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Chromat Celebrates Diversity on the Fall 2015 Runway

Plus, the designer dishes on working with Beyoncé.
The finale. Photo credit: JP Yim/Getty Images

The finale. Photo credit: JP Yim/Getty Images

Considering the fact that Beyoncé, Madonna, Nicki Minaj and FKA twigs call upon designer Becca McCharen's Chromat for show-stopping stage looks, it's no surprise that the label's fall 2015 collection consisted of latex cage bustiers, corsets piped with faux-hair braids, see-through parkas with garter clips and laser beam dresses. But if you take a deeper dive into the inspiration behind Becca McCharen's conceptual lingerie and womenswear designs, you'll learn that the looks — including a Madonna/Jean Paul Gaultier-reminiscent, laser-beam-shooting cone bra — are a cerebral interpretation of a tech genius' fantasy-turned-reality. (After all, McCharen boasts a background in architecture and urban design and she made the Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2014.)

For fall 2015, McCharen was inspired by the New York magazine cover story about Martine Rothblatt, the highest paid female CEO in the country who happens to be transgender. Rothblatt also made a robot version of her wife, Bina, with a "mind file" — basically, her spouse's complete online and digital history. (Seriously read the story. It's like something straight out of a J.J. Abrams movie, except it's reality.) "What just clicked in my head was if we can recreate the human consciousness, there’s nothing we can’t digitally or synthetically reproduce," McCharen explained backstage after the show. "So that inspired our whole palette. Everything is synthetic: rubbers, latex, fake hair, fake fur, Swarovski crystals. They’re actually fake. Swarovski crystals are like a man-made version of what appears in nature."

For the faux hair-braided strappy corset and matching face mask, McCharen collaborated with Icelandic sculptor Shoplifter, who created Bjork's plaited headpiece for her 2004 Medulla album. The designer also reached out to Brooklyn-based latex masters Tableaux Vivants for some looks, including the translucent parkas, which were made from TPU, an eco-friendly alternative to rubber. "We 3-D printed all the jewelry and used lasers," she added. "There was a lot going on."

McCharen's same level of intellectual and social awareness went into the casting of the show. She emphasized diversity, in terms of ethnicity, size and gender expression. "I’m so against all white, straight, skinny girl runways," she said. "That just doesn’t reflect my reality and who I am and who the Chromat woman is. And so for every season, we’ve been all about strong, powerful women." McCharen wanted to focus on embracing plus size and give transgender women their moment on the runway. "For me, it’s such a powerful story because they’re the ultimate in strength — having to overcome so much just to walk down the street," she said. "So [for transgender women] to storm the runway, that's just a really incredible thing and I’m in awe." 

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Beyoncé and her Chromat-clad backup dancers at the 2014 VMAs. Photo credit: Mark Davis/Getty Images

Beyoncé and her Chromat-clad backup dancers at the 2014 VMAs. Photo credit: Mark Davis/Getty Images

After a look at the fall 2015 cage designs and face masks, you might recall Chromat's strappy bondage looks that Beyoncé's backup dancers wore during her 2014 MTV VMA performance (and the harnesses for her 2013 Superbowl half-time show). "It’s kind of cool. Every time they go on tour, we get a call," she said about working with Beyoncé. Next up: designing some pieces for the oft-ponytailed Ariana Grande's upcoming tour.

While Chromat has worked with dressing some of the biggest names in the music business, one bold name seems to be missing: Taylor Swift. So, if McCharen had the chance to give the "Style" singer (and Vogue cover co-star) the Chromat treatment, what would it be?

"It would be that moment — do you remember when Miley Cyrus stopped being 'Hannah Montana' and started being a bad girl when she had that cage video?" she said about the singer's 2010 clip for "Can't Be Tamed." "I feel like that would be a Taylor Swift in Chromat moment. It would be like a switch to the dark side."