You’re a star, and Christian Cowan doesn’t want you to forget it. The partywear designer took his celebration to Paris with his Spring 2024 collection, and is bringing it to your face too, thanks to a new collaboration with Smashbox. “He is a designer who really knows makeup,” said Lori Taylor Davis, Global Pro Lead Artist Smashbox Cosmetics. “He can really dissect makeup, and knows product.”
For the brand’s show, Cowan worked with Davis to create a look that combined clusters of anime lashes with a “zero space” brow – a brow with purposeful gaps, created using a sandwich combo of powder and glue stick (the children’s kind, that you can wash out, cautioned Davis). The lashes were clustered into three thick “star points” (a Cowan signature), two on the top and one on the bottom, thanks to a blend of Ardell Aqua False Strip Lashes #343 and Smashbox’s Superfan Mascara. Hairstylist Evanie Frausto created an 80s crimped hairstyle, as seen on show models like Tube Girl Sabrina Bahsoon and Meredith Duxbury. It took Julie Kandalec and her team four days, sometimes till 3-4 AM to create seven different press-on nail designs for the show. Ranging in colors from a “velvet black” to silver, each featured a rounded stiletto tip and a “windowpane” with a crystal stud.
It’s a little known fact that Cowan really does know beauty, having assisted one of the biggest makeup artists in the world before he started his own line (more on that later). The Christian Cowan collection with Smashbox includes a travel set of their hero products, The Original Photo Finish Smooth & Blur Primer and Photo Finish Endurance Breathable Setting Spray. The Breakout Star Eyeshadow Palette features 12 different matte, metallic, and shimmery shades ranging from an in-your-face fuchsia and Halston-like gold, and other neutrals like soft pinks (another Cowan favorite) and earthy tones for blending. ELLE talked to Cowan about his little-known start in beauty, “slay all day” makeup, and the emotion that he hopes that his new collaboration evokes to fans.
I was just talking to Lori, and she described you as a designer who “truly knows makeup.”
I’m so honored and flattered to hear that detail. Not a lot of people know this, but my introduction to fashion is that I used to assist Isamaya Ffrench, who was so bold and creative. I learned so much [from her]. I’ve always loved fabric, but also been excited by creation on the human form. You can learn professionally, but the best way is often in those younger years, when you’re getting ready with your friends and having fun. I adore [beauty] stuff. I think it’s so much fun. There are no rules. Currently, I’m just obsessed with eyeshadow and shimmers.
I see that your palette is shaped like a star, and stars are a common motif in your designs too.
Anyone can agree, my clothes are to make people feel like a star. We use stars in so many of my designs from the beginning. We really wanted to have a palette that felt really fun to have out and unbox it. It’s tactile and you can play with it.
How do you come up with your beauty references?
I’m definitely a child of the internet. I am always saving things all year long, it’s definitely not just leading up to it. I save things and think, how fabulous. Then I start to ideate, and go through those screenshots and screengrabs. It can be very random, like what my Spanish relatives are doing with their makeup, what my interns are doing, there are millions of possibilities. I love seeing more people play with unexpected shades, and things like split eyebrows and clumpy lashes on purpose. And we always love beautiful skin. I also love any style that feels evocative of a by-gone era like the 60s.
I’m sure a lot of people have approached you. Why did you decide to do this collaboration? What emotion are you hoping this collaboration brings to people?
There have been many offers. This is an organic connection. The women of Smashbox are fierce, stylish people. That’s one big part of it. The concept of party-proof makeup is also so synonymous with my brand. I hate when people do collaborations and they feel forced.
I love that this makeup lasts. You can go to the party, work for 12 hours, and still look slay all day. We love that. It’s so lame when you do a cute look and it melts off your face 30 minutes later. When Smashbox and I were designing it, we wanted it to be about having a good time – a celebration and having fun, there’s always more space for that. The older we get, the more we need to prioritize it. It’s important to be able to express yourself in new fun ways and learn about yourself and push the boundaries.
ELLE Beauty Director
Kathleen Hou is ELLE”s Beauty Director. Previously, she held the same title at New York Magazine’s The Cut. She’s appeared in publications such as New York, The New York Times Magazine, Vogue India, Forbes, and Allure. She was also a co-founder of Donate Beauty, a grassroots beauty donation project started during the COVID-19 crisis, which donated over 500,000 products to over 30,000 healthcare workers across 500+ hospitals.