Becca McCharen has been blazing a fierce, fashionable trail with her line CHROMAT. We first met her through senior designer Alyse Shriefer and like many Virginians we’ve met in the past, she’s laid back, and welcomes new friendship with a humble smile. Her lax demeanor in no way reflects her work ethic though. Becca has shown her determination throughout the years, both through her intricate designs and business saavy. In between designing seasonal collections and creating exclusive collaborations for brands like Urban Outfitters, she’s been doing custom fittings for superstars like Beyonce and Miley Cyrus. With no signs of slowing down, her most recent collection MATHLETES has been setting a new standard in the way architecture plays into fashion and we couldn’t wait to pick her brain about how she approaches her life as a creative influencer.
Intro and Photos by Mauricio Vargas
Interview by Kala Jerzy
Chromat is a swimwear, womenswear and accessories label founded in 2010 and based in New York City. Drawing from my theoretical background in architecture and urban design, Chromat focuses on structural experiments for the human body. Described as ‘scaffolding for the body,’ Chromat is interested in analyzing the interior foundation of a garment and externalizing the structure.
What was the one moment when you realized you wanted to do this?
In the years after college, I started making fashion experiments in my spare time after work. My day job was as an architect/urban designer and I would come home everyday and read fashion blogs and play with fabric. There were no rules, it was fun and somehow, and after a while, people started noticing the pieces I was making.
How did you start? (Your background.)
I studied architecture at the University of Virginia. While I was a student, my college job was as a seamstress in the UVA Drama Dept, sewing period piece corsets and crinolines. It makes sense looking back at my architectural obsession with scaffolding and my training in corsetry would combine into what I’m designing now with Chromat.
Who are the people who tend to buy your pieces?
Strong, powerful, bold men and women.
As a fashion designer, how does your work spark the transformation of mass culture?
Mass culture, mainstream fashion and mainstream ideas of style are not interesting to Chromat. We don’t design basics. We like to work with the outliers, the people challenging the mainstream and the status quo. Chromat is about experiments- using new materials, building new shapes and creating new swimwear and clothing options.
What impact do you hope to make on the people who choose your pieces?
I hope the Chromat pieces empower the wearer to be bold and strong in their everyday lives.
Do politics, spirituality or personal philosophy inform your work?
Architecture and Modern Art theory; strong, powerful women; strange, unconventional material palettes all inspire the work we do with Chromat.
What message do you intend to convey through your work?
We hope that the Chromat pieces inspire people to be creative and bold in their lives.
Who are your heroes? Who’s inspired your work?
Bjork! I love the way she changes sounds and aesthetic environment so drastically with each new project- that’s exactly what we hope to do with each new Chromat collection.
What have you had to sacrifice to do what you do?
Quality time with friends and family, for sure. Running an emerging fashion design label takes up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Luckily, I love doing it and get to work with people I admire and enjoy being around.
What do you wish people knew about you that they likely don’t?
I’m obsessed with contemporary, modern dance and it’s a huge aspiration of mine to collaborate with the New York City Ballet on strange wearable pieces.
If money were no object- every cent in the world was at your disposal- what would you most want to create or build?
What an exciting prospect! We would build the physical Chromat world, collaborate with architects, artists, explore new materials and do research into wearable tech, work with dancers, athletes and performers, support other designers and creatives in new collaborative efforts and build a program to foster young designers and encourage innovation.
It seems your work is not a job but a lifestyle, a passion. If that’s the case, how would you describe your relationship to your work to someone who feels stuck in a 9-5 he/she doesn’t enjoy?
Work is constant, exciting, scary, thrilling, fun, hard, unending, rewarding, interesting.
Check out all of Chromat’s collections at www.ChromatGarments.com