It was a sweltering and muggy affair in the concrete jungle of Beekman Garage on Friday night. A spot of rain and scorching temps had attendees using their programs as fans and eagerly accepting water from the PR flacks (note to Kanye: water is a must) in an attempt to stay cool as the minutes ticked by before the Baja East show kicked off on the extreme end of fashionably late.
There was something almost fitting to the discomfort. The formerly mundane parking garage had been retrofitted with pink and green fluorescent lighting and benches worthy of all those chic derrières. DJ Carlos Jadraque was spinning in the corner, and the crowd was primed and ready to have some fun.
The event had the vibe of a glam-grunge dance club, and this was only enhanced as the straight-faced models, all sporting Japanese-style bandanas, took to the no-nonsense concrete runway.
Cool-kid designers Scott Studenberg and John Targon have become known for creating collections that are globally inspired, mixing a touch of streetwear with a touch of bohemian in their luxury offerings.
The duo was honored by the fashion community last year, when they were named finalists for the 2015 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award. Over the past few years, Baja East has racked up an impressive list of #bajabaes, including Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Emily Ratajkowski, Solange Knowles, and many more.
Now, with their latest collection for Spring 2017, they have pulled it off again.
To the brilliant beats of Princess Nokia, Aaliyah, Brooke Candy, and more, male and female models showed off a mix of the draped and oversized and the sexy and seductive. There were fabric-heavy dresses, balanced with the peep of leg from a thigh-high slit, and layering that was both delicate and bold.
In a season where everyone seems to be dreaming of the ’90s, Studenberg and Targon joined the party with a touch of tie dye and a series of looks accented with playful beaded fringe running down the side of a pant leg or the collar of a poncho.
They also mixed and matched prints to fun effect, like different shades of an almost-retro banana-bunch print and touches of tan snakeskin. Then there was plenty of sheer and lace to offset oversize pants and shirts.
When it was time for the final march, the doors of two car elevators dramatically opened to reveal the full army of models standing in formation. One by one they exited the industrial cubes and took their last lap around the concrete.
The doors opened one last time to reveal Studenberg and Targon ready to take their bow. The two bleached-blonde Baja East designers wearing matching “BE with Her” shirts stepped out of the elevators laughing and dancing, eschewing the often traditional quick-wave-and-escape, for a full, dance-filled lap around the crowd.
From the moment the first “model” began dancing around the runway, tumbling and contorting her body, it was clear Chromat’s most recent fashion show was going to be a showstopper. Hints of this were evident even before the lights went down on the lively buzz of the Milk Studios crowd, whose fashion-forward style was runway-ready in itself.
The sound of a motorcycle revving led into DJ ABBY’s first song as dancer and choreographer Mela Murder took to the catwalk. Wearing a blue bikini top and hot pink bottoms with black bondage-style straps artfully connecting the two, Murder leaped and spun around, showing off the forceful moves of her powerful and pregnant body.
Since launching her line in 2010, designer Becca McCharen has devoted herself to designing sport and swimwear that is highly structured and innovative, creating season after season of surprising and original new looks.
She has used her education in architecture to create fashion that highlights and empowers the shape of the body with stunning results. Her work has won her such fans as Beyoncé, Madonna, and Taylor Swift (who can forget the “Bad Blood” video), not to mention a spot in the 2015 class of CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Finalists.
Building on this aesthetic, McCharen found inspiration for her Spring/Summer 2017 line in the professional athletes who battle the extremes of nature and their own physical limits. Her collaboration on Murder’s opening dance number celebrated another aspect of the power of women—that of the ability to create life.
The models who followed Murder’s dance took a more traditional path down the runway, but tradition lasted only as far as their walks. Season after season, fashion critics have called for more diversity on the runway. But rarely has there been significant improvement.
Here, too, McCharen overturned convention. The line-up of models showing off Chromat’s bathing suits and athletic gear, sexy cover-ups and sporty dresses embraced diversity in both race and size. The eclectic group ranged from the typically skinny minnies to beautiful and busty plus-size models, and everything in between, with a broad mix of ethnicities represented as well.
Combined with Chromat’s powerfully futuristic style, it’s hard not to hope that this is what the future of fashion will look like: incredible and innovative designs that show off the beauty of the full rainbow of shapes and sizes of women.
Beyond the powerful impact of its presentation, McCharen’s collection delivered on all of the hype.
A backdrop of black was accented with pops of bright turquoises, pinks, and oranges. There were the quintessentially Chromat bondage-style accents of straps and snaps, in addition to artfully placed sheer panels up the sides of coverups and down the calves of athletic pants. There were sporty bikinis designed to tackle the waves, and fierce architectural two-pieces that would make a statement on the sand.
It was a fresh and fun testament to how clothing can embolden and support, rather than just cover and decorate, the women who wear it. The fashion crowd was so moved that—defying yet another convention—they broke out into spontaneous applause on more than one occasion during the middle of the show.