Chromat isn’t on everyone’s radar at NYFW. A large part of that has to do with the fact they’re not exactly the typical ready-to-wear brand. They fit more in the athleisure category, with some lingerie thrown in. They’re cool with the ridiculous nonsense of someone like Jeremy Scott because he’s somehow “groundbreaking,” but ignore Chromat because they don’t consider that real fashion. Yes, it’s stupid and just a bit discriminatory.
As long as Chromat holds to their current philosophy of designing clothes for real women and featuring those women in their runway presentations, however, I’m covering them. No one else is listening to women the way this brand is. No one is designing for real women the way this brand is. No one is embracing real women the way this brand is. They are such a unique niche in the fashion industry that no one else on the NYFW calendar really compares to them. Not even traditional sportswear brands.
The clothes, for the most part, are made for active people. As a result, there is a fair amount of lycra in use here. We rather expect that. A fair portion of the collection is swimwear. We rather expect that. In fact, swimwear is a large part of the company’s revenue. What we don’t necessarily expect are the larger-than-life puffy coats and the use of inflatables as outwear… or swimwear covers … or, uhm, I’m going to call it a dress. This is one collection where it is easier to show you and I’ll do that in just a bit.
Before I do, though, I have to take a moment to talk about the inclusiveness and diversity of their models. They come from all over the world: China, South Africa, England, and even Chicago. They have all kinds of lifestyles: some are gay, some are straight, some are transgender (and we’re not telling which ones). They have different body styles: curvy, extra curvy, thin as a rail, gap-toothed, short, and super tall. Almost every body type imaginable is represented on this runway. Every season. This isn’t a one-time play for press coverage. This is a philosophy to which the company strictly adheres. I can only think of a couple other designers who even come close to this kind of commitment to diversity.
But then, everything about this show is different. New Jersey musician UNIQU3 started the show, coming partially down the runway as she rapped through the first through minutes of the presentation. She set a tone common to the Jersey Club movement, a dance wave that the kids probably know about but has yet to make it onto the radar of us old fogies. The music and beat is different. The message doesn’t shy from controversy. There was more than one political reference made much to the audience’s appreciation.
Once the beat was set, then came the clothes, starting with a cropped puffer coat. Wait, cropped? Yes, cropped. Take a look:
See? Extra puffy for those days when you need something warm to get you from the outdoor hot tub to the warm ski lodge. Or something like that. Granted, this probably isn’t the coat you want when there is ten inches of snow on the ground and you have to work your way through New York transit. But there are situations where it’s exactly the right coat for the time. Want something that has a little more coverage? They’ve taken care of that situation as well.
And then, just to make sure everyone is happy, if it is your lower extremities that are feeling chilled, they provided this unique option:
No, I don’t think you’re supposed to try and fit your legs into the sleeves. That could be really painful.
What really stands out in this collection, however, are the inflatables. The simplest look like a child’s pool toy. Models just carried them along and it didn’t feel all that strange. Then, however, they started wearing them. Like this:
Now, the good news is that this would seem to pretty much be an adjustable one-size-fits-all garment. There are two straps in the back so that you can adjust it to fit whatever your proportions might be. The downside, however, would come from the potential for puncture and deflation. I mean, you really can’t wear your “I stand with Planned Parenthood” pin on this top without causing some problems. What would you do if you developed a slow leak during a party? Don’t get me wrong, I think the concept is cute and fun. You might want to carry a patch kit, though, just in case.
There were some other inflatables, too, that rather caught me off guard. They appeared architectural, which fits right along with Chromat founder Becca McCharen-Tran’s background in architecture. That would make sense. Still, something seemed a little off. While Chromat styles can be adventurous, they’re rarely totally impractical and one jacket in particular looked as though it would be impossible for the wearer to sit down.
I had to wait a couple of hours after the show, but I finally got a detail picture of the final piece and that answered my questions. Take a look:
Look up along the right shoulder (left side of the image). See where it says “Inertia X Wave?” That’s the giveaway. The Inertia X Wave is a sleeping pad for campers manufactured by the Utah-based outdoor company, Klymit. The other unusually-crafted pieces are from Klymit as well. Chromat has a licensing arrangement with Klymit to use the light-weight sleeping pads for purposes other than originally intended. The pads are made of 30D Top / 75D Bottom Polyester, designed to resist punctures from sleeping on rocky ground.
This sets up some conflict of interest, however. The sleeping pad shown is $75 if you buy it from Klymit. I’m just guessing the Chromat-branded version is slightly more. No word on whether Chromat’s pad/dress comes with a patch kit, either.
Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. The use of Klymit’s gear and the inflatables is a political statement. McCharen-Tran fears the US is in for a rough four years and that making the most of survival gear could become a necessity. We’re going to see a number of political statements this season. While designers are typically not rushing to the closest microphone as some do, they speak through their clothes and McCharen-Tran is shouting.
I still like the Chromat brand. I still appreciate the diversity to which they’re committed. Again, as with other small brands, there isn’t a store close by. The only one in the Midwest (sort of) is up in Minneapolis. Given that I’m not overly fond of the large amounts of snow they get up there this time of year, I would have to wait until spring to consider making that trek. Fortunately, Chromat does sell items from its website. Just be really careful with the sizing. There’s a 5% re-stocking fee if you have to return anything.