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Chromat: Becca McCharen-Tran’s Fight for Inclusivity

There are no more excuses. A precedent has been set in the fashion world, leaving yesterday’s confining standards of beauty in the past. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about expanding representation. Several other industries have been discussing inclusivity as well. Frankly, most millennials are sick and tired of the societal norms that tell us we have to be stick thin, young, and white to be beautiful.

But right now, for the most part, all it seems like is talk. Companies like Aerie have started campaigns around the idea of using all body types and not using Photoshop to edit models’ figures. Other brands have sent models like Ashley Graham down a high-fashion runway. The pessimist in me merely wonders if these designers and companies are just cashing in on something they see as a trend because inclusivity is still not being integrated widely.

According to Harper’s Bazaar, this was the “most racially diverse in NYFW history,” but the percentages reflect otherwise with 62.7% white and 37.3% models of color. They also reported that casting of plus size models went down this year. Better is better, but still not great.

Chromat is another story. Their Spring 2019 runway show embodied inclusivity at it’s finest. Models of all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and abilities strutted down that runway.  It was not a bunch of size 2’s and then one plus size model, but a real mix of real women.

Our goal is to encourage more designers to sample their collections in a range of sizes, in order to celebrate all different size bodies on the runway.”

Chromat has always been a brand that has showcased fashion on all types of women. The brand was founded in 2010 by Becca McCharen-Tran, who, oddly enough, has a background in architecture. It inspires me that there are brands and people out there not just talking about change but making it happen. I was lucky enough to ask her a few questions about this amazing show, fashion, and her own inspirations.

The Manor: What drew you to fashion with your background?

Becca McCharen-Tran: The thing I love about fashion is the speed. You can design and build a dress in a few hours, but it takes years, sometimes decades, to realize your vision in architecture.

I’m hugely inspired by the architectural design process of material iteration and building within context lines. Coming from a non-traditional background allows me to be very open with cross-disciplinary collaborations in modern conceptual art, dance, choreography, scientific bio-mimicry, fashion technology, deep water, outer-space. Lately, I’ve been super into the layered functionality of space suits.

Collaborating with artists, scientists and technologists is one of my favorite parts about the design process. Working with others always allows us to create things I could have never imagined on my own.

What was the inspiration for the Sample Size t-shirts from your Spring 2019 show?

“Sample sizing” tends to be an excuse that other designers cite as a reason why they don’t feature a range of sizes in their runway shows. At Chromat, we know that the designer has the power to choose what size they prototype their collection in.

Our goal is to encourage more designers to sample their collections in a range of sizes, in order to celebrate all different size bodies on the runway. We want everyone to know it’s not their body that needs to change to fit designer clothes, clothes need to be designed to fit each individual body.

So, who are some people you are inspired by?

I have loved learning more of Ericka Hart’s story. She is a black, queer-femme sex educator, activist, breast cancer survivor and model. She hit me up a week before our AW18 runway show in February and was like ‘this might be out of left field but I’d love to walk for Chromat.’ We had already confirmed all our runway models but when she came to the fitting and walked, we knew we had to have her in the show. Her catwalk moment sent shockwaves through the fashion press— at the end of the runway, she exposed her double mastectomy scars in a powerful reveal. A few months later we featured her as one of our #ChromatBABE Guards in our Pool Rules campaign and have been working with her ever since.

I have learned so much about how to be a better white ally and how to leverage my privilege from watching her Instagram stories, listening to the Hoodrat to Headwrap podcast she produces with her partner Ebony and hearing more of her perspective as a queer black femme. She is an inspiration to me and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to collaborate with her.

Why do you think inclusivity and representation are important, especially in the fashion world?

I know how important it is to see yourself represented in high fashion. If you never see yourself in these contexts of fashion and beauty, it makes you wonder, “Is there something wrong with me?” Representation is empowering; it opens up new windows in your mind of what is possible.

Every fashion designer, especially those that show during fashion week events, has a platform, and with that comes a responsibility. Our goal is to celebrate these inspirational women, femme and non-binary #ChromatBABES of all shapes and sizes, ethnicities, ages and ability levels on the platform we have. It’s time to destroy our historically narrow view of what beauty is.

I’m looking forward to the day when diversity or inclusion in fashion isn’t press-worthy or notable, it’s just the norm.

It’s encouraging that more models of color and models of different sizes, ages, gender expressions and abilities are featured in campaigns and on the runways, but I’d like to see more women and people of color in positions of power behind the scenes such as photographers, creative and artistic directors, editors, owners and investors.  

Where do you think the future of fashion is heading?

Inclusive, custom, niche, responsive and democratic. Social media has exploded the hierarchy and the gatekeepers to the industry. It’s so much fun now to see so many new brands and people utilizing their platform to change the world in creative ways.

Can you give us a hint at where you might take Chromat next?

We just launched our SS19 Saturation collection at NYFW inspired by Wet T-Shirts. We wanted to reclaim the experience of hiding under a giant T-shirt at a pool party (when you’re too embarrassed to be seen in your swim) and make it a garment to wear proudly.

Soon, my wife and I are embarking on a new adventure and are moving to Miami for the winter— our first winter in 8 years that we won’t be hibernating in NYC. I’m so excited to link up with the queer feminist creative collective Fempower when we get down there!

Written by Ryan Williams

Images courtesy of Chromat