Calling Chromat a "swimwear" brand doesn't feel quite right; their signature multi-colored bikinis, bodywear, and sportswear have come to symbolize much, much more. Even from their earliest NYFW appearances, Chromat's founder Becca McCharen-Tran has made it a point to be truly inclusive. Nearly every body type, size, gender, ethnicity, race, and age has been represented on a Chromat runway sometime in the past decade. In Chromat's world, there is room for all people to exist, and Sunday's SS22/Resort collection was no different.
The brand debuted their latest collection with artist and trans activist Tourmaline (with whom they previously collaborated on 2020's short film "JOY RIDE," which highlights transgirls and women in competitive sports), with a pop-up presentation at Jacob Riis Beach. The collaboration (available in sizes XS-4X) is, "a line of swimsuits for girls who don't tuck, trans femmes, non-binary people, women, men and everyone embracing Collective Opulence Celebrating Kindred." It re-imagines some of Chromat's most popular past suits modified with trans bodies in mind.
"One piece I really liked was a tie bikini bottom where we added a one-inch wider crotch gusset so it fit over different size…packages," McCharen-Tran shared in an interview ahead of the show. Other pieces include swim shorts and skirts as well as monokinis. The collection is for, she says, "wherever you are and your gender presentation and your comfortability that day."
Against the backdrop of Riis Beach in Queens, an LGBTQ stronghold, Chromat didn't just create a fashion show; they created a cultural moment. The models, dressed entirely in red with no accessories save for fresh flowers, walked among their peers, who gathered on the sidelines to offer choruses of "YAS girl!" and "you better work!" Emboldened by the loving presence of their community, the models, many of whom were Brown and Black trans, non-binary and queer, were effervescent, bubbling down the concrete runway in swimwear that was made for them. For their bodies, for their journey, for their people.
Tourmaline says moments like this hold deep significance for the trans community. "My friend Miss Major who is a Black trans elder…was telling me about how you could get put in jail for dressing as a transperson." In less than 50 years, we have progressed from arresting transpeople for their sartorial expression to fashion explicitly made for those in the trans community. As the fight for trans rights is literally life-or-death for some people, it may seem trivial to attach such significance to fashion, but the ability to be seen, considered, and made comfortable in clothing is absolutely a part of that same fight.
But beyond self-expression, this Chromat collection is also about joy. And the show was just that: Black girl joy, black boy joy, trans joy, non-binary joy. The type of joy that we rarely get to see during NYFW, because fashion can be slow to embrace representation, and then too self-serious when it does. But not Chromat. Their stance is clear: you should be producing clothing for fat bodies, non-binary bodies, trans bodies, ALL bodies — and a fashion show is nothing if not a chance to celebrate that clothing on those bodies.
Tourmaline and Chromat gave us that and much more, "[Chromat is] reminding us what fashion can do," she muses, "it's a question of aesthetics, a question of self-fashioning, a question of power and self-actualization. Fashion can change the world." Indeed it can, and this Fashion Week, that change looked like a woman in a red bikini on the beach: revolutionary in its simplicity.
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