Designer Becca McCharen is the creative brain behind Chromat, a NYC fashion label that artfully merges fashion, design, architecture and — more recently — technology. Chromat’s designs are more conceptual than practical, but still beautiful and wearable: steel dresses, caged masks, and coiled skirts are but a few examples from the label’s fascinating repertoire. Driving Chromat’s unique look is McCharen’s background in architectural theory and urban design. During her studies in architecture at the University of Virginia, she became very interested in scaffolding and building exteriors, especially those whose structure or wiring was visible on the outside (Paris’ Centre Pompidou is one such example). Wanting to experiment with art, fashion, and human “architecture,” McCharen moved to NYC in 2010 and began her “structural experiments” for the body. (Source)
Caging, straps, and corset boning have always been integral to Chromat’s work, but for Autumn/Winter 2014, the design company introduced another element into the art/fashion/architecture triad: robotics. Their new line was called Bionic Bodies, inspired by a love story McCharen envisioned between a human and a robot. The result? Bodies scaffolded like bionic arms and exoskeletons, chromed ribcages studded at the seams, and, most strikingly, faces and bras illuminated with blue LEDs. When the lights are off, the cyborg effect of the LEDs is eerily sexy; have a look at Chromat’s runway video above and see for yourself.
What McCharen and the Chromat crew are creating is more than just experiments in fashion and architecture — their work is fascinating from a theoretical perspective, as well. Absorbed in our daily experiences and emotional lives, we forget that we are, in fact, bones wrapped in muscle and flesh, propelling ourselves through space by the miracle of physics. By engineering such structures on the outside of the body, Chromat celebrates such functionality and mechanical perfection. The parallel between structural facades and fashion is interesting, as well, if we understand fashion as a way to construct our identities and shift the way people interact with us. Like the exterior of powerful structures, Chromat’s revolutionary works exude strength, self-assurance, and impermeability — hence the eerie power and unsusceptible beauty of McCharen’s cyborgs.
Check out Chromat’s online store here. VICE conducted a fascinating interview with McCharen about her Bionic Bodies line. For a discussion of Chromat’s upcoming Spring/Summer 2015 line, read The Glass Magazine’s article.
Credits: A big thank-you to photographer Koury Angelo, who let me share his incredible pictures from the MADE runway show.