No pants, no problem. Designer Christian Cowan and “Saturday Night Live!” star Chloe Fineman went method on set with FN last month. During the shoot, which was giving artist and his muse — or better yet, Cinderella and her fairy godmother vibes — the dynamic duo filmed their video segment in nothing but dramatic feather coats, bare legs and Crocs.
Their playful partnership isn’t unexpected. Fineman, who’s known for her uncanny Nicole Kidman and Drew Barrymore impressions, first teamed up with the designer last year to star in his hilarious fall ’21 “A Fashion Thing” film. And she can now be seen in Cowan’s new campaign marking his first Crocs collaboration.
Cowan, meanwhile, has just come off a New York Fashion Week high, where he held his spring ’23 runway show and debuted the limited-edition collection.
The collab consists of three Crocs styles, which Cowan reimagined. “I wanted to have the variation because they all have different uses in your day-to-day life,” he said backstage on show day. “And then I wanted to bring our brand identity to the Crocs brand identity. I’m known for glitz and glam, checkerboard and pink and bows. So it’s just quintessentially us all in one. And it’s about bringing glamour, which makes so much sense to do it with Crocs because Crocs experiments so much. That’s my favorite thing with fashion — to experiment.”
The Christian Cowan x Crocs Mega Crush Clog, for instance, features heightened proportions with a platform that stands 61 millimeters tall and has an enhanced rubber tread. The shoe is crafted in all black and is detailed with detachable metallic chains that can also be worn as a necklace with a Crocs pendant. The collab marks the first time Jibbitz charms can be converted into other wearable accessories.
Cowan isn’t a stranger to collaboration, having teamed up with Giuseppe Zanotti on a line of shoes in 2018, for instance. With Crocs, however, Cowan sent his first pair of flats down the runway.
“[These collabs] are on polar opposite ends of the shoe market,” the designer told FN on set for his cover shoot. “I always want to give ‘unexpected.’ And I feel like this was unexpected.”
Despite Crocs’ polarizing and comfort-focused nature, Cowan was never deterred from working with the company. “Crocs is absolutely a fashion shoe,” he said. “It’s often a really confident, quirky person who’s unafraid to play with fashion who’s wearing them. And not all of our followers are in New York City and can pop into our SoHo store and afford a $3,000 dress. I also want product our fans can access and wear and enjoy.”
For Crocs, the partnership was a no brainer, according to chief marketing officer Heidi Cooley. She said that as the brand continues to up its high-fashion credibility, after working with the likes of Balenciaga and Christopher Kane, Cowan represents another level of relevance when it comes to new customer acquisition.
“Christian values the power of creators,” said Cooley. “He is someone who really leverages the power of his network and influencers to drive reach and impressions for his brand, which is very, very similar to
Cowan also noted that both align on shared values of inclusivity and self-expression, which have been engrained in the designer’s brand DNA since its inception. On the runway and in campaigns, representation is seen in many forms, including gender, sexual orientation, size, age and color. Although, it’s not a conscious thought, said Cowan.
“I was a queer kid in the middle of nowhere in the English countryside, miserable. And then I went to London when I was 17 and met my community and it just naturally evolved,” he said. “Everyone at my brand is really young. We fully represent what our audience is.”
But at the beginning of his career, he did come up against naysayers who questioned the degree of inclusiveness in his brand identity. “Yeah, people said, ‘If you’re going to have to a drag queen in your campaign, Beyoncé is not going to want to wear you.’ And that’s a really old mentality. Like, that is not the world we live in,” Cowan recalled.
Spoiler alert: the Queen Bey is a fan. As are Cardi B, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus. The list goes on.
“We are proof that those things aren’t mutually exclusive anymore. Talented, incredible people are talented, incredible people,” added Cowan. “And Crocs has been so for the community in every sense. Crocs has a huge audience and it’s across the world. It spans so many different territories. And I love that our campaign is being blasted out to all of [the brand’s fans].”
In addition to Fineman, the playful and humorous social spots star Michelle Visage and Simone from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Sonja Morgan of “The Real Housewives of New York City,” Christine Quinn from Netflix’s hit TV series “Selling Sunset,” as well singer Tinashe, makeup artist Jazelle and supermodel Daphne Groeneveld.
Another benefit of the collab: a portion of the proceeds from sales will be donated to The Ali Forney Center, which provides assistance to LGBTQIA+ homeless youth in the United States.
Here, comedy and fashion become one in a sit-down interview with Cowan and Fineman, who get candid about Crocs, quirky fashion and all things “Real Housewives.”
The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
How did you two first come to meet?
Chloe Fineman: “Well, I was a huge fan. We were trying to work together. And then I feel like I met you for the first time on the Crocs campaign shoot.”
Christian Cowan: “First off, everything inspires me about Chloe because she’s stunning and beautiful. And then she’s just so talented in so many different ways. You understand how to do so many different things, comedically. I’m just so in awe… I am your largest fan. I throw my underwear on stage when you perform.”
CF: “And I chew it.”
So let’s get into it. What are your genuine thoughts on Crocs?
CF: “As somebody who likes Ugg boots, I feel like Crocs are the new Uggs. And now with something like a platform, it’s very fashion forward and they’re extremely comfortable.”
CC: “They are extremely comfortable. Like, rich kids in L.A. are wearing these now and nurses. I get stopped by everyone from old ladies to 20-year-old guys, saying, ‘I love your shoes.’”
