Inside Christian Cowan's latest fashion show, which was packed with celebrities and had clothes inspired by Doritos

Lil Nas X at Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 runway show.
Lil Nas X in the audience at Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 show.Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
  • Insider was in attendance for Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 show during New York Fashion Week.

  • His latest line was inspired by Hollywood stars, the queer community, and Doritos.

  • Many of the looks were embellished with sparkles, satin, and in some cases, latex tights.

Christian Cowan's latest runway show was hosted at the Starrett-Lehigh Building in New York City on Valentine's Day.

Celebrity attendees watch Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 runway show.
Celebrity attendees watch Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 runway show.Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Insider was in attendance for the event, visiting Smashbox backstage to learn about the show's makeup looks and sitting in the front row to see Cowan's latest creations.

Here's what senior lifestyle reporter Amanda Krause and lead social media producer Elizabeth Morales saw and thought throughout the event.

Before the show, models prepared backstage by eating dinner and getting their makeup done.

Backstage at Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 runway show.
Models get ready backstage for Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 show.Amanda Krause/Insider

Morales: I've never been backstage at a fashion show before, so I didn't know what to expect. I was anticipating this big production where everyone was high-stress and running everywhere, but it wasn't as hectic as I thought it would be.

Krause: The experience was also new to me, and I felt like a fly on the wall. Hairstylists and makeup artists swirled around models to get them ready, and others grabbed quick meals from catering to fuel before the show.

Lori Taylor Davis, Smashbox's global pro lead artist, told Insider that the runway would feature "no-makeup" makeup looks.

A model gets her makeup done for Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 show.
Smashbox makeup artists were on site to prepare each model.Amanda Krause/Insider

"For Christian Cowan, it's all about glowy, beautiful, highlighted skin — no-makeup makeup," Taylor Davis said.

She and her team created each model's look with shimmering primers, Smashbox's Halo tinted moisturizer, and "a flush" of color on the lips and cheeks.

"It's pared back," she said. "For Christian, in the past, it's been all about color, but this year, it's all about skin being this whole moment."

As Taylor Davis said, Cowan "gives all the glitz" with his fashion — so the makeup looks needed to be simple but "perfected."

A model with completed makeup at Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 show.
Each model wore glowing makeup, from shimmering primers to tinted moisturizers.Amanda Krause/Insider

Krause: I won't lie — I was nervous about seeing "no-makeup" makeup on a Christian Cowan runway. After all, this is the designer who brought us a "Powerpuff Girls"-inspired runway with neon clothes and mod makeup in 2019.

But as models stepped away from Taylor Davis' makeup chair, I was blown away. I'd never seen such glowing skin in my life.

Morales: These are truly accessible makeup looks that anyone can wear and learn to perfect. And I think the simplicity of these "no-makeup" looks really let the designs speak for themselves.

Later, attendees gathered in the massive, warehouse-style venue.

Attendees at Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 runway show.
Attendees at Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 runway show.Amanda Krause/Insider

Krause: I'd describe this space in two words: beautiful and huge. The catwalk was split into two massive runways, divided by white columns and surrounded by rows of chairs.

Morales: This was one of the only nighttime shows we attended, and the lack of light coming through the windows emphasized the downtown, going-out vibe.

Some of the first stars to arrive were Bella Thorne, Rebecca Black, Brittany Broski, and Taylor Momsen.

Bella Thorne and Taylor Momsen ahead of Christian Cowan's show.
Bella Thorne and Taylor Momsen ahead of Christian Cowan's show.Michael Loccisano/Dolly Faibyshev/Getty Images

Krause: I first saw Brittany Broski backstage, and then ran into Bella Thorne and Rebecca Black downstairs at the show. They all looked amazing, but my favorite look was Taylor Momsen's black, blazer minidress with feathered sleeves.

Morales: I'm a huge "Gossip Girl" fan, and following the (recently canceled) reboot of the show, Momsen is having a moment.

Krause: She even gave my outfit — an all-pink Valentine's Day look — her stamp of approval, so that was fun.

Sam Smith and Lil Nas X were clearly the crowd favorites.

People gather around Sam Smith and Lil Nas X at Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 show.
Crowds gathered around Sam Smith and Lil Nas X until the show started.Amanda Krause

Morales: Lil Nas X is never shy to show up in a look. His oversized Cowan headpiece was perfection.

Krause: I also loved Sam Smith's sparkling coat, but it was hard to focus on either outfit — both stars were swarmed immediately. I even noticed Bella Thorne struggling to get back to her seat when they arrived.

Eventually, the show began, kicking off with Judy Garland ballads and moody lighting.

A model walks during Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 show.
The venue was dark aside from spotlights that highlighted the models.Amanda Krause/Insider

Krause: When the music kicked in, I felt like I was at a gothic opera. A lot of runway shows play upbeat pop remixes, so hearing Garland's legendary voice was a nice change.

