A Valentine's Day Ode to Chromat

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photos / Jena Cumbo
story / Tiffany Diane Tso

This Valentine’s Day during #NYFW, I want to write a love letter to a brand that has rejected and rewritten the rules of mainstream fashion since its inception in 2010: Chromat. Without overstating this, the label is unequivocally the brightest beacon of hope for an inclusive, intersectional feminist fashion future.

I was introduced to Chromat in the summer of 2011, when an Austin-based online retailer I worked for began carrying the brand. Even without much context, those wire-framed grid bustiers and dresses that arrived in those cardboard boxes in the mail reshaped my entire context of wearable fashion. Designer Becca McCharen’s garments pulled off both sexy and punk rock in an unconventional, yet structured, way.
Fast forward to Friday, Feb 10, I sat in the audience of Chromat’s AW17 Buoyancy show. The fourth Chromat show I had the honor to witness, I knew what I could expect from the garments, show and talent. #AW17Buoyancy delivered extra. Amongst the cultural, gender and size diversity, the models represented a broad spectrum of female identity. Since the get-go, the brand gave representation to groups marginalized by the fashion industry (and society). They fine-tune this by widening the scope of their inclusion with each show. My eyes widened as I saw an average-height model saunter down the runway along with multiple average-sized (aka “plus size”) models.
Opening the show was live music from UNIIQU3 and dancers in Chromat activewear. They collaborated with outdoor brand Klymit this season to design inflatable pieces “that aid with internal buoyancy and help the wearer stay afloat and protected.” The brand’s commitment to innovation and utility in their wears is matched by their dedication to the Other. The fashion house’s breakthrough into the mainstream, whose fans include Beyonce and Nicki Minaj, serves as validation for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. Without even needing to play “F*CK DONALD TRUMP” at the closing, the show was already two fat middle fingers up at the current administration and the anti-immigration, anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ sentiments they represent.
Media outlets are writing up designers whose AW17 presentations are making statements against the current political windfall. While Chromat rightfully tops these lists, Chromat has been making strong political statements long before the election of 45.

Chromat from Jena Cumbo on Vimeo.

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