This time last year Lil Nas X was riding high off “Old Town Road.” He’d just attended his first ever MTV Video Music Awards with eight nominations, rocking a glimmering silver sequin suit by Christian Cowan. The Prince-inspired look featured a cropped jacket, matching silver cowboy boots, and a frilly lace top. Whether he was on any of our best dressed lists or not, we took notice. Now a year later, he’s collaborating with Christian Cowan once again for a Spring/Summer 2021 collection.
The punk rock collection is inspired by the queer community’s drag and ballroom cultures. None of the looks are meant specifically for men or women, and the eye-catching campaign features Heidi Klum, Jade from Little Mix, and a parade of LGBTQ+ icons, including Amanda Lepore, Marc Jacobs, and Violet Chachki.
It’s an impressive move by Lil Nas, who must have had everyone from Gucci to Walmart banging on his door over the last year, offering fashion campaign, capsule collection, and collab options — but he picked Christian Cowan. Why?
“[Christian’s] looks are so in between the sexes, I like how he’s so free with it,” Nas tells Vogue.
The line not only pays tribute to the freedom of queer culture but through it, he’s giving back to queer youth. Following Black Lives Matter protests and the conversations those protests led to surrounding Pride celebrations, Nas and Christian were compelled to use the collection to support the LGBTQ+ community’s Black trans women. Speaking with Vogue, he says:
“The trans community, especially the Black trans community, is one of the most looked down upon groups in the entire world, and the least cared for.”
They started designing the collection about a month and a half ago over FaceTime sessions, and as the project developed the decided that 100% of the proceeds will benefit Black queer youth in Nas’ hometown of Atlanta. A new fund has been set up with the Loveland Foundation, which typically provides supports and therapy for Black girls and women.
But despite the serious charitable focus for the line, they wanted the clothes to be part of a fun, glitzy fantasy, a throwback to the 1970s when queer and punk people partied in the same spaces, because there were only certain venues that would take them. It’s a celebration of queerness, and other communities accepting your queerness. It’s most interesting to me because the last time I wrote about Lil Nas, I mentioned how he dimmed his own light when he was young because he felt like if he showed all of his personality people would find out he’s gay. Now that he’s living authentically, he’s finding out who he really is — a process you can watch in real time, at least aesthetically, if you follow him on Instagram. I’m sure this Christian Cowan collab won’t be his final form, but it’s refreshing to see him exploring the Lil Nas X he wants to be and not the Lil Nas X society wants him to subscribe to.