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Chromat: Scaffolding for the body

A few days before our interview, Becca McCharen was in her Greenpoint studio, frantically whipping up a series of intricate face cages for Beyonce’s dancers ahead of Queen Bey’s out-of-this-world performance at the VMAs. The Chromat designer, who has previously created striking architectural costumes and accessories for Beyonce’s Mrs. Carter Show World Tour as well as for artists such as Madonna, Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea, has had a lot on her plate recently, including finalizing her spring 15 collection for MADE Fashion Week, but says she’ll always make room for Beyonce in her schedule.

“It’s always such an honor to work with her team,” she says, “and Beyonce is the epitome of the Chromat woman: a strong, powerful female taking over the world.”

“They called us on Friday at 5pm and it had to be flown to LA for Saturday morning so it was very real, but it was definitely worth it.”

Today, McCharen is the opposite of stressed – “I’m fucking elated” she laughs – having just wrapped a two day lookbook shoot for her new collection.

“For the past eight weeks, we’ve been working so hard,” she says, “and it’s been a long ass eight weeks. I have no friends anymore, but today is the first day the collection is officially finished and it feels amazing. It’s like I’m seeing people on the street for the first time in two months! I’ve had such tunnel vision. Now all we’ve got to do is make sure everything is great for the show.”

For Chromat’s Spring 15 collection, McCharen – who studied architecture and design in Virginia, working as an architect and urban planner until she moved to New York and launched Chromat in 2010 – drew inspiration from a recent exhibit of Sol LeWitt wall drawings at Dia:Beacon. The artist, known for his minimalist and conceptualist works, would often write a list of instructions detailing what he wanted and pass them onto others to create the art for him.

“So the instructions would say something like ‘three lines connecting with a circle’,” explains McCharen, “and I just loved the idea that you make a set of instructions and give them to someone else to make your art. It’s a sort of anarchy – you’re giving the power away and it erases the hierarchy of who the artist is. I love that process.”

She saw similarities with popular digital workout plans “and how people apply them to their bodies.”

“We partnered with a company called Misfit and they do a product called Shine, which is a round piece of metal with LEDs that tracks your movement and sleep and gives you all this data about your body. It’s cool to think about fashion and technology and your body as a machine, so that was definitely an inspiration.”

The collection also marks Chromat’s first foray into 3D printing – futuristic bras, pockets and masks that use the technique will feature in the show – and McCharen says she hopes to explore the intersection where fashion and technology meet more in coming years.

“I feel like each season and as we grow, we get a little more tech related, and thinking about how new technology can push fashion and change how we use clothes to interact with our bodies is exciting,” she says.

“I don’t even know what’s possible because things keep evolving so quickly, but I think it would be amazing to produce a whole collection that’s all 3D printed, and you could sell those files in your shop. It’s probably 20 years off, but imagine having a collection that could be like, illegally downloaded? It’s so cool.”

For now, McCharen is content to create the old fashioned way, and still cites her years as an architect as having an enormous influence on her work.

“I love scaffolding and I think of Chromat as scaffolding for the body,” she says, “and I still really like making things. I wouldn’t want to lose that process.”

Chromat will be featured in MADE Fashion Week on Thursday, September 4th

Becca photographed exclusively for Milk Made by Andrew Boyle

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