Chromat Gets Real About ‘Whitewashing’ in Ethical Fashion at NYFW
The inclusive line had its splendidly diverse casting as ever, but designer Becca McCharen-Tran picked another cause to spotlight at a high-energy fashion show.
“I am not a normal person,” an editor informed an intern who had misplaced her press pass backstage at Chromat’s West Village New York Fashion Week show, apparently believing that information was enough to earn her access.
The already absurd soundbite felt particularly out of place, given the fact that Chromat has long flown in the face of fashion’s restrictive, self-imposed “normalcy.”
Over the past few seasons, the swimwear line has become one of Fashion Week’s hottest tickets, due to its high-energy atmosphere and authentically inclusive ethos.
Chromat is perhaps best known to “normal” folks as the label that outfitted Beyoncé for her Super Bowl performance. Designer Becca McCharen-Tran creates swim and body wear for all bodies and genders, regularly casting trans, disabled, and curve models of all ages. The come-as-you are spirit has earned scores of fans, and inevitably leads to long lines outside of shows and cramped risers inside.
The cast of #ChromatBabes plucked to wear the fall collection included blogger and amputee Mama Cax, transgender model Maya Mones, and queer sex educator Ericka Hart. Every single body that graced the runway positively worked it, but that was hardly surprising given the fact they do every single season. This time around, McCharen-Tran aimed to shift her audience’s attention away from her crew, and towards another worthy cause.
Inspired by a recent studio move to Miami, the theme was “Climatic.” In show notes, McCharen-Tran called her new home “a city on the front lines of the climate crisis,” that is both “a paradise and a natural disaster.”
After seeing the impacts of climate change firsthand, through rising waters and increased flooding, McCharen-Tran decided to muse on the fashion industry’s role as a polluter. Along with this, she pledged a greater awareness to how her swimwear is made going forward.
McCharen-Tran wrote that Chromat has used lycra made from recycled fishing nets for many years in an effort to be sustainable. The team also sources deadstock fabrics and works with fair labor factories to ensure things are on the ethical up-and-up. These factors have not been heavily advertised, because the designer “kinda thought our customer didn’t care.”
McCharen-Tran took to Instagram stories to ask Chromat's fans if they believed environmentalism “is white-washed” in marketing. The answer was a resounding yes; people responded with sentiments like “it’s only accessible to the upper/middle class” and “price is high for the average consumer, styling not accessible.”
Enter Chromat’s fall collection, which picked up where last season’s “wet T-shirt” theme left off. The lineup was heavy on neons, including crossing guard vest yellow, sky blue, and flamingo pink.
Skin was shown through plenty of cutouts, but McCharen-Tran’s team clearly had fun experimenting with a motif of chaps. Not only were there some assless pants, but a particularly creative monokini came outfitted with a drop waist skirt that exposed a model’s thighs in similar fashion.
Tight metallics also made the rounds in the form of glamorous cover-ups created, presumably, for whoever is lucky enough to spend a day poolside and a night on a yacht party. Such is the life of a #ChromatBabe.
At the end of her show, McCharen-Tran took a customary bow as head designer, but did so alongside her entire creative team. That small detail may have been missed by many attendees who by that time were looking down at their phones, off to another show, but it was just another reason to root for the Chromat crew.