CF: “Yeah, the fact that Justin Bieber and a nurse can coexist in footwear is great.”
How would you describe your approach to fashion?
CC: “I do whatever the f—k I want. I just like to design cool shit, like what I think is cool. I’m inspired by the women in my life — like Chloe, like my mom, strong, independent women. I want people to be complimented in my clothes.”
CF: “I think it is just, like, not giving a shit. I’ve always liked a costume as opposed to jeans as a person. And I think clothing is a way to feel like you’re in a costume and in character. To me, there’s no difference. What I love about you is I do feel like we share some similar muses, such as the women of the ‘Housewives.’ The first time I did your shoot, everyone there was a muse of mine. It was very exciting. Dorinda [Medley] flashed me entirely and couldn’t have a care in the world.”
CC: “A major similarity between us is that we’re both a big fan of escapism, something that’s not the real world, something that’s just so far removed from our own, too.”
Do you think comedy can be glamorous and fashion can be fun?
CF: “Well this is the hot debate, right? I like to break the rules. I feel like I came up in stand-up comedy where a lot of girls had their tits out, wearing a short dress, heels. And who cares? I feel like that was sort of a revolution in comedy. Obviously, on ‘SNL,’ there are a ton of glamorous, beautiful women. And I think the people I admire are the ones who are like, ‘There are no rules,
just do what you want.’”
CC: “For me, it’s just have fun with it. We’re making clothes. This isn’t saving the world. We’re not going to Mars. Just have fun. It’s a jacket.”
You mentioned “The Real Housewives.” Who do you think is the best-dressed housewife right now?
CF: “How am I not giving Meredith Marks?”
CC: “I have a horrible confession to make. I’ve never seen it. I’ve never watched the show. I know the ladies, but I’ve never watched it.”
CF: “What?! Not a single city? New York?”
What about worst dressed?
Speaking of fashion fails, Christian, have you had a fashion bomb?
CC: “When have I not? I definitely have. I think one of the things about growing up with your work online is there’s a lot of crap out there. I’ve released a lot of bad stuff. I’m happy to admit that, but you get better.”
CF: “But it’s not a bomb if it’s worn the right way.”
CC: “Amen. And also, if you just stand behind it.”
CF: “Confidence equals no bomb.”
You both have an affinity for New York. Chloe, you went to New York University and Christian, your brand is inspired by the city. What do you think is the quintessential New York outfit?
CF: “Well, I moved to New York back in 2006 and that outfit was like [smoking] a skinny little cigarette, that was the American Apparel [era]. Everyone was in monotone — navy hoodies, skinny jeans.”
CC: “I dress as characters. Like, I will have the day where I’m doing a gothy, punk vibe, listening to MCR. And then other times, it’s like ’60s suburbia. I like a character. Or like Berlin club.”
CF: “Oh, I like that. I have two personas in New York. One is like wet out of the bath and in crunchy sweatpants with lint and dog hair. A dumpy sweatshirt. No bra. Uggs or Crocs now. And then no one really acknowledges me. Or I’m completely dolled up in the most fabulous outfit. The people at my coffee shop are always so confused because they get both.”
Coming off fashion week, what do you think about today’s front row fashion?
CC: “My favorite front row fashion girls are these few billionaire women from the Upper East Side who come to my shows.”
CF: “And they have three-word names…”
CC: “Yeah. And they literally turn up in Alo sweatpants and a running sports bra. it’s major. It’s so chic. We love it. We call it billionaires’ row.”
Chloe, as a master impressionist, how do you differentiate your personal style from the characters you embody?
CF: “I keep things really simple. This summer, I’ve collected vests and trousers. That’s my new look. I like to do a Diane Keaton thing. This year, I was like, ‘I’m not wearing sweatpants anymore,’ so I just do trousers. And now, accidentally, I am dressing just like my mother. She’s chic!”
CF: “I think I’m just a hoarder. Any drawer you open, you’re just like, ‘oh my God.’ And my sister says I have a Noah’s Arc complex, which is I have at least two of everything. I have to have two of the same vest. I find sunglasses I like and I’ll get them in every color.”
CC: “It’s for the multiple homes…”
CF: “Yeah. I aspire to be a billionaire on the front row, but I’m not. I just have a lot of shit.”
As two people who are intertwined in pop culture, what are some iconic moments that have inspired you through the years?
CC: “I have many. That’s so hard to pick. I mean, there are some obvious ones, like ‘The Matrix.’ For me, anything John Galliano.”
CF: “I like more of the early 2000s stuff. This is really embarrassing, but I was inspired by Johnny Depp in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’ And it struck an eyeliner moment for me. I remember seeing the movie and coming home and trying to do that as a 17-year-old girl. I went blonde because of ‘Legally Blonde,’ and I remember seeing ‘Confessions on the Dance Floor’ from Madonna and that changed my life. Then I started my unitard collection, which I should find because it’ll match my vest collection.”
Click through the gallery to see more of Chloe Fineman and Christian Cowan’s FN cover shoot.
Photographer: Kimber Capriotti
Story by: Nikara Johns
Style Director and creative: Shannon Adducci
Associate Art Director: Emily Harris
Styled by Yael Quint
Hair by Clara Leonard at the Wall Group
Makeup by Genevieve Herr at Sally Harlor
Nails by Stephanie Hernandez