You've seen superstars like FKA Twigs, Tinashe, and Grimes wear the infamous caged bustiers/bras.

Among all of the celebrities, Beyoncé requested face masks for her MTV VMA performance and harness-like tops for her dancers at her Destiny's Child reunion Super Bowl performance. While everyone is very familiar with the designs, the face behind it all is Becca McCharen-Tran and her womenswear brand Chromat.

Based in New York, the pink-haired and tattooed designer is not one to be overlooked. When it comes to supporting body positivity and diversity, she talks the talk and walks the walk. While 2016 was best known as the year of realizing stuff, it was also the year of staying woke and speaking up, which is where McCharen-Tran fits the bill as someone who acts on making changes in the notoriously wishy-washy world of high fashion.

We chat about why activewear motivates her, the perfect swimsuit, and why it's important to embrace your inner strength.


You studied architecture in college and I can see that it has definitely influenced your aesthetic and collections. What brings you to study architecture and who are your favorite architects?

I went to architecture school straight from high school- I loved art and math and it worked. My favourite architects are Rem Koolhaus (I love his manifestos; although, he can be problematic), Zaha Hadid, and my friends at the rising architecture duo Norman Kelly.

This past year, I noticed that activewear-inspired clothing is becoming the accepted norm for ready-to-wear. I can tell that this has definitely influenced you to expand Chromat to include activewear. Why does activewear and athletics inspire you?

Chromat has always been built for strong, powerful women, and we're really inspired by female athletes who push both their bodies and their sport to the extreme. We wanted to create garments that could do work for the body, like self-ventilating sports bras. Because sports bras and running pants are the first layer of clothing above the skin, there's so much potential for tech integrations for data collection and biometrics to elevate the functions we expect out of our activewear.

You also once admitted in an interview that Chromat's swimwear performed well among your customers. As a designer and businesswoman, what is the secret to the perfect swimsuit? When did you realize that you wanted to include swimwear?

Swimwear for us was a natural translation from our cages and harnesses that acted as scaffolding for the wearer: it examines the human body as a building site. Great swim design complements and follows the natural style lines of the body instead of fighting against them. And we are obsessed with finding the right fit for all sizes.

Not only are you just influenced by activewear, I can see that technology has been a big influence on the brand since you use the Makerbot printer. How did you become interested in incorporating technology into the process of making your clothing?

Technology, especially 3D Printing, has always been fascinating to me. I imagine a future where clothing will be downloaded online and garments will function as data machines to both observe and empower the reality of our bodies.

Speaking of your collections, you've made a splash at NYFW when you released your S/S 2017 collection, Hyperwave, where you had Mela Murder open and close the show with a dance. In essence, it's inspired by strong, powerful and athletic women (e.g. Serena Williams). Why is it important for women to be strong and empowered?

No one is going to recognize power and strength in you if you can't first recognize and embrace power and strength within yourself. We believe it's important that every woman recognizes and embraces her own strength and power. I love when someone tries on a Chromat swimsuit and they stand taller and hold their heads higher. I love seeing that confidence manifest physically, and I love that Chromat can facilitate that.

Along with your collection, you've also received so much attention for breaking the industry standard by featuring non-sample sized models such as Iskra Lawrence, which evidently reflects your views on body positivity. How did you develop your views on body positivity?

Chromat runway shows reflect and celebrate the diversity of the Chromat world: our friends, fans and the women who inspire us. I believe runway shows that only feature thin white women are dangerous. Seeing someone that looks like you on a runway- the place where the fashion industry decided who is deemed 'beautiful' is powerful.

While 2016 was quite a big year for you, I do recall that you were nominated for a CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund last year and said in an interview that you applied for it to seek mentorship. What was the biggest takeaway from being a CFDA nominee?

It's so amazing for the whole team to have continuing support and guidance from the CFDA & Vogue. For years, we would send runway show invites to Anna Wintour and her Vogue staff. I never dreamed they would attend. Now, they come every season!

I've been lingerie shopping with Vogue writer Lynn Yeager, and she and Mark Holgate even came to my wedding in June! With the state of fashion in flux as it is at present, we can move forward with some confidence knowing these industry titans are interested in what we're saying on the runway and beyond.

As a designer, you are constantly evolving as a person - in both the creative and business aspects of fashion. What is the one thing you wish to do that you weren't able to throughout the past year? What do you hope for in 2017?

2016 has been a great year of growth for us filled with new challenges and opportunities. I hope that 2017 brings the celebration- and not oppression- of diverse voices, innovation in technology and the empowerment of women in all areas of fashion and the world at large.