopped many young designers from paving a career in fashion but not yourself. In what ways do you think this has shaped your current design ethos?
It’s incredibly hard to get by as a young designer. People assume huge projects with minimal budgets is fine to ask of a young designer but I don’t think they realise how much it all costs. The designer is often expected to front the bill where other professionals on the project further their portfolios but don’t contribute financially. This is fine if the designer is in commerce, but if they aren’t then it can prove quite problematic. It hugely affects my work and I look forward to the day when my budget catches up with what I want to do.
The extensive and genius use of , from your side, has been critical to your brand’s success.
Do you ever feel pressured to play PR games or do you enjoy the process?
I enjoy it and hate it at the same time- I think pretty much like everyone. When projects of mine have gone viral I have loved it obviously but social media being so fundamental for success does add pressure to the entire process. Learning the balance of professional and personal content is tricky when trying to create a likeable brand.
Juggling so many different aspects of your work, must leave very little time in your hands. Do you ever
feel like you’re missing out on things?
Yes massively. I will never be able to handle my press better then a fantastic agency, or my production as well as a great studio with man power. There have been many projects I haven’t been able to do purely because of lack of resources and budget.
Your innovative design style has been embraced by many non-conformist pop icons of our time, including the likes of Lady Gaga, Azealia Banks and Miley Cyrus. What has changed for you since then?
I don’t think too much. I have to bear in mind what sort of brand I want to be, if I want to go into commerce and filter my work to be more wearable for more people or to stay in a section of fashion which is amazing and fun but hard to support. This is something I am working out over the next few seasons.
Nigella Lawson or Caitlyn Jenner- because they are awesome.
Being so young and already in the spotlight, do you ever feel intimidated when thinking ‘what’s next’?
I always enjoy coming up with new ideas and wish I could do more! The only thing that frustrates me is comparisons people sometimes might draw or blatant copying done by a stylist/designer abroad who can’t be bothered to pay the original artist who created the piece. It happens to me and a lot of my friends. It sucks and I think this should be highlighted more.
The past year saw a very exciting collaboration with Acer for the, now famous, Selfie Hat. Do you believe that the future of fashion will see a complete merging with technology?
The Selfie Hat project was so much fun. Acer was so amazing to me! I really am convinced that these two industries will only collide more and more in the years to come.
Should we wait for something similarly unexpected from you soon?
Wait and see!
As featured in Chasseur issue #11 – YOURS WAS THE BODY (AW15)
Christian Cowan SanLuis AW15 + SS16 key pieces were photographed exclusively for Chasseur
Photography | Mikko Puttonen
MUAH | Sergio Alvarez
Model | Elsa Brisinger @ NEXT