Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Architectural Body | An Interview with Becca McCharen of Chromat

Photo © Christine Hahn

First of all who is Becca McCharen?

From Virginia, lives in NYC, engaged to Christine Tran, experiments with materials and structural systems at Chromat.

How did you first get involved in the fashion industry?

In sort of a round-a-bout way. I studied architecture at the University of Virginia and worked as an architect for many years. Fashion was something fun I did after work- to me the design process between architecture and fashion is the same, but the scale of fashion is more immediate. You can design and build a dress in a few hours but a building or city plan takes years, sometimes decades. I love how quick fashion is and how the seasons change so quickly.

What lead to the birth of Chromat?

I started experimenting with clothes as a fun after-work thing when I was working as an Urban Planner in Lynchburg, VA. An architect I worked with introduced me to his daughter who was a fashion designer in NYC. I started showing her my projects, and that winter she opened a holiday pop-up shop in the Lower East Side in NYC and asked me to put a few of the pieces I was working on in the store. It snowballed from there. About 6 months later I quit my day job in Virginia, moved to NYC and Chromat has been my full time job ever since!

For those who don't know about Chromat how would you describe it?

Architectural lingerie, swimwear and accessories. 

What is it that you think sets Chromat apart from other companies around at the moment?

Our architectural foundation and experimental process. We focus on working with strange and non-traditional materials such as LEDs, 3D printing, Chrome plated metal, vinyls, rubbers, tubes. Each season is an investigation into empowering the body through innovative materials and new technology. 

Photo © Joseph Talman 

How do you culminate the ideas and pick the final pieces for each Chromat Collection? Can you explain that process?

Each season we start with a mood or color or idea or website (the AW13 collection was completely inspired by the website, to find new materials to explore, sketch, drape and cut samples. During the sketching and draping process we are editing and morphing ideas before the best ones make it to the runway.

Chromat has a very distinctive look and feel about it. There's a real geometric feel about it, lots of lines and shapes. Where do you find your inspiration?

Scaffolding, the Italian Futurist theorists behind Superstudio, Rem Koolhaus, the human body as architectural site. 

Where do you draw a lot of your own personal style from? Do you have any of your own style icons?

My personal style has evolved as Chromat has grown. As a young designer, your visual appearance is your calling card- it's how you communicate your ideas about fashion. Now that Chromat's work is getting more well known, it gives me the opportunity to release that inspiration through the work and less through my own appearance- I can hang back and let the work shine. 

Though I do love huge, bold colored eyebrows. Style icons- BJORK!

Is there any one artist/model/designer out there you would love to collaborate with but haven't yet?

Bjork- I've been a fan since her first album came out when I was in middle school. I like the way each album is totally different visually and sonically than the last- it's how I treat the Chromat collections. Each a 180 from the season before. 

Have you had any high profile customers and can you tell us who?

It's been an honor working with all the strong, powerful women who inspire Chromat- like Beyonce, Madonna, Maluca, Nicki Minaj and so many more. These women inspire our work and it's such an amazing feeling that they come to us for their visual expression. 

Are there any projects you are working on currently you can tell us about?

Wearable tech, 3D printing and transforming the body into an empowered machine is something I'm really interested in. Each season we learn a little more about how materials and technology can empower and strengthen the body. I'm also excited about the future of 3D printing and how it will democratize fashion the same way MP3's have revolutionized music. 

What do you think the future holds for Becca McCharen and Chromat?

I would love to get into designing physical spaces, and on the opposite end I'd really love to improve Chromat's bra sizing and become experts at fit.