Morales: It matched the chic, downtown vibe of the venue.

Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 collection was inspired by Hollywood stars and the queer community.

A model wears a star-embellished dress during Christian Cowan's FW 2023 show.
A model wears a star-embellished dress during Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 show.Dolly Faibyshev/Getty Images

Cowan wrote in his show notes that this collection was inspired by "heroines of the dawn of pop culture," including Judy Garland, Jayne Mansfield, Eartha Kitt, and Marlene Dietrich.

"Women who became legends. Icons of talent, beauty, and sorrow. Legends who became idols of allyship to marginalized queer communities across America," Cowan wrote.

He added: "This show explores the resilience of these by-gone legends and their queer fans, their love for each other, and ultimately their ability to channel sorrow into creativity."

The first looks were elegant with edgy details.

Fashion from Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 runway show.
Sparkles were prominent throughout Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 show.Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Morales: These outfits could've been taken straight out of Jenny Humphrey's wardrobe if she made it in the fashion world on "Gossip Girl." Plus, I love sparkles and black clothes, so it felt like these looks were designed for me.

Krause: Same for me — each outfit looked like it was pulled from my dream closet. The mix of sequins, satin, and latex worked so well, and the open blazers proved, in my opinion, that menswear works better as womenswear.

Then, Cowan displayed some of his more colorful designs.

Models wearing fashion from Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 line.
A couple of pieces were made from vibrant fabrics in shades of green, blue, and purple.Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Morales: I loved the satin dresses, but I'm personally not a blazer girl. The structured, oversized blazer isn't anything new; it's been around for seasons now. However, the satin fabric was a more unique choice. Pair that with a full satin outfit and feathers ... well that's something new.

Krause: Since most of the show's looks were darker and edgy, I thought these pops of color were fun. And I really appreciated the lavender tones, as the color has long symbolized empowerment in queer spaces.

Feathers were also a huge part of the show.

Models wearing feather looks at Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 show.
Some dresses were covered in feathers, and others used them as standout details.Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Morales: I need to wear this pink feather dress immediately.

Krause: To be honest, I was getting tired of feathers by the end of this NYFW season — they were everywhere.

But then I saw Cowan's new take on them — structured dresses with long, striking feathers extending from unexpected places — and I started to change my mind again.

Morales: The tall feathers elongated the designs and almost added some mystery, since the model's faces were partially obscured. I loved that.

A couple of the outfits featured triangle details, representing Cowan's partnership with Doritos.

Models wearing triangle looks during Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 show.
The triangles on these outfits were inspired by Doritos.Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Krause: If you're going to partner with a snack brand for your runway line, I feel like this is the way to do it: bags of Doritos for everyone to eat backstage, and subtle triangle details on outfits that look chic but secretly nod to a fan-favorite chip.

Morales: I've never thought of Doritos as fashionable, but you can't go wrong with structured designs.

Our favorite runway looks were covered in sparkles, feathers, and sheer details.

Models wear fashion from Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 line.
These were two of the boldest designs seen on Christian Cowan's runway.Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Krause: I haven't been able to get over Cowan's sheer veil, which was draped over a model's head and was lined with feathers at the bottom. It really made a statement in person.

Morales: I also loved the sheer veil. It felt like a modern — and bold — interpretation of Mary. And Cowan's long, sparkling dress was almost bridal, paired with a feather headpiece that commands a certain amount of attention from the viewer.

Krause: I don't think photos can do that look justice. In real life, the shimmer is blinding and the length of the train is fit for royalty.

The Hollywood women who inspired Cowan were present in each look.

A model wears a statement piece from Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 show.
This show-stopping piece was the last look displayed on Christian Cowan's runway.Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Morales: I love the nods to Vegas showgirls through the feathered headpieces seen in the show.

Krause: That inspiration was so clear with the last look on the runway: a black, sequin-covered jumpsuit paired with a feathered headpiece and matching cape that was so heavy, the model struggled to walk with it on her shoulders.

Morales: It's so big, and again, really commands attention.

Krause: I will never forget the moment when that piece finally made it to the end of the runway. The model dramatically dropped it from her shoulders in an unplanned moment of defiance — perfectly honoring the women who inspired Cowan.

I appreciate any fashion that honors women and the queer community, so I feel like this show — and that moment in particular — did so beautifully.

Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 show was one for the books.

A model wears a feathered Christian Cowan look on the Fall/Winter 2023 runway.
Christian Cowan's Fall/Winter 2023 runway show was the perfect ending to NYFW.Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Krause: This show was undoubtedly one of my favorites we saw this season.

Morales: The extravagance was unmatched. Every outfit shown on the runway was bigger and bolder than the last.

Krause: And the inspirations behind each piece — whether Judy Garland or Doritos — created looks that stood out from everything else this season.

Morales: Cowan certainly knows how to put on a show and take the audience on a journey.

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