The jury may still be out on whether Lil Nas X will score another cultural zeitgeist like “Old Town Road,” but the rapper is certainly not wasting the platform earned by his record-breaking, history-making hit. That said, his latest release isn’t a new single, but a new collection with designer Christian Cowan, who helped Lil Nas create what would become one of many style moments for the 2019 VMAs (pictured above).
“He did my first major red carpet look, where we channeled a little bit of Prince,” Lil Nas explained to Vogue. After witnessing both the racial uprisings around the country and a landmark Pride Month, the two wanted to collaborate on an equally impactful collection that would directly benefit the Black queer community, initially planning to focus their scope on the Black trans community.
“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,” Lil Nas told Vogue.
The scope has now expanded to include Black queer youth in Lil Nas’ hometown of Atlanta, with 100 percent of its proceeds designated for a fund through the Loveland Foundation. But while the mission is serious, the while the collection and its racially diverse campaign—which includes Loveland founder, activist Rachel Cargle—are irreverent and subversive, referencing “the punk and queer movements of the 1970s,” Vogue reports.
“Both [queer and punk people] were often funneled into the same venues for their club nights, because they were the only venues that would take them,” says Cowan. “In one club night, you would have, like, a cis white male punk with spiky hair, and then you’d also have trans and queer Black people in the same venue coexisting.”
The influence of punk and queer culture is certainly evident in the offering. Pieces include everything from punky graphic tees and shredded denim to full-on glamorous ball gowns. One look features a black, strapless, latex-style gown with a tiered skirt—something that reads more worthy of a fabulous drag show than a CBGB punk show. None of the looks are meant specifically for men or women, either. Lil Nas says he has always been drawn to Cowan’s gender-fluid designs, and this nonbinary approach is something they wanted to take even further.
“[Christian’s] looks are so in between the sexes, I like how he’s so free with it,” said Lil Nas, adding: “I would love to wear these pieces every day...I really like to throw in a surprise with whatever I wear.”
Nevertheless, Lil Nas is still acclimating to his newfound status as a fashion icon. ‘That was definitely last on my list of things that I would probably be when I got older,” the 21-year-old told E! News fashion correspondent Zanna Roberts, giving credit to a glitter-faced Cowan while on a break from the campaign shoot. Speaking about the collaboration with Refinery29, the rapper added:
“What I love about this collection is that not only are the clothes super sick and show-stopping, but I’m also really proud of what it represents and all the people that it will help...Atlanta is my hometown and the LGBTQ+ community [there] is one of the most at risk, so I’m glad that we’ll be able to offer them some support.”