Bondage and Armor at NYFW Zana Bayne Chromat

Bondage and Armor at NYFW: How Zana Bayne and Chromat Are Pushing Fashion Forward

Two womenswear designers push sartorial boundaries amidst the big business of NYFW.

Photographer Alex Welsh

It's easy to gaze over the sprawling New York Fashion Week Calendar—although "week" has long-since ballooned to around 11 days—and know exactly what you're in for. A relatively predictable assortment of cerebral and pretty womenswear and preppy and/or hype-friendly menswear that all cater to the commercial side of the apparel business. Save a handful of outliers—Hood By Air, Luar Zepol, Rodarte,Telfar—NYFW's prevailing aesthetic is as daring as a pair of pleated-front khakis. So, we were rightfully stoked to see two designers present collections that might marginally be considered traditional womenswear, but truly push the boundaries of Fashion with a capital F and augment the female body in interesting ways. Known for her cage-like bustiers and futuristic versions of 18th century crinoline, designer Becca McCharen of Chromat, presented her collection "Formula 15" as an armor that reconsidered the geometry of the human form. Zana Bayne, a bondage and leather afficionado, created "Moonbathers," a 25-look collection that originated in Stepford Wife-gone-naughty white dresses and crescendoed in star-studded slinky metallic sheaths. We went backstage for a quick glimpse at the preparation that went into each collection, and to hear first hand how McCharen and Bayne seek to redefine the female body with each strap, buckle and studded bra they put forth. 

  • McCharen adjusts a model's look before she hits the runway.

  • "Chromat pieces definitely has a bondage undertone but it's more of an empowerment tool than a disempowerment tool. The cage masks, maybe its someone's choice to make wear. " - Becca McCharen

  • "We started with an architectural background. I studied architecture, so every piece is very structural. So we're thinking about the body. What structures and joints are happening on the body. Swimwear and lingerie are the closest layers to the skin. so the swimwear has been an easy transition from the architectural structures into smaller pieces."

  • "The masks were 3-d printed and that was the first experimentation that we've done with that prop. We were thinking about places where we could place this new technology. It's really poignant to have technology on the face right now." - McCharen

  • "The sexiness of Chromat really comes up a lot, but that’s not really our goal or aim. I can only speak for myself, I'm not thinking of how to make someone hot, or go straight for the sex thing. There is strappy shit that's trending in fashion and we've been doing it for a while. I don't really have an opinion on bondage, I'm thinking more about what the human body can do and what proportions can be. I don't think we're thinking about sex when we design."

  • At Zana Bayne, models are primped and curled for a refined pin-up look.

  • I think bondage is a really quick way to turn something classic or basic or mundane, into something that all of a sudden has a completely different connotation. Fashion totally has an obsession with bondage. For me, it's the idea of a harness as an accessory, a great piece that both cinches the waist and pulls everything up. Harnesses change your posture as much as they change your look.

  • "Every season is about an evolution and progression of the brand. I'm based in leather accessories so we've branched out into bags, and headwraps, but there's still that core element of belts, bustiers and harnesses. We just try to go bigger and better and I keep pushing myself as far as design."

  • "I started with stars and moons and the ideas of moon bathers at nighttime, and that just led me to Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali and those really iconic bather images. I was also looking at Elsa Schapirelli who was also working during the Surrealist period. She was a very daring woman."

  • "I'm a brand that has always offered full size ranges from the beginning. For me it's not about size, the casting this season is not making a statement, it was just about women and shape and curve."

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    Bondage and Armor at NYFW: How Zana Bayne and Chromat Are Pushing Fashion Forward